Get Better at VIVAMAYR
Having heard praises galore from everyone about VIVAMAYR Medical Centre in Austria, I had begun to wonder what made it so special. After a quick look at the website and a bit of research, I discover that it is not only a favourite with Indian A-listers but also with global bigwigs, be they from the fashion, corporate or glamour industries. So, my husband and I decide to book our tickets and check-in to the clinic to find out for ourselves.
This means taking time off work! I take six days off, but am informed by the health resort that it takes at least three weeks, or a minimum of 10 days, for results to show. Well, something is better than nothing.
After a long but smooth flight, we land in Vienna, from where we are to be driven to Altaussee (alternatively, you can fly to Salzburg, which is closer to the resort, but there are no direct flights from Delhi yet). We reach Vivamayr in just under three hours, and, I have to say, my first glimpse of the place does not impress me much. Its wooden exterior has a rustic look to it, but it doesn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. My opinion changes the moment I step into the lobby – the view of the pristine Altaussee Lake and snow-capped mountains just behind it take my breath away.
As soon as we arrive, water bottles are given to us. We are expected to drink at least four litres of water a day and carry the bottles everywhere we go. Then, we are informed that dinner will be served between 5 pm and 6.30 pm, which comes as a bit of a shock to us Delhiites. That’s teatime! Keeping in mind that no food will be served after 6.30 pm, we quickly make for our room– that offers a fabulous view – freshen up and head down to the dining area.
We enter the dining room, and I notice that no one dresses up for dinner here. Everyone is relaxed and in their comfortable Vivamayr robes. Sitting to our right is a well-known British actor (name withheld for privacy reasons) and to our left is an ex-politician’s wife. We are undoubtedly in a retreat frequented by the crème de la crème. It amazes me that neither of them has any makeup on and their hair isn’t done up either. I have to admit that it is a massive relief that vanity can take a back seat for the next few days. Never mind the fact that half the clothes I had packed will not be taken out of my suitcase during the course of our stay!
Turns out, we are lucky today because the strict diet starts the next day. We are offered a menu and asked to choose any two dishes from it. The diner to our right tells us, “Make the best choice today because, from tomorrow, you will be in the same boat as us with either a soup or a broth.” Amused by this introduction, we are delighted to discover that the food is rather delectable. The smiling waitress asks me if I would like to eat the buckwheat bread or spelt. I’ve never had either, so I choose buckwheat – mainly because it sounds better. Funnily, the bread is what they call the chewing trainer. It’s rock hard and I am asked to chew on it until it becomes soft enough to swallow. For someone who is accustomed to gulping down her food either in front of a computer or a TV, this poses a huge challenge. This is my first lesson at Vivamayr…chew, chew and chew more! This technique of chewing food correctly, according to them, is the very essence of good digestion. One of the therapists I get friendly with later tells me that it’s better to eat a cheeseburger and chew it well than to gulp down a salad. Now that’s a very pleasing thought! Turns out, I don’t have to feel guilty the next time I eat fried chicken if I just chew it right!
Jokes apart, the next day is the start of my ‘cure’. The modern Mayr treatment is based on the detoxification programme that FX Mayr developed in Austria nearly 100 years ago. It combines natural remedies with modern medical diagnosis and treatments. The premise behind Vivamayr’s healing is that one must follow a health regime based on intestinal cleansing, which combines a medical detox with personalised diets and holistic treatments to deliver a total health transformation. Detoxification is the core element of the programme because the cleansing of the gut is what makes the immune system healthy.
The clinic at Vivamayr Altaussee is led by Medical Director Dr. Sepp Fegerl, who is charming and makes you feel wonderful about yourself while slashing down your daily consumption of food to one-tenth of what it is on an average day. Now this is reason enough to despise anyone, but given his demeanour, you cannot help but adore him. My first appointment with Dr. Fegerl lasts an hour. After understanding my lifestyle, he prescribes an array of blood tests and makes a diet plan and therapy schedule that includes massages, under water treatments, personal training, abdominal treatments and a liver compress, among others, for the days that I am to be at Vivamayr. The busy schedule comes as a surprise, but what comes as a shock is that he is putting me on a diet in which the main ingredient is potato! I had always thought that potatoes make you fat. But here, I will eat potatoes and cheese every day, albeit in moderation – the Candida diet. The Mayr Kinesiology test that Dr. Fegerl prescribes tells me that I’m gluten and fructose sensitive and this will become the basis of the diet that will be prescribed for me to take home.
My first day starts with a massage, a nasal treatment – which feels funny initially, but I get used to it in the days that follow – a liver compress on a water bed, which was very relaxing, and a session with my personal trainer, Michael. Just one session with him makes me realise how desperately I need to start exercising regularly. The first day is a bit of a struggle, but, by the end of the programme, I am proud to admit that I am more flexible. Michael performs a spirometry test on me, which tells me something I already know – I am unfit and my stamina is at an all-time low. A detailed plan is chalked out for me to follow when I reach home to help me improve my fitness levels.
I enjoy my diet the most. Who would complain about having to eat just potatoes and cheese! Although very simple to look at, a whole lot of effort goes into preparing the food, I am told by chef Martin Stein.
Being the water baby that I am, I love Watsu. My instructor takes me through an hour-long session – the most relaxing and enlivening experience. It’s an underwater massage and exercise programme combined in one. I also manage to pack in a lot of swimming during my stay. The pool is surrounded by picture windows and glass doors that offer breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains, which is therapeutic in itself. I could spend hours by the pool, but Dr. Fegerl’s timetable gives me no time to indulge.
By the fourth day, I am acclimatised to the Mayr way of life. I diligently follow my morning programme, that involves swirling my mouth with oil and drinking half a litre of Epsom salts to loosen the bowel and clear the digestive system. After waking up early, I go for a yoga/Pilates class followed by a pre-planned treatment, which I thoroughly enjoy. After lunch, it’s time for some rest. Then I return to the treatment area, which is managed with clockwork precision. The therapist and doctors are extremely efficient. I am then encouraged to take a walk around the lake, breathe in some really fresh air, swim, have dinner by 6.30 pm, relax and go to sleep by 8.30–9.00 pm.
By the end of my stay at the clinic, I have lost 2.5 kgs and feel a lot lighter. There is definitely a spring in my step and I am determined to follow all the guidelines the doctor and personal trainer have set for me. After all, I do feel a lot healthier than I did when I first arrived at VIVAMAYR.