My stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center

by Diana Labrum, CHt on October 20th, 2014

Pritikin Longevity Center
 
Nathan Pritikin was born in 1915 and lived his early life in Chicago. He was an inventor and later a nutritionist. He was diagnosed with heart disease in 1957 and started researching a better way to eat to overcome his own heart disease. He studied primitive people that had almost no heart disease and lived on vegetables, legumes and whole grains. He changed his own eating, started moderate exercise and in a few years was able to reverse his own heart disease
He established the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Barbara, CA in 1976 and wrote a book “The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise” with Patrick McGrady, Jr. After that Dr. David  Lehr, a well-respected cardiologist, brought 60 Minutes to investigate the Pritikin Program. Dr. Lehr and Nathan Pritikin then appeared on 60 Minutes which helped make “Pritikin” a household word. In 1978 Nathan Pritikin and Dr. Lehr co-founded the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida. They instructed the participants on medicine, nutrition and physiology and on managing their own health.
Nathan Pritikin was a vegetarian but his book allowed for eating up to 3-1/2 oz. of meat a day. He talked about using meat as a condiment rather than the main course. He advocated keeping total fat grams to 10% of your total calorie intake.
The Pritikin Program also advocated exercise. It suggested a minimum exercise of walking ½ hour to an hour every morning and again in the afternoon. The book said that two half hour walks was more productive then one hour walk.
Nathan Pritikin created his eating plan to cure his own heart disease but after working with many people found that one of the main by-products was weight loss. He claims that weight loss through a low-fat method is safe and effective. . He was diagnosed with leukemia in the early 1980’s and committed suicide in 1985. After he died the autopsy showed that his blood vessels were clear of plaque and that he had the heart of a young man.
After Nathan Pritikin died his son, Robert took over running the Pritikin Longevity Center. The Pritikin Longevity Center conducted many clinical studies on the effects of the Pritikin Program. In a study of 268 guests, 83% lowered their blood pressure enough to leave the Pritikin Program off medication.
In a study of 652 participants, 39% with Type 2 diabetes that were on insulin were able to leave the Pritikin Program free of insulin.
A five year follow-up of 64 participants that entered the program in lieu of undergoing heart bypass surgery showed that 80% of them still had not had the surgery.
Analysis of 4,587 guests that stayed at Pritikin three weeks showed an average 23% drop in cholesterol level and a 33% drop in triglycerides.
I first became interested in Nathan Pritikin’s book in 1981 when I was pregnant with my fourth child, was in my late 30’s and was overweight. My dr. had told me I would need to quit work because my blood pressure was so high. I changed my eating habits and adopted the recommendations in his book and my blood pressure immediately dropped to normal. I was able to continue working until my delivery date and actually weighed less than when I became pregnant. My doctor was not happy with me because he felt I should be gaining weight but I delivered a healthy 7lb. 12oz. baby girl who is now a healthy 32 year old woman.
Back in 2006 I was overweight and wanted to jump start a weight loss program. I had just had a health check-up and my cholesterol was elevated at 275. I knew that back in 1981 the Pritikin Program had worked for me when I had wanted to lose weight. My husband suggested that I go to the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida. I was thrilled with this idea and called the Center and made a reservation for a two week stay three weeks later.  I bought the book “The Pritikin Weight Loss Breakthrough, 5 Easy Steps to Outsmart Your Fat Instinct” by Robert Pritikin.
I loved the book and for the next three weeks read it and followed the advice to the letter. He had 5 steps to outsmart your fat instinct.

Exercise: Robert Pritikin felt that our food cravings were determined in part by how much exercise we got each day.Choose the Right Carbohydrate: Basically Pritikin said to eat plant based carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) and whole grains like oatmeal.Limit Your Fat Intake: The Pritikin Program allows for 3-1/2 oz. of animal protein a day as well as two servings of skim milk but suggests eating as little fat as possible.Eat Frequently to Avoid Hunger and Avoid Fat: Pritikin suggests 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day.Be Consistent: Consistently eating healthier, low fat food helps to change a person’s taste in food.Robert Pritikin also had a part of the book that I heavily relied on. It had a Better, Better Still and Best rating for a week’s worth of menus. I tried to usually eat from the best but took the book with me so that if I was in a situation where that was impossible I could choose from the “Better”. I limited myself to 3-1/2 oz. of meat a day. Therefore if I ate lunch out and had a turkey sandwich I knew that night I would have beans or some no-meat meal.
I will give you a sample of the Best Menu for a day:
Sample “Best” Menu:
Breakfast
1-1/3 cups hot oatmeal with cinnamon
1 cup blueberries
8 oz. nonfat milk
Herbal tea
 
Lunch
½ cup vegetarian non-fat chili
Baked Potato
1 Cup steamed frozen mixed vegetables
Orange
Decaf tea
 
Dinner
4 oz. poached salmon
4 to 5 roasted new potatoes
½ cup asparagus
2 cups salad with non-fat dressing
½ cup fruit salad
Herb tea
 
After following the eating plan for three weeks I had already lost 15 pounds. I went to the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida in May. It was a wonderful experience. The first day there I was examined by a doctor and given many lab tests. I then had a stress test to see my cardiovascular ability. The doctor repeated the lab tests were repeated half way through and again at the end of my stay.
 
Each day I had breakfast at between 6 and 6:30. Breakfast was served as a buffet and offered oatmeal, scrambled egg-whites and vegetables and many kinds of fruits and berries. There was no caffeine, sugar or salt at Pritikin. My exercise regime started at 7:00 a.m. Every day we had cardiovascular (treadmill) for 50 minutes, then 3 days a week we had strength training for 50 minutes and 3 days a week core. After that exercise I went to the pool and did water aerobics for an hour.
 
After exercise we were served a snack which was fruit, vegetables or salad. After snacks we went to a class on nutrition, emotional eating or cooking. After the class was lunch. Lunch was a salad buffet that was wonderful. After we finished our salad they gave us the main course which was small, such as a corn tortilla stuffed with beans and veggies.
 
After lunch we had more classes, a snack, more classes and finally dinner. It was a very full day with dinner being between 6:30 and 7:00. The dinner was a sit-down with servers and we were allowed to order. We were first served a vegetable soup followed by a salad. The choices on the menu were pastas, beans but no meat. In the two weeks I stayed there we had buffalo once and lobster once, otherwise no meat. We always got to choose dessert. Dessert had no sugar and no fat and was a small helping but good. There was ice cream, cheese cake, and fruit all with no fat or sugar.
 
After returning home I continued to follow the program and lost a total of 50 pounds. My cholesterol level went from 275 before Pritikin to 175 after. I would highly recommend the program for anyone with cardiovascular problems or those who just want to lose weight. Many of the participants went annually to keep motivated to stay on the program. The program was also very fun, like getting to go to camp. The best part for me is that this time I knew that it needed to be a lifestyle choice and I have been able to keep the weight off.
 
The Pritikin Longevity Center is located in Miami, Florida. It has both one week and two week programs. It also has some at-home programs. The web-site is www.pritkin.com. The cost is fairly high, being approximately $4,000 per week single occupancy. The cost does, however, cover room, board, classes and medical. I was examined by a doctor and given lab work 3 times in the two weeks that I was there. My insurance did cover the part of the fee that was medical. 

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Posted in Healthy Eating    Tagged with pritikin longevity center, pritikin program, nathan pritikin


2 Comments

Martha - September 12th, 2017 at 4:52 PM
Thank you for the detailed account of your experience with the Pritikin program. This should be helpful for those who can afford it. (not me! :-) )
- September 13th, 2017 at 11:09 AM
Hi Martha,
Thank you for your comments. I cannot afford to go back to Pritikin either, even though I would love to. Most of the changes I made I was able to do by following the suggestions in the book by Robert Pritikin. Good luck and give me a call if you would like to talk.

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