There was always a strong chance my friends were going to struggle at a health farm. We'd learned to stop resisting the next bottle of wine long ago, always preferring to follow the gift-shop directive of 'Keep calm and carry on'.
So halfway through our two-week holiday in the Philippines, when the idea of doing a 'detox' came to us during happy-hour beers at Patrick's pool and cocktail lounge, the matter was probed with our usual acuity.
"Totes brilliant idea.
"Let's get the drinks in and discuss..."
But somehow in the midst of our babbling, someone managed to drop an email to a coconut-tree-filled health sanctuary, 90 minutes drive south of Manila, to book our stay - and we voluntarily surrendered ourselves to holistic purgatory the following week.
Alarmingly, our confirmation of a four-night detox was accompanied by the following advice from the hotel's general manager:
"Start cutting back on alcohol and rich foods NOW in order to prevent a 'healing crisis'!"
The meaning of which we duly discussed over a couple more San Miguels.
Heading into my first colonic treatment
On arrival, our trio was told that undergoing an extreme detox during our stay would be ill-advised. Apparently, the results would kick in just as we were getting kicked out, leaving us to manage our painful transitions into wellness away from the soothing shelter of palm trees.
So instead we were put on a vegan, calorie-restricted diet, consisting of tropical fruits, unspecified thick, green, iron-rich drinks, clear, spicy soups, steamed vegetables, and mouthwatering salad dressings (which we were soon spooning straight from the jug).
At 7AM each morning, awoken by hunger, we'd run along the paved pathways of the 48-hectare organic plantation like crazed teenagers on a school treasure hunt. Overly excited, a bit pasty, and definitely not yet mentally fully formed.
We embraced power walks, meditation and yochilates, gently raised our eyebrows when informed about the benefits of immunologic skin intelligence, and made a group vow to eat many more things made from coconut on returning home (even bacon).
And our conversations became increasingly difficult to follow.
"I'll move my colonic back an hour, so we can head to reflexology together before our green drinks."
"Okay. But, be honest with me, do you think it's normal that there's no movement in my 'house', although I'm still peeing for Britain?"
"Totally, fine, I think. My house has been silent since we started."
Into the conversational spaces usually reserved for careers, flat prices and men had eased the language of self-health, spirituality, and a myriad of euphemisms for bowel movement.
Supplementary help from probiotics, digestive enzymes and blue algae
In fact, it wasn't until I'd noticed one particular verbal tick that I realised things were not all going quite as smoothly as we were pretending.
In retrospect, I now know that you can identify the sound of a group of English women detoxing by regular utterances of the word 'Sorry'.
As your body adjusts to the absence of food and stimulants, and starts to feel absurdly tired by 8pm, there is an accompanying spiritual decline. Perhaps the gurus call it an awakening.
You begin to feel a little fragile. A little on edge. And everyone gets a bit. Well. Snappy.
Denied the chance to sate your body with comfort food and drinks, self-awareness expands to fill the gap. And at some point between one particularly gloopy shot of extra virgin coconut oil, your second Insanity workout class of the day, and a detoxifying stomach massage, you lose your ability to be easy-going.
On the second evening, I witnessed my first healing crisis, when I found my friend wandering near the South Pool, her face looking a little blotchy.
"I don't know what's going on. I should feel terrific. This place is incredible. But..."
I nodded in sympathy. In our healthy paradise, the only creatures at odds with this natural utopia were the guests. Deprived of our everyday quotient of valium-like props, anxiety and self-hatred were shoving their way forward, and truth was bubbling up to replace rapidly melting fat.
Surprising location for a 'healing crisis'
In our one-bedroom villa, the mood grew febrile.
Emotionally fraught after three days worth of calm self-reflection, women were not sleeping, having nightmares, leaving the room at 6am for calming swims, dozing off at 6pm, or haggling mindlessly over #firstworldproblems.
It turns out that living with yourself is just about the hardest trip you'll ever take.
Yet by the fourth day, as we prepared to leave, the mood wasn't dour, but oddly soft and pensive. A confidence had settled on our minds, as though we'd learned to survive with the consequences of being ourselves, without all the other crap, and had gained a modicum of self-awareness.
Sitting in the car on our way back to Manila, we chatted easily about buying juicing machines, quitting caffeine forever and introducing meditation into our daily lives. Compared to the slightly manic rage of just a few days ago, the tone of our conversation was positively zen.
What started out as a simple way to lose a few pounds, and feel less bad about drinking lots of beer, had actually forced us to move from visualising change, to tackling it face on.
"So, we could just have one glass of wine of dinner, tonight? Not go over overboard." I suggested.
We all nodded in beatific agreement. And at that point, we actually meant it.