Way back when I decided it would be a great idea to spend some time at a health retreat while I was in Mexico. I found The Sanctuary, worked out I could stay for 268 pesos a night (£12.50) if I volunteered there for two hours a day and booked it right away.
A few months later and here I am.
- No Wi-Fi after 10pm.
- Silence after 9pm.
- No meat.
- No bread.
- No sugar.
- No alcohol.
- No snacks.
- Morning meditation.
- Daily yoga.
The Sanctuary is in a beautiful house right by the beach in Puerto Escondido. There are 10 of us staying here, some for a few days, others for months, but the premise is that we’re a community and will share our talents and passions to enrich each other’s lives. The founder Peter set it up to be ‘a space for education and exploration’.
I’m going to keep a daily diary of how I get on…
5pm Arrived to an empty house ‘Gone to the Beach’ – luckily Sia (a French lady staying for three months) let me in and left me to shower and short my stuff out. Much needed after 7 hours along a route on a coach known as ‘the Vomit Bus’. My planned pre vegan week taco binge was thwarted by the nausea from the bus. No lunch.
5:45pm Everyone’s back and it’s time for meditation. Don’t admit that I’ve never meditated. Don’t know what I’m doing. I sit cross-legged and look out of the slits of my eyes – it’s exactly like you see in the movies. You sit there with your fingers forming an ‘o’ on your knees. I enjoy the silence. ‘Must Google how to meditate’, ‘my back is killing’, ‘what’s for dinner’ and other distractions fill my brain, I try to get rid.
6:45pm End of meditation, so tired. Day of the Dead Festival has worn me out. Pete, the retreat founder is on a day of silence, so no chat there. The rest of the retreat is on a juice fast. Weigh myself, hate myself.
7:30pm Dinner arrives. Some sort of beetroot juice. Enjoyed it actually and knocked it back. I’m glad I didn’t eat anything for lunch, but happy I had that croissant for breakfast.
8pm ‘Breathing class’. Intrigued, and we get to lie down so all is good. Feel uncontrollably itchy, but try to scratch my feet quietly and concentrate on the words and my OTT breathing. Surrounded by candlelight and incense, so sleepy. A voice is telling me to love myself, I am loved, I’ve done nothing wrong, let it out – I actually feel a tad emotional when the music builds up. I stop breathing so heavily, must be because I’m tired. Don’t like having to tell everyone how I felt after the class – ‘itchy and inspired’ seemed to go down ok.
9pm Silence in the house to think about the practice.
9:20pm Conked out into what I’m sure was one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had.
Day two at the health retreat in Mexico
Made it into day two at The Sanctuary Health Retreat in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Looking forward to another day of vegan food, talking about how I feel, yoga and chores…
6:45am Wake up naturally. Turns out everyone else woke up 20 minutes before and I can hear them doing some sort of practice outside. Oops. Opt to stay in bed rather than disturb. I am a good person.
7:45am Yoga on the roof terrace. Absolutely stunning. Felt so good to stretch out and try new positions. Especially enjoyed hugging my foot like it was a baby. Good move.
9am Breakfast! Another juice. Definitely not as enjoyable as last night’s. Have to picture all the disgusting drinks I’m managed to get through in the past and remind myself that I’m a trooper and can’t let myself down. Find out it was basically spinach and banana with a few ingredients I’ve never heard of. Chugged it.
10am Tell Pete last week was a ‘pinnacle of my unhealthiness’ and that I need to sort myself out. Feeling very chubs. He suggests an enema. I say yes.
10:45am Enema is done. Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be but I’ll save you from the details.
11am Yay for enemas. I’ve dropped 3 pounds since last night. Overjoyed. Enemas are cool. If I could do that every day I’ll be 21lbs lighter when I leave. Skinny.
1pm Lunchtime. Soup. Thought that was it so ate loads of it. Turns out there were another four dishes. All vegan, all delicious. Very impressed. Tried to feed up in case there’s nothing tonight.
2pm Lila, another volunteer guest, shares some daily inspiration after lunch. A few stories of how kind people have been to her on her travels – vow to be kinder.
3pm Spend two hours having a lovely time creating a donations box with paint and a coconut shell, for the film showing here on Thursday. That’s my volunteering done.
5pm Catch up on work – great Wi-Fi!
6pm Direct another guest on how to do an enema. Oh the knowledge I’ve gained.
8pm Eat leftover veggies for dinner. Reveal that I usually eat meat every day, apparently this is not normal. Shocker: actually felt really full and couldn’t do seconds.
9:30pm Find a scorpion in my bed. Scream.
9:40pm Scorpion is now outside. Can’t sleep.
10pm Sleep. Tired.
Day three at the health retreat in Mexico
Feeling inspired by the weight loss I throw myself into The Sanctuary life, including a bizarre experience at a Temazcal.
6:20am Wake up for meditation. Nearly fall asleep in meditation. Voice told me to think of someone in my life I have no feelings towards, good or bad. Realise I either love everyone, or I get them out of my consciousness so doesn’t really work.
7am Back to bed
7:30am Yoga on the roof terrace. This time a slow yoga, a lot slower and a lot of breathing. Getting a bit sick of breathing. Prefer Ashtanga yoga. Feel good by the end though. Totally inappropriate shorts.
9am Breakfast. Another smoothie. I drink up with decorum / avoid the heave. Watch a video about the ego and Evolutionary Enlightenment with Andrew Cohen. Find it hard to trust, believe and not say anything but know I’m outnumbered. Would prefer Holly and Phil.
9:30am ‘Workflow meeting’. Get told off for not doing my chores between 10 and 1 yesterday. Not my fault I was told to do an enema. Also get told off for using Wi-Fi after 9pm, thought it was 10. Decide that someone who’s supposed be enlightened should lighten up.
10:30am Try to start a 2-hour session of watering the gardens. No water coming through. Scared I’ll get in trouble. Try it every 15 minutes until noon when I admit defeat. Do work instead.
12:30pm Weigh myself. Another 2lbs gone. Holy shit. I’m onto something here. 5lbs lighter in two days.
1pm Lunch outside. Delicious and a beautiful setting. Someone else arrives, Irish, can barely tell I’m in Mexico.
2pm Still waiting for the water.
3pm Wake up and feel so groggy. Is it the change in diet, the heat, not doing much? Walk on the beach should sort it out.
4:30pm Rode on the back of a scooter for the first time ever.
4:45pm Went to a Temazcal. A traditional sweat lodge ceremony where you sit in an igloo with 10 other people, and the boss man pours more water on the hot rocks in the centre to create steam. Lasted about 45 minutes until it got too much. Nearly died. Never again.
7pm Random trip for frozen yogurt. Too scared to ask if it’s vegan. Is it?
8pm Bedtime. No dinner because of fro yo.
10pm Can’t sleep. Mad nightmares.
1am Still can’t sleep. Plan how I’m going to shoot the cockerel outside. Remind myself I’m vegan now. And vegans don’t kill cocks, even if they’re massive ones.
READ MORE about weight, fitness and body confidence
Read this Second Nature Review for an honest look at the healthy eating programme. I go through what it’s like to follow it, what to cook, and the great results I’ve had from it. Also, the best countries for losing weight, and, to keep the balance, how to keep your body confidence on holiday.
Day 4 at the Mexico health retreat
Getting into the rhythm of the place today, although not the early mornings. Massively proud of myself for cooking a vegan dinner for 11, as I may have mentioned on my Facebook page.
6am Wake up feeling rough as. No meditation for me. Sleep is my sanctuary.
7:30am Get up. Sleepwalk to yoga on the roof terrace. Feel long, lean and ready for the day after.
8:30am Was told to do 5 minutes on the mini trampoline a day. Gets your body going. Or something more scientific that went in one ear, out the other. Do it to Olive, You’re Not Alone. Tune. Definitely got me revved for the day.
9am Another smoothie. I heave. Manage to hide it. Last to finish.
10am Use the hot box, as I like to call it. You sit in it, face out, turn it on, and it’s like a mini sauna. Or like you’re a child robot. Love it. Blast out some Jessie Ware tunes in the bathroom and sit for 20 minutes.
10:30am Enema Part II. Feel good after. Not so much at the time. Emotional stuff, sticking a tube up your bum.
1:30pm Spent two hours helping to create a vegan lunch for 11. Actually really enjoyed it and learned how to make healthy sauces that are 100% natural. That can replace my ketchup love. Maybe.
2:30pm Escape to the beach.
3pm Booked a surf lesson for tomorrow. Looking forward to getting back into it. On the way to the surf shop caught another of my fellow Sanctuary-ers tucking into a taco. Busted! Wouldn’t tell on her. Or make her feel bad. Just happy with the smug feeling inside.
5:45pm Another meditation on the roof terrace. As soon as they start I itch, I fidget, I wriggle and a million thoughts come into my mind. I don’t think a meditative life is for me.
7:30pm Dinner. Leftover veggies. Only 5 of us tonight. Quite nice actually to get to chat like normal, rather than about Radical Forgiveness, or some other crazy motion.
8pm Watch a documentary about raw food. Was actually interested to see it but turns out it’s just some annoying dude’s home video about his kids. Keeps using the same shots and gets all agro about what other people eat. Would hate to know him. Or be like him. Definite turn off.
9pm Had enough. Go to bed.
10pm-1am Another night of not sleeping. Nightmares. Itching. Thoughts of scorpions and their pincers, although someone here told me the effects are hallucinogenic, could be interesting. I lie in wait.
Yoga, surfing, beaches, not eating, buddhism chat: beginning to think I HAVE CHANGED!
Day 5 at The Sanctuary in Mexico
6am Don’t make it up for meditation. Again. Too tired. Surely an extra hour in bed is more spiritual than sitting uncomfortably and fidgeting on the floor?
7:45am Excellent yoga class. Feel stretched and ready for surfing later.
9am Can’t drink the smoothie. Feel bad but makes me heave. Manage to pass it off to the creator.
9:30am Workflow meeting. I have to pick up the trash, make a video, hand out flyers and clean up after dinner. No biggy.
9:45am Weigh myself. Lost half a stone. Can’t believe it. Well, I can, because I’ve only eaten vegetables for 5 days. What I can’t believe is that I’ve managed to do it, haven’t cheated and haven’t even craved anything else.
10am Fellow Sanctuary member smuggles me some cashews because I didn’t have breakfast. Top secret. Taste delish.
1:30pm Lunch. More sprouts, not Brussels, some other equally inedible yet good for you treat. Houmous, definitely doesn’t taste like Tescos with spicy Doritos dipped in. Salad, again. Rice, not the eggy fried spicy type, some plain cold stuff. Oh yeah, and cold carrot and coconut soup, what’s the deal?
3pm I am a surfer! Manage to surf on the first go. My time at the Surf House in San Pancho paid off! Feel well proud of myself. Would treat myself to a fruit smoothie from the surf shack – but I’m not even hungry!
5pm Sit on the beach and watch the sunset. And the beautiful surfer people. Feel happy and love life. Surf instructor asks if I want a beer, no, I say. No. It came out quite easily. Five days sober and feeling good.
6pm Back just in time to miss meditation. I’m really missing having time to myself here. And having to be somewhere at particular times. Craving the freedom, but I know it’s good for me here.
7:30pm Dinner, but I don’t eat much. Leftovers again and I can’t face the smell of the veg, so stick to salad.
8pm Have a group chat about what Buddhism really is. Find it absolutely fascinating and love hearing my new friends’ ‘journeys of spirituality’. Sounds like they’ve been through a lot. Buddhism is all about detachment so they tell me. Aim is to detach yourself from everything so you alleviate your suffering. One girl has managed to detach herself from her parents. Find it quite sad. I’d rather be attached and deal with any sadness as and when. Never knew that was what Buddhism is. Not for me.
9:30pm Bed time with a lot to think about.
Day 6 at the health retreat
Today, I cheated. But in an innocent way and I was desperate, so I don’t feel guilty. I also cleaned a lot of bat poo off the roof terrace. Oh, and I sang Hare Krishna in a singing circle.
6:20am Made it up for meditation. I feel holy already. Not so much five minutes later when I’m sat inhaling the incense as I’ve sat too close. Spend the meditation hallucinating about the pulled pork sandwich from The Grill at Brixton Village in London.
7am Back to bed. Looks like they’ve turned the Wi-Fi off. I was as upset as the cat.
7:20am Now I’m thinking about the homemade granola and locally produced yogurt from the Surf House. Even that would do. Ravenous.
7:45am Yoga sesh. I am a long lean downward dog machine.
8:45am Absolutely ravenous. Can’t face the spinach, banana and arbitrary veggies smoothie.
9am Manage about a cm. Just can’t do it. It’s the texture. Think tomorrow I should get a bowl and spoon. Casually leave it on the side when I go to the ‘Workflow’ meeting.
9:30am Have to clean all the bat poo off the roof terrace. So hungry. SO much poo. Why do the bats get to eat and not me? Need to get food. Bat shit crazy.
10am I’ve run away. I’ve gone. I’m going to the health food shop. Paranoid someone will see me. Make it undetected. Don’t want to cheat, just want to eat. I go for fresh orange juice. Need more. Get some soy yogurt and organic granola. Scoff it in about two minutes. Can feel the energy flowing through my body. Skulk back.
11am Group circle singing ceremony. Sit opposite possibly the most radiant woman in the world. Don’t think I’ve ever described anyone as that before. She led the singing while her husband played guitar. They crack out Hare Krishna. Now I understand what the orange robed people Hare Krishna-ing their way down Oxford Street were up to. I join in. With heart. If my friends could see me now…
1pm Lunch time. So glad I went out earlier. Nice lunch though. Get as much avocado in as possible. Read in my new raw food book that it has more ingestable protein than a steak.
3pm Go to Puerto Escondido on the bus. Hectic and grim. Come straight back again. Definitely not what I expected. I need the safety of The Sanctuary. Feel institutionalised.
5pm Get asked to do The Sanctuary washing. Decide they wouldn’t notice if I put two bits of my own in, despite that being against the rules. Do it. Feel guilty. Washing machine doesn’t sound like it should. Paranoid. Have to open it to take mine out. Might’ve broke washing machine. Neither mum nor ex-boyfriend would let me near washing machine at home. Wash mine through in the sink and peg them out. That’s against the rules too. Sure any god up there wouldn’t let such a holy house have a broken washing machine.
7pm I was right. Other washing went through fine. All good thanks to the God of washing machines.
7:15pm Do a talk on Day of the Dead festival. Think I’ve found some new recruits for next year.
8pm Don’t eat any dinner. There’s only one thing less inspiring than salad, and that’s two-day old leftover salad.
10pm Meant to go to salsa. Everyone bails. Happy. Not a salsa fan.
11pm Oo look how late I’m awake! Get caught up with a chat about raw food. One lady here is a chef. Sounds like she can make some tasty scram. Look forward to trying it tomorrow.
11:30pm Fall asleep straight away. It’s silent. Who let the dogs out?
Well apart from the frozen yogurt, but that was regulation.
Last full day at The Sanctuary today! Feeling appreciative of the week, making our own food, my new friends, my family and the amount of weight I’ve lost here…
Day 7 at the health retreat
7am Wake up feeling refreshed. No dogs barking last night and I didn’t have to go to bed ridiculously early. Much better.
9am Tell Mr Smoothie I don’t want his morning produce. So glad I don’t have to face eating that this morning, but I am really hungry.
9:20am Start creating an Indian vegan meal for 23 with another one of the Sanctuary-ers.
10am Starving. Smuggle a lady finger banana in my mouth and dispose of the evidence. Heart is racing and feel guilty as hell.
11am Must taste test all the food were creating, obviously. Absolutely incredible. Well impressed.
12:05pm Finish pretty much just on time. Cooking is such hard work. Honestly can’t remember the last time I peeled a potato and I’ve just done 16 of the little fellas.
12:10pm Present avocado salad, with extra avocado. Lentils. Masala soaked peppers, onions and sweet potatoes. Black quinoa. Goes down a treat. Absolutely delicious and the best meal I’ve had here so far. Proud and actually looking forward to the leftovers for dinner for once.
12:30pm Got the whole afternoon free. So happy.
6pm Chat to another fellow Sanctuary-er over a spot of rooftop yoga. Love some of the people here. So interesting and different to me.
7:30pm My last time holding hands around the table and breathing deep before dinner. Mmm delicious leftovers. Eat too much. Then remember there’s dessert for once. Avocado and nut cheesecake made from all raw ingredients. Absolutely delicious and so filling. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am impressed!
8:30pm Salsa dancing class. Hate salsa. Hate it even more by the end of this session. Man picks on me to dance and when I can’t do it (because I can’t dance, and I’m not interested) he gets annoyed. Decide to tell him gently that while I appreciate his efforts, I don’t want them. Feel bad, but he’s making me look stupid. Never doing salsa again.
11pm Ooo I’m still awake. Chatting to my new friends in the lounge. They’ve been through some heavy stuff man. Appreciate my family, and their health, more than ever.
Day 8 / And the total weight loss is…
6am Wake up feeling happy and excited. I’m on the road again!
6:20am Join in with the meditation to give it one last bash. Decide, no, it’s still not for me. Feels self indulgent, and my mind wanders too much. Would rather sleep or listen to music.
7:30am Great yoga sesh, feel well stretched out.
9am Give the juice one last bash too, today it is a tasty treat that’s been strained so I can knock it back quite easily. Well done Mr Smoothie Man.
9:30am Chill out! I take a walk along the beach and go and explore the beautiful Zicatela. Check these pics out…
3:30pm Weigh myself. And the grand total for weight loss during my week at The Sanctuary is… 8lbs! Wow.
4pm Say bye to everyone. So grateful to them all for sharing their stories with me, teaching me about Buddhism and showing me there’s more to eat than meat, sweets, bread and delicious sauces. Really hope I can keep a healthier attitude to food up, and the yoga too.
4:30pm I’m outta that door!