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"You're Flying 6,000 Miles To Do WHAT?"

23/11/2016 13:52

Between bitterly polarising politics, genuinely upsetting celebrity deaths and pretty much everyone I know suffering some kind of personal trauma or upset, I think most of us are broadly in agreement by this point that the year 2016 needs to be metaphorically bundled into a hessian sack, weighted down with bricks and drowned in the nearest river.

So it's earlier and with more eagerness than usual that my thoughts turn to renewal and improvement. "Happy New Year" is usually a phrase that I greet with cynicism; it's freezing, it's January, no-one's got any money and we've all got seasonal affective disorder. Next year, however, I'll be spending a sizeable chunk of January in a detox retreat and I can't wait.

Whatever people who enjoy detox retreats are supposed to look like, I don't think I'm it. Deemed reassuringly "sturdy" as a child, I've only become more robust over the years and now, almost a year after quitting smoking and bloated from excessive cortisol and eating my feelings, most travel agents would automatically search for all-inclusive package holidays in Las Vegas if they saw me approaching, rather than for fasting and colonics. But I've done the latter before, trust me, and I loved it.

Seven years ago, I spent a week in Devon living on diluted carrot juice, herbal tea, volcanic mud and psyllium husk and self-administered colonic irrigation twice a day. For some - particularly the heavy caffeine drinkers - the process was difficult and painful. One aghast gentleman, who presumably hadn't read the small print, left scorched tyre marks in the car park as he fled on the second day. The same morning, a man that stank of hair keeled over whey-faced during a Tai Chi session, despite bragging of his raw food vegan diet. Yet other than a sustained but perfectly bearable longing for Marmite on buttered granary toast, I went from strength to strength and this gave me a real sense of pride in my own endurance and resilience.

You lose weight, obviously, but the benefits are so much greater. My skin looked flawless, almost luminous. I slept soundly for ten hours per night. I finally got to read the books and watch the DVDs I never get around to. I swam daily and took long frosty walks in the beautiful Devonshire countryside. When you eventually break the fast, the flavours of even the simplest raw food are gloriously intense and amplified.

I would've gone back well before now but I fell pregnant a few months after that first retreat; supported by no science whatsoever, there is a theory that fasting can unblock more than one set of pipes. My daughter is six now; old enough to not suffer separation anxiety, smart enough to realise that my awareness of my own self-indulgence will mean multiple impulse gifts for her from the airport.

My interest in this type of retreat was piqued by an article I read in the Guardian in 2002; a pair of hardened journalists were packed off to Koh Samui to eat nothing and defecate - aided by coffee and garlic colonics - into a sieve for a week. On the fifth day, one of them expelled a marble he'd swallowed when he was a small child. I'm not selling this well, I know. But - I won't lie - what comes out of your bottom is horrifyingly fascinating.

The same retreat featured in Channel 5's Celebrity Detox Camp a year later, rinsing the detritus from Kim Wilde, Richard Blackwood and one of Boyzone. I've chosen a different retreat to the one featured in the article. I don't need to lay on the same plank that Vincent off Eastenders did while proclaiming, entirely unnecessarily, that "I'M SHITTING"; nor do I really understand the science of coffee colonics - detoxing with a toxin? - although I guess any ensuing flatulence might be useful if you're looking to sell your home (readers of my previous blogs will know I most definitely AM NOT). Instead, I've chosen to undergo the Total Transformation programme at the Health Oasis resort, also on Koh Samui.

After seven days of sun, sea, sand, yoga, massage, sauna, "mild juices", clear broth and water-based irrigation, I hope to emerge looking considerably less like someone who has spent the last two years bouncing like a pinball between rage, fear and anxiety. Maybe I'll even have forgotten that by then the USA will have inaugurated its first orange president.

I will bid farewell to Koh Samui golden and glowing, with cheekbones clearly visible, and as surely as night follows day I'll cave in, have some gin (I've always loved drinking on planes, it feels so decadent) and arrive back at Heathrow 18 hours later with the face of a Galapagos tortoise.

And if that's the biggest problem I face in 2017, wouldn't that be joyous. Here's to pressing the reset button.

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