The detox that almost fixed me…

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  • Anita Bhagwandas ditched her daily life in search of ‘something’ new. Then she went on a juice detox for 10 days. Here’s what happened….

    Big life changes mean one thing – total freak out. In my case, it was leaving behind everything I knew – I’d been in women’s magazines for a decade – in pursuit of something else (I’m still not entirely sure what yet.) A friend had warned me that point between finishing your job and the new venture is crucial – it’s the time your brain readjusts to a new daily routine, a new way of thinking and above all, a new lifestyle. And I wanted my change to be huge. After years of eating at my desk (I’d perfected the type with one hand, shove food in face with other) and working all the time had made me weary. And the emotional toll of working in fully female offices meant that I needed a total emotional and physical cleanse.

    That’s what I did. The cosmos works in funny ways – I received an invite to Amchara in Gozo – an island off Malta. The retreat promised all the usual health retreat gubbins – juice detox, exercise, beauty treatments etc – I barely looked at it, I just said yes because I needed a time out. So, a few days after packing up my work desk (I found a drawer of designer shoes I hadn’t even worn, I think that’s called ‘comfort shopping’) I headed off to Malta. That was the easy bit – then I took a 40-minute cab to the ferry, and 20 mins later was in Goz0 – cue another 20-minute drive. “A lot of faff…” I huffed as I dragged my giant suitcase along. That baggage was metaphorical actually – because I was bringing a lot of my sh*t with me. My brain was tired, every cell in my body ached with a weariness that went beyond tired. I was worn down, and worn out.


    I imagined my week of cleansing – a mix of juice and raw food – to be full of solitude. That’s how it started anyway. I left my suitcase in my comfortable and airy room overlooking the pool and went to the kitchen to get my first juice. I’m good with juice detoxes – I’ve done 10 days before on just juice. But the glass of thick, fibrous juice didn’t even vaguely quell the emptiness I’d felt. The enormity of chucking in my job dawned on me – I sat alone, gulped it down, and hoped that the isolation wasn’t the wrong thing for me right now.

    I needn’t have worried about the solitude. By the time dinner’s juice – a green juice, tsp of psyllium husk and a beetroot shot – arrived there was a huge table full of people chatting like they’d known each other for decades. Listening in, some I’d realised, were leaving shortly, others like me, had just arrived. Instead of retreating to my room, I joined in a bit trying to be polite – even though every part of me felt coiled tight. But I was surprised by the other guests. You expect a certain kind of person on a detox retreat – either super skinny blonde yogi-types who don’t have to work for a living (f*ck them) or hippy creatures looking for therapy at the end of a colonic tube when what they should have is actual therapy (I could be the latter). This crowd was different – a mix of strung out professionals (mainly from London), older regulars who detoxed twice a year for health reasons and people who, like me, were in the middle of a life change, be it career or relationships.

    The next three days of four juices a day plus a health shot (turmeric and coconut water) were tough – I had some headaches but thankfully I was already gluten, dairy and caffeine free – so sugar was the biggest craving. By day 4 I started to warm up a bit – to the people who I’d realised were all lovely – including the super helpful staff who checked on your constantly – and the place. I’d been to Gozo before and found it (sorry Gozo) boring. This time the lack of activity felt idyllic.


    After days of watching films on my iPad by the pool, I decided I should do some of the activities. So, I did a 7am Pilates class, a guided walk to the Azure Window and a hilarious aqua aerobics class which felt quite freeing (I usually care so much about others opinions, here I just didn’t feel judged.) I also tried sound healing, which was super effective. A heavily tattooed man banged a gong around the room as we lay down and I felt like every particle in my body had been shaken into action – it was beyond loud. I had a colonic too (although wimped out of the self-administered ones with raw green coffee each morning like a chump) which was fascinating, a session with a naturopath (think nutritional health meets life coach), plus food sensitivity testing, a polarity treatment (aligning your energies through small movements in the body) and an incredible full body massage. I was starting to realise, despite my decade as a beauty editor, how crucial self-care is. And truth is, I’d not cared about myself in a really long time.

    I’d also warmed up to people too. Instead of isolating myself, I tried to chat to people. I became enamoured with one lady, slightly younger than my own mother, who had the most incredible energy, warmth and spirit that just radiated off her. Sometimes you meet people and they sort of pass you by again, without even the smallest effect on your being. But I loved how she found beauty in the smallest things and we’ve kept in touch through ‘Facey B’ – her wonderful words, not mine.

    After 10 days at Amchara – was I a new person? Well, I was ready to come back and create a new way of living, and I took with me a stillness, that I’m trying to hold onto. And I know that a juice fast twice a year here would probably make me a much saner, more fulfilled person. Sometimes you just need a time out – like the adult version of putting yourself on the naughty step for forgetting about yourself. I can’t recommend this one, or the staff there, more.

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