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The lure of LaCosta.

Editor's note: What's it like to spend a day at one of America's most luxurious watering holes? Are spas strictly for the rich and famous? The golf and tennis set? Travel writer Cheri Daniels visited Southern California's LaCosta to test the waters.

LaCosta is for everyone. Depending on individual taste, a visitor can work out and eat like a Spartan or relax and luxuriate like a Roman.

Encompassing 400 acres of the most beautiful terrain under the world's sunniest skies, LaCosta is tucked in the heart of Southern California, 90 miles south of Los Angeles, and 30 miles north of San Diego, in Carlsbad.

As I stepped into the spa area, I knew what Alice felt when she walked through the looking glass. The gyms are equipped with the latest high-tech weight machines, and step classes, weight training, interval training, toning and aerobic water classes are on the daily menu. The Roman pools are the center attraction, enclosed in glass with high ceilings, complete with skylights. Can Cleopatra be far away?

The dress code for the Roman baths is no dress at all. Modest guests are advised to bring fig leaves. I decided not to take a Roman bath but to move on to the locker room to pick up a toga, slippers and lock up my personal items. (I suddenly wished I had borrowed a 5-carat zirconium ring as a prop for this occasion.)

At the far end of the spa I spotted another smorgasbord of sensations: rock steam rooms, inhalation rooms, steam cabinets, saunas, and Swiss showers. I am not personally partial to saunas or steam rooms, but the inhalation room was surprisingly nice. This is a steam room where the air is heavy with eucalyptus. It is the perfect place to take your next head cold.

Enough gaping. Let the day begin! The herbal wrap was first on my list of experiments. "Designed to soothe tired muscles, improve circulation and renew energy by wrapping the entire body with warm herbal-saturated linen sheets..." so reads the wrap description in the brochure of spa services. Donning my terry cloth robe and my slippers, I made my way to the "wrap area," a dimly lit room containing several beds and a fireplace. Again, leave your modesty at home. Attempting a carefree smile to my wrapmates, I climbed onto a bed, in my altogether, and was promptly mummified in steaming, herb-soaked sheets.

Over the sheets go a heavy plastic tarp and layer after layer of warm blankets. At this point I briefly contemplated panic. Some first-time clients have been known to get a touch of claustrophobia. A washcloth that had been soaked in ice and placed on the forehead banished the discomfort in a wave of refreshment. The lights were turned off and sitar music turned on, and the tamales were left to doze in the wrap for exactly 17 minutes.

As I rejoined the living, I took note that an attendant had maintained a silent vigil in the room just in case a whim required satisfaction. At this point, I should state that I did not go to LaCosta only to be pampered. I consider myself fitness-minded (my husband's single-digit body fat and his arduous workout regimen serve as an incentive), and I was eager to get some hard exercise. I thought the classes would be somewhat familiar to an old pro like myself, but my first workout was anything but familiar.

For one thing, Aquathinics takes place entirely in a swimming pool and is designed to tone the body with the help of state-of-the-art resistance equipment. This class made me want to jump in the pool daily and work out. The weights are used under the water, thereby delivering maximum effort. Instead of being drenched with sweat and breathing heavily, you emerge refreshed.

Leaving the pool area, I spoke with Martha, a teacher from nearby Orange County. This was her second trip to LaCosta, and on her veteran authority I signed up for a Loofah (salt glo) treatment. This gentle rubbing process uses a combination of special salts and bath gels to remove the outer layer of skin cells for a rejuvenating and healthy glow.

I can't imagine the number of LaCosta's daily facials or Swedish massages; it seemed that every woman I spoke with was having one or both. A traditional Swedish massage was among the few such treats I had enjoyed before, so I opted for something different... a "Shiatsu." In preparation for the Shiatsu massage, I was given a 20-minute milk whirlpool bath. The attendant heats up the whirlpool, adds the bubble fragrance of your choice and plops you in for a 20-minute soak. Ahhh .... Exiting the tub, I was introduced to the rigors and pleasures called Shiatsu. This involved 60 minutes of full-body massage, using acupressure techniques to aid circulation and relaxation.

My masseuse told me to breathe deeply during the massage and if she exerted too much acupressure just to tell her. Shiatsu is not your routine backrub. There were times when I thought I might jump off the table. Relaxing is not easy under these circumstances, but I did my best. All my sore muscles were attended to, and I felt limp when the hour was up. To me, LaCosta is perfect, but I spoke to the spa director, Jessie Feria, who seems to spend seven days a week revamping current programs. Feria told me that there are four components to the LaCosta program: nutrition, fitness training, beauty, and lifestyle change.

One great appeal here is that all components for a perfect stay are in one location. Not only do you have the spa, but there are also two PGA championship golf courses, 23 tennis courts, six restaurants, three lounges, and the largest rear-screen projection theater found at any resort.

So, if you want to get away from it all, be pampered, and yet not ruin your diet or your fitness schedule, by all means give LaCosta a try. I enjoyed it so much that my husband has given me a birthday present of another stay there. This is one birthday I will actually look forward to.

Avoiding the Four-Letter Word

Vikki Kleckner, LaCosta's program coordinator who looks 10 years younger than her age, is a crusading evangelist for a health-conscious lifestyle. With the uninhibited enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader, she builds a strong case for attitude change.

"It's not what you do here that's important," she says, "it's what you take home with you."

Vikki refuses to use the word diet. "We avoid that four-letter word," she emphasizes. "A diet implies giving up something. Few of us want to give up anything--even if it's harmful. We stress replacements." If, for example, your passion is (horrors!) french-fried potatoes, no problem. Vikki and her staff prepare a batch of fat-free fries that rank among the best-tasting snacks this side of Richard Simmons.

"Tell me what you typically eat, and I'll show you how to make it better," promises Karen Ladman. the spa's dietitian.

Pancakes? Why not? By substituting nonfat milk for whole milk, apple juice for sugar, vanilla for salt, and using only egg whites instead of the whole egg, you turn a normally high-fat breakfast into a hearty, healthy meal with only 65 calories.
 Oatmeal Pancakes
 (Makes 10 to 12 4-inch pancakes)
1 cup oatmeal (no salt added)
1 1/8 cups skim milk or fruit juice
1/2 cup whole wheat or oat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoon apple juice concentrate
3 egg whites (beaten)
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix oatmeal with milk or juice. Stir in the flour. baking powder, apple juice concentrate, vanilla. and any chopped or pureed fruit. Beat egg whites until foamy (beating until stiff will make them more fluffy) and add them to mixture. Spray griddle with nonfat cooking spray. Use 1 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Bake pancakes on a hot griddle, turning when the top is bubbly and the edges slightly dry.
 Per Serving (1 pancake):
Calories: 58 Carbohydrate: 10,2 gm
Cholesterol: trace Protein: 2,9 gm
Sodium: 111 mg Fat: 0.35 gm
Diabetic exchange (3 pancakes): 2 bread

Fruit Toppings

Applesauce: quarter and core apples. Leave skin on. For microwave, add a few tablespoons of water to apples and cook covered on high until apples are very soft and bubbly. Time depends on number of apples. For stove top, put apples into covered pan with 1/4" of water. Cook until soft. When cooked, put apples with the skin into a blender. add a couple of squirts of fresh lemon, some cinnamon or nutmeg, and puree.
 LaCosta Energizer
1/4 cup cooked Kashi (a name-brand
 cereal with seven different grains)
1/4 A cup cooked oatmeal
1 tablespoon apple butter or pureed fruit
1 tablespoon raisins
Sprinkling of oat bran

When cooking Kashi, use twice as much liquid as dry Kashi. For added flavor. apple juice and 1/2 apple may be substituted for water. Allow 40 minutes cooking time. When cooking oatmeal, use twice as much liquid. Allow five minutes for cooking. The oatmeal and Kashi can be combined following cooking and stored in refrigerator five days and reheated in microwave as needed.
Per Serving:
Calories: 154 Carbohydrate: 32.4 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg Protein: 3.5 gm
Sodium: 3 mg Fat: 0.9 gm
Diabetic exchange: 1 Bread + 1 fruit + trace of fat
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:profile of health resort in Southern California; includes recipes
Author:Daniels, Cheri
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1993
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Next Article:Strokes of genius.

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