‘What do I even need to pack for a health retreat?’ My boyfriend’s tone that implied that I was taking him to a train spotting conference, as oppose to a plush, pampering minibreak. It had been that way ever since we’d booked into Gwinganna – the luxury lifestyle resort in Queensland, famous for attracting stressed-out celebrities and the biggest names in Australian media.
‘Well, you’ll need clothes for yoga, chi-gong and a cosy outfit for meditation,’ I told him, ‘Oh, and it’s an alcohol free zone so you’re not bringing your hip flask of Bundy!’
My other half tried to hide his grimace. Don’t get my wrong; my boyfriend is one of the most active, outdoorsy people I’ve ever come across – we met when we were on a charity expedition running 140km across the Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania. But his idea of a workout is scaling a mountain, hiking through desolate bush land or spear fishing. He doesn’t see the point of a gym when the great outdoors is at his disposal.
So, how had I convinced him to come with me to a health retreat – and would just put up with it or enjoy it?
I’m sure we’re not the only couple who have conflicting ideas of the perfect holiday. When I was single I loved nothing more than escaping to a health retreat for a weekend of cleansing, detoxing and massaging. The problem is since meeting my ‘person’ I’ve become that girl who doesn’t really want to spend a weekend away from him (I know, I know, it’s pathetic!). Like many couples with limited annual leave and limited finances, we face the same dilemma as many couples who have limited annual leave and limited finances, but different views of what constitutes leisure time. Someone had to compromise… and this time it was him.
Gwinganna Villa bedroom
Luckily my boyfriend is open to trying new experience but I still felt guilty. Although I kept insisting he’d love it once he got there, I still had my doubts. But they vanished the second we entered the resort’s gate.
What made the difference? Two words – Hugh Jackman. As Gwinganna’s shuttle bus drove us up the steep driveway, the driver turned to us and casually mentioned, ‘Hugh Jackman trains by running up and down this hill when he visits.’ It turns out the actor is an ambassador for Gwinganna and runs the hiking tracks which cross through the surrounding countryside. Well, if Wolverine didn’t think a health retreat was too girly that was a good sign. A guest whispered to us at dinner that Gerald Butler had stayed in the villa next to ours the week before. Wolverine stayed here AND a Spartan.
Gwinganna Tai Chi
The good thing about Gwinganna is guests can opt in and opt out of any of the activities on the fitness-boosting program. I’ve been to health retreats where you’re scolded if you don’t participate in everything but the Gwinganna team guests to listen to their bodies. If you want to get up for 6am chi-gong on the lawn then you’re welcome. But if you want to sleep in they also don’t raise an eyebrow.
We tweaked our schedule to make it ma little more ‘boyfriend friendly’, swapping a stretching class for a bush hike, and adding a tour through the resort’s huge vegetable garden, which my boyfriend, who works as a soil conservationist, absolutely loved.
Before we arrived, the eating regime had been a worry to both of us. I have to admit that, at Sydney airport he scoffed down two McDonalds in fear that he’d be living on carrot sticks and celery juice. But, although every Gwinganna meal is gluten and refine-sugar free, if you sign up to a weekend retreat they don’t want to restrict your diet too drastically. As anyone who’s ever detoxed know, the first three days are often the hardest and going cold-turkey can result in headaches and tiredness. They don’t want guest to spend their entire long weekend feeling terrible, so they offer a ‘soft detox’ approach.
‘I see MEAT!’ exclaimed my boyfriend when we sat down to dinner. Guests are even allowed coffee or tea with breakfast and one glass of wine with their evening meal, although they are encouraged to pass.
I’m always amazed when I visit a health retreat by how much difference just three days away from the ‘real world’ can make. By Sunday morning, my skeptical boyfriend was lounging in the steam room, wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe and sipping on a green juice, looking totally relaxed in his new environment.
He even changed the sports massage he’d originally booked into, for Gwinganna’s signature ‘spirit of sound’ treatment, which involves a combination of hot stone massage and music therapy to a live soundtrack of drums and rain sticks. He’d read about it in the brochure beforehand and dismissed it as too ‘new-agey’ but after 9ominutes in the massage room he exclaimed, ‘I felt like I was Simba being reborn in the Lion King.’ When I asked if he wanted to skip the evening meditation class he was the one who said we should join in (and then promptly fell asleep halfway through, but at least that mean he was relaxed).
After three days of new experiences – bosu balls, chakra therapy, and Ayurvedic porridge – would I be able to convince him to repeat the experience?
As we wallowed naked in the private hot tub on the deck of our villa, overlooking nothing but bush land, my boyfriend gestured to our surroundings. ‘What’s not to like about?’ he said, ‘In fact this would be an awesome place for a stag do…if only they served beer on tap…’
…and how to convince your other half to go on a cleanse
Maybe I should have been happy with my health retreat victory, but I decided to see how far I could push it. So, a few weeks after we came back from Gwinganna I posed a question to my boyfriend; ‘Would you go on a detox with me? It means we wouldn’t have to cook for a week.’ I hoped that point would convince him as, whilst we both love being in the kitchen, we also lead busy lives so one less responsibility sounds appealing.
I’d had my eye on a new healthy, meal delivery service called ‘Eat Fit Food’ which deliver fresh food to your door daily. I see the benefits of detoxing, as a way to refresh your system and digestion but I am totally against the concept of liquid cleanses. I do not agree with the concept of drinking only juice for an extended period, despite how many celebrities swear by it. This is why I liked the look of Eat Fit Food because whilst the meals are calorie-controlled they are actually solid.
They also have different program options depending on your desired outcome which means I could sign up to the 5-day cleanse, which is free of dairy, wheat, gluten, red meat, refined sugar and preservatives. I signed my boyfriend up to the ‘X-celerator’ program which has larger portion sizes, contains red meat and aims to support an active, sporty lifestyle.
Gwinganna sunset walk
On the website, when I clicked on the ‘celebrity fans’ section, it had got the thumbs up from AFL player Tom Harley, Olympian Michael Klim…and Hugh Jackman. It seems we were high-jacking Hugh’s health and fitness regime.
I was a little concerned about what the portion sizes would be like, as the last thing I wanted was a ‘hangry’ boyfriend. But quite the opposite was the case. When we woke up every morning to find a cool bag sitting on our doorstep, we couldn’t believe the amount of food inside. On day one I tucked into gluten-free muesli with coconut yoghurt and berries, a capsicum and broccoli frittata, spicy carrot dip with crackers and then prawn and crab tom yum soup for dinner. Plus a green juice and gluten-free muesli bar.
A standard day on the X-celerator plan included a breakfast of corn fritters with tomato salsa, then grilled chicken with sweet potato mash, fruit salad with yoghurt and beef fillet with roast beetroot and mushroom sauce. I thought my boyfriend might be embarrassed carrying his ‘Eat Fit Food’ cool bag into his male-centric office, but by the end of the week his work mates had lunch envy.
Okay, it’s not cheap – the 5 day programs start at $355 for the small portions and $395 for the large – but if you want a treat week where you don’t have to touch a saucepan then I still recommend it.
My week on the Eat Fit Food regime was a reminder that you can cleanse without feeling like you’re being punished. To me, mealtimes are as much about being sociable as satisfying your appetite. This is another reason I wouldn’t do a juice fast because I don’t want to spend a week sipping on smoothies whilst my friends or loved ones eat.
This was a happy compromise, as I did notice my energy levels and skin improve but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. You could call it a detox in disguise…
As my boyfriend at I sat at our breakfast bar, tucking into brown rice porridge, I posted a photo on Instagram with the hashtag ‘couples who cleanse together stay together.’ I was only half joking…
For more information on Gwinganna click here.
Have you been on a health retreat with your partner? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!