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Thursday, 5 March 2015

My Vegan Detox - Slimmeria at Hye House

The word detox can mean different things to different people. Its meaning disastrously distorted by attention-seeking celebrities, confused journalists (Lord knows i've been there) and overzealous marketing people in a desperate bid to sell the latest body brush or cayenne pepper-infused gloopy health drink.

For me, a true detox involves abstaining from harmful foods and intoxicating substances for a period of time, consuming antioxidant-rich, healing foods and plenty of fresh water, for the purpose of reviving the body and uplifting the mind.

This is exactly what I did at Slimmeria - the slimming and detox retreat claiming to make you loose up to a stone in a week, ran by the eccentric, yet endearing Galia Grainger.

Am I also colour coordinated? HELL YEAH!!
When I was invited to visit this regal looking, 17th Century mansion, nestled pompously within the scenic pastures of East Sussex, I accepted with a mixture of fear and delight. I visualised myself emerging after a week of hibernation with a glowing complexion, bursting with the kind of energy only really seen demonstrated by smug vegan yoga instructors fresh from enlightening holidays in the Himalayas. 

I was enticed by the talk of spa treatments, relaxation, yoga, long seaside walks and healthy vegan food, so I decided to pack my bags full of comfy sportswear (guests are given an extensive list of what to bring) and set off with the company of a loved one who desperately wanted to loose weight in time for her looming Californian beach break.

Once we arrived, we are taken to a zen-like relaxation room (which I randomly recognised from an episode of Made in Chelsea), where we filled out forms and measured each other, before being whisked off to be weighed.

We then made our way to our room and were impressed with its grand size, deliriously comfortable bed and lavish antique adornments. I later discovered that Galia has a penchant for furnishings with a story behind them and regularly bids at auctions in order to fill Hye House with history.

Our ponderings were abruptly disturbed by the clanging of a loud bell - the method for announcing meals and exercise classes at Slimmeria.





Go on. Clang meh. You know you want to...

Clutching our empty tummies, we rushed down the creaky stairs and swept past a (slightly eerie) figure in metal armour, as we made our way to the communal dining room.

We were faced with a table surrounded by 8 or so women of varying ages and our dinner - a pitiful bowl of depressed looking vegetables, mournfully bobbing about in warm water. I stared in shock at this watery meal - a lone cauliflower bulb looking up at me, feeling thoroughly ashamed of itself for being part of such a bland charade.

I suddenly remembered that the episode of Made in Chelsea I recalled earlier involved Galia confiscating mobile phones and serving minuscule plates of salad to the Sloaney crew - which they mistook for starters.

Reeling from the initial shock, we all ploughed on regardless and consumed this simple dish whilst each sharing our thoughts of the experience so far...and our fears.

Luckily, one of the ladies present had already been through the Slimmeria experience, and so from that moment on became our Slimmeria guru. We would ply her with questions to reassure our worried selves and she would regale us with her positive stories and uplifting advice. 

She told us that the food would improve and she was right. I think Gaila wanted to shock everyone on the first night with extreme blandness, so that when other vegetable-rich dishes were placed in front of us, we would appreciate their flavoursome glory.

A typical day from our week at Slimmeria involved being woken at 7.15am by the clanging of the massive medieval-style bell, before going downstairs for a cleansing drink of hot water and lemon (and a tiny snippet of apple - and I don't use the word snippet lightly). We would then all embark on a 6 mile scenic walk - either by the sea or in the lush greenery surrounding the retreat. This would take us approximately two hours and would be rather strenuous to say the least - although we would perk up at Galia's witty words of encouragement as she minced ahead in her colour-coordinated walking gear, looking far too fabulous at such an ungodly hour of the morn.

For those of us suffering with the dreaded sugar withdrawal headache, we were presented with a 'magic raisin.' Thats right. One single, shiny, lonesome, naked raisin. 






















Hye House - there be no getting high in here that's for sure....
We would then arrive back at Hye House, exhausted and ravenous, for our breakfast - a lonesome glass of freshly pressed juice (vegetable or orange and grapefruit). Porridge was available if requested earlier - yet this was severely frowned upon and met with judgemental stares. I was tempted to order this many times, but resisted in support of my fellow detoxers. 

Please sir...can I have some more..No seriously

Ok, I unashamedly confess, there was one time I caved in...and once more on the last morning too - but this was a celebratory occurrence for everyone who completed their stay.

Can I've a bacon roll with that please mate?

Shortly after draining our glasses, we would then be summoned to our first exercise class. This would be something that got the heart beat racing, such as boxersize (ah! so much fun!), legs bums and tums or circuits.

After an hour sweating away, we would emerge red-faced and flustered to the all-white relaxation room to indulge in an hour-long hatha yoga class - followed by a blissful savasana session so soothing that a few of us would end up making a slumbery visit to the land of nod.

Being a lifelong yoga fan, I welcomed these classes with glee. In my opinion, they were the perfect way to wind down and relax both the mind and body after such active mornings.


Damnit theres a hole in my leggings.
The clanging of the bell would then summon us all to the nearby dining room where we would gorge on crunchy, colourful vegan salads - artistically designed and Instagram-ready. These delicious raw dishes consisted of antioxidant-rich cabbage, beetroot, quinoa, carrots, tomatoes and more - usually drenched with health-boosting apple cider vinegar.














Get in my wholesome belleh

After lunch, we were free to do as we pleased (apart from down a vat of ice-cream or hoover up a Big Mac of course).

Most of us would also have our spa treatments at this time, which took place in a small, yet atmospheric room - somewhere I would imagine Henry the 8th having a facial in his castle - if he was the pampering kind.

I had three treatments during my stay - a relaxing facial, the hour long relaxation massage and...another relaxation massage (so good I needed another go).

Being a self-confessed beauty addict who has ponced about many luxury spas in her time, I was seriously impressed with the talents of the therapists at Slimmeria - all of whom I wanted to smuggle into my suitcase and take back to London Town for impromptu spa sessions at my convenience.

After these blissful bouts of indulgence, we would either go for extra walks in the idyllic surroundings (I could imagine that in the summer everyone dives into the outdoor pool for a few laps), or hibernate with a good book - awaiting the happy arrival of afternoon tea - which was sadly not announced by the clanging bell, so we had to remember its daily fruity arrival in the dining room at 3pm sharp.

And fruity it was. This was no stodgy affair involving freshly-baked scones and lashings of sugar-laden jam. Oh no. Laid out on tiny plates were tiny slices of various fruits such as papaya, grapes, apples and melons - which we all welcomed eagerly.

It's intriguing how much better fruit and vegetables can taste when you shun naughty foods from your diet. My abstinence of processed foods, sugar and alcohol meant that my taste buds were gloriously revived.

Dinner was at 6.30pm and would always consist of a hot meal - usually composed of more cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and carrots - again beautifully presented by the imaginative chef. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I would have happily traded my left armpit for a chicken and mushroom pie,  yet I could feel the benefits of eating such healthy, cleansing foods - and this kept me going.

After dinner, there was either a 'fun' exercise class such as Zumba, group therapy sessions, musical theatre dancing or belly dancing - instructed by a hilarious teacher who made us fantasise about Brad Pitt and George Clooney to inspire more sensual dance moves.






Damn my need for posing. 
One evening there was also a talk by a nutritionist who clearly knew what she was talking about - cook with raw coconut oil, only eat organic meat (if you must eat meat), refined carbs/sugar are the devil and organic butter is better for you than these heavily marketed 'low fat,' 'cholesterol lowering' spreads. I think her winning quote was "margarine is one molecule away from plastic." - this may not be technically true but I got her point. 

After these activities, for some odd reason, we would find ourselves snuggling on the massive sofa in the TV room to watch naughty foodie programmes - such as The Great British Bake Off. I still don't understand the psychology behind this painful practice as it felt like torture, yet at the same time sated our gastronomic desires.

My week at Slimmeria was a tough yet satisfying combination of strenuous exercise, wholesome vegan meals, soul-soothing relaxation, uplifting girly chatter, occasional boats of madam-like moaning and hearty laughter. I made friends with inspirational women (who lost between 7 - 13 pounds each), engaged in a heated debate about my hatred for Quorn with a vegetarian, gave up my daily smoking habit (argh my secret is out) and rid my body of refined carbs, processed animal protein, sugar and toxic alcoholic beverages.

I lost a couple of pounds too, yet thankfully managed to gain it back the following week by indulging in a massive (and well-deserved) foodfest (my intention was to detox, not lose weight).

Seriously, let me in...I forgot my magic raisin 

I left with clear, glowing skin and a sprightly spring in my step, boisterous enough to rival any smug vegan yoga instructor...