viernes, 28 de septiembre de 2007

Fat, 40 and fed up - time for a pampering

Lizzie Hide knew it was time to clean up her act. She found her solution in a no-nonsense Austrian health spa

How did that happen? Forty, single, overweight, unfit and working all hours. I loved my job as a conference director, but it seemed to have taken over my life. So having negotiated a ten-week sabbatical, I booked into The Mayr & More Centre in Austria because it is run by doctors – if I was going to fall apart I wanted professionals looking after me. As someone with more than 200 cookbooks, though, and who loves food and socialising, I was worried about the “not for foodies” comments on some websites.
The centre was in a beautiful setting beside Lake Worthersee. My room was small but had a vast amount of storage space: some people stay for four weeks, but as you spend most of the day in a dressing gown and the atmosphere is relaxed, this seemed unnecessary. The bath-room was compact and the first thing I noticed was the lavatory bowl, designed so that you get a chance to inspect what’s in there before you flush. I quickly became adept at flushing without looking.
First thing on the agenda was a medical check-up. My doctor said that I certainly wasn’t the worst specimen she had seen. Alas, I did have the posture of a duck which, while not good, was curable. My stomach, intestines and liver were tested and also my skin elasticity. She agreed that I was mentally knackered and so put me on the level 2 diet (plain sheep’s yoghurt, spelt roll and spread for breakfast and lunch, progressing to soup as well at the end of the first week), and for dinner it was often only herbal tea. It turned out I’d got off lightly – my new best friend, Philly Dicken, was only on yoghurt for breakfast and herbal tea three times a day.
I had numerous tests – blood, metabolic, lactose, fructose. There were daily massages, prelunch compresses, when a nice lady came to my room and put a hot hay compress on to my liver and kidneys, wrapped me up and left me for a 30-minute snooze, facials, salt scrubs, herbal spa baths – all taken in the morning with the afternoons dedicated to resting. Every other day I saw my doctor for abdominal massages, which involved prodding and massaging my stomach and felt very odd. At one session I mentioned I had been having amazing dreams. “Ah, that’s not unusual,” Dr Fink said. “Was it Brad or George?” I had to admit it had been about a chocolate cake.

Dinners at Mayr are served early and on my first night it was a tasty carrot soup, with a spelt roll which became a central feature of all meals. It looks like a fat pitta bread which, after baking, is left for three days to harden. The idea is that you have to chew like hell to make it palatable and so learn to chew your food until it’s liquid before swallowing. I came to detest them. There was a choice of spreads, which were all pretty bland, and herbal tea, which had to be sipped from a teaspoon. But altogether not nearly as bad as I had feared.
After dinner we collected the Epsom Salts, which had to be taken each morning, and certainly had the desired effect. Although I dreamt about food and fantasised about “proper” meals, I never felt hungry.
Evenings were spent watching DVDs in the TV room, or catching up with the newspapers and it was great to discover Channel 4 in the bedroom so I didn’t miss out on Desperate Housewives. But most guests went to bed before 10pm.
The highlight of the week was the cookery demonstration by the chef, Florian, who had been there only two months and probably didn’t realise that he shouldn’t let us taste so much of his food.
The final appointment with my doctor was very positive. She was pleased with how my body had responded. I had lost 13lb and despite very little exercise I now had a flat stomach and the lines on my face had noticeably reduced, with my skin looking younger. However, my mind, she said, still had a little way to go. I was sad to leave the Mayr – it was like being wrapped in a very safe cocoon.
Five months on I’ve put some of the weight back on, but in my head, I’m much more sorted. The two weeks at Mayr gave me a fresh perspective. I’ve left the job I had for nearly 20 years. As you read this I’ll be at 36,000ft, glass of champagne in hand, heading towards New Zealand for a ten-week “flashpacker” holiday. When I get home I’m going to try freelance work. You’ve got only one life – I intend to live it to the fullest.
Need to know
Lizzie Hide was on a two-week detox programme at Mayr & More Golfhotel Worthersee (0043 4273 25110, costing 1,740 euros (about £1,200). In addition room and “full board” are from 1,170 euros per person.
Ryanair (0871 2460000, flies from Stansted to Klagenfurt from £19.98 return. Golfhotel transfers are 15 euros each way.
Fat-busters and bootcampsJulia Brookes
Mountain Trek’s weight-loss bootcamp combines hiking, indoor training and detox with massages and hot-spring soaks in British Columbia, Canada. The programme runs from March to October, and there’s also a “turkey burner” special from December 29 to January 19. The cost is from £1,775pp for a week, excluding flights. Details: 001 250 229 5636,
If you want an intense week of hiking, circuit training and personal training, as well as yoga classes and massages, try one of In:spa’s week-long retreats, all held in beautiful surroundings. Retreats are held in Ibiza from October 11-18, starting at £2,195pp sharing, and in Marrakesh from November 7-14, from £1,995pp. Retreats are also held in India and Spain, but if you can’t get away for more than a few days there are weekend breaks in the Yorkshire Dales. Details: 0845 458 0723,
Body & Soul Experience found fame with its fitness and detox retreat in Brazil, but its combination of yoga, massage, hiking, biking and healthy eating is now available closer to home, in Donegal. A week costs from £1,360pp, excluding flights. Details: 020-8144 2562,
Hard-core thalassotherapy is the ideal way to kickstart the system. The spa at the Blue Palace Resort in Elounda, Crete, has a six-day programme that combines aqua- aerobics and massages as well as organic Cretan spa cuisine costing £62. B&B rooms start at £154. The spa also runs a “Boutique Week” luxury fitness bootcamp run by personal trainer Joe Fournier. The next is on October 1 and costs £1,825pp, full board. Details: 00 30 2841 065500,





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