APR 2016

DAYSPA is the business resource for spa & wellness professionals! Each issue covers the latest in skin care, spa treatments, wellness services and management strategies.

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YOURWELLNESSSPA 54 DAYSPA | APRIL 2016 of women had gathered in the cozy sitting area, chat- ting familiarly. At precisely 6 p.m. they moved toward the dining room—a large space appointed with color- fully clothed tables, each primly set for a party of four. Being low-profi le people, my daughter and I chose an unobtrusive table midway into the room. Within moments a fellow guest approached. "May I sit here?" she asked, not really waiting for a response. We were confused—the room was fi lled with empty tables. "Of course," we politely replied in unison. Shortly thereafter we were joined by a fourth guest and, looking around, I realized that "low profi le" was not a popular option at The Oaks. Virtually everyone was seated in fours. We soon learned that our table-mates had been to the destination spa before—more than once. As it turned out, this was true for most of the 40-or-so women visit- ing the 78-room property that weekend. Some came with a buddy, or two or three. A few came solo. But they all seemed to know the lay of the land: where and when to go for meals and snack breaks, dance classes, aquatic activities, yoga, lectures and, of course, spa services. We shared stories easily, as women who are thrown together are wont to do, and I was almost too distracted by their tales to notice the stellar wait staff providing our fi rst, second and third courses. But there was no overlooking the food: perfectly cooked salmon, succulent sweet potatoes, tender aspar- agus. As dessert—a luscious chocolate morsel with ber- ries—was delivered, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd been served a balanced meal without having to tangle with menus, ordering, checks and tips. Looking around the room, I saw 39 other women wear- ing the same grateful smile that clearly communicated: Someone's taking care of me for a change. I felt a pang of something like solidarity. THE MIGHTY OAKS Fitness guru and septuagenarian Sheila Cluff founded The Oaks at Ojai in the 1970s as a positive alternative to the punitive "fat farms" that were the only option for people seeking fast and effective weight loss at that time. The former professional fi gure skater's goal was to create a place "that focused on health and fi tness, where people would come to enjoy themselves, not be 'punished' with exercise and diet food." "Our recipes were developed by Eleanor Brown, who started with us in 1978, using calorie-reducing alternative ingredients, such as non-fat yogurt strained overnight and seasoned, instead of sour cream," says Cathy Cluff, president and CEO of The Oaks (and Sheila's daughter). "Each chef since has created new, personalized dishes. Our current chef, Christine Denney, who came from the famous Ojai Ranch House restaurant, has 'decalorized' some of its butter-laden recipes while maintaining the amazing taste (as in our baked potato soup, for example)." Fortunately for the public, The Oaks' lauded cuisine has become widely accessible via issued cookbooks and packaged delicacies such as seasonings, salsas, jams and muffi ns. SNAPSHOT Left: The Oaks at Ojai founder Sheila Cluff continues to be an inspiration to women seeking to maintain health and balance well into their 70s, 80s and beyond; Right: Aquatic exercise classes are a staple, offering cardio benefi ts without straining the joints. The colorful, varied cuisine served at The Oaks includes vegetarian options, fi sh, chicken and, of course, sweet treats.

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