Just so I don't lose you in the first sentence, let me say that this article ends on a very positive note and I'd suggest you all get yourself to Yeotown quick smart for some intensive body and brain detoxing.
The longer story is, I was duped into going on the understanding I was tootling down to Devon for a spa break with a friend. I swear the first sentence of the email that came through from aforementioned friend, was along the lines of 'Conde Nast Traveller voted it best spa retreat in 2012'. There may have been other lines; I just didn't read them.
So deposit paid, time booked off work, and then the kit-list arrived. I haven't had a kit list since attempting to complete my bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, which incidentally featured the same friend now dragging me to freezing cold Devon in the middle of winter (okay, not the middle of winter, but the end of November, which is very nearly the same thing).
Walking views on the Devon Coast
The kit-list featured walking boots, waterproof trousers, a camel-pak and all sorts of other things I didn't yet have. Queue a short-sharp introduction to Covent Garden's Ellis Brigham outpost and a large dent in my bank account.
Note to self: it's not just enough to buy this stuff, you have to use it as well, or at least smother it in mud, so as not to be the sheepish girl raising her hand on the first day of the retreat, when someone asks who owns the shiny new Solomon hiking boots in the porch. That doesn't land you bragging points btw, it makes people start muttering things about blisters and Compeed.
Alongside the kit list was a list of things to cut from your diet at least five days in advance, to ensure any side effects were out of the way before the hard work started. This was fairly sensible stuff - no sugar, caffeine, alcohol - i.e. all the stuff that's the most difficult to give up. Did I do it in advance? In a word: no. I was still slurping Diet Coke and munching M&Ms on the train to Devon.
Having said that, give or take the odd bottle of wine and chocolate bar, I'm not the world's unhealthiest person, and was one of the few not to suffer headaches or plummeting energy levels as the days wore on. (I don't think anyone else followed the rules, either.)
Mantra of the day
In fact, the only thing I found uncomfortable during the trip was the lack of timetable. There isn't one. You're asked to give up your cosy bed (the bedrooms are great) and be on your yoga mat for 7.30am each morning, but after that the schedule remains a mystery. It's frustrating for the first day or so, and after that strangely liberating to have someone else making all the decisions. And it stops you thinking up excuses to get out of the six-mile hike coming up after breakfast. By the time you're in the van on your way there, it's definitely too late.
Let's get this out of the way now: you do a lot of exercise. Lots of fast walking along blustery coastal paths; lots of yoga and lots of fitness classes. If I'd been there in the summer, there'd have been lots of cycling and surfing thrown into the mix.
It looks better than it felt walking up!
To ensure you don't keel over with exhaustion, there are thankfully also lots of more relaxing activities, too. Think gong meditation, nutrition talks and cooking classes.
Aah, the cooking. No sugar, no meat, no dairy, no wheat and yet utterly delicious. The old classic, 'I wasn't hungry at all, honest', does actually ring true in this instance, although if I'm being 100% straight with you, if I'd had a few bars of Green & Black's in my suitcase and the odd bottle of red, it would have been even nicer.
When you leave Yeotown, you get a very small lecture on trying to keep up with the new habits you've learned, (along with a little wooden USP showing your progress and a few recipes). To which I thought, 'Yep, whatever, all good, had a great time, but now I'm going back to normal.'
But here's the thing. Four months later, and I've realised almost unconsciously I have actually incorporated a little Yeotown into life. I bought a juicer and become a dab hand at green breakfast juices. And when I'm not juicing, I'm blending kale and blueberry smoothies. I've upped my yoga quota to a couple of times a week and taken up new things, like tennis, to mix up my exercise rota.
Smug? A little. I have not, you'll be pleased to hear, given up the chocolate or red wine, and my walking boots are as pristine as ever.