The word Devon conjures up images of cream teas on fluffy scones. But my last trip to the pretty seaside town of Ilfracombe in North Devon saw me walking along the High Street averting my eyes when passing those quaint tea shops.
That’s because I was there to detox, lose weight and tone up those flabby bits at the Slimmeria Retreat (well bootcamp really) over five days.
Home was Merlin Court a gorgeous hill top building with its own celebrity status having once appeared in an Inspector Calls during it’s days as a hotel. Wood floors, white walls and chandeliers give off a sense of luxury while en-suite rooms are boutique style (some with baths) with lovely views over Ilfracombe.
There are no TVs as being a couch potato is as taboo as drinking coffee. And who would want to when there is so much landscape gorgeousness to explore.
Arriving Sunday evening meant an easy start with a quick chat and some measurements (not to be divulged here) taken. Dinner was a vegan offering served at 6.30pm. It was pleasant enough and the other victims er.. guests, included six women between 30 to 65 years and a man aged 72. All of us wanted to shed some pounds.
We were told that there is no deviation from the food regime which meant no sneaking in snacks. Yet on the side table in the dining room there was a fruit bowl where someone had left a solitary red apple in it.
The wake up call at 7.30am was a bell. We had to be in the dining room for 8am to nibble on a slither of apple washed down with lemon water before setting off for a two-hour walk.
I wondered how on earth I could walk up and down the local hills on that. I was told that the hot lemon water reduces hunger while the slither of apple provides just about enough sugar to tide us over. And it did.
The walks were pretty challenging as Ilfracombe is a pretty hilly place. On the first day we walked via the harbour where we stopped for a moment to admire Verity – a Damien Hirst sculpture of a defiant naked but pregnant woman holding up a sword as she oversees the comings and goings of the waters beyond.
It’s a spurring image that I kept with me as I conquered those steep hills. And we were out there come rain or shine our pain subduing at the sight of some remarkable cliff top views over the infinite and sometimes wild seas or over the town.
One day we followed the Harbour and Hillsborough Torrs Path (South West Coast Path) and on another we followed the historic Tarka Trail which follows the journey of Tarka the Otter in the classic tale written by Henry Williamson.
We had our trainer with us but with such varying abilities within the group, he had his work cut out. He run backwards and forwards ensuring that the fast-paced walkers were kept busy while diverting stragglers along easier paths.
Amazingly we all made it back at the same time for breakfast at 10.30am – this was glass of carrot juice.
The routine continued with a 30 minute fitness program and an hour of yoga, Tai Chi or pilates and on one occasion a session of mindfulness.
Then lunch was served. It was always a vegan, plant based lunch. Ingredients used included carrots, cabbage, beetroots, onions, tomatoes cauliflower, quinoa, barley sometimes sprinkled with pomegranate kernels and sometimes sunflower seeds. But always gorgeously presented and always gorgeously marinated.
There was tea at three which was a couple of portions of fruit and a glass of something herbal. And at 6pm there was dinner.
After lunch it was playtime: “Do not snooze” we were urged “go out and do something”. Woolacombe beach, just a 10-minute drive away, beckoned and the weather was simply perfect for an afternoon or two of enjoying this gorgeous seaside. And we were given a picnic of a tangerine and a walnut to take with us so we didn’t miss out on our tea time nibble of fruit. A lovely touch.
We had to be back in time for dinner at 6pm then it was a dance class or boxercise, then lights out by 9pm. That was a big ask and some played cards on the balcony or simply read. Thank goodness this detox did not include the digital detox and I could at least distract myself from hunger pangs with some online activity.
All seemed to be going fine until Weary Wednesday. The lack of carbs and caffeine began to take its toll and we were feeling tired. Over lunch there were complaints of headaches, and feelings of weakness.
And to my amazement that apple was still there. It was winking at me. I resisted. To my amazement no-one else even mentioned it. It began to dawn on me that this was some sort of test of resolve.
We were cajoled into the day’s activities with only one women ducking out to do her own thing.
Happily today also included a free 30-minute massage and oh how we enjoyed that.
Did we lose weight?
The last day we were measured again and weighed. Yup! I lost an inch off my waist and 6lbs in weight. Others lost more. The man in the group lost 11lbs.
Everyone lost weight but more importantly everyone felt really good. Weary Wednesday was now just a distant memory as we skipped happily into Sunny Saturday.
Later as we were leaving, Galia (owner of the retreat) looked at the empty fruit bowl and asked “Who took the apple”. Of course everyone denied it was them. For some reason, she looked at me in perhaps the same way Adam would have looked at Eve.
This is a fast track tone-up and weight-loss regime which means lots of movement, less calories and quality rest in a beautiful coastal town. It’s a spectacularly supervised routine devised to kick start your diet, your metabolism with the added bonus of toning up. Slimmeria will get you there as long as you stay focussed. It works. This might be just the tonic to get into that little black dress in time for Christmas and New Year parties.
There are several Slimmeria retreats in Devon between now October 7th. The Price for 6 nights, including a massage, ranges between £695 to £895 inclusive.