Update on new hotels/resorts

As you may have noticed, we’ve added dozens of new resorts and hotels to our map! We decided that it was time to start sharing all of the research we have been doing about destinations these past few years.

While many of these new destinations are also applying to be Approved Healthy Destinations, they won’t have their official icon on the map until we have certified them! If you have visited any of the hotels or resorts on our map, please feel free to post a review and share your favorite health or wellness-focused amenity, program, service, facility or personnel with our site visitors!

The reason that many of the new postings only have minimal information on them at this point is because some of our research focused on a particular amenity we found intriguing. We searched for destinations that provided that element, and that may be all the verified health and wellness-focused research we have on that individual property thus far.

Many of these destinations have a variety of health-focused assets and it will just be a matter of time before we update their profile to bring you even more information about each hotel/resort. We promise we will be updating the destination profiles as we discover more about the health and wellness-focused amenities, services, programs, facilities and personnel available at each destination!

For our Road Warriors — our business travel advisers often point out that their travel schedules can be exhausting, we’re doing the research so you can know the healthy options that are available to you on-site, at the airport, or around your destination!

For those leisure travelers, health and wellness may not be your primary reason for travel but we want you to know where you can find fun and interesting health and wellness-focused options whenever and wherever possible!

Feel free to post a favorite destination that you’ve visited, or review and share your favorite health or wellness-focused amenity, program, service, facility or personnel on one of the destinations already posted on the map!

There is so much health and wellness-focused information out there to share…let’s work together to make this a helpful travel resource for all of us!

Travel healthy!!

Mary Ellen

On Hilton’s New Room Keys

punch room keyRecently I responded to a media inquiry seeking opinions on the electronic check-in features being offered at many hotels. My initial thoughts leaned toward the gradual loss of that which is most important to the hotel industry – opportunities for human engagement in hospitality environments! How can a guest feel welcomed if they don’t have to go to the welcome desk to check in? Personally, I always enjoy this interaction and it seems to set the stage for what I can expect from other personnel at the hotel.

But then I read Hilton Takes on Future of Room Keys in the August 5th issue of USAE. The article addressed Hilton’s interest in attempting “to streamline and empower guests at Hilton hotels” as well as providing them with an opportunity to truly personalize their guest experience. Hilton’s efforts made me realize that there was more to this e-registration option than I had previously considered.

From a Healthy Destination perspective, virtual interactions like the digital check-in and room selection option at Hilton appears to be alleviating much of the stress associated with room selection or assignment – an effort that very much falls into IHDA’s Best Practices paradigm. Additionally, if the guest is already familiar with the hotel, and they already know what they want, this system will allow them to have a better chance at getting it. Imagine the satisfaction with guest room assignment answers resulting from that question on the guest satisfaction survey!

Since a recent study revealed that 84% of business travelers want the ability to choose their own room, I would affirm that giving them the option to do so through a virtual check-in procedure is a valid reason for moving forward with this . After all, each innovation that can be tied into improving the Healthy Guest Experience™ is what we at IHDA encourage Healthy Travelers to look for when considering their destination choices!

Energy Drinks – Important facts you should know

energy drinksIf you read my posting about caffeine and stress, you already know that energy drinks are loaded with ingredients that are not familiar to the average consumer. Considering the Olympic games are happening right now, I found an article in the American College of Sports Medicine newsletter that discussed the dangers of energy drinks for athletes. If you have a future Olympian or an athlete in your home that may be subject to drug testing for their sport, listen up!

Amy Eichner, Ph.D., a Special Advisor on Drugs and Supplements at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency; and Erin Hannan, also with the Agency; authored a critical look at energy drinks with the concern that athletes may not realize energy drink ingredients can trigger positive results in anti-doping tests. If you see the following ingredients on energy drinks, know that…

– Methylsynephrine: is also known as Oxilofrine— is a prohibited stimulant

– Ma Huang (extract): is a plant source of Ephedra, also a prohibited stimulant

– Ephedra: is an extremely strong stimulant, FDA took it off the market because it caused many adverse health effects (including death)

– Citrus Aurantium (also called bitter orange): is a source of synephrine, not prohibited in 2011 but has stimulant properties

– Guarana, Kola Nut (extract): are both sources of caffeine

– Geranium, Geranamine, Geranium surge: may be Methylhexaneamine, which is a prohibited stimulant

– Yohimbe: is a strong stimulant used in drugs in some countries, interacts with anti-depressants.

– Synephrine: is not prohibited but added together with other ingredients can cumulatively pose health dangers.

It is always important to read the Serving size listed on the nutrition label. How many serving sizes are in a single container? The authors note, “The FDA considers liquid supplements be 8 ounces or less but many companies ignore this guidance.”

Dr. Eichner also noted that when the ingredient list begins with “Proprietary Energy Blend” it presents the problem of not knowing how much of each ingredient is in the blend. Ingredient lists are supposed to be labeled according to the percentage of the ingredient in the product—with the highest amounts listed first, and lowest last. So if Tyrosine is the first ingredient, there is more Tyrosine than any other ingredient in the product.

Speaking of which, did you know that Tyrosine and Phenylalanine are commonly added to energy drinks and yet they can interact with a lot of medications! If these facts aren’t enough to make you think twice about talking to your adolescent athlete about the dangers of consuming energy drinks, know that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages children and adolescent use of energy drinks as well.

Managing Stress by the PIECES

relaxIf you knew that stress was killing you, would you continue to allow stress into your world? Would you change your lifestyle? Could you change the stress triggers in your life?

Stress has become the buzzword for all manner of complaints in our ever changing, over-scheduled, hypertext, information-overload world. The impact that stress has on our health is increasingly becoming the focus of global health researchers and as a result, we can now point to a number of health issues that are directly affected by:

– The amount of stress an individual is exposed to,

– How the individual manages their stressors, and

– Perceptions affecting which stressors are controllable.

Stressors are simply the root cause or trigger of what is generally known as the “fight or flight” reaction in the body. Because stressors may be perceived as an attack on the Physical body, stress will have an impact upon all of your PIECES® of health.

So what can you do about stress? Glad you asked! Stress management is all about control and perspective. Learning to recognize conditions, maintain perspective and determine which stressors are within your ability to control will drastically reduce the impact stress can impose on your health. The next time you sense a stressor, you could ask yourself these six questions:

– Am I reacting to this stressor because I am hungry or tired? Physical control

– Do I understand the cause of this stressor? Intellectual control

– Am I allowing my emotional “buttons” to be pushed? Emotional control

– Is the stressor coming from someone I want influencing my life? Community control

– Are my surroundings helping or hurting my stress level? Environmental control

– Is this stressor central to my current or ultimate life purpose? Spiritual control

Stress is a natural part of your world almost every day. Knowing that some parts of stress can be controlled will help to lessen its affect on your health. Take the time today to consider the impact of stress in your life. It’s your health, take care of your PIECES® and enjoy it!!

A Community of Loss

In July 2012, the Washington Post published two stories that moved me to tears. Although the tears were shed for very different reasons, the fact that these stories elicited such a strong Emotional reaction reminded me about the power and necessity of Community, or human consecutiveness.

The front-page, above-the-fold July 15th, 2012 story wedged the headline front and center: Meaningless Millions. The title did its job as it had my attention immediately. The story was a retrospect on the lives of the victims from the Massey mining disaster. As it turned out, the copy primarily focused on a wrenching account of one family’s struggle with putting a dollar value on life.
How much is a life worth? Could you answer that question about yourself –or anyone in your family? When I sold life insurance as part of employee benefit plans, we did this all the time. It was easy to attach a monetary value for the Executives because their value was inevitably tied to their interest in the company. When it came to the employees however, that was a tougher, more personal call. People inevitably undervalued their worth and rarely gave it much thought before spewing out some random number.

Can we ever truly know the value of a life?

Patty and Gary Quarles were tortured by the resolution of that problem as they tried to reach a dollar figure with Massey Energy. They had lost their only child in that disaster and it was up to them to reach a settlement for his death. It didn’t matter that, in reality, he wasn’t a child but a full-grown man, with children of his own. In the Quarles’ eyes, age didn’t matter. He was their son.

He was his Dad’s best friend and hunting partner. He was their grandchildren’s father. He was the most important thing they had in their lives. Now he was gone.

What the Quarles ultimately found was this: there is no magic number. Money can’t fill holes that are left in the heart.

Humans are emotional creatures and money is a thing that elicits emotion. You need it, want it, got to have it. But what happens if it is born from pain? The settlement papers are signed, the check is delivered, and everyone walks away happy – right? Evidently no.

While many industries are burdened with the constant and looming threat of litigation arising out of irresponsible practices, the question of Tort reform is an especially touchy subject in the health care business. Prior to reading this article, I never contemplated the notion that the money might leave the recipient feeling hollow, guilty and unfulfilled, like it appears to have left the Quarles. It made me think that perhaps we are neglecting the larger need of those that are receiving monetary settlements for their pain and suffering.

There are probably an awful lot of people that would be happy to have millions in the bank, even if it came from a tragedy like the Massey disaster. Yet here was a story that flew in the face of the “money as the solution to everything” philosophy. The money was little more than a Band-Aid stretched across a gaping, cavernous wound that continued to weep painfully. Counseling didn’t help.

Apologies from the company didn’t help. Money didn’t help.

I kept asking myself, what do these poor souls need to heal?Leaf Community H250

In a word: Community. We build circles of Community with every relationship we bring into our life. Some circles are very small like a parent and child. Others are huge, like the Community of Americans. Humans define, depend upon, and delineate who they are based upon the Communities to which they belong. When someone from your Community dies, a thread breaks. The fabric is weakened and it needs to be addressed before things get out of hand.

When you lose someone you love, you need support and confirmation that life is still worth living. You need direction, guidance, and the patient love of others. You need to find a reason to heal and to move forward through the pain. You need to re-form your Community to feel safe again.

The Quarles experienced disruption in several of their Community circles. I can’t begin to imagine the extent of their pain. There are no easy answers and even fewer simple fixes. We are all different and healing is a personal journey.

Life is a series of challenges, but they may be easier to overcome when you live them within a Community.

Emotions & Stress – Fight or Flight

I try to participate in a number of LinkedIn professional discussion boards about health promotion, as there is a wonderful interdisciplinary acceptance of ideas and opinions and the diversity of perspectives is always a point of fascination for me.
Recently one of those discussions was led by the question “If you can stop the inappropriate “fight and flight” from taking place in the brain, then you have conquered the personal stress reaction. Any thoughts?”

Of course I had many– the first being “it’s not an inappropriate response”! But I am learning to control my academic reactions and I have found that it is helpful to read through the comments that are already posted before I offer mine (plus it is a waste of everyone’s time to repeat information that has already been presented!).
First, let me lead with the fact that I taught Strategies for Stress Reduction for a number of years at the University level. During that time I also did a great deal of research on the subject and edited a Stress Management textbook for McGraw-Hill. I would like to think of myself as an “expert” on the subject, but the one truth I have confirmed throughout these many years of learning is this: the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.

With that in mind, I read the discussion thread with great interest. As usual, the alternative health practitioners came from a perspective of meditation, yoga, and breath control whereas the medical minds inevitably headed straight into physiological processes and what is happening to the body in a clinical sense.limbic system

In reality, both viewpoints are valid and necessary for true stress management. The “fight or flight” response is practically reflexive and therefore, we have no control over the way our body reacts to a stressor that triggers this response. It is what kept many a caveman alive and it is still a very necessary part of our world today.

The problem with stress is that many of us don’t take the time to differentiate between a life-threatening stressor and the stress that is caused by a teenager that won’t clean his room. Both of these situations will cause the body to react the same because they are emotionally charged triggers; but only one of them will quickly resolve itself without much thought; and thus minimize the long-term effect on health.

Consider this scenario: You are watching a tiger at the zoo when suddenly it leaps toward you. Your heart immediately starts pumping wildly and you can feel your entire body react – this is the fight or flight response to the primary emotion of fear. Fortunately the brain immediately kicks in to remind you that the tiger is in a cage, it can’t actually reach you, and you don’t have to be afraid. Your body automatically reverses the stress response and begins its work to return your heart rate and other physiological responses back to “normal”.

This entire scenario probably lasted less than three seconds. You see, your brain knows that “cage equals safety” because it learned that bit of information somewhere between day one of your life and your visit to the zoo. As a result, the brain doesn’t have to work out the stress reduction solution because there is an automatic connection somewhere in that grey matter that is just waiting for moments like these to trigger that knowledge!

Now let’s try something a little less simple to resolve—the messy teenager. Here you still have the potential for a triggered stress response, but the return to “normal” isn’t going to be so easy. The messy teenager probably triggers the emotional response of frustration—which is actually a secondary emotion. That’s a good thing because now you have two choices in this situation.
One choice is to not view the messy teenager as a stressor (something I find easier said than done!). The other choice is to go with the stress response you are experiencing, then use your intellect to calm yourself down after you have finished throwing a fit. Use your words, use skills of reason, go for a run, punch a pillow, talk to a friend, find your happy place outside—any of these options are viable and one might even work for you!

Every day with a teenager is a new adventure in learning so you may not have a brain full of experiences and knowledge to pull the self-calming solution out of the brain’s auto-response bank. You try a solution, if it works, you store it away, if it doesn’t, take a deep breath and try another…

The bottom line is this: Managing your response to a stressor isn’t always within your control– and that’s a medical fact.
On the other hand, managing the way you respond to stress can literally add years to your life—and that, my friend, is true whether you are a follower of alternative medicine or rock it med-school-style.

Either way, managing your stress is critical to staying healthy. Hang in there and keep looking until you find what works for YOU!

Stress & Caffeine – What’s a body to do?

Caffeine produces many of the same physical symptoms we experience when the body is under stress.

Consider the followingCaffiene

– Do you often feel dehydrated? Dizzy? Generalized pain in neck, shoulders and back?

– Do your hands tremor? Eyes burn and feel heavy or tired?

– Do you have difficulty getting to sleep yet feel fatigued on and off during the day?

– Are you easily irritable or go through massive emotional swings during the day?

– Do you have frequent headaches, ulcers, acidity, heartburn, irregular or rapid heartbeats?

If you are already stressed, caffeine may not be your best choice of beverage. Many of the symptoms listed above are related to excess caffeine in your system! Since caffeine can cause serious damage to your health, perhaps you should slowly and steadily wean yourself of what may be a habit of excess caffeine intake.

Some of the symptoms of caffeine intoxication include: restlessness, twitching, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, excess urination, diarrhea, and rambling thought flow or speech.

If you are worried about your intake of caffeine, consider a visit to www.caffeineinformer.com.

They have a “Death by Caffeine” calculator that you may find interesting! Life is full of stressors, why add more by overindulging in caffeine? Take control of your health by controlling your daily intake of caffeine.

Stress and Caffiene – Did you know…

student stress

Teenagers today are under more stress than ever…just ask them! School expectations, peer pressure, parental nagging, keeping up with technology – how do they stand all that emotional tension? If they are anything like mine were, they sleep it off–mostly during the day when I would prefer they make themselves busy helping around the house!

Physically, the adolescent body is in the midst of one its critical growth stages. Intellectually, they still have a few years to go on the upward climb toward brilliance and sensibility. Emotionally, well, if you have a female teenager need more be said? Bottom line is this, half of their PIECES® are already in turmoil just because of their age; when you add external stress to that equation, nothing good is going to come from it.

What’s a parent to do? Pick your battles. Here’s an easy one…if after a long day of sleeping, your teenager starts her evening with an energy drink you may want to help her reconsider her beverage choice. What’s the BIG DEAL, it’s only an ENERGY DRINK? Well, for one, caffeine releases many of the same chemical reactions in the body that the stress response produces.

If your teenager wants to reduce their stress levels, let them know that one of the ways they can control that stress is to minimize the caffeine in their system. You put the control back into their hands and give them good reason to make a healthier choice.
Need some facts?

– More than 31% of U.S.teenagers – that’s 7.6 million teens – drink energy drinks! So, yes, it might seem like everyone else is doing it but that doesn’t make it a good choice–besides, they probably aren’t as smart as you are or have near the other stressors you have in your life.

– Energy drinks make up a $3.4 billion-a-year industry that grew by 80% in 2005! I appreciate the fact that you are contributing to the economy, but there are other ways to help…how about making money instead of spending it?

– Laden with caffeine and sugar, they encourage a “jolt-and-crash” cycle. Roller coasters are great but when it comes to your energy stores a nice, level road is your best bet. Crash and burn is only fun when you’re watching it on You Tube.

– Science doesn’t know what kind of effects some of the ingredients in energy drinks – like taurine, glucuronolactone and guarana — can have on the body. Nothing like a big gulp of ‘I don’t know what this stuff does’ to make you feel good about your choices! Let’s see what crazy ingredients are listed in some of the foods I need to give up as well.

– Though often sold in a smaller container than a standard can of Coke, that undersized serving of the energy drink contains 2 to 4 times the amount of caffeine as the standard can of Coke. Despite what your grandma tells you, good things don’t always come in small packages.

As you probably already know, teaching your adolescent to make good choices is not easy. Hang in there and give the Energy Drink lecture a try – you may just surprise both of you! Already stressed just thinking about it? Drink a glass of WATER and take a deep, relaxing breath!

Creating A Healthy Guest Experience

Discovering the PIECES® of a Healthy Guest Experience™ involves the discovery of specific hospitality elements which are truly contributing to a guest’s Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Community,Environmental and Spiritual health or wellness interests. Research conducted by Wellness Tourism Worldwide found that 75% of survey participants said they need a better understanding of wellness travel products and services.  The Approved Healthy Destination (AHD) accreditation process provides consumers with that better understanding. AHD applicants provide information about the destination’s Best Practices for Healthy Hospitality as well as a wide-ranging inventory of health-focused amenities, programs, services, facilities and personnel. That information is provided on the IHDA website to our Healthy Traveler members. Consumers that want to share information and provide a personal assessment of their experiences at an IHDA Approved Healthy Destination will have the opportunity to do so within the www.travelhealthy.org  Healthy Traveler network.


PIECES for Life – Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Community, Environmental, Spiritual

There are several companies that are working at improving the Healthy Guest Experience™ by implementing unique amenities such as Vitamin C showers and dawn-simulator alarm clocks in the guest room, while others are addressing new types of air, water and surface cleanliness/sanitation issues in those spaces. Step outside the guest room and there is an entire hotel/resort of options that are both seen and ‘behind the scenes’ that affect the Healthy Guest Experience™.  Many of these options are implemented without much scientific thought to their legitimacy as truly contributing to the health & wellness of the guest. That’s where IHDA can help.

At IHDA we provide two levels of health-focused review to consider before booking a destination stay. The first level, or Approved Healthy Destination accreditation, requires a Best Practices in Healthy Hospitality review that explores elements that are very basic to a Healthy Guest Experience™ such as being sensitive to allergy triggers, proper support for health emergencies, and the provision of minimal exercise & recreation options. The second level of review is necessary if the destination wants to receive the PIECES® Certified Healthy Destination designation. Resorts and hotels that are PIECES® Certified have over 3000 elements of their destination personally reviewed and explored by a health scientist. This level of detail provides IHDA with a robust bank of information from which we can conduct research, inform travelers and educate the industry about what works and what is important to the guest.

Recent media and research reports are showing that the hospitality industry is increasingly paying attention to the health & wellness interests of their guests. Health-focused consumers are transforming the U.S. travel market into a 40% representation that will demand to be heard. IHDA intends to be the ‘go-to resource’ for honest, impartial facts that will help both parties get what they want out of the exchange.

Founding Members of Institute Set the Mark for Others to Follow

IHDA_HEALTHY_DESTINATION_white_circle_backgroundSeven iconic U.S. hotels/resorts have joined the Institute for Healthy Destination Accreditation’s (IHDA) efforts to legitimize the growing interest in healthy travel destinations. As the first of its kind nonprofit, IHDA welcomes The Breakers Palm Beach (FL), The Hotel del Coronado (CA), The Broadmoor (CO), The Coeur d’Alene Resort (ID), Airlie (VA), and The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel & Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (HI) destinations as its Founding Approved Healthy Destination members. David Burke, vice president sales and marketing for The Breakers Palm Beach, said, “We expect our accreditation with IHDA to enhance our appeal as a luxury destination to discerning, health-conscious travelers. Wellness has become a lifestyle priority for our guests, and our affiliation with IHDA as a trusted, independent source will help endorse The Breakers in that context.”

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The Breakers Palm Beach – FL

Barry Brown, director of sales and marketing at The Hotel del Coronado, said he “welcomed the invitation by IHDA to become a charter member. “At the Del we are always looking for ways to meet our customers’ desires, and health and well-being is a high priority for our guests as it is for us,” Brown said. “Meeting the high standards of IHDA is an added plus to communicate to our guests and travelers considering a stay at the Hotel del Coronado.”

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The Hotel Del Coranado – CA

Allison Scott, Director of Communications, said, “The Broadmoor has been committed to excellence for nearly a century and understands that the standard is constantly evolving. Broadmoor guests arrive at our iconic gem in the Rockies with very high expectations and look to experience an extensive range of amenities, both indulgent and health-minded. With its unrivaled natural setting that is second to none, it is fitting for The Broadmoor to be one of the founding members of IHDA and we believe it validates our commitment to healthy travel.”

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The Broadmoor – CO

As the first PIECES® certified resort, Airlie earned a Silver medal based on an excellent variety of health and wellness-focused amenities, programs, services, facilities and personnel available to the guests and resort employees. Airlie is renowned for its innovation and industry-leading efforts regarding environmentally sensitive and sustainable practices as well as health-focused initiatives.


Airlie – VA