The road to wellville

Diet & Fitness

22nd November 2014

In recent years the trend for detox programmes has flourished, with hotels and medi-spas quick to cash in on the trend. While many are little more than excuses to lie on a sun lounger, the more serious of them can feel more like punishment than pampering. These sorts of retreats are particularly popular in Austria and Germany. However, one of the most popular among serious health enthusiasts is Grayshott, here in the UK. It’s an old-school, no-nonsense, focused programme based on the idea that digestion is central to wellbeing. People who go are determined to make lasting changes to their lifestyle. The spa offers a seven-day programme that runs from Wednesday to Wednesday and claims to help with weight, stress, sleep issues and arthritis. It is immensely popular and has been credited with giving some well-known women their famously svelte figures. Can it really live up to the hype?

 The place

Grayshott Spa is located a mile and a half from the village of Grayshott, 16 miles south of Guildford. The health spa itself is a Victorian manor house, set in 47 acres of rolling grounds and surrounded by wonderful National Trust woodland. The estate was once owned by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The symptoms

In her mid-sixties, slightly podgy, a knee replacement, poor eyesight and a few mini-strokes had left this reviewer feeling she needed to do something about her health. Her sleep has been poor and, to make matters worse, she’d just got over a bout of pneumonia. It’s a wonder she’s still alive, frankly.

The treatment

The main focus is on food, diet and bowels. Each day there was a lecture on nutrition. The menu was delicious and filling, although each meal starts off with a shot of digestive bitters and sauerkraut. This aside, our reviewer felt she was eating like a queen and couldn’t believe that it was healthy. There wasn’t a Ryvita in sight.  There were abdominal massages and castor oil compresses and gentle exercise, hydrotherapy and personal training.

The process

On starting the programme a dietician meets with you to go through your history and clarify your specific problems and goals. They also undertake a body analysis, including blood tests to ascertain your general level of fitness and health. They then help tailor the package to your exact requirements. Nothing is compulsory: Spa Spectator opted out of the hydrotherapy session due to her recent pneumonia, and an alternative activity was quickly arranged.

The verdict

Our reviewer would never had made the changes to her diet — especially not stopping sugar! — were it not for being guided through the process by the staff and being away from the temptations of home. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.  The added bonus was that despite there being an eclectic mix of people on the programme, there’s a real sense of camaraderie and Spy and the other attendees got on incredibly well. 

The medical view

Dr Max Pemberton: There is no doubt that nutrition has an incredibly important role in health and disease and it’s excellent that this is the focus of so much of Grayshott’s ethos. Overall the programme looks very thorough. I was surprised, though, to hear that during one lecture they suggested that conditions such as autism were a result of nutritional and gut problems. There is absolutely no evidence to support this.

The feelgood factor

Spa Spectator was nearly beside herself when, on the last day, she was weighed and had lost 7lb. This was without even trying and at no point over the course of the programme had she felt hungry. The eating regimes are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and she has successfully done this, meaning that she’s continued to lose weight at home. She’s never felt better. And she’s even kept off the sugar.

The details

Prices start at £1,495 per person for the seven-day regime (based on a single room) and include support, consultations, monitoring, lectures, meals, digestive bitters, therapeutic treatments and accommodation. Frequent trains from Waterloo to Haslemere take 55 minutes and you can reach the spa by taking a taxi from Haslemere Station. See grayshottspa.com or call 01428 602020.