Nod to the Bod Pod

A busy but fitness-minded executive puts his body to the test at the California Health & Longevity Institute.

Like a lot of guys, my notion of achieving “wellness” is a mix of optimism and procras-tination. Living in LA, there’s more than enough talk about looking and feeling good—you know, a healthy mix of diet and exercise that gets you out in front of potential problems in middle-aged life.

With regular exercise and mindful eating, I always figured I was in pretty good physical shape, but how do you really know? To figure it out, I recently spent a day at the California Health & Longevity Institute. 

As part of the Four Seasons in Westlake Village, it’s a progressive, holistic center founded by 91-year-old billionaire businessman David Murdock. The facility is a product of the real estate developer’s (also the owner of Dole Foods) late-in-life conversion to healthy living. 

Workshops, classes, consultations and assessments are offered—all geared toward helping people establish a health baseline and develop custom-tailored programs. Incorporating a top-rated spa and state-of-the-art gym like few I’ve found in a hotel, the institute is grand in scale. 

I decided to do a Fitness Assessments Package combined with a Signature Lifestyle package. (A half-day Lifestyle package is $395; a full day, which includes activities like a wellness cooking class, goes for $695.) 

My experience began with exercise physiologist Scott Silveira measuring my resting metabolic rate. This test determined how many calories my body burns at rest—an important baseline that was used throughout the day.

Next I crawled into the “Bod Pod,” a vacuum-packed, slightly claustrophobic, bean-shaped module that measured my body composition and, most tellingly, my percentage of body fat. A word of caution: The Bod Pod doesn’t lie, and you might not like what it has to say. I was surprised to discover I had 20% body fat, putting me ever so slightly into the “moderate risk” category. 

Clothes back on, Scott instructed me to jump onto a treadmill, hooked up to an array of electrodes and an oxygen mask, for a VO2 assessment. The objective: pinpoint the amount of oxygen utilized during exercise so a custom workout program can be designed to help achieve specific goals. I was pleased to learn that I stacked up pretty well to men my age.

This being a Four Seasons, I was able to contemplate all of my stats over a super-healthy, gourmet lunch of chilled carrot soup and grilled salmon and a spectacular deep-tissue massage at the spa—truly one of the best I’ve experienced. 

With all of this information (calories burned, body fat and oxygen used), it was now time to formulate an actionable plan. My final meeting was with the institute’s director of nutrition, Paulette Lambert. Marrying the test results with an analysis of what I eat from sunup to sundown, Paulette was able to give me concrete advice on how to move my health assessment from “moderate risk” to “healthy.”

The day was a luxurious eye-opener, but as they say, forewarned is forearmed. 

For more on the California Health & Longevity Institute go to