(Interviewed by Louis James, International Speculator)
L: Doug, we’ve talked a lot about what we might call financial health, which only makes sense, given what we do here at Casey Research. But I know you have a great interest in physical health, and you’ve just visited one of the best health spas in the world. What did you think – would you recommend it to our readers?
Doug: Yes, I just finished spending ten days at the Canyon Ranch spa in Tucson, Arizona. It’s one of the oldest, and probably the premier U.S. spa. You might recall that about three years ago, I spent some time at the Chiva Som spa in Hua Hin, Thailand, which is probably the best spa in Asia. These may be the two best spas in the world.
L: So, how did they compare?
Doug: I’d recommend the Canyon Ranch spa highly, if only because it’s closer to where most of our readers are. The thing they do at both of these places is draw your attention to the fact that everybody – even those who try to engage in a healthy lifestyle – doesn’t really do an adequate job.
Look, right now, I’m sitting in an airport lounge in San Francisco, getting ready to board a plane to the Far East in a few minutes. I just left the Canyon Ranch earlier today. And I’m finding that as nice as the food is here in the first-class lounge, I really don’t want to eat any of it. The stuff we were eating at the Canyon Ranch was just so… wholesome. Organic. Perfectly balanced in terms of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. I’m truly feeling regret for having left.
I’m not overweight, but like almost everyone, I’m not at my ideal fighting weight either. In ten days there, I lost six pounds – and I could have done much better.
I had an even better experience at Chiva Som in Thailand.
These things are expensive, but for those who are able to afford them, going to one of these spas is probably one of the most important things they can do. You won’t really, fully understand why, unless you actually do it. So I’m suggesting, in the strongest terms I can, that people actually go out of their way and do it. It’s one of the smartest things you can do with your money, at almost any age.
L: Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything?
L: Okay, but you didn’t say how these two spas compared. Was the American one more high tech? Was the Asian one swarming with human attendants?
Doug: Actually, they are very similar. The medical technologies available at both places were equal and excellent. The costs are close, but Thailand is cheaper. But I’ve got to say – and this may simply be a function of the costs of providing services being so much lower in Thailand than in Arizona – that although the food in both places was excellent, the food in Thailand is a cut above excellent. And there were more people providing services…
From a consumer’s point of view, I’d have to say that the Oriental experience was probably better. There is the added effort involved in flying to Bangkok, and from there driving two hours to Hua Hin, but Thailand is something everyone should experience anyway. It’s one of my two favorite countries on the planet.
But I suggest that you do both, so you get a full idea of what it’s like and which environment suits you best. It’s potentially life changing. You know, one thing about these proper spas is that they make an effort to actually get you to change your life, from your way of thinking about your health to your daily habits. It’s not just an experience. It’s not just about going there to “do the spa thing” for a few days so you can say you’ve done it. They make a real effort to get you to reform the way you live, following a philosophy set down by each spa’s founders. I think it’s a very important thing for people to give serious consideration to – and most have not.
L: Sounds intense – you actually had time to work while there?
Doug: Yes. It’s amusingly coincidental that I happen to have been at a health spa when I wrote an article for this month’s Casey Report, on the so-called national health care crisis. That is, of course, mostly hysteria. Overhauling the U.S. medical system will do absolutely nothing to improve the health of the population. American medicine is extremely good for acute problems and diseases, but when it comes to health maintenance, it’s next to useless.
You know, Michael Moore, who is physically obese, intellectually dishonest, and philosophically unsound (what a pathetic combination – he should run for Congress), made the argument in his ridiculous movie that the average Cuban is healthier than the average American. That’s totally correct – but it has absolutely nothing to do with the health care system. The average Cuban isn’t healthier than the average American because his health care system is better. It’s a horrible – actually, a primitive health care system. The technology stopped advancing there back in 1960, and the doctors stopped learning new things in that year… medicines… Nothing has changed since 1960. But the average Cuban is in much better health than the average American.
There are two reasons for that: he has a much better diet, which is to say that he eats way fewer calories (and they are unrefined calories), and he gets a lot more exercise than the average American.
When things change in Cuba, so they have a diet like that of the average American and the same kind of transportation as the average American, the average Cuban will be in much worse shape.
People conflate the health of a population with a country’s medical system, when these things really have almost nothing to do with each other.
What this actually shows is the degraded state of American society. Instead of taking some personal responsibility for their health and lifestyle choices, they try to rely on medicos to engage in heroic efforts to keep them alive with tubes up their noses after they’ve become flaccid and bloated from a lifetime of bad habits.
L: This reminds me of the way Romans were said to have gorged themselves at banquets until they couldn’t eat anymore, proceeded to the vomitorium to unload, and then headed back to their couches to gorge again… But that might actually be healthier than what so many Americans seem to want to do, which is to eat all they want and then have it removed surgically later.
Doug: Yes, it really is awful. It’s all about disguising symptoms, instead of addressing the actual causes of the problems. And I think that what they do at these spas could be a big part of the answer. Unfortunately, they are not cheap. They’ll run you about $500 to $1,000 per day, all in, and that can add up quick. Then again, five-star hotels in major cities cost almost that much today. Plus, at the spa, you’re getting three excellent meals and all the exercise classes that you can take. It’s money well spent – it’s money invested in your health, which can reduce future health expenses.
If I could manage to take the time, I would definitely spend a month at one of these top spas next year.
And I’ve got to say, this is one of the reasons I’m so excited about what we’re doing down at Estancia de Cafayate.
L: Is that a shameless plug?
Doug: Yes, I’m not prone to feeling shame, but in this case, there’s no call for it, anyway. The whole place is being built to promote a spa-type lifestyle. Everything from the quality of the gym and amenities, to the food that’s going to be grown on site.
L: Okay. You mentioned a “proper spa.” What does that mean to you?
Doug: Well, there are probably thousands of places in the U.S. that call themselves spas these days or claim to offer a spa experience. They’ll have a good gym, and you can get a massage. Fine. Great start. But my idea of a proper spa is a place where you can start the day with Qi Gong at 6:00 am…
L: Start your day with what?
Doug: Qi Gong. It’s an ancient Chinese form of meditative exercise, with an emphasis on breathing and holding positions – some similarities with yoga. Then a yoga class at 7:00 for an hour, a water aerobics class at 8:00, breakfast at 9:00. Chill out for an hour, pump some iron in the gym, then have lunch. Do some work or reading in the afternoon, go for a swim, have a massage at 5:00, and then a nice dinner. And you might add some things according to your individual interest, like, say, adding a boxing class, or Tai Chi, which I enjoy whenever they are offered. Or a cooking class.
That’s a day at a proper spa. A gym and a massage are great, but it’s only a good start.
L: So, you’re doing all of this every day, and you lost six pounds in ten days—
Doug: Yes, but the process would have accelerated if I’d stayed longer. It takes a while to get off the mark. I think that if I’d stayed there for a month, I would have dropped a solid 25 pounds and built a lot of muscle out of what remained. In your normal day-to-day life, there are just too many distractions.
L: Okay, okay, but I gotta ask: you’re doing all this stuff and you lost weight while they were feeding you rabbit food – didn’t you get hungry? Ever feel weak?
Doug: No – this is the most amazing thing! I was never hungry while I was there. A proper spa diet is programmed to include enough bulk so that you are never hungry. I honestly never was hungry the whole time. Absolutely amazing.
L: I find that hard to believe …
Doug: I was never hungry the whole time. In fact, when I stepped away from the table, I sometimes felt like I’d had too much to eat. It was shocking. That’s what a properly programmed diet can do for you.
You know, one impetus for my going to the spa this time is that I had a really bad horse accident. It was a new pony. I got on him and he started bucking – and he bucked, and bucked, and bucked – and then he got really serious about getting me off his back. He sent me flying, and I couldn’t walk for a day. If I hadn’t gone to this spa, I would have been sedentary for the last two weeks, nursing my wounds and feeling sorry for myself.
Getting down to the spa got me exercising, and all sorts of moving around that I would not otherwise have done, having just been severely injured.
L: So… If I’m interested in trying this out, how do you recommend I proceed?
Doug: I’d call Trish Shea, my travel agent. She’s the one who made my arrangements at both of these spas, and she knows the drill. She’s very familiar with the best flight connections, ground transportation (which you’ll need in Thailand), etc. Her number is 1-352-516-7857 – she’s great.
L: There’s no financial investment angle here, I presume?
Doug: No. I’m just telling you this because I really believe it’s important. You know what they say: when you’re young, you trade health for money, and later in life, you trade money for health. I’m telling you that if you take advantage of proper spa services, you don’t have to make that trade-off.
L: Very well. Thank you.
Doug: My pleasure – and I really mean it: do it.
Doug Casey is the chairman of Casey Research and co-editor of Casey’s flagship publication, The Casey Report. One of Doug’s favorite sayings is that the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of two symbols – one means danger, the other opportunity.
And that’s what Doug and his team are best at: with an unfailing instinct for emerging trends and budding opportunities, they consistently have been making double- and triple-digit gains for their subscribers. Right now, one of their favorite plays is betting on an economic development that is all but inevitable… learn more about it here.