Monday, 16 April 2012

A detox adventure

Detox: do you really waste away, or do you simply waste your time? Fiona Hicks travelled to India to find out...

Written by Young Ladies About Town

At the risk of sounding disgustingly smug, I like to think I lead a pretty healthy life. I eat my five a day, exercise three times a week, and smoke zero cigarettes a month. I do love cake, but enjoy vegetables in equal measure. I’m just as likely to sip a cup of green tea as a full-fat latte.

Believing myself to possess a balanced attitude, I was sceptical about what a detox retreat could offer me. I’ve never had the desire to pay good money for semi-starvation in order to supposedly reset my body (and my life).

And yet last month I found myself on a plane to India bound to do just that. I was invited to sample Dudhsagar Retreat near Goa and armoured with my aforementioned balanced attitude, I figured there’s no harm in trying something once. Plus I had been assured that Dudhsagar was slightly different. Rather than focus on quick fix, their Ayurvedic programme is geared transforming your mind-set about food and healthy living.

Roughly translated, Ayurveda means the knowledge of life and longevity. It is an ancient Indian form of medicine which takes an exhaustive approach to wellness, aiming to align the physical, the psychological, and the physiological. Western doctrines seem to correlate getting healthier with merely dropping pounds –Ayurveda is much more comprehensive.

During my week-long stay at the retreat I was seen by an army of specialists, from doctors to hypotherapists to beauticians. So did the detox conquer this self-confessed cynic?


Dudhsagar is significantly less expensive than other detox programmes available, and the retreat is rustically elegant rather than luxurious. The rooms are equipped with a television, fridge, hairdryer and all other modern amenities and – crucially – my bed was comfortable. There is also the option to stay in deluxe eco-tents which are beautifully set out (but do put you more as risk to the mosquitoes).

india tent 590

As you are in the Goan jungle, you share the resort grounds with legions of monkeys. The scrappy little creatures were noisy rather than intrusive, and only added to the authentically Indian feel.


India menu 176

For many, the word ‘detox’ instantly conjures images of a liquid-only diet. Although juices (yummy) and broths (surprisingly even yummier) do feature in the programme, they are by no means the only thing on the table.

As part of the Auyverdic programme, your meals and created to accommodate your body type. I was classified as ‘fiery’ (as apparently most women are) so was fed accordingly. I won’t lie – the portions are not huge, but the food is healthy and delicious (see a sample menu on the right).

A diet consultation is also included as part of the programme. An hour’s chat with the luminescent Dr Arjita – who is herself a walking advert for the Ayurvedic practice – talked me through the foods which are best for my constitution, giving tips and hints about how I could incorporate them into my Western way of life.

So scrumptious were the offerings, the absence of dairy, meat and alcohol didn’t even register.  The only thing I did miss was coffee. Sadly the herbal water (lukewarm to aid digestion) was no match for a morning espresso.


Dudhsagar Retreat is a paradise for those partial to a bit of pampering: you receive two spa treatments per day as part of the programme.

The holisitic therapies involve a lot of oil, and a lot of disposable knickers. By the end of the week I had been massaged to within an inch of my life but, it must be said, I was delightfully tension-free.

india massage 590

My favourite was the Marma massage. During this treatment a diminutive therapist with enviably soft feet literally walks all over you and it feels marvellous. I also loved the something facial. As my face was gently massaged with rose-scented balm, I found myself falling asleep, which is a testament to just how relaxing it was.


The programme also aims to educate you on the Ayurvedic way of life, with the intention that you’ll feel equipped to carry some of the principles home with you. Nightly talks covered topics from the liver and parasites to colon cleansing and emotions. Not exactly light-hearted, but interesting all the same.

You also receive tuition on mediation, and a hypnotherapy session. I scoffed at the thought of the latter, thinking it was all a bit of a con. And yet soothed by the melodiously voiced Dr Azuzy, I was astonished (astonished I tell you!) to find myself slipping into sub consciousness. The idea is to increase positivity by clearing the mind of negative thoughts. I did feel a little disorientated afterwards, but oddly lighter.

india flowers 590

Somewhat bizarrely, there is also an assault course in the resort. Myself and another guest got up at the crack of dawn to give it a ago and it was tremendous fun. Whizzing down a zip wire (while being watched a cacophony of monkeys) is quite a way to start the day.

There is also a decent sized swimming pool which is the perfect place to relax in between all those exhausting pampering sessions.


This is a huge part of the programme, and bar walking from you room to the spa, arguably the only form of exercise you undergo during the week.

india yoga 590

That is not to say, however, that it is a walk in the park.  You complete an hour of al fresco yoga before breakfast with the perky instructor Vinay, which does wonders for quietening your grumbling tummy. The afternoon session is a little more energetic, causing me to feel muscles I didn’t even know I had. It is a thoroughly gratifying form of exercise is that its effect is immediately apparent as you become more flexible. I was wonderfully bendy by the end of the week.

The results

So does the mind, body and diet overhaul work? In a word, yes.

You are treated to a full body analysis at the start and end of your stay, which tells you just how much fat and muscle you have on every extremity. This means I now know the exact fat percentage for my right arm. Delightful.

After my week of detox, I had lost 3 pounds – but more importantly, my fat levels had decreased everywhere, and muscle density had gone up. I was undeniably relaxed, and have continued to feel less stressed.

I had even found myself integrating some of the Ayurvedic values in my normal life. In an idle moment I will find myself reciting a positive mantra, I am much more likely to think twice before eating that processed biscuit, and I have replaced more than one gym visit with an hour of vigorous yoga.

I am resolutely back on the coffee, though. Even ancient Indian wisdom couldn’t change that.

For more information visit

All transfers were arranged by Holiday Transfers:

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