A Day at the Perfect Health Retreat

Perfect Health Retreats are designed for the greatest possible healthfulness. Each day’s events are arranged in a rhythmic pattern designed to optimize the body’s circadian rhythms.

A typical day:

Time Activity
6 am Coffee, tea, and vegetable soup available in common area
8 am Transition from “night time” to “day time”: blinds and drapes opened, amber lights off, white lights turned on, thermostat turned up.
8 am – 8:20 am Morning movement: light activity on the beach such as yoga sun salutations, tai chi or qi gong awakening
8:30 am – 10:00 am Science class: The recipe for perfect health. In six days, covers the science of exercise/movement, lifestyle, diet, nutrition, weight loss, gastronomy, and managing your health.
10:00 am – 11:00 am Physical activity class and personal training
11:00 am – noon Cooking class
Noon – 1 pm Lunch
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Free time, or one-on-one time with health coaches (Paul, Laura) or trainers
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Physical activity class and personal training
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Cooking class, with hors d’oeuvres and wine
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Dinner
7 pm – 8 pm Tea, social hour
8 pm Dessert: Bowl of fruit or berries, or warm milk with honey and turmeric
8 pm Transition to “night time”: blinds and drapes drawn, white lights off, amber lights on, thermostat turned down.
8:10 pm – 8:40 pm Night movement — relaxation, meditation, stress relief

Although they often bring about rapid weight loss, Perfect Health Retreats are not an intense experience, like “The Biggest Loser.” Retreats are relaxed and serene. There is free time built into each day; all activities are optional; physical activity sessions are designed to be educational and energizing, not draining. Relaxation is as important as activity.

One goal of a Perfect Health Retreat is to prepare you to live an optimally healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. The program ingrains good habits by following a daily schedule that most can continue when home.

Notable elements of the Perfect Health Retreat schedule include:

  • Daily exercise: We recommend exercising at moderate intensity for about 30 minutes per day, split into two 15 minute segments in late morning and late afternoon, plus as much low intensity exercise as you like. Each exercise session is preceded by a group class in an important element of movement, after which personal training is available. “Night movement” classes prepare you for sleep through relaxation.
  • Intermittent fasting: food is eaten in two meals per day within an eight hour window. Each meal is immediately preceded by a cooking class, in which participation is encouraged.
  • Circadian rhythm entrainment: Regardless of season, the Retreat operates on an artificial “day” of 8 am to 8 pm. Bright natural light is omnipresent during the day; amber lighting supports good night rhythms. The schedule of activities and even the ambient temperature are arranged to best fit the body’s natural rhythms.

A typical day might begin with coffee and reading during the “night” environment at 7 am. At 8 am, drapes and blinds are opened throughout the retreat center, and lights are brightened to create a light environment that resembles natural sunshine. A morning movement class provides sunshine and light activity to help awaken the body.

At 8:30 am, the morning science program begins. Over the course of the Retreat, Paul Jaminet provides a comprehensive guide to being healthy. Classes typically take two hours including movement breaks, questions, and discussion.

At 10:00 am the first exercise class begins with a lesson in some aspect of movement. This group class is followed by opportunities for personal training with one of our trainers, or personal exercise time. We recommend getting 15 minutes of moderately intense activity at this time. Together with the afternoon exercise class, there are 12 “daytime” movement classes over the course of the retreat which provide a comprehensive curriculum in activity movement.

Cooking class, led by Shou-Ching Jaminet or a guest instructor, begins at 11:00 am. The cooking class teaches practical home cooking methods. Every meal is preceded by an opportunity to join the chefs and learn how they cook. Lunch is served about noon. We eat as a group and this is another opportunity to ask questions, or just enjoy social time.

The afternoon is free time until 4 pm when another cycle of exercise class and personal training session, cooking class, and meal begins. During free time, Paul and Laura Schoenfeld conduct one-on-one health coaching sessions, and trainer Jae Chung does one hour posture, gait, breathing, and mobility assessments.

At 8 pm we transition to our “night-time” environment. We pull drapes and blinds to keep out street lights and the morning sun, and transition the indoor lighting to red/yellow/amber lights for a campfire-like setting. A sleep-supporting dessert is also available at this time.

An evening class provides a short lesson in “night activity” — relaxing activities supportive of night-time rhythms, such as meditation, massage, and relaxation. Evenings generally are free time.

Guests are free to pass on any activities. You can take a “slug day” whenever you like. Hopefully, the retreat activities will be so rewarding (and relaxing) that you will want to participate in all of them. But there is no obligation to do so.

This program may seem simple, and relaxed. Yet it is astonishingly effective at improving health. Guests at previous retreats have seen remarkable, in some cases transformative, health improvements. Improved sleep, energy, and mood, as well as significant weight loss, have been observed. Blood tests have generally shown improvements to serum lipids, inflammatory markers, and blood glucose regulation.

Health benefits grow the longer the Perfect Health diet and lifestyle are followed. Come and experience what is possible when we live naturally!

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31 Comments.

  1. Hi….
    I really want to join in one of your retreats. I can’t make the one in May but can you please put me on an email list for information about future retreats
    Thanks….Sandy

  2. Hi Paul, I am also interested in your retreats and disappointed I couldn’t make the May retreat. Definitely planning on attending a future retreat though. I would be coming from Australia, so it takes some planning! A quick question: I note you offer a glass of milk and honey or a piece of fruit before bedtime. What is the basis of that? (seems similar to Ray Peat). I was particularly surprised with the milk and honey given you mention AVOID milk in your book. Hope everyone is having a great time on the retreat at the moment. Thanks, Caroline

  3. Wondering if there is any possibility for a PHD program remotely? Given there are only a couple of retreats a year, a program conducted remotely using the content developed for the retreat would be of benefit.

  4. It seems odd to wake at 6 AM, but then to stay indoors away from the sunlight, or blue light, until 8 AM. Why would we wish to wake prior to blue light or sun exposure, anyway? Is it healthy to remain in an artificially dark room in the morning for 2 hours? Isn’t it most natural to wake with the sun or a light alarm and then, upon waking, immediately go outside to receive even more light?

    How about an artificial day from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM, reproducing conditions at the equator? The median sunrise in the US appears to be around 6:30 AM, so that seems like a sensible time.

    • When do primitive peoples, who live at the equator, and who get 8 to 9 hours of sleep, rise in the morning? Is it 4:30 AM or 6:30 AM?

      • I understand that most people will not be inclined to wear amber glasses at 6:30 PM every night. But then the question is, which scenario is more unnatural: (a) waking up and avoiding light for two hours, or (b) extending the artificial day to 14 hours, i.e., 6 AM to 8 PM?

        Or, am I mistaken to assume that waking up in the dark and remaining in the dark for two hours is neither normal nor optimal?

    • Hi Euthyphro,

      Most people spend an hour or more doing things like showering, shaving, dressing, browsing email, making coffee before they really begin any daytime activities which involve sunlight, physical activity, food, and social interactions.

      I would guess in a Paleolithic 12 hour night, the first and last hours in twilight/dawn would have involved simple work and getting ready for the day or for sleep.

      • Thanks for your response. Do you believe that first and second sleep naturally occurs in a 12-hour sundown-to-sunrise night? If so, how long would the break between first and second sleep typically last? Or is a longer duration of night (e.g., 14 hours) required for the presence of this phenomenon?

        Thanks for the reminder about twilight and dawn; these additional periods of light must be taken into account. According to Wikipedia, twilight lasts for about 30 mins at the equator. That would mean that there is light for about 13 hours a day and darkness for 11. Assuming an equatorial day, we have a 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM sunrise/sunset. With dawn and dusk, this means there is light from roughly 6 AM to 7 PM. If we sleep for 8 hours a day, then there will be 3 hours of waking time to spare during darkness. Let’s also assume we wake at 6 AM at “the crack of dawn”.

        That means we could (a) go to sleep at 10 PM and sleep straight through to 6 AM; (b) go to sleep at 9:30 PM and wake for 30 mins in the middle of the night; (c) go to sleep at 9 PM and wake for an hour in the middle of the night; (d) go to sleep at 8:30 PM and wake for an hour and a half in the middle of the night; (e) go to sleep at 8 PM and wake for two hours in the middle of the night.

        I think I read somewhere that it takes about 2 hours of darkness for melatonin to be produced. But how long does it take one to fall asleep after the onset of melatonin? Is it immediate? If so, that would suggest schedule (c).

        I wonder what is normal?

  5. This study used a 10 hour artificial day for one month.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783

    However, if we can extrapolate the results to an equatorial, 12 hour, day—6:30 AM to 6:30 PM—it would seem to suggest that normal sleep would conform to the following schedule: (1) fall asleep at 8:30 PM, (2) naturally wake for 2 hours starting at 12:30 AM, (3) resume sleep at 2:30 PM (“second sleep”), (4) wake at 6:30 AM.

    • Thus it would seem to follow that the two hour period, in the morning, that is being spent in the dark, during the beach retreat, should be moved to the middle of the night, thereby becoming the two hour period separating first and second sleep.

    • Another possibility for a 6:30 AM – 6::30 PM day would be thus:
      go to sleep at 9:30 PM;
      naturally wake roughly at 1:30 AM;
      naturally resume sleep roughly at 2:30 AM;
      wake at 6:30 AM, and immediately receive sunlight.

      A 6:30 AM – 6:30 PM schedule takes advantage of the presence of morning light, which is a qualitatively different form of light and is likely to have the most benefits, throughout the whole year.

      • During the period between first and second sleep, I use the Flux “darkroom” setting with the lowest monitor light.

    • “I cannot help quoting the following passage from an English newspaper, as it throws much light on my opinions: “A certain Patrick O’Neil, born in 1647, has just married his seventh wife in 1760. In the seventeenth year of Charles II. he served in the dragoons and in other regiments up to 1740, when he took his discharge. He served in all the campaigns of William III. and Marlborough. This man has never drunk anything but small beer; he has always lived on vegetables, and has never eaten meat except on few occasions when he made a feast for his relations. HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO RISE WITH THE SUN AND GO TO BED AT SUNSET UNLESS PREVENTED BY HIS MILITARY DUTIES. He is now in his 130th year; he is healthy, his hearing is good, and he walks with the help of a stick. In spite of his great age he is never idle, and every Sunday he goes to his parish church accompanied by his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.””

      Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (2004-04-01). Emile (p. 22). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

    • Some a priori remarks on the natural history of sleep:

      Assuming a 6:30 AM sunrise and a 6:30 PM sunset, I would guess that normal sleep is as follows—a person gets about 8 hours of sleep: sleep begins at 9 PM; one wakes in the morning at 6:30 AM; there is a waking period in the middle of the night, starting around 1 AM that lasts for about an hour and a half.

      1. Melatonin is released two hours after sunset at 8:30 PM;
      2. 30 mins later, at 9 PM, one is asleep;
      3. One naturally wakes 4 hours later at 1 AM;
      4. One stays awake for an hour and a half until 2:30 AM;
      5. One falls asleep at 2:30 AM;
      6. One wakes at 6:30 AM.

      The 9 PM bedtime can probably be regarded as a universally fixed reference point, because of the way that melatonin works in response to darkness. One cannot choose to go to sleep other than at 9 PM without fighting against or ignoring the onset of melatonin.

      If one does not wish to have segmented sleep and wishes to sleep in an 8 hour block, then I would guess that it would be advantageous to choose as one’s artificial day a “spring” sun-cycle, in which the sun rises at 6:30 AM and sets at 8 PM. This is because, due to the way that melatonin works, one will naturally fall asleep 2 and a half hours after sunset, and I would think it is important not to resist the impulse to sleep after the onset of melatonin. By choosing the “spring” artificial day, one delays the onset of melatonin until 10 PM and sleep begins at 10:30 PM. One then sleeps straight through and and wakes at 6:30 AM due to morning light exposure. The light exposure upon waking in turn reinforces the 6:30 AM waking time.

      During the day, it is best to work next to a window and to use a standing desk in which one avoids sitting for more than 20 mins at a time. Taking walks outside without sunglasses—in the morning after waking and then again later in the day—is also helpful for inducing sleepiness after the sun sets.

  6. Have you thought about setting one up in the UK too? The south of England is usually reliable for the sunshine :)) that would be wonderful.

  7. “DAILY ROUTINE: The Hadza wake at sunup, between 6:30 and 7:00 A.M. year-round (given the proximity to the equator, there are just about 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness year-round). It is still cool at dawn, so they usually huddle around the hearth for an hour, becoming active only gradually. They may sit and talk, or eat a bit if there is any food left over from the previous day. On most days, the women are ready to go foraging by 8:00 or 9:00 A.M. Hadza take 1–2 hour naps around midday until the heat subsides. Even when they are out foraging far from camp, they usually take a long break for a midday rest. Women and children go for firewood and water around 5 P.M. When there is food, dinner is eaten just after dark, around 7:30 P.M.; bedtime is around 9 P.M. On nights of an epeme dance, the adults may stay up dancing and singing until about midnight.”

    Marlowe, Frank (2010-03-23). The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture) (Kindle Locations 1586-1593). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

  8. This is something I definitely want to do! Even just reading the schedule and thinking about it made me feel relaxed and at ease! Can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to actually be there…

    • Thanks for suggesting this. The talk, which contains useful advice about meditation, is also a goldmine of conceptual confusions, confusions which are stimulating to work through.

      I recommend the NYC Ballet Workouts Volumes 1 and 2.

      Workouts are usually designed merely for the physiology of the human being (i.e., for strength and endurance) or for the merely animal-psyche of the human being (i.e., for agility, balance and coordination), as opposed to being designed, first and foremost, for the edification of the human being as a whole (i.e., for spirit and mind).

      • The so-called “paleo diet-lifestyle” is a means to an end, not an end in itself. What is it a means to an end for? Health, fitness, agility and well-being. But are (physiological) health, (physiological) fitness, (animal-psychical) agility and (psychical) well-being ends in themselves? No, these too are means to ends. But what ends? They are prerequisites for the pursuit of art, science and philosophy, in the course of a life—i.e., they are prerequisites for the pursuit of the health of the soul.

        The collaboration during the mid-part of the 20th century between Stravinsky and Balanchine at the NYC Ballet represents one paradigm of total (i.e., interdisciplinary) art.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IqHkRt1F18

        The vibrant health, agility and strength of those who have learned from the paleo-movement should not be diverted by stylish trends (e.g., in tribalistic “cross-training” competitions and in “indigenous-movement” fantasy) but should be utilized towards something higher and more serious, e.g., modern ballet; we are not barbarians, but civilized and cultured peoples.

        • This is spot on, Euthyphro.
          The point of life is musing — thru art, philosophy etc, which naturally leads to science also. This leads to a health of the soul. We are tripartite, a spirit with a soul housed in a body of flesh. The flesh consumes much of our focus but our soul is more important in the end 🙂

  9. Please come to NZ and run a retreat!

  10. I am very interested in embarking on this new plan for a lifetime and the retreat would be wonderful. However, I am confined to a wheelchair. Are their modifications and accommodations that would allow me to participate?
    Thank,you in advance. I have degenerative joint disease, am diabetic, and a 2 year survivor of Stage 3, Grade 3 breast cancer so I am looking forward to a life plan that would benefit me.

    • Hi Nancy,

      Both retreat buildings have elevators, so it would be do-able; however, the beach would be inaccessible without help. Please call me to discuss if you are interested.

      Best, Paul

  11. Hi Paul,

    What exercises (or types of exercise) would be appropriate for the two 15-minute moderate-intensity sessions per day that you recommend? In particular, should these all be aerobic exercise, or is strength training suggested too?

    Also, how much variation in types of exercise would be suggested — i.e. am I correct in assuming that running twice a day every day would be too stressful (on the knees)? How many of your 14 weekly exercise sessions are running?

    Thanks!
    -Eric

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