The D word
It’s been a long winter and I have the squidgy limbs and translucent skin to show for it. But with summer rolling around at last, my trusty mirror avoidance technique has deserted me, taking with it my blissful state of denial. Casting the duvet and slippers aside, I’m forced to face facts. I’m feeling heavy, unhealthy and more than a little bit blah. It’s time for some serious change.
Surrounded by bad habits, temptation and some very wayward (read: fun) friends, where — and how — do I start? I know I need to escape the everyday routines that threaten to draw me back to the dark (chocolate) side at every turn. I need a health kick and to regain my long-lost mind and body balance while I’m at it. Action of the drastic kind is required and turning this over in my sugar and alcohol-addled brain, one scary little word keeps popping up — detox.
Everyone knows someone who’s tried it. Everyone has a story, even if it isn’t their own. Juice fasts, total fasts, enemas, colonics, lymphatic drainage, potions, pills and all manner of weird and icky stuff come to mind. But underlying all the studies and opinions floating around, there’s some undeniable old-fashioned common sense. Give your body a break and a spring clean, then replenish it with goodness. Sounds sensible, right?
How’s the serenity
So that’s how I find myself a few weeks later draining Bangkok Air’s vodka supply en route to Koh Samui in Thailand. Suffice to say I’m a little terrified about what I’ve signed up for. A seven-day detox program, on my own, at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa. That the resort has come highly recommended by friends and looks nothing short of heavenly on the website offers a little comfort. Still, I had to fight the temptation to sew an emergency chocolate stash into the lining of my suitcase.
Arriving late at night I was collected by my driver at the airport (which looks like something out of Fantasy Island — all palm trees and open-air thatched roofs) and driven to the resort against a soundtrack of “nature music”. You know the type: bird calls, wind chimes and the sound of waves. I’m nervous, regretting the absence of an emergency stash, and start noting the locations of passing 7 Elevens in case I need to break out and make a run for it.
Arriving at Kamalaya the first thing I notice is how quiet it is. No music, no distractions — the very epitome of peaceful. Zooming along a maze of pathways in a golf buggy to my new home for the week, there is not a person in sight. I’m already feeling calmer. Something to do with the chilled out atmosphere, the chanting of cicadas and the smiles of the lovely staff that are taking care of me I suspect. Arriving at my beachfront villa there’s time for a quick jump up and down on the huge bed and an explore in the chic indoor/outdoor bathroom, then I crash.
The way to wellness
Waking early to bright blue sky and sunshine, I rush outside to the beach, a small white crescent of sand littered with sun-lounges and a huge hammock. I’m standing at the base of a hill, squinting up at clusters of hidden villas, restaurants and treatment rooms dotted throughout the garden. I’m struck by how seamlessly the design and layout of the resort integrates into the lush green landscape — and wonder how on earth I’m going to wheeze my way up and down that steep slope all week.
I make my way, panting, to breakfast, wondering what pitiful broth and juice is in store. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Simply put, it was amazing. Sure, it was all healthy, but in that very wholesome, substantial way. There was so much to choose from. Even pancakes (buckwheat of course)! It all seems too good to be true. How could I eat all this and detox at the same time? Isn’t the whole point that you go hungry? I’ve been here less than nine hours and I feel like I’m already cheating!
All my questions are soon answered. I had an appointment with Joanne, one of three resident naturopaths, straight after breakfast. I didn’t realize it then, but The Wellness Centre was to become my second home for the week. In many ways it feels like the heart of the resort, a meeting place where people filter through on their way to have treatments or simply chill out and chat over a pot of ginger tea.
Joanne and I clicked immediately. Incredibly down-to-earth, she asked me what I hoped to achieve from the week and what my trouble areas are. All the usual suspects rated a mention – too much alcohol, sugar and stress. We decided on the basic detox package, which Joanne customized to address my biggest concern — chocolate addiction (seriously!). It was comforting to see how the emphasis is very much on creating a program that you feel comfortable with. Nothing is imposed. Everything can be adapted. I left feeling confident and determined, carrying a bag full of supplements and a schedule of daily Chi Nei Tsang massages, Far Infrared Sauna sessions and a colon hydrotherapy date in a few days time. Gulp.
The first day or two were hectic. I had 27 supplements to take at various times throughout each day! Plus an evil fibre drink that I’m not likely to forget in a hurry. Couple that with mid morning and afternoon protein shakes from the Wellness Centre, along with the daily massage and sauna appointments and some vitally important pool time, and it was game on. I was too busy to suffer headaches or lethargy or any of the side effects Joanne had warned me about, and by day three decided it was time to check out what else Kamalaya life had to offer.
Every evening a schedule of the following day’s activities is left on my pillow. I love the early morning pilates and stretching sessions held in the open-air yoga pavilion overlooking the sea. An amazing way to start the day. I felt so energized I even make my way to the gym a few times (very out of character for me), and join in the abs and fitball classes. There are afternoon tea sharing sessions, movie nights in the library and a menagerie of workshops led by visiting practitioners addressing everything from stress management to Chinese medicine and palmistry. It’s all there for the taking and whether you choose to participate is entirely up to you.
The more I integrated myself into the life of the resort, the more people I met and soon I was bonding with fellow detoxers over our mutual hatred of the dreaded fibre drink and the crazy cravings we were all experiencing. Afternoons were dedicated to discussions about coffee and sticky date pudding. Life stories were exchanged over coconut waters by the pool. Hints were imparted about how to cope with the intensely hot daily sauna sessions (take a book in to distract you and try conditioning and wrapping your hair in a towel to give it a treatment at the same time). Ingenious stuff!
Many of us were there for similar reasons — we wanted to get healthy and feel better about ourselves and this was a great way to kick start a new regime. One girl had split up with her boyfriend and had some healing to do. Another had turned down an incredible job offer to focus on her health. Stressed out after a manic period at work, one girl had been sent there by her boyfriend for some enforced downtime on the Balance & Revitalise program. There were couples, singles and friends of all ages who had travelled from all corners of the world. Some were on the detox program. Others were doing combined weight loss and exercise programs. We envied the two sisters lapping up the luxury on the Asian Bliss program – hours of pampering followed by access to the “non-detox” menu (wine! chocolate soufflé!) It was a struggle to be nice to them.
Looking back on the week from the safety of the world of carbs and caffeine, the detox really wasn’t that tough. I don’t have a single horror story to tell. There were a few crazy dreams (the result of an over active liver ridding my body of toxins) including a truly bizarre nightmare about a giant killer block of chocolate, but I don’t think they count. By the end of the week I even had the fibre drinks taken care of — three quick gulps and on I’d go with my day.
The magic with Kamalaya is that the staff and practitioners take such good care of you that the days float by almost effortlessly. That there’s plenty to eat and the food is incredible also helps! Healthy, innovative and filling, you certainly aren’t left picking at lettuce leaves. They say that food is medicine, and at the end of a week at Kamalaya there’s no denying just how great you feel having replaced heavy carbs and meat with vegetarian curries, creative salads and comforting soups. It’s even inspired me — a total anti-cook — to get into the kitchen and give it a go.
When my final day arrives and I step back into the real world, I’m excited about my first coffee but also determined to continue to live as many of the lessons I have learnt as possible. And its true, a few weeks later, that Kamalaya is present in my everyday life. It’s there in the way I cook and the supplements I take; the yoga class I do every Saturday and the way I think twice before eating Tim Tams for breakfast. Despite the absence of Koh Samui sunshine and a life filled with distractions, the seeds of change have been planted.
For information about the world of Kamalaya, head to www.kamalaya.com. The easiest way to get to Koh Samui is direct via Bangkok Air out of Bangkok or Singapore www.bangkokair.com.