Body and Sol, page 5:

A devotee of the small, friendly Oaks at Ojai health resort and spa, I was delighted to find a similar atmosphere at the sister property, The Palms at Palm Springs, a 1920s-style garden resort a few blocks from downtown.

The Palms is owned by Sheila Cluff, a fitness pioneer who introduced cardiovascular dance -- now known as aerobics -- to the country in the 1950s. A 57-year old blond grandmother who looks like a 35-year old blond media star, Sheila is on the Governor's Council on Fitness, and leads intrepid Palms- and Oaks-lovers on health cruises several times a year. Distinguishing the Palms from other spas is the all-inclusive program of three healthy, low-calorie meals a day, a choice of sixteen daily exercise and conditioning classes, and a casual, non-intimidating ambiance that attracts all ages and shapes to return here, year after year.

At each meal, I sat with guests from as far away as St. Louis, all of whom were Palms "graduates". Of immense popularity here are the three light, fresh meals a day, and snacks, which add to up a mere 1000 calories; heartier "athlete" portions can be arranged. I like the iced hot herbal teas, coffee and juices available not only at meals, but all day long. A typical dinner may be a large salad with low-fat dressing, a Southwestern-style chicken breast with salsa, fresh corn, oven fries, and a filling, fat-free dessert, plus fresh fruit if you desire it.

The first activity of each day is a walk around lovely residential streets in Palm Springs, or a longer hike in the foothills. Of the daily classes, I like aquaerobics best, an hour of fat-burning swooshing about in the pool -- it's painless and feels like fun, not exercise. My other favorite experience here is the Palms Pancha Karma, where two therapists, in synchronization, cleanse and massage your body with warm sesame oil.

Unique to the Palms are nightly health and beauty lectures by a variety of experts, and personal wellness and diet counseling. There is a strong emphasis on giving guests health and diet information, recipes and an enlightened attitude to take home.

I took home a pound or two less in body weight, a rosy complexion and a tingling clean and refreshed birthday suit. And, I resolved to greet every winter with a spa experience and a soak in the magical mineral waters of Palm Springs.

©Karen Misuraca; all rights reserved.