New Vegan and Water Fasting Retreat Opens in Deerfield Beach
Balance for Life — a new health and wellness retreat at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort — is helping individuals set the reset button on their personal health while enjoying a beach getaway. The retreat is also now offering a day-cation option for locals who want to stay at home overnight. Reporter Danielle Charbonneau gave the retreat a try to share her experience.
By Danielle Charbonneau
Oatmeal never tasted so good. Plump blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, plus crisp and juicy chunks of sweet watermelon topped the bowl, which I had dusted in cinnamon and sat down to eat at a table with a view inside the Patio Bar at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort. A salty sea breeze came in through the open doors, which framed a picturesque view of the ocean horizon and its soft-sandy beach just across the street. I admired the people going by — joggers, walkers and bikers utilizing the beach boardwalk path that extends along the sand for a mile and a half. I had just gotten back from a sunrise walk on that very path with a few of my fellow comrades participating in the Balance For Life health and wellness retreat. Now, my group of fellow retreat participants convened for “breakfast” — which for some, was merely water, and for others an intimidating, giant plastic pitcher of green juice pressed from celery, spinach and cucumber. Ordinarily I would call my oatmeal a bland breakfast, but compared to my fellow retreat companions on liquid diets, it was a feast. That morning my oatmeal and fruit was the subject of great envy.
The Balance For Life retreat is an ongoing, all-inclusive health and wellness retreat program started by real estate investor Harold Lebovic and led by chiropractor Dr. Frank Sabatino, D.C., Ph.D, a leading expert in water fasting, juice cleanses and plant based diets. While most tourists at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort are indulging in fish-bowl sized cocktails and gorging on burgers, the Balance for Life crowd are detoxing their bodies of toxins and kick-starting their health goals by participating in one of three retreat tracks: a vegan, non-S.O.S. track (which consists of a strictly plant-based diet without any salt, sugar or oil); the juice cleanse track (which consists of organic pressed green juices only); and for the real die-hards, the water-fasting track. The Balance for Life retreat is one of only a few water fasting retreats in the entire country, so guests come from near and far. Participants in the Balance for Life program come to the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort to rest, relax, exercise, learn and most importantly, hit the reset button on their personal health.
The retreat includes a full schedule of activities including water aerobics, group fitness classes, yoga, tai-chi, meditation, informative health lectures taught by (might I say brilliant) Dr. Sabatino, workshops on topics like cooking and healthy shopping, group meals and plenty of time to enjoy the resort amenities, including private cabanas by the pool, in-room massages and beach concierge service (towels, chairs and umbrellas). Group fitness classes and lectures are held in a small conference room that has been turned into a dedicated space for Balance for Life programming.
For those partaking in the non-S.O.S. vegan track, the food is surprisingly delicious. Dr. Sabatino worked with the chefs at the Wyndham resort to craft a tremendously tasty plant-based menu. Examples include stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and black beans, a sweet potato and lentil hash, and homemade herb salad dressing on organic mixed greens.
The motivation that drives each Balance for Life participant varies — some are looking to loose weight, others are looking to detoxify their bodies, and some have serious health issues. Dr. Sabatino has devoted decades of his life and career researching the beneficial effects of water fasting for conditions such hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. He had a Ph.D in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and conducted landmark research as an assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Medicine studying how calorie restriction affects stress and aging.
“In our culture of gluttony and overeating, the idea of voluntarily abstaining from food (unless there is some enforced famine) may seem somewhat absurd and insane,” Dr. Sabatino said. “Yet, there is an extensive body of evidence, including lab studies involving a variety of species and clinical observations in humans, supporting the use of water-only fasting for a wide range of health problems.”
From an evolutionary perspective, Sabatino explained, humans evolved to survive extended periods without food. The human body became very efficient at storing excess intake during bountiful times, primarily as fat, to use during lean times. But in today’s world, especially in America, there are no lean times. The stored fat doesn’t get burned off and accumulates.
And in a culture of processed foods, Sabatino said sugar levels in our blood have increased to toxic levels. In addition to water fasting, he is a passionate advocate for plant-based diets. In his daily lectures, he explains in great detail why. He explains the inner workings of our bodies — how the body processes food, stores fat, breaks down fat, replenishes sugar, what causes insulin resistance, how toxic levels of sugar in the blood effects our body and how we can reverse the damaging effects of decades-long bad nutrition. He explains why the body operates better on a plant-based diet, and how backwards he feels our society has gotten when it comes to food sources and nutrition.
Attending his lectures feels much like being in university. By the end of three days, I learned a full notebook’s worth of information on the science of nutrition. If there was one key takeaway for me from his lectures, it was that choosing a plant-based diet is not really about politics or morals (though it can be), it is about personal and public health.
The knowledge he shared, however, was not nearly as convincing as my physical experience during the retreat. I couldn’t believe how fantastic I felt after three days on a non-S.O.S. plant-based diet. The usual fog in my mind cleared, I had a dramatic increase in energy, and my mood got a noticeable boost. It was rather shocking to me that only three days of changing my diet (dining on oatmeal with berries in the morning, salads and roasted potatoes for lunch, and vegan dinners) could have such a profound physical effect.
Am I now turning strictly vegan? Probably not. But I have felt compelled to keep it going whenever possible, mainly because I feel so much better. And my perspective on veganism has changed. Where once the term “vegan” only conjured up images of barefooted bohemian yogis, it now connotes a person who is empowering themselves to live their healthiest life.
At the very least, the Balance for Life retreat is a mini vacation with a positive purpose on a gorgeous beach. But ideally, it serves as a complete physical reboot that realigns your body to its healthiest state and propels you toward a healthier future. No matter which track you choose — water fasting, juicing or the vegan track — you will leave feeling better. As the Balance for Life motto goes: “Reboot, recharge and rejuvenate.”
For South Florida locals, Balance for Life is now also offering day-cations. You can come participate in everything the retreat has to offer, but stay at your own home. Come for any length of time — between a day to multiple weeks.
To book your stay at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort and participate in a Balance for Life retreat, visit balanceforlifeflorida.com.
For more Deerfield Beach news and events information you can go to our website and read our publication, Deerfield Beach! Magazine.