Many headlines have been devoted to Rebel Wilson’s ‘year of health’ and many of them focused on two things — her five-and-a-half stone weight loss and VivaMayr Altaussee, the Austrian alpine health clinic she checked into to start her efforts, a place also frequented by Kate Moss, Elizabeth Hurley and Jourdan Dunn.
Wilson often discusses her health on social media, framing her slimmer appearance as an offshoot of her decision to improve how she feels, and regularly credits the award-winning VivaMayr — which is, reassuringly, situated next to a picture-perfect lake and boasts breathtaking mountain views — for providing her with the tools to get there.
The star says she reached her goal weight at the end of last year. ‘It’s about being healthy,’ she added. ‘I needed a tangible measurement to have as a goal.’
I feel her pain. I’m part of the 40% of Britons who have gained weight during the takeaway-tastic pandemic. I never weigh myself, preferring to judge by the comfort of my clothing, which had become snug.
And while the added inches were frustrating, it was the accompanying tiredness that I really wanted to sort out.
Add in a bout of pneumonia in January and I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about visiting the place Wilson credits with kick-starting her health overhaul to try their Weight Care programme.
The one- or two-week-long retreat is billed as helping you ‘feel lighter and freer’, and claims to be personalised to each guest (it’s part of a slew of new wellness programmes at the luxury centre — another proving popular is a post-Covid-specific plan that aims to help those suffering with long-term health issues).
Day one and my first appointment is with Dr Maximilian Schubert. Rather than focus on my actual weight in numbers, the softly spoken (and mercifully kindly) Schubert hones in on why my energy is so low, why I am coughing so much and why my sleep patterns are confused.
Addressing those things alongside eating nutritionally balanced meals would naturally bring my body into balance, he says, whereupon it would start to burn fat. Should I set a goal weight, I ask?
‘There’s no one weight or right size for anyone,’ comes his reply. ‘It’s a combination of factors and the important thing is that you are fit to live your life.’
I feel nervous and worry that I might struggle with the programme. The routine at VivaMayr involves getting up at 7am, taking medications and supplements as prescribed by the resident doctor, eating breakfast S-L-O-W-L-Y (VivaMayr recommends a staggering 40 to 60 chews per mouthful), having prescribed treatments and seeing the doctor for a check-up.
Lunch is eaten S-L-O-W-L-Y before there’s time for a walk or swim or to attend a lecture on anything from digestion to the function of fascia. Then, dinner is eaten S-L-O-W-L-Y and it’s bedtime at 9.30pm.
The rooms are cheery (think bright-green sofas with lilac details) with baths to ease you into early nights, a supply of herbal tea and water (the only drinks you’re allowed while there), and lots of space to lounge in when you’re low on energy during the first days. Schubert issues a warning at the outset.
‘It’s not just what we do here in the clinic that matters,’ he says (he’s my new wise and clever friend). ‘You must walk around the lake, relax and, above all, listen to your body. And that counts for at home too.’
There is no draconian diet regimen (I don’t feel hungry, eating lots of veg and cold-pressed oils on a day-to-day basis) but an aim to let my body find its stride through routine and a connection with nature.
Over the course of a week, I shuffle from treatment to treatment, all of which concentrate on three things — strengthening my lungs, giving my body and cells a boost, and getting me into a better routine.
At first, I feel tired and nap a bit in the day but as time goes on, and as the treatments kick in, my energy picks up and I look forward to walking around the lake.
I have a cocktail of nutrients delivered via IV drip (I feel instantly better — it’s like having had a good slug of water after feeling thirsty) and something called ‘bloody cupping’ (every bit as gruesome as it sounds, this nonetheless feels incredible as it relieves tension around my ribs from coughing).
Because I’m terrified, I wait for the final day before I brave ‘high-dose ozone therapy’ (out comes a half litre of blood, which is mixed with oxygen and nutrients by the machine, before being put back in). The nurse has to cover the kit to quell my anxiety.
I also have ‘hypoxi training’ (high oxygen levels alternated with lower to work the lungs), and sit in a salinair booth to breathe in mineralised air. It’s fine. All is forgiven, Schubert…
After the seven days is up, my mind is crystal-clear and my energy levels are high (maybe fear does that). Weeks after returning home, my jeans are looser, my cheekbones more pronounced.
Because of this and the armfuls of new info about how best to exercise and eat, I now take time to give my body nutritious food, slowly, at appropriate times of the day and don’t feed myself with a barrage of chocolate bars any more.
In the words of Rebel Wilson: ‘An Austrian doctor said, “Rebel, the best way for you to lose unwanted body fat is by simply walking. It doesn’t have to be high-intensity, just moderate walking an hour a day.” Sometimes, the simplest thing is the kindest thing to your body, and your body will respond to that.’
I couldn’t agree more.
Health kicks: How to live the VivaMayr life without the price tag
It sounds obvious but do you do it? I need to remind myself to. The mouth is the first place to break down food, making the digestive process easier. It also gets digestive enzymes started and helps to give your body time to register satiation.
Don’t eat late and make it your lightest meal
At Vivamayr, supper takes place between 5.30pm and 7pm to allow your body to digest what you’ve had. This means less indigestion and gives your body time to process food before lying down to go to sleep.
Movement throughout the day is key to release tension, aid the digestive process and ensure we’re happily tired for restorative sleep. My personal goal is 10,000 steps a day, along with a mixture of yoga and weight-based exercises twice a week.
This is helpful if you suffer from anxiety or if, like me, you’re prone to respiratory illnesses. Pull breath into your belly, fill it entirely, then fill up to the collarbone. Slowly release. I do this for three minutes in the morning before breakfast.
One week at VivaMayr Altaussee starts at £2,600.
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