Having avoided turkey with all the trimmings in favour of a week-long fast with daily colonics, ALEXANDER FITZGERALD’sChristmas holiday was anything but typical. But why would he fly half-way around the world to deprive himself, what did it entail and, crucially, was it all worth it?
While the nation’s stomachs groan collectively and belts are loosened following the annual festive excess, it’s a different story some 11 hours east. On the island of Koh Samui in southern Thailand, the only food that makes an appearance for guests at Absolute Sanctuary, a plush, Moroccan-inspired health and yoga resort, is in their minds.
Compiling fantasy menus, dreaming of forsaken mince pies and pining for Christmas pudding is a daily occurrence for participants in the Holistic Ultimate Detox, a seven-day programme in which just about every calorific pleasure is off the menu.
Solids may be contraband but there’s plenty to consume each day in the form of specially prepared juices laced with psyllium husk, an intestinal cleanser that clings to the colon walls, retains moisture and softens and loosens the waste matter, and bentonite clay, which acts like a magnetic sponge and removes toxins from the digestive tract. There is also an Oliver Twist-style vegetable broth; fresh coconut water; and a barrage of herbal nutritional supplements. The programme also includes the not insignificant matter of daily colonic hydrotherapy sessions and relaxing treatments such as massages, skin scrubs and Reiki sessions.
Not for the faint-hearted, then – and a world apart from the usual fly-and-flop Christmas holiday I’m accustomed to. This is an intense programme that produces serious bodily reactions, which is why it is best carried out under the supervision of the medical team on hand at the resort.
It’s an unusual – draconian, some might venture – way to spend Christmas, yet for those prepared to invest a week in the human equivalent of an NCT, it is a hugely rewarding one.
Rewards, however, seem a mile away at the initial, pre-detox consultation, where Dr Will, a naturopathic doctor who has worked at the exclusive Chiva Som spa in Hua Hin, assesses participants’ medical histories, their health status and, crucially, their reasons for embarking on the week-long programme. At this point, detoxers are also weighed and have their blood pressure and body fat measured, before being given a detailed explanation of programme and its various components.
Warnings are given about potential nausea, mood swings and energy slumps during the initial stages. I feel a stab of pity for my travel companion, my mother, who faces the possibility of enduring, rather than enjoying, my company should I experience any, or even all, of the aforementioned.
So what brings a self-confessed mince pie addict to Absolute Sanctuary and, more specifically, to participate in its most intense health programme? With the big 40 looming large on the horizon, my reasons for signing up could possibly be construed as the first signs of a midlife crisis. I prefer, however, to view them as a desire to hold on to the look and feel of youth just a little longer. There’s also the incentive of enjoying the results that those completing the Ultimate Detox have sworn by: enhanced energy levels, improved digestion – colon hydrotherapy progressively removes years of toxins and impacted waste from the body – weight loss, reduced stress levels and enhanced mental clarity.
My fellow detoxers, a cosmopolitan bunch aged between mid-twenties and early seventies who, thankfully, were the antithesis of the lentil-chomping, hemp-wearing health nuts I had anticipated, had their own tangible goals, including tackling stomach complaints, food allergies and severe constipation. Most were keen to stress – a cynic might say too keen – that losing weight was not the goal. “It’s a bit extreme to travel halfway around the world just for a diet,” insisted one forty-something Londoner before adding, “Mind you, I wouldn’t mind shedding a few pounds.”