Detox di­aries: what' s it like to sur­vive on 800 calo­ries-a-day?

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: GE­ORG IE BRADLEY

If the well­ness wave of the past sev­eral years has taught us any­thing, it’s that there’s no hu­man lim­i­ta­tion that can­not be soothed by in-ear meditation guides, ac­ti­vated char­coal, tran­scen­den­tal yoga po­si­tions or ex­tor­tion­ate creams with myth­i­cal prop­er­ties.

Then there’s the gamut of detox di­ets which yours truly has spurred through over the years, with the aim of restor­ing the body to its pure form – in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, juic­ing, the cot­ton ball diet (hunger pangs re­lieved when you pop a zero-calo­rie cot­ton ball. True story) and the ice cube diet (chew on ice long enough and you’ll trick your stom­ach into think­ing it’s full.) – I’ve done them all with vary­ing re­sults. Con­ti­nu­ity, for me, how­ever, per­sists in be­ing the prob­lem there­after. And the lack of it, is the rea­son why the end re­sults wane back to pre-detox con­di­tions.

For a three-day detox pro­gramme, I headed to Azer­bai­jan’s densely forested Ga­bala, to clean my in­ter­nal pipes so to speak, at the Chenot Palace Health Well­ness Ho­tel un­der the fa­mously hard­core Chenot method which af­fords you an un­wa­ver­ing 800 calo­ries-aday in­ter­spersed with med­i­cal and spa treat­ments to com­ple­ment your ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s said to treat the ills of the ul­tra-high net worth in­di­vid­u­als. A week here will set you back an av­er­age of Dhs20,000.

Af­ter nearly a year of ag­gre­gate com­fort eat­ing since I moved to

Dubai, this felt es­sen­tial (the Dubai stone and I are well ac­quainted, but are not on speak­ing terms right now). So, I kept a detox di­ary to chart my nu­tri­tional tra­vails, mood swings and chang­ing shape.

DAYONE My heartrate flick­ers ar­rhyth­mi­cally and my blood pres­sure is low. My doc­tor, Dr Saida, clad in head-to-toe al­abaster white is a lit­tle con­cerned. “I ar­rived last night and gave my­self a head start on the whole lim­ited in­take thing 24 hours ear­lier,” I ex­plain, so she doesn’t think that my health’s nat­u­ral state is all gloom and doom. She gig­gles the gig­gle of some­one who doesn’t know what to say. A mo­ment later: “You’re com­mit­ted, aren’t you?” Fake blush. I’d be ly­ing if I said a surge of pride didn’t bolt through my body. “Well, I didn’t want to have a huge shock and suf­fer more than I feel like I will.” She takes her stetho­scope and puts its tin­gling cool sur­face be­tween my shoul­der blades and com­mands me to cough. We dis­cuss my goals for the three­day pro­gramme – feel cleansed, maybe lose a kilo or two, stop crav­ing gar­gan­tuan por­tions of food? As far as your run-of-the-mill med­i­cal check-ups, this was with­out anx­i­ety.

I’m in the med­i­cal wing of Chenot Palace’s lower ground spa where a crack team of em­i­nent ther­a­pists and doc­tors of al­ter­na­tive stud­ies are giv­ing me a break­down of my 28-year-old health. The night be­fore, when I ar­rived at the ho­tel, against an ink black sky en­veloped

The eter­nal pur­suit of a happy mind, body and soul has reachedex­tremezeniths.EWbe­gin­satgut­leve­landem­barks on an 800 calo­rie-a-day detox at Azer­bai­jan’s Chenot Palace Health Well­ness Ho­tel. This is how we got on...

around me, a small folder with a typed-up sched­ule was rest­ing on my bed­side ta­ble. The first day is about get­ting through the rubric of the med­i­cal side of the Chenot method – a method that verges on the old fash­ioned, in­clud­ing: three (small) square meals a day and no op­por­tu­nity to graze – un­less you count fill­ing your­self up with buck­ets of barely cof­fee at break­ing-point in­ter­vals.

Post con­sul­ta­tion, I move to Dr Ioan­nis Fer­oukas’ room for a bioen­ergy check-up. A doc­tor of al­ter­na­tive medicine and natur­opa­thy, DrIoan­nis’re­search­in­tothe­hu­man­body­has­tak­en­him­fromthe­bot­tom to the top ends of the world in the most ob­scure places. His as­sess­ment in­volves me tak­ing a hold of two metal prongs con­nected to a ma­chine to feel my en­ergy. The vibes are good he says. The whites of my eyes are “pearly per­fect”.

Stay­ing on the same floor, I move to the spa sec­tion and be­gin a round of treat­ments which I am to do ev­ery day af­ter break­fast to take me through to lunch.

The hy­dro-aro­mather­apy bath, ad­min­is­tered by the full-wattage Zara (one of the spa ther­a­pists) is a 20-minute ses­sion of jets shoot­ing at the lumps and bumps of my legs, bum and tum. Zara fills the bath with pre­mium soaps that smell like freshly washed linen. She leaves me to it – the jets in­crease in shoot­ing power and I un­apolo­get­i­cally squat in po­si­tion so the jets are prac­ti­cally drill into my thighs – “pain and gain” I chant to my­self.

I daw­dle over to the next-door room to do a Phyto-mud wrap treat­ment. Zara lath­ers me in tepid coats of what looks like a com­bi­na­tion of sea­weed and spinach – as if they were blended to­gether on high speed. I’m mum­mi­fied in sheets of plas­tic, atop an un­du­lat­ing wa­ter bed and have a 20-minute co­cooned snooze.

I’m then hosed down with a su­per high-pres­sure jet in a whitetiled wet room (which doesn’t look too dis­sim­i­lar to a fir­ing squad room – just say­ing) and I feel quite light-headed af­ter be­ing mer­ci­lessly pum­melled by wa­ter. Treat­ments in the spa are done – and now onto a clock­work of very mea­sured food. Out on the ter­race over­look­ing the in­fin­ity pool I start with a peach and vanilla tapi­oca with maracuja. In­ter­est­ing. It’s in re­verse. I’m happy I get my sweet, al­beit, clean treat first but I won­der if I’ll ex­pe­ri­ence a mo­ment of anti-cli­mac­tic de­spair af­ter my main is fol­lowed by a di­ges­tive her­bal tea.

A veg­etable paella quinoa comes in a golf ball size on a plate thrice its di­men­sions – very tasty, al­though I sprin­kle the masala, turmeric and cumin sea­son­ings (your salt and pep­per equiv­a­lent, avail­able at ev­ery meal bar break­fast) with a very heavy hand. The sweet potato gnoc­chi with sun dried toma­toes and ru­cola pesto as my main is very sat­is­fy­ing and yummy. And that’s it un­til din­ner.

My mum is with me but is not sub­scrib­ing to the detox menu – she does BioLite – a menu that prof­fers an ad­di­tional 300 calo­ries – but her stom­ach is still a tad cav­ernous. We go to a fish restau­rant some­where on the foothills of Ga­bala’s punchy moun­tains. She or­ders a sparkly fish that comes with a bevy of sides in­clud­ing crisp roast pota­toes and a smooth aubergine dip with wal­nut halves scooped into its mushi­ness. I don’t look di­rectly at them. I think of the de­lights of detox. But then temp­ta­tion sud­denly hi­jacks my body and I furtively have three roast pota­toes, gulp­ing them down like all the staff at Chenot are hid­ing be­hind bushes, ready to launch at me for go­ing against the regime.

I feel so guilty when we get back, I cy­cle around the ho­tel’s perime­ter with ex­tra re­sis­tance to undo that oh-so-good crispi­ness. Din­ner? As above. But the main is a bean burger with diced veg­eta­bles. I love it. But I wish there was more. My­mu­mandIthen­re­tire­tothe­ho­tel’sbeau­ti­fulAlpine-chi­clounge and I speak in bor­der­line shrill tones to cover up my stom­ach rum­bles.

DAY TWO TheHungerGames are real now. I have a slow-burn­ing headache in the back of my eyes. If you think I’ve skipped break­fast, I have not – no way. But be­yond the fact that I get a fruit puree and a sham­rock of wa­ters: nor­mal, ap­ple cider vine­gar or lemon in­fused, there’s not much else to re­port – ex­cept that I am start­ing to feel the por­tion sizes are nor­mal and that I don’t need any­more. The awak­en­ing be­gins.

Bar­ley cof­fee ties me over for an ad­di­tional hour but all I am do­ing is go­ing to the toi­let ev­ery 10 min­utes – I’m not a liq­uid per­son, I don’t drink lots of wa­ter ever, but here I am turn­ing my­self into a hu­man foun­tain.

The treat­ments have now be­come mus­cle mem­ory – the hy­droaro­mather­apy bath and mud wrap feel good – even the painful hose blast en­er­gises me. To­day, there’s an ad­den­dum to the treat­ments: a Chenot en­er­getic mas­sage us­ing suc­tion cups. I’ve never done this be­fore but it looks sore. My ther­a­pist ap­plies the cups all over my back, one at a time and yanks them off when my skin can be stretched no more. It only hurts on my podgy bits (love han­dles). She mas­sages my skin as she moves along so I don’t have a sin­gle cup mark on my body. I then

“All the pre­vi­ous food de­bris in my stom­ach has been dis­solved and now my pipes are as clean as a kitchen scrubbed down with limescale”

have the same treat­ment on my face: fa­cial drain­ing, it’s called. The bags un­der my eyes are very grate­ful for this. Lunch is a smor­gas­bord of car­rot soup spiced up with gin­ger, mush­rooms filled with flecks of tofu and a cou­ple of quinoa dolma. I hoover it up in what I think is a mod­er­ate pace but my mum side-eyes me in­di­cat­ing that I need to take my foot off the pedal and ac­tu­ally chew – this is re­port­edly the most im­por­tant part of the di­ges­tive process.

Be­tween lunch and din­ner, I take a dip in the in­door pool. I love that there’s no chlo­rine (in­stead they use ozone, far purer) be­cause I for­got my gog­gles but I can see un­der­wa­ter with­out my eyes throb­bing after­wards. I do 10 very con­sid­ered laps and head back to my room and sit on the bal­cony and drink in the lake view. Nor­mally I crave adrenalised hol­i­days hik­ing up moun­tains, but here my in­ner sloth emerges. I sit there for three (three!) hours in med­i­ta­tive si­lence un­til the call of din­ner takes me away from deep-seated zen.

DAYTHREE How on earth am I sup­posed to do an anti-grav­ity and vac­uum run? Ac­cord­ing to my sched­ule, I am due a trip to the gym. I ar­rive with my per­sonal trainer wait­ing to as­sist me into the high­tech equip­ment. I’m zipped up and plonked into the ma­chines – the vac­uum ma­chine is cool. In un­der five min­utes I burn 100 calo­ries at a pretty glacial pace. I stop soon af­ter be­cause I fear I am head­ing into a dan­ger­ous caloric deficit.

For lunch I have the best meal so far: lasagne – but the gluten, dairy, salt, sugar-free kind. It's heaped on the plate, so I po­litely go to town on it with both hands. It's over too quickly. Al­though where the food lacks in calo­ries, it’s made up for in a sur­plus of ser­vice by the Chenot Palace staff. We’ve got­ten to know each other fairly well and by to­day, they feel like friendly vil­lage neigh­bours. We even joke about former Chenot guests beg­ging for ke­babs on the sly.

Icheatthisafter­noon­with­wa­ter­mel­o­nand­cu­cum­ber(read:wa­ter) when my mum or­ders her own food at another restau­rant out­side the premises. It’s fine, I tell my­self, be­cause at this point, all the pre­vi­ous food de­bris in my stom­ach has been dis­solved and my pipes are as clean as a kitchen scrubbed down with limescale.

Back at the ho­tel, it’s our last night. We are fly­ing out of Baku to Dubai the next morn­ing and I’m al­ready Googling the restau­rants at the air­port, revving up for my re­union with food. But, my stom­ach isn’t rum­bling and I can feel a very good sleep com­ing on.

DAYFOUR This morn­ing I go on the scales down in the spa. I have lost 1.5kg. I can feel it too. The treat­ments def­i­nitely cinched me up well. I have my last fruit puree break­fast and leave Chenot and be­gin my rein­te­gra­tion into the world of nor­mal eat­ing.

On the drive into Baku I feel out of sorts. I see peo­ple cradling wraps, eat­ing chips on-the-go and down­ing pop. I don’t want my new­found dis­ci­pline to fall by the way­side, not af­ter three days of mil­i­tant method­ol­ogy.

At the air­port I’m a kid in a candy shop. I don’t know what to do with all this choice scream­ing at me. We sit at a restau­rant and I or­der a 'slow-en­try-back-to-re­al­ity' salad.

It ar­rives in a sloppy pile-up. At this point I can’t imag­ine sub­sist­ing on any more than I have be­come used to. I take three big mouth­fuls of my parmesan-loaded Cae­sar salad and a food coma grips me good. The real test awaits me back in Dubai.

DAY EIGH­TEEN No. I haven’t taken it to next-level ex­tremes. I am not on the 800 calo­rie plan right now. Go­ing back to re­al­ity wasn’t a slip­pery slope ei­ther. My crav­ings have abated and I don’t have this de­sire to eat every­thing in plain (and hid­den) sight. If detox is about strip­ping you bare and start­ing from ground zero, then I have been detoxed and re­toxed. Chenot, thank you.

“I don’t look di­rectly at the pota­toes. I think of the de­lights of detox. But then temp­ta­tion sud­denly hi­jacks my body”

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