For Amy Stevens, 41, of North Adams, MA, her grandmother's chocolate drop cookies always represented unconditional love. They reminded her of her grandma's warm, cozy kitchen and all the joy that surrounded her on birthdays, holidays, and those special afternoons when the two of them would bake together. So when a nutritionist last year suggested that Stevens give up the fudgy cookies (along with the fast food that made up the bulk of her diet), she sobbed for 15 minutes. But a year later, she hasn't baked a single batch—and she hasn't really missed them. She's managed to avoid the fast food. She's dropped 80 pounds and is far happier than she was in the days when she turned for solace to oven-fresh cookies.
What changed her eating habits—and her life? A program called integrative weight loss at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. The program is based on a powerful new understanding: To be successful over the long term, a program has to be about more than counting calories and crunches. It has to engage a dieter at the emotional level too, because willpower is only partially a function of rational "will." To put "power" behind it, you need ways of combating the cycle of emotional and stress eating, which can sabotage the best intentions.
Across the country, from Florida to California, cutting-edge centers are practicing their own versions of this approach, because it simply works. Think of it this way: Diet and exercise are crucial—particularly, a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber that can nourish the body and keep you feeling satisfied for longer. But alone, diet and exercise are like a two-legged stool—ready to topple at the first snack attack. To steady the stool, you need a third leg—a stash of mind-body techniques to help combat cravings and get in touch with your body's true needs.
Here are four women who've tried it—and turned their lives around.
Sherri De Jesus
Program Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa
Job Hospital program director
Status Divorced, no kids
Pounds lost 72
Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa
Location Miami, FL
The program At Pritikin, the emphasis is on a healthy lifestyle. Weight loss just happens to be the result. A week at Pritikin's resortlike campus includes 40 hours of classes, one-third of them focused on emotional eating and stress busters like yoga. There is even a field trip to a restaurant, where participants learn to avoid stealth fats, sugars, and sodium. The success of the Pritikin method—which is known for its heart health—has been documented through more than 100 studies in major medical journals, showing not only weight loss (an average of 11 pounds in 3 weeks, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine) but also improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
The cost $4,200 and up (for a minimum of 1 week's stay)