Viva Mayr Clinic - a diet programme that changes your life
People of all status’s and sizes visit the Viva Mayr clinic in Austria: some for serious weight loss; some to keep their executive champagne bellies in check and others because of ill health.
More like a private hospital than a five star hotel, the Viva Mayr cure Clinic has acres of white tiles on the floor and is Scandinavian in style with pine wood in the rooms and natural fabrics peppered on furniture. The clinic is light, airy and generally quiet.
Although tech’ is available in the form of telly and internet, the clinic doesn't encourage connectivity with your normal world because, stress, they say, is probably part of your weight problem.
The glossy mag’s talk about the stars and celeb’s that visit the Viva Mayr Clinic but I found the guests were more day to day. One guest was a chef who being on her feet all day didn't eat properly. She had tried many diets but continued to be overweight. Bored of her excess pounds she wanted to be trimmed down with a proper regime. Another male guest suffered hearing problems wanted a general health check with special attention on his ear, nose and throat.
A stay of three weeks is recommended—some stay for much longer but many just go for a week. Expense might be the reason; with doctors bills (you see the doctor and specialists daily during your stay and are charged a fee for all visits and any medication or treatments) ranging up to £1,950 for a seven day visit, which does not include “bed and board”.
Whilst the price tag makes the Viva Mayr clinic seem a bit Rolls Royce and some of the required medico treatments could be classified as a bit “la la”, the underlying concept is a fixed period of time with dedicated attention to your body and its relationship with food and your eating patterns. This is mixed with some spa action, rest, de-stress and of course some noughties detox action.
The main thrust of their “attack” are analysis of your body (particularly digestive system); modifying your diet; giving you vit’s, salts and powders to drink; training you to eat and lots of rest and gentle exercise daily. They have a gym but the body can’t really cope with the effect of the daily epsom salts that all guests intake. Your limbs ache far more than usual after a workout. I tried it and regretted my gym enthusiasm for days as I limped about the Viva Mayr clinic as though I’d run a marathon.
Day one: the analysis
The analysis starts with a visit to one of the doctors who examines your stomach with lots of massaging. You are asked about all sorts of things that you wouldn't usually talk about in polite company like “poo.” And as one “inmate” or guest put it “there’s far more talk about the exit than the entry.”
The doctor is happy to explain body functions to you and to sit and discuss the ins and outs of any health concerns and your diet. I asked for special attention to be paid to my hormone levels and my liver (in slight trepidation).
Vitamins, salts and powders
My tongue (a bit yellowish) and applied kinesiology revealed a liver in need of slight detox (I think some good homework put in before hand on my part with the much vilified Patrick Holford liver detox diet, may have saved me from a worse diagnosis) which resulted in my being given a “mild cleansing diet” during my stay. I also had a blood and urine test and was told I was deficient in two vitamins folic acid and calcium. I was given a prescription to get these items from their onsite pharmacy. Everyone is given a “base powder” to drink throughout the day which is a mix of calcium, potassium, bicarbonate and magnesium...oh and the dreaded epsom salts which are equivalent to drinking toilet cleaner or gruel.
The epsom salts deserve special mention because you will be transported back to times when your mother would insist you just hold your nose and get whatever medicine it was down your neck. Most people don’t like them. I didn't mind because I’d been off coffee for a long time and in my head the bitterness of the salt tasted a bit like caffeinated coffee. Most did not agree with my view.
A bit of a struggle
Although there is an air of holiday, the Viva Mayr Clinic isn’t an easy process to get to grips with and it seems over whelming at first and a bit of a headache literally. You are given a dvd and booklet and a diary with times and appointments in it. And it does seem as though you will never quite get the hang of all the ideas. “Eat your broth with a teaspoon; don’t drink with food; have water half an hour before eating, have your base powder four times a day; stretch every morning, small bites of food; chew each bite of food forty times; use a hot water bottle and cold flannel every night as a liver compress; scrub your body pre-shower; drink tea and broth between meals but not close to them; hot then cold showers; eat in a narrow time schedule.” In between you are “kneipping (bathing feet in warm then cold water), colour therapying, having massages and generally wondering whether you will ever get the hang of it. Which is one of the reasons I think you need to visit the clinic. You can read the Viva Mayr book just out by Harper Collins, (see end of article) but their checklist of “must do’s” take a while to sink in and being re enforced daily with no distractions does pummel them into you. Also there are lots of other “do’s” like having seeds and nuts that have been ground down rather than whole especially for women and putting cold pressed flaxseed oil on your food after its cooked.
The visit, for most, also comes with a bit of pain—headaches and feeling unwell. Its detoxing pain. So if you have a party lifestyle, prepare to feel pretty under the weather initially as your body unwinds your excesses. I felt fine but I don’t smoke or drink caffeine and had cut down my alcohol intake dramatically before my visit.
Food part 1
Food times are strictly adhered to and the doctor has sent messages down to the restaurant to only serve you as per the diet they have prescribed you. I was lactose and potato free which pretty much cut out anything tasty.
Do the cookery course where the Viva Mayr chef prepares absolutely delicious dishes like warm strawberries with honey and seeds. It means getting some extra food without anyone knowing (bring out your St Trinians side).
Food part 2—the stale spelt bread
Broth and spelt bread are at the heart of the Viva Mayr Clinic dietary core which you quickly learn when the honeymoon arrival period is over (i.e. after the first evening).
Breakfast is a spelt roll, which is a roll made with gazillions of ingredients including goats cheese, which is rested and left to go stale for a day or so. Its like eating a brick of cardboard, it’s taken with slices of avocado or a filet of trout. (Small portions).
The doctors orders for everyone are “chew, chew chew” and if you have broth or tea, “drink only from a teaspoon dipped into the said liquid and put your spoon down in between slurps”.
The idea behind it is that in order to digest properly, food must firstly be chewed into a pulp—to allow it to be properly absorbed and its nutrients used by our body effectively. Secondly that the chewing action and generating saliva in our mouth send a signal to the stomach to tell it what kind of food is on its way down and how to prepare to digest it. Thirdly that eating in such a slow and managed way makes you feel full very quickly and ultimately reduces your portion size because of sheer eating boredom. There really is little point in piling your plate to the ceiling (not that you get the opportunity at the Viva Mayr Clinic) if you are going to be sat in front of the food for two or three hours, wading through it when its gone stone cold and you would rather bang your head against a wall than sit there any longer. Finally the payoff of eating properly is that you don’t crave food and so you naturally eat less and junk food just doesn’t appeal. Believe it or not, after a Viva Mayr visit you can look at a packet of sweets and just think “perhaps I will eat them Tuesday week.” You just lose the desire to eat.
Lunch is a great meal. Some fish and asparagus or something of that ilk. Its proper food. It is much looked forward to and life, whilst at the Viva Mayr cure clinic, really is just one long wait until the next morsel of food arrives. Dinner is miserable. Broth or green tea and a spelt roll. You really do feel like drowning yourself particularly when you start to despise the taste of the veggy broth which doesn't taste too dissimilar to vegemite in liquid form. I really couldn’t stomach even the smell of it after three days.
The nice bit—rest
The sauna, pool, spa, lakeside setting and rooms with lake view balcony are the really pleasant part of your visit. Whiling away hours snoozing on sun beds in the garden whilst people water ski or swim seems like a full time and very necessary job.
The sauna and wet room facilities are out of this world and I haven’t seen anything like them anywhere else. They are 100% la-la and very West coast or probably just a bit Scandinavian.
There are rooms with light pulsating rose quartz crystals and warm stone beds with saline inhalation; sauna with colour therapy, heat cabins which elevate your mood and the pool sits in a glass room overlooking the lake. There are also lots of naked people because in Austria, people go naked in the sauna.
The sauna area is not just for entertainment, there is a wash and cleanse routine at the Viva Mayr Clinic, which centres around being in warm environments then having cold showers and so on to improve circulation and I imagine vitality.
In a climate of drastically reduced food, the sauna and pool area became a lifesaver. If you can’t eat, at least you can luxuriate in some lovely sauna rooms. I spent most of my evenings whiling away hours in the pool and sauna area which were lovely and warm and a real delight.
The final analysis
At the end of my stay, I was given a run down of my lab results from blood and urine and was given a clean bill of health on the liver and hormone front (my “numbers” fell into the acceptable levels). The only concern was the lack of calcium, which meant I was put on a double dose of calcium vitamins straight away.
It is quite a relief to get this sort of sign off from a doctor. Often its easy to wonder how much we’ve wrecked our livers with one or two more party nights than we should have had.
I didn’t lose any weight despite the virtually no food for a week diet but by the following week “once the work which had been put in started to kick in”, I dropped a couple of kilo’s even though I wolfed down a Bounty chocolate bar, a large bag of peanuts and a cheese sandwich just to feel normal again at the airport. And it was 5pm. Naughty me.
I think the visit is pretty hardcore and not for the faint hearted—it is an expensive way to starve yourself. Go because you need to go—you need to change your life or you need a cure for something or steel yourself for a week or more of feeling so incredibly hungry, that food stuck in your teeth looks like a whole ’nother meal.
It is expensive and visiting whilst worrying about money, isn’t really the point of the place. Get someone to treat you or save up and expect to spend about £3,000-£4,000 for a week all in (you can spend less if on a budget but you can also easily spend more).
On the upside
You do learn that you don’t need to eat in the evening and by the time you leave, you’ve got into this groove. I eat a lot for breakfast now including the Viva Mayr muesli recipe (they have a book out with Harper Collins and their own cook book) and probably some rye bread and eggs with avocado. For lunch I have fish and vegetables and to make me feel better a sweet pudding or chocolate. Then nothing for dinner but I drink tea, hot chocolate or water as I want. What I have started to notice about not eating in the evening is that I have much more energy in the morning, its as though I’ve been on battery charge.
I’ve dropped all cows milk and after a play around with soya, rice, sheep and goat products have now settled on goat milk, yoghurt and cheese products as my favourite.
I don’t drink and eat at the same time (unless dining out); don’t have caffeine or sodas unless its a treat. And I always chew, chew, chew my food which is usually home prepared and organic.
Following this routine whilst at home is helping me lose more weight and this is with very little exercise – just some walking in the park every couple of days.
I think that although the visit is a bit psychologically trying—all change is difficult for a human to absorb. The Viva Mayr clinic really teaches you about the workings of your body, body cycles, how to eat and ultimately that no food is that bad as long as its chewed properly and proper attention is paid to meal times. They say sit down, take time, maybe thirty minutes or more to enjoy your food.
When I left I really felt I could never return, despite the warmth of the staff and comprehensiveness of their approach and the divine spa which I hope will be available to me full time in heaven. I found being so hungry very difficult but as time passes, I can see why people go back again and again. It just gives you a refresher course, stops you falling into bad habits and re-enforces a long term healthy lifestyle. It feels a bit like going to the optician or dentist, you don’t want to do it but you know you really should and once the visit is over with you are glad you went.
I would recommend going with a friend or partner, simply so that you can share your time with someone else, going on your own is a little bit dull. Take good books and DVD’s to watch and lots of money so you can indulge in things like 24 carat gold facials. And whatever you do, attend some of their lectures, the doctors speak a lot of common sense and think things like chocolate mixed in with nuts and a couple of glasses of wine a day really aren’t going to harm anyone.
What a relief.
See Viva Mayr doctors in London. London clinic dates are:
Tuesday 8th September 2009 Dr. Christine Stossier will be available at The Diagnostic Clinic, 50 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 8TL.
To book an appointment please call Tosh on 020 7224 2423
Wednesday 9th September 2009 Dr. Christine Stossier will be available at the Zita West Clinic, 37 Manchester Street, W1U 7LJ, between Baker Street and Marylebone High Street.
To book an appointment please call Zita's reception team on 020 7224 0017
Thursday 10th September 2009 Dr. Christine Stossier will be available at Dr. Margareta Griesz-Brisson, The London Neurology & Pain Clinic, 61 Harley Street, LondonW1G 8QU.
To book an appointment please call Kelly at the clinic on 020 7255 1668
The Viva Mayr Diet book by Helena Frith Powell
14 days to a flatter stomach and a younger you by Dr. Harald Stossier and Helena Frith Powell
A flatter stomach in 14 days? It can be done! Dr Harald Stossier, the medical genius behind the world-famous Viva Mayr spa clinic, has teamed up with writer and former serial dieter Helena Frith Powell to bring you The Viva Mayr Diet – the savvy diet for people in the real world who want to get a bikini body and revamp their health with ease.
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