As I walked, I felt I had reached a sort of health nirvana, flooded with energy and looking better than I had for years."

Article in the Daily Telegraph on
Saturday March 04 2006

Given the shelf space it commands in bookshops at the moment and its high-profile celebrity advocates, it's easy to think of detoxing as a passing fad. But Frank Jenson and Anne Karine Moss, both Norwegian, have been running their detox program in the Portuguese Algarve for more than 14 years now.

The theory at Moinhos Velhos, their rustically charming headquarters housed in an old mill, is simple: you fast for 10 days, on juice, have two daily sessions of colonic irrigation, go through absolute hell and are released 14 days later with pristine insides, sparkling eyes and shiny hair. And with luck you've lost at least half a stone.

Day one started with a gentle call at 6.45. I found our group of 11 in the main house, quietly sipping lemon juice and water - a miracle potion that not only cleanses the liver but also acts as an appetite suppressant. Then it was down to the yoga pavilion for two hours of exercise and meditation. And although I was a complete klutz at yoga, no one ever made me feel I was the class dummy.

Breakfast at 10am was an excruciating mix of bentonite clay, mixed with water and psyllium husk topped up with apple juice - allegedly to make it palatable (it wasn't). The former acts as a sponge for toxins and the psyllium husk speeds its progress through the body. The chaser was a glorious litre of juice squeezed from oranges growing around us.

The mornings were spent having treatments, lazing by the saltwater pools or hidden away in the bathrooms of our basic but meticulously clean wooden chalets, self-administering the dreaded clysmatic or colonic cleansing (it gives sitting on the tube an entirely new meaning).

Treatments ranged from basic well-executed massage to more bizarre sessions such as having my heavy metals removed with a crystal and my food intolerances cured by holding two big metal balls. After a shaky start (I was too squeamish to watch the demonstration properly) the colonics were not as traumatic as I was expecting. I'm not sure I embraced it with as much gusto as my fellow fasters - or the previous guests, who had proudly photographed some of the repulsive stuff that was flushed out of their systems, and compiled an album for general viewing.

Although we were fasting, there were still mealtimes and we would sit around the table, talking about nutrition, life, our health and habits. The group was mixed, 10 women and one man, from places as diverse as Afghanistan and America. Health and nutrition knowledge ranged from ignorance (me and a Portuguese couple) to the extremely conscientious. Meat was generally considered the anti-Christ; when I mentioned that I had done the Atkins diet, a hushed silence descended on the table.

There was no television, no newspapers and little word from the outside world, as mobiles did not work. There was one temperamental telephone, and although I managed to phone home every day, it was only through persistence.

Lunch started with a blessing for the juice - as did every other meal - followed by the vile bentonite clay, then a litre of vegetable juice of varying awfulness, made from veg grown organically at Moinhos Velhos.

Supper was a broth in which a selection of vegetables had been cooked, followed by evening meditation. Bed was ridiculously early.

We had a couple of trips to the local town of Lagos, where we could gaze wistfully at tourists tucking into sardines and carafes of vinho de mesa, and squeeze into various outfits at clothes shops that we wouldn't even have considered at the start of the fast. Unlike everyone else in the town, we had our lunch at the local juice bar, where, after the monotony of orange and vegetable, it was really exciting to be able to tuck into strawberry and kiwi fruit, and other such exotic combinations.

My own physical journey over the two weeks went from fine and dandy on day one to tear-inducing agony from my kidneys on days two to five - only alleviated by scoring a few illegal painkillers from one of my fellow fasters. To make matters worse, I was briefly concussed and tearfully sorry for myself after whacking my head on the minibus on the way back from a day-trip to Lagos.

In the second week, I was hideously nauseous as my liver went through its paces. Every day brought new horrors in terms of spots, foul breath, headaches, tears and all-round grumpiness.

Then on day nine I had a breakthrough and started to feel amazing!

From that point on, I would wake in the morning and pound up the hills to use a surplus of energy before lemon tea and yoga. Moinhos Velhos is set in a glorious valley within walking distance of the majestic barragem (dam), and the surrounding hillsides are criss-crossed with sandy paths lined with eucalyptus trees.

We came to breakfast on day 11 to be confronted by an exquisite platter of fruit. Although I wanted to gorge, a breakfast of one apricot, a small slice of melon and a couple of cherries was enough.

Lunch that day was salad, and our evening meal was broth - with the vegetables left in. By Saturday we were eating delicious quinoa porridge, lunching out at a fish restaurant and sharing a farewell vegetarian feast with the staff in the evening. Without exception we were sleeker, prettier and healthier than when we arrived

Three months later

I'd love to say I have joined a yoga class, and have the skin of a 14-year-old and the body of a gazelle, but nothing so dramatic. I am, however, far more in touch with my body, what it needs and when. Nor do I reach for a glass of wine every evening - boringly a cup of herbal tea is more satisfying. And hell though it was, I felt much better after the two weeks than after any real holiday.


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