In Which People Pay $5,600 For A "Starvation Vacation."

"Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle" reads the motto helpfully left on the pillow of each penitent doing the Ranch at Live Oak cleanse. At $800 and 1500 calories a day, easy for them to say.

The Wall Street Journal's Christina Binkley signs on for 7 days at the ranch to get in shape and lose some weight. Although she — and most of the other guests (which group includes " a London mergers-and-acquisitions attorney, business owners, the wife of a famous musician and a well-known singer") — has neglected her recommended pre-ranch detox, they're nonetheless plunged into a grueling near-starvation regimen. Here is her schedule:

5:30 a.m.: Wake up

5:45 a.m.: Yoga

7 a.m.: Breakfast

8 a.m.: 12-mile hike

1 p.m.: Lunch

2 p.m.: Nap

3 p.m.: Exercise class

4 p.m.: Exercise class

5 p.m.: Yoga

6 p.m.: Massage

7 p.m.: Dinner

8 p.m.: Sleep

In the words of the piece's promo, the author found it "worth it": at the final weigh-in, "I did 47 knee-down push-ups-up from 27 the previous Sunday; had lost 6½ pounds; my lower quadriceps were 1¾ inches narrower and my waist 1½ inches trimmer. I craved exercise." Months later, she adds in comments, she's kept it off.


It is very hard — nearly impossible — not to feel churlish reading about this kind of excess: paying a lot for starvation. Paying, in essence, to keep yourself safely quarantined from the excess of your normal life. I get paying a trainer — and that part of what you're paying for is the discipline — but in all, the spectacle of such privileged people aping conditions of deprivation for such astronomical sums is rather problematic. I found it slightly ironic that the author should invoke Marie Antoinette.

Whether anyone would have the discipline to recreate this regimen at home, of course, is an open question — for the reason that it seems like it would take superhuman third-party effort to impose something so drastic. I'm not going to say whether the plan is healthy — although a uniform standard applied across weight and fitness levels sets off alarm bells — or whether the effects are realistically sustainable, although I have my suspicions. But I'm thinking most of us would face rather more of an obstacle than "lack of an idea." And the lack of a spare $5,600, for that matter, might be a little bit more of a problem than they're letting on.


The Starvation Vacation [Wall Street Journal]