If you’re struggling to stick with your New Year’s weight loss resolution, you’re not alone—64% of adults fail to follow through with their resolutions by the end of January.
Vacations can be a fast-track way to destroy a formerly good health kick, especially if you book an all-inclusive package. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many destinations around the world offer healthy cuisines, hikes for various fitness levels, and other waistline-friendly activities. You can even book a wellness retreat that’ll motivate you to stick with your weight loss resolution well past January. And ideally, for life.
Gym Membership & New Year’s Resolutions
Perhaps unsurprisingly to anyone who’s tried to get in shape, people show an increased interest in gym memberships during the month of January.
A Piece of Travel analyzed the search volume for the term “gym membership” in Google Trends during the 10-year period from 2013 – 2022.
Google Trends uses a 100-point scale, with 100 indicating peak popularity for a term. They state that a value of 50 means the search term is “half as popular.”
The data revealed a clear spike in search volume for “gym membership” every January except for January 2021 and 2022. During 2021, “gym membership” had the highest search volume in June, with a search interest of 73 compared to 61 for January. The search volume was also the highest in June 2022, but only by a 3-point difference compared to January of the same year.
Below is a chart showing our findings. We also included February’s data, which shows a unanimous drop in search interest. Whether that’s because people already quit their New Year’s resolutions or purchased a recurring membership in January is open for debate.
|Year||January Search Volume||February Search Volume|
While gym memberships can work wonders for people who consistently work out, exercise is only a portion of the process for weight loss, according to Elena Papanikitopoulou from Euphoria Retreat in Greece.
Papanikitopoulou emphasizes that retreats offer added “benefits to guests such as the opportunity to meet like-minded people” and that clients from Euphoria leave “feeling truly inspired and filled with knowledge to incorporate into their daily lives.”
The Psychology Behind Weight Loss Resolutions
While saying you’ll start again tomorrow may work for some, psychological counselor Linda Arnold points out the dangers of breaking a promise to yourself, let alone several. She stresses the importance of building internal trust—proving to yourself that you can keep a promise through your actions—to avoid building up a list of times that you let yourself down.
So, what does sticking to weight loss resolutions and taking a vacation have in similar?
A change of environment.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg states that habits have four stages in what he calls a “feedback loop.” The first stage is an environmental cue that gives rise to a craving.
So, removing yourself from familiar places that trigger you to choose Netflix over the treadmill could help you stay on what might be your tipping wagon.
Destinations for New Year’s Weight Loss Resolutions
Below are some excellent vacation destinations and a corresponding wellness facility to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals. They’ll help ensure that the only thing you pack on during your trip is muscle.
1. San Diego, United States
San Diego’s idyllic climate makes it a great place to reignite your weight loss goals. Its Mediterranean weather means you’ll encounter little to no rain. And given that studies show people are nearly 3.5 times more likely to delay a workout in bad weather, that means you have a higher chance of burning more calories by visiting San Diego than if you don’t leave your snowy hometown.
Time will fly by as you explore San Diego’s outdoor sites. You can spend a day hiking Torrey Pines National Park and exploring its beaches. To get your heart rate pumping more, leave your car in the free parking spaces at the base of the hill and climb to the top.
San Diego offers 70 miles of coastline. Depending on your abilities, you can walk the beaches near downtown, which offer a flat entry. Meanwhile, people seeking a more challenging workout can explore the steep staircases that line the beaches in northern San Diego.
Don’t miss a visit to the market in Little Italy on Saturdays, where you can pick up organic veggies, homemade hummus, and other healthy food so delicious that it’ll feel like an indulgence. And when you’re ready to take a break, visiting La Jolla’s sea lions and seals is a must.
Where to Stay: Omni Resorts La Costa
Premier Fitness Camp operates a kickstart weight loss program at Omni Resorts La Costa in northern San Diego. The University of California helped design and test the program, which includes a health assessment, daily exercise, and meals by a certified nutritionist.
You can choose from a one, two, three, or four-week program, depending on your goals and budget. But if the four-week Life Transformer program isn’t financially within reach, you’ll still benefit from continuing support after you leave Omni, thanks to Premier Fitness’ at-home accountability coaching.
2. Surat Thani, Thailand
Surat Thani is a province in southern Thailand that oozes all things tropical. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities to keep the weight-conscious traveler burning calories while vacationing.
Khao Sok National Park is a must-visit, where a choice of trails leads to viewpoints overlooking Khao Sok Lake and opportunities to canoe. If you’re craving an island getaway, Ko Samui is an excellent option, complete with snorkeling, scuba diving, and waterfall treks.
As for food, Thai cuisine is abundant in vegetables and ingredients like lemongrass, chili peppers, coriander, and ginger. While some of their curries are calorie-dense, choosing varieties made with water or broth instead of coconut milk can help you stick with a lower-calorie diet.
Since many restaurants make rice and noodle dishes on the spot, you can ask the chefs to include more veggies and lean proteins than grains for a lower-carb meal.
Where to Stay: Absolute Sanctuary
Absolute Sanctuary is located on Ko Samui Island. They make the big claim that they’re Asia’s top wellness resort for fitness. While Absolute offers targeted weight management programs, you can also opt for a fitness or pilates program to stay on track with your weight loss goal.
Should you choose the weight management program, you’ll receive a daily personalized 60-minute fitness session, three or more colon hydro therapies, and a detox ritual treatment, among many other items to help keep your mind and body in sync with your weight loss resolution.
3. New South Wales, Australia
What’s better than fleeing to a warmer climate during the Northern Hemisphere winter? Going to a warmer climate and being someplace where you can spot kangaroos and wallabies. Fifteen species of them, in fact.
New South Wales is home to Sydney, Australia. But it also has many national parks and coastlines, offering heart-healthy hiking opportunities during your vacation. You can also try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding on Jervis Bay or learn to scuba dive at Lord Howe Island.
Admittedly, the modern-day Australian diet isn’t the healthiest.
However, you can find salad, grilled meat, fish, and plant-based options at many restaurants. So, you’ll have the option to make healthy choices.
Where to Stay: Gaia Retreat
If you’re not at the point of trusting yourself with a menu, Gaia Retreat is an excellent option to help you stick with your New Year’s weight loss goal. Their personalized programs target the area of health where you most need help, allowing you to choose a program that fits your needs.
From their Forage and Graze program to their Fitness & Vitality and Yoga & Pilates options, Gaia offers tailor-made wellness retreats to fit nearly every interest and health level.
4. Bodrum, Turkey
Bodrum is a resort city on Turkey’s Aegean Sea. It’s a hopping place during the summer, where tourists take day trips to nearby beaches and drive inland to the Pamukkale travertines. But the winter brings advantages to those looking to lose weight, for the temperatures are in the low 60s, making it comfy for brisk adventuring (with a rain jacket, for good measure).
But its food is where Bodrum really shines.
Bodrum’s food has a Mediterranean influence, with meals drizzled in olive oil. You’ll find many vegetable dishes, including those flavored with wild chicory and radish leaves.
While not all Turkish food is healthy, you’ll find many options at local Bodrum restaurants to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals, including grilled lamb, Turkish scrambled eggs, and yogurt-based salads.
Where to Stay: TheLifeCo
TheLifeCo is a wellness retreat in Bodrum that goes well beyond weight loss support. They offer several nutrition-based programs revolving around veganism and even programs for hypertension and anti-aging.
One of the great aspects of TheLifeCo is that you don’t have to navigate your vacation time around set start dates. They operate their services 365 days per year, allowing you to choose a length of time that works for you. For the best initial results, they recommend a minimum 4-day stay. And if you’d rather visit seaside Antalya, they offer a retreat there too.
5. Atami, Japan
Japan is one of the healthiest places to live in the world. And so, taking a trip anywhere in Japan increases the chances of shedding pounds compared to, say, a trip to McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, the most obese city in the United States.
But Atami is a particularly great weight loss destination for people who enjoy the sea and mountains. You’ll be close to Mount Fiji, where you can explore the trails around this volcano during the summer. But you don’t need to embark on such a long hike to get a workout.
Since Atamai sits on the side of a mountain, you can spend hours getting lost exploring its streets while simultaneously toning your calves and thighs. You can also keep your heart rate elevated by walking along Atamai’s sandy beach.
When your body needs a break, settle into one of the many natural hot springs in the city. There’s no shortage of healthy foods at restaurants, ranging from nori (dried seaweed) to sashimi and miso.
Where to Stay: Atami Sekaie
Atami Sekaie is a luxury hotel offering several wellness programs with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. They offer what they call a “Gentle Fasting” program for visitors, complete with Japanese cuisine featuring macrobiotic elements prepared by trained chefs.
If fasting doesn’t sound up your alley for a weight loss vacation, Atami Sekaie offers several other programs, including an activity-based fitness program and a conditioning retreat for the body and mind.
6. Peloponnese, Greece
Many people picture turquoise blue water and islands when they think of Greece. And, no doubt, island hikes like the famous Fira to Oia are bound to help you shed some holiday weight. But the mountainous region of the Peloponnese is also a great destination for weight loss.
You can explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mycenae and Epidaurus as well as hike the 22-kilometer railway tracks in Vouraikos Gorge. Be sure your fitness tracker battery is well charged; the hike takes about five hours.
The Menalon Trail is another famous hike in the Peloponnese region. It’s a total of 72 kilometers long, but there are eight different trails that vary in length and difficulty. So, it’s a great option for people of varying fitness levels.
Greece is yet another country that embraces healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Hummus, melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip), tzatziki, and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) are all diet-friendly foods that you’ll find on most Greek menus.
Where to Stay: Euphoria Retreat
Euphoria Retreat is a facility that offers three health-focused programs. By using their patented 3GL Plus Therapy, they determine a client’s baseline for metabolic health, longevity, and metabolites. Euphoria’s expert team then customizes a Mediterranean diet nutrition plan based on the results.
Euphoria tailors its program to clients who experience weight fluctuations, crave carbohydrates, and want to improve their habits and self-esteem. They use a combination of holistic techniques and the latest scientific findings to not only help clients lose weight and keep it off but improve their physical and emotional state. Once you complete your stay at Euphoria, they offer follow-up guidance sessions for up to three months so that you stay on track with your goals from home.
7. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town offers unique sightseeing while you shed pounds in the new year. Table Mountain is a must-see while visiting this city, but you can burn extra calories by skipping the cable car and hiking up the mountain instead.
For a lower-impact way to get fitness in during your Cape Town vacation, try wandering around Kalk Bay. Ocean views and adorable touristy shops will vie for your attention as you meander around the streets. It beats watching the snow from your indoor treadmill!
Sadly, Western processed foods pushed their way into South Africa. Nevertheless, there are several diet-friendly traditional foods you can eat, helped along with salads and other healthier options that you can find at tourist-oriented restaurants.
If you’re trying to reduce your carb intake, biltong and droëwors are must-tries. These South African meats are cured with vinegar and salt (and, yes, a bit of sugar). Chakalaka is a cold veggie dish with a base of carrots, beans, peppers, tomatoes, and plenty of spices to make you forget the hamburgers and hot dogs you once loved.
Where to Stay: Santé Wellness Retreat and Spa
Santé Wellness Retreat and Spa works with its clients to determine how they can best achieve weight loss by performing a personal analysis down to the cellular level.
Not only will Santé design a custom nutritional plan for you, but they also use neuro-biofeedback technology to determine emotional triggers that cause your unhealthy eating habits. Santé runs its program from October to April each year, which is the ideal time weather-wise in the Cape Town region.
8. Hilton Head, United States
Hilton Head sits in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, near Savannah, Georgia. It’s famous for its outstanding golf courses, where you can skip the cart to burn extra calories while you play.
If golfing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities to keep your metabolism busy during your Hilton Head vacation. Toss on some sandals or hop on a bike to explore Coligny Beach Park. Don’t miss a trip up to the Harbour Town Lighthouse, which will give your legs a workout and your mind interesting facts to ponder, as the lighthouse is also a museum.
South Carolina isn’t known for having food that’s easy on the waistline. However, there are some workarounds if you want to try local dishes without packing on the pounds.
Grits are a popular South Carolina dish. Ask the restaurant to make them plain for you, for they’re low in calories and fat before they add cheese, syrup, and other delicious but gluttonous ingredients. Okra is another healthy southern dish, provided you order it baked instead of fried.
Where to Stay: Hilton Head Health
Hilton Head Health is a wellness resort focusing on vacationers wanting to lose weight. They’ve been helping clients reach their weight loss goals for over 40 years, and they offer three different programs: JumpStart, LoseWell, and Extended Stay.
You can expect a good fitness challenge, but there will also be downtime where you can relax at Hilton Head Health’s spa. With the support of customized nutrition, the staff’s goal is to help you achieve sustainable weight loss once and for all.
9. Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Garda sits in northern Italy and is notorious for clear water and classic European charm. Adorable villages surround the lake, many offering the opportunity to climb uphill for stunning views.
Although Lake Garda gets chilly in the winter, it remains relatively warmer than Po Valley, thanks to the lake holding in heat. But it’s unlikely you’ll notice the cold when stopping for a glass of wine (they say it’s good for you, right?) at one of the many quaint lakeside cafes.
Despite being famed for pizza and pasta, Italy brims with healthy foods. You might even feel comfortable “splurging” on pizza or pasta at a local shop, given that the portions are smaller than what restaurants in the U.S. offer.
Fresh fish and vegetables are a staple in the diet of Lake Garda locals. You’ll also never be more than an arm’s reach away from healthy fats like olives and olive oil.
Where to Stay: Lefay Resort
Lefay Resort offers an intensive weight management program that lasts five or ten nights, per your preference. Despite its name, Lefay works with clients on a long-term solution for weight loss and health, making no promises for a quick fix.
The program at Lefay incorporates many avenues for well-being, including phytotherapy, nutritional consultation, an anti-cellulite massage, and a personal trainer session.
Regions & Countries to Avoid for Weight Loss
In most cases, any destination can be healthy or unhealthy depending on a vacationer’s food and activity choices. But when the local cuisine is healthier to begin with, it makes it easier to stay on track with weight loss goals.
With that in mind, below are some regions and countries where you might have a harder time keeping your weight loss momentum going.
The Pacific Islands have a reputation for overweight adults, with the Micronesian island of Nauru ranking as the most overweight country in the world. American Samoa, Cook Islands, Palau, and the Marshall Islands come in places second through fifth, respectively.
There are complex reasons for the rise in obesity in many Pacific Islands. However, many people point the finger at manufacturers from western countries, who send unwanted parts of animals, such as the oil-filled gland of a turkey tail, to make a few bucks on otherwise wasted food.
Mexican delicacies like tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and chips with salsa typically come with lots of calories and fat. Of course, you can opt for taco salads without the taco shell and offset the impact of excess calories by hiking with dogs in Cabo or snorkeling in the Yucatan.
Just be sure not to undo your efforts with one too many margaritas or Coronas.
Goreng means fried in Indonesian, which most tourists learn when discovering Indonesia’s national dish—nasi goreng (fried rice). But once you discover the meaning of goreng, it becomes alarming to see how many of Indonesia’s dishes contain fried ingredients.
Needless to say, you’ll need to do a lot of stair climbing at the beaches in Uluwatu to burn off the calories.
Ready to Shed Pounds While Vacationing?
You’re presumably already battling with the bludge, so there’s no need for you to battle with your vacation plans too. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to walk away from your vacation with a wider waistline.
Wellness retreats are an excellent way to help you stay or get back on track with your New Year’s weight loss resolution. But you don’t have to pour thousands of dollars into a weight loss vacation program—choosing a diet-friendly destination with lots of active touring can help you shed pounds during your trip.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She's an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she's befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on solo female travel and wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister.