Article in The Santa Fe New Mexican on 21 November, 2004
By Judith Fein

Two weeks of denial - Cleansing spa vacation leaves one traveler glowing with health, the other woozy and limp.

He absolutely refused to do it. I will not go to a gastronomic capital in Europe to live on juice and stick a hose up my butt!... he said with the force of Vesuvius.

But movie stars are doing it… People interested in health and yoga and spirituality are doing it... I said, trying to be convincing. It gives your internal organs a break. It purifies the body. It can cure diseases. I'll bet it even increases your income and speeds up your Internet access. It's a new form of vacation - it's meaningful.

Read my hungry lips, he replied. No!

Please. … it would mean a lot if you went with me.

Pause. Softening. A glimmer of possibility in his left eye. And then, sighing with resignation, he agreed. My husband, Paul, said he would accompany me to the beautiful Algarve region, in the south of Portugal, for a two-week juice fast and detox retreat.

But I will probably jump the wall and escape to a restaurant every night, he added.

detox with orbs at Moinhos VelhosOrbs at Moinhos Velhos

Moinhos Velhos is legendary in Europe, and every few weeks, 10 people fly to Faro, Portugal, where they are met at the airport and whisked away to juiceland, which is situated in a lush, isolated valley. I couldn't wait to nourish my body and soul, but Paul had chomped a quarter of an inch off his teeth, grinding them.

The Moinhos Velhos retreat is owned and run by two Norwegian health workers: Frank Jensen and Anne Karine Moss. In his mid-70s, Frank is a force of nature who teaches yoga every morning, does muscle testing of participants and hooks everyone up to the latest in mind-body machines: the Quantum QXCI, which completes 8,500 analyses in about three minutes and is supposed to repair a lot of what needs repairing in anyone's imperfect body.

Anne Karine uses the older Bicom machine, which purportedly breaks up old scars and keeps energy flowing, supervises the wondrous organic greenhouse and gardens, and is committed to healing and spirituality.

The fasters in our session were mostly British women, who were lovely but thought they were overweight, and a successful Dutch business owner who was going through a middle-age desire to change his life.

The accommodations - in private cabins - were basic and comfortable, with no frills.

And the routine was simple. Get up at 6:45 a.m., sip some lemon water, do yoga and meditation in the glass-enclosed yoga palace, drink fruit juice three times a day and clear vegetable broth at night, and swallow handfuls of supplements: bentonite (clay), psyllium, pancreatic enzymes, niacin (for instant sunburn) and chompers, which encourage the built-up toxins to exit the back doors of our digestive systems.

detox fasting holiday patio and mill

In between were massages, healing machines, optional walks, sightseeing tours, a swimming pool without chlorine, a sauna and an arcane toilet ritual called a clysmatic, which is a low-tech gravity enema. I never quite learned how to master it. I ended up wrestling with a tank full of water, a hose, a rod and don't ask for more details.

The first few days passed quickly, and, stuffed with supplements, almost all the participants marveled that they weren't hungry.

I, however, could only tolerate a few supplements, and I was ravenous. I cast a lascivious eye on all the luscious oranges and mangoes growing in the greenhouse, I lusted after the vegetables that the gentle Portuguese cooks removed from the broth, and I began to understand what makes cannibals tick.
I forgot my empty belly only when Cha Cha gave me a Thai massage and Grace did reflexology on my soles or ran what looked like a magic wand around my head. It contained magnets, and I fell into a deep, hungerless sleep on her table.

By the third day, Paul was bounding out of bed for lemon juice and yoga, and I was missing the wake-up call.

When I caught up with the other fasters at so-called breakfast (orange juice), I realized our main topic of conversation was our bowels. "Is it soft today?" "How many times did you go?" "Have you needed to use the clysmatic more than once?" My mind understood that detoxing might be good for you, but my stomach was crying: "Feed me; feed me."

A few of the participants were drowsy, but most were feeling pretty normal. Frank muscle-tested everyone and increased their dose of pills. Mine had to be decreased, because I was spacey, dizzy and listless. I tried to read an probably set the world's record for reading one sentence more that 211 times without comprehending it.

detox fasting lagos grotos

While I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, Paul joined everyone else for an evening walk to the spectacular Barragem de Bravura, a dam where Moinhos Velhos is located. Two years ago, a terrible fire in the area burned acres and acres of forest, but miraculously, Moinhos was spared. It must be because The Great Spirit wanted the Moinhos guests to continue enjoying their treatments.

At morning yoga on Day 4, I marveled at how much more flexible everyone was. Some of them were doing headstands, and I was becoming a little Gumby. Frank and Anne Karine were wonderful, and if I mentioned any subject I was interested in learning more about - like sacred geometry - Anne Karine produced a book for me to read. I enjoyed reading the first sentences of many books, again and again and again.

Okka did an astrological reading for me, I learned how to zap myself with a hand-held device said to rid the body of parasites, and Frank, after hooking me up to the Quantum machine, announced my healing rate was among the fastest he had ever seen.
Frank, I confessed, I am hungry and lightheaded. It may be from the sugar in the juice. Everyone else feels fine. Paul is doing magnificently. His stomach is shrinking before my eyes. When he turns to the side, I see a board. But I don't think I can do this. Has anyone ever come here who failed at fasting?
No... was his answer.

I walked over to the English women who lay around the pool all day long, waiting for their treatments. I grilled each one of them: Are you starving? Are you lightheaded? No one was. They were all doing fine.

We chit-chatted about our bowels, and now it seemed to me to be the most normal conversation in the world. I mean, why bother talking about politics or films or philosophy when we could describe the endlessly entertaining antics of our intestines?

But I was secretly worried I wouldn't be able to complete the fast. Paul was loving and said if I didn't feel well, I should follow my gut (bad pun). After all, weren't we being taught at Moinhos to listen to our bodies?

On Day 6, I dragged my body up the hill from my cabin to the glass yoga palace where one of the English women was jogging. The others were laughing. Paul was doing remarkably well.
I quietly told Frank and Anne Karine I need to eat. And then - just like a car engine can run out of fuel - I quit. I was graciously invited to join the duo and their staff for their simple meals.

They insisted I break the fast safely, a little bit of food at a time. I started with some fruit. The papaya tasted exactly like manna. I chewed each morsel about 20 times to make it last.

On Days 7 and 8, Frank tested our muscles and gave us individualized flower remedies. He also formulated a personalized remedy prescribed by the Quantum machine.

The liquids come in little blue bottles, and we dribbled them under our tongues from droppers. I decided not to talk about the fact I was eating, but the English babes always wanted to know what I ate at each meal. I downplayed it. I mumbled something about rice and vegetables and didn't dare tell them how scrumptious it tasted.

I was feeling fine, but had vague regrets about quitting. The others were all rosy cheeked from detoxing, and I was pale from guilt.

On Day 9, Paul hopped on a scale to discover he had lost 14 pounds. He became so psychically tuned in that he was getting messages from his inner self about his health and his work. He was totally inspired.
He had never had this happen before.

detox fasting valley

Everyone was excited, because they had only one more day of total fasting left. And then they would begin to slowly, slowly break the fast. On the spiritual side, minds were quieting down, breathing was more regular, and a certain calm reigned in the Valley of the Starving.

On Day 10, Paul and I went into Lagos, a nearby town. We visited the remains of the first slave market in Europe and toured a fascinating museum that contained Celtic and Roman artifacts and a baroque church. At lunchtime, I went to a restaurant for grilled Portuguese sardines, which were heavenly, and Paul went to a juice bar and indulged in a Tutti-Frutti - a cocktail of mixed juices.

At night, everyone was slap-happy and giggly, talking about the fact they could eat the next day.
The day's treatments had been especially soothing. Okka worked on my feet, and Grace magnetized me again. I felt as though my brain was moving around, balancing itself. Could I have completed the fast? Was I a total chicken?
On Day 11, after I ate with the staff, I sat in the dining room to watch the guests break their fast. They had a platter of fruit in front of them, and they picked at it modestly. They were being cautious and following instructions about how to come off their liquid diet.

The 12th day, I asked everyone what they thought about the fast.
All said it had been a fabulous vacation.
They had lost weight, taken time out from their lives that they sorely needed, and they had decided to live and eat more healthily. It raised their consciousness about their bodies and their health. They continued to eat cautiously, but the volume increased. Paul had lost 17 pounds.

On Day 13, we had a farewell dinner: marinated tempeh, beets, a baked cheese, salad, even a chocolate-mousse dessert.

We all chipped in and got gifts for the staff, and there was a lot of buoyancy in the air. I congratulated them all on their major accomplishment - and I meant it. To be in the Algarve, an eater's paradise, and have the discipline to detox and fast - was a real feather in the cap of every participant.

On the 14th day, everyone went home. It was like the end of summer camp, and e-mail addresses were exchanged along with hugs. When Paul and I were by ourselves, I told him I did not feel like a failure. Au contraire. I had fasted for five full days, and for me, that was a major accomplishment.


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