People who are changing careers or have recently lost a job will often come to such retreats to gain perspective, she said. One woman came to Sewall House after leaving a job in publishing. She now works at an orphanage in Cambodia.
"A lot of times when people are looking at 'What do I want to do with my life?' they go on healthy vacations," Davidge said. "They decide they don't want to just sit on a beach and drink margaritas and come back feeling worse than when I left my stress-filled life. They just want to feel better when they come back from vacation."
Dr. Mark Liponis, the medical director of the luxury Canyon Ranch spa resorts, said that in just one week people can't really become healthy. What they can do is head home with tools to continue a healthy lifestyle.
Canyon Ranch guests are required to stay at least three nights to help immerse themselves in the program. They can choose medical evaluations, nutritional classes or just relax at the spa.
"Some of the best classes that people come to are the cooking class," Liponis said. "It's not actually healthy unless you make it part of your life. You've got to be able to incorporate what you learned into your daily living. That's the trick."
For instance, to relieve back pain, a lot of guests get massages, but they also learn stretches that they can do at home to prevent future pain.
"They don't realize that all they have to do to keep from getting back pain is to do the 10 minute stretches when they get up," Liponis said.
Other lessons include coping with stress and teaching how to be satisfied on smaller portions of food.
"That's a big discovery for people," he said.
Clients include a man who weighed more than 430 pounds and lost 175 of them in 20 weeks. Other visitors are people "who just can't take off that last 10 pounds."
Besides losing weight, Viskovicz said, people get to relax on the beach, swim and go kayaking.
Many, he said, tell him, "This is the first vacation that I've ever come on where I don't need a vacation from the vacation."
The residential program starts at $2,450 a week for a shared room and focuses not just on eating but on social behaviors and mood. There are individual and group therapy sessions and training about nutrition and proper meals.
"We're doing things to make people healthy for a long time," Viskovicz said. "It's really getting to the source of the problem. If you let yourself gain 200 pounds, there is a bigger problem there."
"We're not a spa," he said. "People get ten times more results at our place but our program is more difficult."