Many visitors arrive on Hilton Head Island with one goal: To sit on the beach and do as little as possible.
Sarah Polite, a New Yorker who now lives in Greenville, had an entirely opposite goal. She arrived on the island in November determined to work as hard as possible to change her life.
On Friday, Polite will be featured on "The Dr. Oz Show" and will talk about her visit to Hilton Head and the 70 pounds she has lost.
Polite, 35, recently spent three months at Hilton Head Health, a weight loss resort and wellness retreat on Valencia Road on Hilton Head Island, and documented her weight-loss journey on her blog.
"They've invited me to come and live with them for a little and do their programs and share my story along the way," Polite wrote at the start of her stay on the island. "A practice of self care, love and strength like I've never given myself before. It's time for that. It's time to take care of myself in a way I've never known how."
Hilton Head Health, which draws clients from all over the United States and even from as far away as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, was looking for a way to let people know about its programs, said CEO Kevin Carter.
"A lot of people on Hilton Head Island don't know that we exist," he said. "Wellness travel is growing at twice the rate of regular travel, but, sadly enough, we are still a little bit of a secret to people."
Carter said a client's typical stay is for two to four weeks, and often clients are in transitional phases of their lives — those who have lost a job or a spouse, or empty nesters who are shifting their focus from their children to themselves.
The program's focus on a lifestyle change appeals to "people who hit a place in their life where they are looking for something more," he said. That fits with Polite's own journey.
Last August, she left New York City, where she worked in production on "The Martha Stewart Show" and "The Dr. Oz Show," and moved to Greenville, South Carolina, to be a freelance writer.
She had made a stop in Greenville on a road trip with a friend, and while there felt "an extreme connection" to the city, she said.
"I decided that this was my place." A few months later, she was invited to stay at Hilton Head Health and write about her own experiences. She wasn't paid, she said, but she did get to participate in the program for free.
What was her biggest take-away?
"My biggest take-away is: This is possible," she said. "People can do this. It just takes some knowledge and openness."
Also, "we all need to be kinder to ourselves about this journey."
While at Hilton Head Health, Polite worked out, participated in classes and learned about nutrition, gradually taking more and more control over her schedule and her meals.
"For me, it has never been about the weight," Polite said. "It's been about being healthy. I really wanted my mindset to be about longevity and sustainability, how to make this be a part of my life and not my whole life."
She told Women's Health magazine, "I opted for a weight-loss resort because I didn't want just a 'diet,' I wanted to learn and change from the inside out."
"People want to come to Hilton Head Island for weight loss, but the experience you get when you get here is a lot bigger than ... pounds on a scale," Carter said.
Polite said she found Hilton Head Island to be "so peaceful." She said she spent time on the beach and enjoyed coffee from Java Burrito.
"I wanted to go out and have real-life experiences," she said. "I tried to get a feel for the area."
In the two months Polite has been back at her own home in Greenville, she said she's focused on getting into healthy routines and setting herself up for success. That means finding ways to work out, cooking meals and also going on adventures — like hiking with friends, something that seemed impossible or was not a priority before.
And, she's planning a return trip to Hilton Head Island this summer.