65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat – Without Leaving Home

diy health retreat

Your ultimate health retreat hack checklist!

Welcome to your ultimate health retreat hack checklist!

I’m Cat Smiley, owner and operator of Whistler Fitness Vacations. We’re a plus size fitness retreat for women, specializing in outdoor adventure activities and weight loss. You can check us out here! If self-care has been on the back burner lately and you’re in need of a reboot, you’re in the right place! I’ve been running weekly retreats for almost 12 years, over 400 retreats in total! I’d love to have you join me one day.

Focusing on how you can contribute to others will take you out of your own head. Practice gratitude every day! Start small – you’ll get there! Sending you oodles of positivity and good vibes, you’ll get there – one day, per day. I promise.

Meanwhile, let’s get you started with 65 ways to DIY your fitness this afternoon.


P.S. These ideas are inspired from the many benefits that guests receive at my health retreats, and I hope they’ll help you too. I sourced them from lovely testimonials, jotting down the key benefits that they received. Then racked my brains to offer ways to get the same benefit at home. 

Whistler best weight loss retreat - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

1. Active travel disrupts habits & circumstances

Breaking up is hard to do, whether it’s quitting the habit of being perpetually 5 minutes late, or smoking. Even though it’s harder to go ‘cold turkey,’ there’s  evidence that it’s the best way to ditch old habits that are no longer serving you, if safe to do so. Health retreat programs such as Whistler Fitness Vacations in B.C., Canada work as a catalyst towards new behaviour – partly because participants change their environment and routine.

When people practice action, they develop associations in memory between the action and aspects of the context in which it typically occurs. – American Psychological Association

fresh start hiking in whistler - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Hiking at Whistler Fitness Vacations is truly spectacular – this is the Half Note trail on Whistler.

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Changing your routine could be as simple as waking up earlier, driving a different way to work, or joining a new gym.
  • More drastic environment changes could include redecorating your dining room – new pictures or perhaps paint!
  • Try a new drink at Starbucks! Meet a friendly person from yoga class for a tea – be open to new friends.
  • Reorganize your wardrobe, donating, selling or gifting everything you no longer wear.
  • Treat yourself to an afternoon makeover at your local mall – makeup, new outfit and trip to the hairdresser.

Challenge yourself to change the little things that you do daily, to make way for creating healthier habits.

2: Health vacations motivate new behaviour

As soon as you know that you’re going to a weight loss resort, you’ll probably get a push of motivation. Whether that’s cleaning up your habits, or starting to exercise more, booking a trip gives you a future landmark.

Behavioural scientists call it ‘The Fresh Start Effect” – an example of an important time on the calendar that helps millions get started on their goals. The study researched 3 key patterns following landmarks: google searches for diet, gym visits and commitments to pursue goals.

This little-researched phenomenon has the potential to help people overcome important willpower problems that often limit goal attainment. These landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviours. – University of Pennsylvania.

birthday fresh start scaled - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Commit to an upcoming landmark like New Year, birthdays, Mondays or semesters to shift your routine.
  • Clear your schedule in advance to allow sufficient time to get started on your goals, on those dates
  • Go to the bookstore and browse journals – I personally love productivity planners!
  • Get yourself ready; organize your food, groceries, workout clothes and gym classes to start that day.

Leverage big picture thinking by using landmark dates to start a new chapter. Remember to create clear action plans on the time and effort required to achieve it! The first 3 months of your new routine are the most vulnerable. This is the best time to hire a life coach or professional to support your aspirations and help with clarity.

3: Fitness retreats help you envision (& plan)

Women’s weight loss retreats like Whistler Fitness Vacations are BIG on making lists and action plans. Lists are such a rewarding and proactive way to plan a fresh start in the things that you do daily. In our group coaching sessions, I work with guests to guide them towards realistic checklists – that align with their lifestyle.

Telling people to just change the way they eat doesn’t work; we’ve known that for a while. But research has shown that if people make a concrete plan about what they are going to do, they are better at acting on their intentions. – Bärbel Knäuper of McGill’s Department of Psychology.

fresh start journal writing 1 scaled - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Write down everything you do for your health for one week. Include meditation, exercise, food, beverages, sleep.
  • After a week, take a good hard look at what you wrote. Note down all the changes that you think you should make.
  • List these changes in priority order. Don’t try to quit everything on the same day!
  • Create columns, today, next week, next month. You can also look at quitting one negative thing per month.

Making an action plan and visualizing yourself following through with it is the best way to improve your food choices, according to McGill University researchers. Similar to how athletes use visualization techniques to prepare for optimal performance, mentally rehearsing healthy habits has the same effect. When you can first ‘see’ something, whether that’s through imagination or reflecting upon a memory it plants the seed to take action.

4: Being outside is the best part of a wellness retreat

There are some health vacations that are mostly indoors, focusing on consulting, personal training and fitness classes. Yet the best weight loss retreat for adults (in my opinion) will get outside as much as possible. There’s so much activity that gets the heart rate up; hiking, power walking, biking, kayaking and outside fitness classes. Being in nature is truly refreshing and inspiring, important to me anywhere I travel.

sitting on park bench - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Next time you’re in a new city unsure whether there’s a safe park around, take a cab. The driver will know!
  • Take time to walk, relax, stretch and let your mind wander in the forest – at least once a week.
  • Not sure where the safest forest is near you? Google ‘provincial park in [your town]’ or ‘[your town] hiking tours
  • Get outside every day, at least two sessions of 10 minutes. Even in the middle of winter. Let the sun hit that beautiful face!

google search for hiking tours - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home


5: Wellness retreats can help you sleep better

Enhanced sleep is one of the most glorious things about participating in a luxury wellness retreat like Whistler Fitness Vacations. Ongoing sleep disturbance and insomnia can result in drastically reduced wellbeing that can effect your long term health. One of the powerful benefits of participating in a residential weight loss program is that all elements of your health can be addressed, including sleep.

Our blissful daily schedule provides just the right balance of outdoor activity, nourishing food and stress-relieving therapies to promote improved sleeping patterns. These sleep benefits continue even after you return home.

Whistler Fitness Vacations lodging at the Westin - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Imagine staying here for a month! Our 4-week health retreat guests are lodged at the Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler.

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Wear your smart watch to bed. Each morning it’ll give you a complete breakdown with how much (or little) sleep you’ve had, and the quality of it. It’s quite encouraging to gently progress into a restful night.
  • Develop an evening ritual of winding down at least an hour before bed. Try tea, skin care, hot shower and taking the dogs out!
  • Try to follow the same time each night, so that your body finds a routine of waking up and falling asleep.
  • Exert yourself physically in the day by getting enough exercise and outdoor time.
  • Invest in an amazing mattress and sleep set! This will truly make the world of difference. You can buy the same one as we use in Whistler – Marriott sells their signature bedding set (gorgeous 300-thread count Egyptian cotton, like the picture above) and mattress.

6: Usually a health retreat is tough(ish) with you

Being held accountable for your food and workouts is one of the huge benefits of joining a health retreat, especially one that focuses on weight loss. At Whistler Fitness Vacations I encourage all our guests to journal prior to arrival. We get them to write down everything in detail using the labels on the food, and measuring the food (instead of estimating the portions). Identifying the problem is the first step in identifying the solution.  

health retreat measurement tracking - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

I had so much fun with Rachel, a one month health retreat – Whistler Fitness Vacations!

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

Education is an important part of your personal development towards becoming an empowered, knowledgeable eater. Tracking the time that you ate is a valuable way to increase personal awareness and make necessary changes.

  • Learn how to use your smart watch to full potential.
  • Download apps to support your goals, such as step counting and calorie counting.
  • Set yourself a daily step goal of 10,000.
  • Learn the energy value that you are putting into your body. 

Below video is pretty funny and worth watching. It’s so easy to compare our success with what we see on instagram, but is it real?

7: Progress tracking on a health retreat is easier.

Usually at the end of the day hiking, biking, kayaking or doing fitness classes in the mountains (how dreamy does that sound?) at Whistler Fitness Vacations health retreat, we get together as a group. It takes less than 30 minutes to jot down the miles, pace, time spent in cardio zones and log what was eaten in that day. With this information, it’s easier to recreate a health retreat or weight loss camp experience at home. It’s also easier for your coach to work with you towards your goals as they can look back on data. 

Daily self-weighing may cause people to lose more weight and gain less of it back, compared to less-frequent weighing.- Adda Bjarnadottir, Registered Nutritionist.

READ: Why You May Want to Weigh Yourself Every Day

health retreat journal - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

On the other side of things, wellness is not about watching the number on the scale go down, and weighing yourself can be triggering. If you’re working towards your goals independently (ie not at a health retreat or weight loss camp), then photo and measurements are also helpful.

  • Track caloric deficit instead. How many calories did you burn today – and how many did you eat?
  • If taking your own photo, use the timer on the 10 second setting, phone at eye level. Use your better judgement on this but definitely embrace the unflattering light – it’s where you’ll see the most encouraging improvement.
  • Commit to taking a new pic every month or so. Save it on your phone to refer back to when you want to quit on your healthy intentions. It’ll be a huge motivator to keep going in the positive direction.
  • To measure yourself, keep the tape firm but not tight. You can buy one at a hardware store, in most supermarkets or at a craft store. Measure your hips, waist, legs and chest.
  • Tracking is a good task to delegate to a personal trainer. Even if you only buy a few sessions, measurements and photo will take them less than 10 minutes and likely will be more accurate. It’s tempting to not be completely honest (with both starting point and results) when you’re doing it on yourself!


READ: Taking Body Measurements During Weight Loss

8: Working with a life coach can make goal setting easier

Most health retreat programs have a certified life coach on their team who is great at guiding participants towards greater clarity in their goals. Goal setting is an important part of creating the right action steps to achieve them.

One of the benefits that you get from being on a fitness vacation is the encouragement and support from the other like-minded guests. It can be harder to keep yourself accountable and motivated on your own. Without a doubt, the team environment that comes from women going on an active vacation together is truly inspiring!

health retreat team work - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Click here to learn more about Whistler Fitness Vacations health retreat in B.C., Canada

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Set daily goals that you want to achieve, and break them down into smaller chunks that are achievable. For example, perhaps today your priority is to drink 3 liters of water. Break this down into drinking 3 cups before lunch.
  • Focus on micro-goals as well as the big picture ones. The little steps in the right direction really do add up.
  • Every Sunday, look back on your week. Note your achievements, and where you could improve.
  • Reward yourself along the way – perhaps hiring a baby-sitter for the afternoon so that you can enjoy a long walk in the forest.
  • Hire a life coach!
  • Find your people – an encouraging friend, neighbour or community fitness group to be part of your team.

9: Modern health retreat programs are body inclusive

All too often I hear about triggering experiences from the social environment at other weight loss retreats in Canada (or elsewhere). Being empathetic to the clients emotional triggers (surrounding the topic of size and weight loss) is a necessary leadership skill.

Body neutrality is about enjoying the feeling of your body without focusing on how it looks. It doesn’t mean that you’re apathetic to it becoming smaller, fitter, or stronger. Diet talk does not fit the environment of a body neutral fitness program, and slim people are also welcome.

READ: What Is Body Neutrality? The Growing Movement Teaches That You Don’t Have To Love Your Body All Of The Time

Body neutrality doesn’t meant that you’re not working towards improved body composition, or accepting yourself as overweight. It just means that you accept the journey of starting where you are in your fitness, and have made peace with the modifications required to stay safe.

health retreat lunch break - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Health retreat programs such as Whistler Fitness Vacations promote body neutrality.

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

Be mindful when joining boot camp programs or fitness challenges, especially weight loss focused ones. Unless the instructor has substantial experience in body transformation and weight management, they may not be sensitive to your needs.

  • If ‘body positive fitness’ doesn’t fit you, use ‘body neutrality’
  • Focus on benefits that don’t include the number on the scale. Sleeping better? Get 3 walks in this week? That’s a win!
  • Try to deflect the topic to something that’s more comfortable for you, when others talk about weight loss
  • Be mindful of your own communication style. Compliment a fellow challengers commitment to their workouts, instead of asking how much weight they lost. Bond in other ways – you’ll find a deeper and more meaningful connection.
  • Ditch weight loss as a measurement to whether you’re on track
  • Tell your trainer to stop asking you if you lost weight.
weight loss retreat trainwreck trail - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Bear, me and a fab Whistler Fitness Vacations guest on the trails.

10: Planning our customers workout time productively is what sets us apart from other health retreat programs

One of the best things about participating in a fitness retreat is that everything runs on schedule. Well-organized days really make a huge difference as our customers learn how to apply this organization to their lives at home.  Throughout the years of running destination fitness retreats, we’ve learnt a lot about how to make things run smoothly.

This gives us the ability to generate creative activity scheduling, juggle multiple tasks and limit waiting time between activities. The coordination details of your body transformation flows – from foundational phase through to healthy weight. With lots of experience with a wide range of guests, we speak your learning language. This brings you empowered workouts and fitness classes, with less time confused. And hey, we get it – sometimes you need a trainer, other times a mentor, listener, guidance or friend on the trails. All day hiking adventures is a lot of time together – our staff has the social skills needed to make your stay fun and fabulous!

These key advantages all add up to being able to provide our guests with some of the best weight loss retreats in Canada!

plan your meals ahead of time scaled - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Plan your workout time productively – go to the gym with a solid plan.
  • Consider hiring an Executive Coach to help manage your work priorities better
  • Insist that the personal trainer that you hire works with your learning style. Are you visual? Then ask for less verbal explanation and more workout demonstration.
  • Limit waiting time between workouts and activities. All of your workouts should include super sets and multiple tasks. Let your trainer know that you’d prefer not to rest between sets.
  • Be proactive with meal planning – look ahead at your week and organize what you’re going to eat. Write a shopping list every Sunday. Prepare rice in advance, keep it in the fridge up to 2-3 days. Cook two portions, freeze the second. Consider buying a second freezer so that you can take advantage of bulk buying, and always have healthy food on hand. Busy lives often make it hard to get to the grocery store.

Read: 10 Fitness Hacks For When You Don’t Have Time To Work Out

11: Weight loss retreats for women bring you the BEST NEW FRIENDS!

Signing up for a fitness camp means that you’re also signing up to meet like-minded, active people who want to get out and adventure every day. It’s great to have the direct connection with potential friends who’ve got similar values. Being surrounded by others with like-minded goals and interests will help significantly with motivation. Goals are always easier to meet when you have a support group of people to cheer you on.

A typical vacation packs on about 2-3 pounds, cruises often double that. Fitness vacations allow participants to at least maintain, and sometimes even lose weight. Exercise is the focus of the trip, which makes it more fun – and beneficial to your health. – Hopper McDonough, Active.com

health retreat biking - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

Biking on the 40km valley trail network is a favorite activity at Whistler Fitness Vacations!

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Figure out how you can meet like-minded women that uplift, encourage and support you. Perhaps you’ll need to be the group leader to coordinate a meetup or social. Yoga memberships are quite good for meeting others, more so than regular gym memberships (in my experience!)
  • Get cracking on your social sharing – it might be uncomfortable at first to post pictures of you going for a walk and being sweaty! But friends on your facebook or instagram might see it, and ask to join in. They may not have known that this was something you enjoy!
  • Join a progressive, 4-8 week fitness program. The community centre has programs all the time.
  • Be friendly, and look friendly – even when nobody is engaging with you. By having open body language and looking approachable, people might approach. Have a few light things to talk about, and to ask others about – know a few ways to encourage others to talk.

weight loss camp banner scaled - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home12: Fitness retreats give you time away from the everyday

Sometimes it’s hard to make a change in your life without changing your environment.

Traveling is a great way to clearly stop the routine and get out of a rut because everything is different – often even time zones. When you return from vacation you are now establishing a new routine, and you’ll have clearer vision about how you want it to be.

We all want to feel better and taking time away from our busy lives for vacation is a great start. Combining wellbeing with a holiday is next level and also a fun way to simultaneously set up some lasting good new habits to take home. It’s like vacation 2.0. – Tara Stiles

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Get back in touch with yourself – quiet time, meditation, self-reflection, journalling.
  • Have the courage to re-structure your life, if needed. Hire the relevant professional to support you.
  • Take the afternoon off. Go to the spa – have a massage. Or, take a nap. It’s okay to rest!
  • Do a staycation in your own town, google tourist attractions and actually go visit them. I went to the Whistler museum last year, after 20 years living in town and had a really nice afternoon!
whistler fitness vacations health retreat - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home

The health club at Whistler Fitness Vacations is pretty damn nice!

13: Completing a health retreat makes you feel proud

Signing up for a fitness program is both nerve racking and exciting! You hope that it’s everything it says on the website and videos because hey, you’ve just got the time off work and put down your non-refundable deposit. So when you get to the retreat, you’ve already taken the big courageous step of flying to the destination, and your emotionally invested. You therefore are ready to try new activities and sports – kayaking, fitness classes, hiking amazing mountains.

It’s really and truly an achievement to look back on your photos at the end of your stay.

What you can do today, to get similar benefits

  • Complete a micro goal daily – take a minute at night, to cross it off your list. It’s done!
  • Allow yourself to receive compliments from others who celebrate the fitness journey that you share with them.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Speak kindly to yourself!
  • Surround yourself with love and positivity, including on your social accounts.

cat smiley best weight loss retraets  - 65 Ways to Feel Like You’re On A Health Retreat - Without Leaving Home


And there you have it! Sixty-five ways to DIY a trip to Whistler Fitness Vacations lol I’m not sure that this post was my best business move but I hope it helps you! Here are the top take-home tips, summarized.

  1. Be mindful of your social environment; try making new friends who want to be active with you
  2. Sleeping and restorative exercise is a powerful way to healthier days
  3. Overhaul your diet if needs be. Focus on nourishing yourself with increased gratitude and awareness.
  4. Go exploring in your own town, hit the hiking trails, soak in the sights! Change your everyday view (and take some photos).

Saying yes to a fresh start might be as easy as making a few changes to your lifestyle, mindset and environment. These are small ways to capture that vacation feeling, the healthy kind! While we all feel stuck in our lives sometimes, it’s possible to skip out of your rut and into a new beginning. 

Still want to go on a health retreat?


Using precious holiday time to reach a goal like fitness or weight loss will make you feel GREAT. It’s an investment with many returns that will continue long after you go home. Fitness is a lifestyle, and you’ve spent the effort to make it happen for you! This is an accomplishment and valuable life change.

I’m proud to offer this kind of breakthrough at Whistler Fitness Vacations, it’s a gem of a program that I hope you’ll visit one day.

Get in touch @icatsmiley or here and let me know if there’s anything I can support you with.  

Hey, I’m Cat Smiley. I’m a fitness, nutrition, weight loss and life coach. Hire me if you want results! Click here to learn more about my 1-to-1 phone coaching services, upcoming weight loss retreats, and personal workshops.

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