Growing up, we weren’t the kind of people that went to summer camps. I learned about those “city-kids-off-in-the-woods-near-some-lake-for-three-weeks-and-get-your-first-kiss” kind of camps from 1980s coming of age movies. And, despite being a christian family in the bible belt, my dad was not keen on us going to most of the Vacation Bible Schools. And definitely not Falls Creek. Not happening.

What did happen in my teen summers? Monte Madewell Cowgirls’ Basketball Camp at Connors State College at Warner, in the southern part of the Cherokee Nation. I went 2 or 3 times, and at the end of each camp week, I was totally exhausted, a bit skinnier and toned up. And I was totally starving when my mom picked me up. I was also really fired up for more basketball.

A few days again, I checked out of a totally different kind of camp, but the end-of-camp feelings were shockingly similar to that Cowgirls’ basketball camp: I was really tired (the good tired). I had lost some weight and toned up. And I really wanted some food! And I was fired up for more.

For my husband’s birthday week and as a good reboot for both of us, we checked into an amazing place: an endurance, nutrition and wellness retreat. This place was no joke and ran by true experts! During the week, we logged about 60 miles hiking several trails maintained by the National Park Service, BLM, and California State Parks, in the heart the Santa Monica Mountains. Chumash country.

Despite a week of consuming zero sugar, zero caffeine, zero alcohol, almost zero carbs, and zero animal products while maintaining a strict 1400 calories per day regime of intense physical activity – we are staying married. No blood was shed.

Here’s the deal and why it worked liked a charm:

  1. There was a 30 day detox lead up to get make the most of this week. A month to cut way down on caffeine, almost eliminate all alcohol consumption, eating mostly plant-based foods and picked up the intensity of walking/running. This was designed to make the camp week less jarring.

  2. Consistency. Every day of the camp week was the same. Wake at 530. Yoga-like stretching for 30-45 minutes. A 4 hour mountain hike (8-10 miles per day). 50 minute fitness class with weights, TRX and tons of core work. 50 minute restorative yoga class. Meditation. And a 50 minute massage to repair the damage. Everyday.

  3. Sleep. So much deep sleep.

  4. Amazing food. Getting to see for a week what it must be like to have a chef that just places the perfect portion sized nutrient-rich and insanely healthy food in front of you.

  5. Zero stress. No cell phone coverage. Wi-Fi in the room only, but I never pulled out an iPad all week. Sent one work email in 7 days. No social media. No decisions. No organizing. No planning. Almost no thinking. Just doing. Just being.

The results were truly unbelievable. Yes, the weight and inches that flew off the body were awesome. But more importantly, the knowledge of what’s possible in 7 days and how great I felt (most of the time).

Here are my take-aways.

  1. Obviously, this is not sustainable. That’s not the intent. It was a moment of discovery. A season to learn and gain some new tools. A great launch pad.

  2. The power of positive energy is remarkable. I’ve always known this, and try to live by this, but I really saw this in action all last week, from all the great people around me.

  3. I don’t really “need” about half the food I eat. Especially not the processed stuff. Probably not even some of the healthy snacks – like GF granola bars or whatever. On these 9 mile hikes, we were totally fine with an apple or a pear or some almonds. Totally fine.

  4. Damn. Drinking at least 3 liters of water per day really IS great for your skin.

  5. The human body is really fun to watch. To push.

  6. I was addicted to coffee. Straight up addicted. It controlled my ups and downs and energy levels throughout the day. And it made me crave certain foods. I’ve always been able to eliminate other foods and drinks out of my life forever or for shorter periods of time. But coffee really was a dang monkey on my back.

And now for the big reveal . . .

I hesitated about posting this blog entry because of the over-the-top privilege that allowed me to get to experiment with this kind of fancy summer camp. Acknowledged. Still can’t hardly believe it. But this blog started 3 years ago as a means of sharing all the things I (and others) have learned on our crazy little journeys towards health and wellness. So, not going to hide the ball here.

I’ve laid raw my failures and success as I try to stay healthy, in particular my ongoing laser focus on cholesterol levels. If you don’t know about that drama – check here. For quite some time, I’ve been out of the danger zone. I watch it like a hawk and that’s the “why” for putting this all out there. I hope we can all keep heart disease and diabetes at bay and stay around for each other.

As part of this fancy retreat, we did cholesterol testing at the beginning and end. Holy smokes! You can really move the needle on your numbers is a single week. HDL (the good stuff) went up 5 points (that’s a 9% difference from original labs). LDL (the bad stuff) went down 13 points (also a 9% difference from original labs). You really CAN make a big difference in your health in a single week. Or within a less extreme regime, you can make small but meaningful differences in a month or so. Good luck.

6 freaking almonds. They gave us 6 almonds as a snack on a 9 mile hike. And it was totally fine. 😂

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