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So, confession time: I am (or used to be) a confirmed Wotsit-snacking, Diet-Coke-drinking, steak-and-chips(and pepper sauce)-eating 51-year-old. An empty nester, with both my children at university, I was letting work dictate everything – spending long hours in the office, never exercising, skipping lunch and then snacking on my long commute home.
My idea of a good weekend was to loaf around the house, curled up on the sofa with a book, munching my way through a box of biscuits or watching reruns of Poirot, interrupted only by a takeaway Indian meal or a roast with all the trimmings. So I was not really that surprised when I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure and sternly told to change my lifestyle quickly.
I opted instead for a raw food detox. I didn’t know much about raw food, other than it is raw (ie cold) and I was not expecting to enjoy it. Here goes...
Day 1: Friday night
6pm - I arrive at the gorgeous Cotswolds country house feeling apprehensive, but am given a warm welcome by our host, Helena Cavan, who set up The Milestone Detox as a family-run boutique country house spa.
7pm - We gather to prepare our first meal with the Rocking Raw Chef Barbara Fernandez, an energetic foodie with a raw food mission, specialising in five-minute recipes using simple equipment.
7.30pm - We spiralize a mix of vegetables (celeriac, beetroot, squash) and pile another platter high with lettuce, tomatoes and rocket dressed with a creamy cashew vinaigrette and an apple and walnut lemon sauce, which Barbara knocked together in a trice. Pudding is crunchy almond ‘scones’ and mango vanilla custard. We all agree how delicious the food is.
Day 2: Saturday
7.30am - We wake early with an aloe vera shot and lemon and hot water.
8am - I try Pilates, pleased that as a non-exercise person I manage most of it.
9am - Breakfast. We make almond milk from scratch, altering the sweetness with maple syrup, sugar-substitute xylitol or vanilla, and then personalise muesli, with oats, linseed, buckwheat, hemp hearts, chia seeds plus either goji berries (much better soaked), golden berries, bananas or dates. Delicious.
10am - A blustery walk follows, with the chance to catch up with the other five detoxees along the way; some are first-timers and others come regularly to get their Milestone fix.
12 noon - We all prepare and then enjoy a lunch of Thai veg soup, raw pad Thai of ribbon vegetables topped with creamy cashew sauce, dehydrated onion bhajis and a sorbet of berries from the garden.
1.30pm - An infrared sauna – it doesn’t heat up the air, so it’s comfortable to breathe and the heat penetrates deep into your tissues.
4pm - After a lymphatic drainage massage I feel relaxed but tired.
6.30pm - Supper is a feast of butternut squash and raw beetroot spirals with ‘creamy’ tomato and basil sauce, a fresh tomato and onion salad, a large rocket salad with an avocado dressing and a fabulous ‘trifle’ made from chia seeds, mango and fruit coulis.
8.30pm - I have an early night with Netflix on my iPad. I manage to ignore the emergency biscuits I brought with me.
Day 3: Sunday
7.30am – 9am - Thoroughly refreshed, we’re woken with an aloe shot and lemon and hot water again then join a session of detoxing exercises – much easier than Pilates.
9am - Raw food doesn’t mean you have to have everything cold. We breakfast on gently warmed buckwheat oatmeal that has been soaked overnight and sprouted. Topped with bananas, it sets me up for the day.
10.30am - A session on a weird Chi machine that shakes your legs and back in a fish-like motion for 15 minutes is strangely calming and relaxing.
11.30am - And I need to feel calm for the last treatment – colonic hydration. It is certainly an experience! Most of us come out positive and rather lighter. We’re given a month of daily probiotic tablets for our newly cleansed systems!
12.45pm - We all prepare lunch with Barbara, stuffing red peppers with nut patties, along with salad and a variety of dressings and finish with a remarkable chocolate mousse made from avocados and raw cocoa.
3pm - The last treatment is a session of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) that is used by NASA to reduce pain and the effects of stress, and improve energy and circulation.
4pm - My husband picks me up bearing ‘goodies’ – KitKats and bananas – expecting me to be ravenous, but I blissfully decline and lecture him instead…
So did it work?
I lost 2lb over the weekend and three weeks on I have lost another 4lb. More importantly I’ve stopped drinking Diet Coke after decades of five cans a day. I now drink lots more water, have invested in a NutriBullet in which I whiz lots of green leafy vegetables, and I top my porridge with flaxseeds. It has been a life-changing weekend with some of the nicest people I’ve met helping me break long-term habits and find a new way of approaching what I eat. I didn’t believe a mere 48 hours would have had such an effect. If I can do it, anyone can.