A four-day wellness workshop in Phuket unveils the path to a sustainable healthy lifestyle
IF YOUR immediate reaction to feeling out of balance with yourself is to rush to the gym and start one of those fashionable diets that promise to have you looking slim and feeling great in just a few weeks, take a deep breath and slow down. There are better, not to mention healthier and sustainable, ways of getting back in tune, according to the three leaders of the “reboot and re-energise your body and mind” workshop hosted last weekend by JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa.
Conceptualised and put together by the resort’s spa director, Linda Overman three years ago, this fourth wellness workshop saw the return of three Phuket-based practitioners – vitality performance coach Hayden Rhodes from RPM Health Club, nutritional specialist Craig Burton, and yoga practitioner Kim White.
“What we’re doing here is taking a look at the big picture of health, and health requires different segments – nutrition, movements and mindset,” Australian nutritionist with sports science background, Craig Burton, told XP.
“I think the word holistic sums up what we do very nicely, but these days ‘holistic’ is used very broadly and misleadingly for commercial gain. That’s why I prefer to use the word ‘function’. We all want to restore function to our bodies, to have more energy, to feel better and to look better. For me, clinical data like blood work are great indicators of what’s been happening in someone’s life. I believe in individuality, that everyone is different, and everyone needs a different diet and different movements.” Burton continued.
Our group of a dozen or so participants scanned the programme looking for the usual health retreat suspects like detox juice breakfast, daily colonics, raw diet lunch and fasting for dinner and to our relief, found nary a one.
“It’s the combination of mind, body and spirit.” New Zealander Hayden Rhodes, a performance coach and nutritionist who has worked with many professional athletes and celebrities, explained. “You have to look at your lifestyle and whatever is happening in your life to see what affects these three. You can’t focus on only one. As someone who has been through a lot of trauma, both physical and emotional, I can assure you that physiology is important but the mindset is equally as important. You can’t be happy if you’re not healthy, and how can you be healthy if you’re not happy?
"What we are doing is grounded in science, and complements modern Western medicine. Hospital doctors are usually overwhelmed by the number of patients they have to see and don’t have the time or the energy to go through the details of your life to identify the causes of your problem and work through it with you. Actually we are hoping to partner up with physicians who understand what we do and prescribe yoga or new diet plans instead of pills and supplements.”
A private consultation with Burton was the first workshop activity and he had us ticking boxes and answering several questions our lifestyle and diet. Each morning, Rhodes and White took turns hosting “gentle rise and shine” sessions using various movement techniques including a sunrise stroll along the beach and yin yoga, a slow-paced from of the ancient exercise regime focusing on stretching connecting tissues and joints.
“Over the years I’ve learned other aspects of yoga which go beyond the physical, and as a teacher I teach people to have a better idea of what yoga can do for them,” said White, who hails from South Africa. “Yoga is completely different for everybody. We all have different bodies, different abilities and different ideas of what we want to get out of yoga. I try to make people fall in love with the yoga that is good for them, to balance out their life from a yogi point of view. I give them guidelines so that they practise by themselves every day. Yoga is not difficult and everyone can do it.”
Totally refreshed and nicely stretched, we walked over to Ginja Cook, the resort’s Thai restaurant, where executive chef Dietmar Spitzer awaited with a nutritious and tasty breakfast. We fuelled up for the day with simple and healthy dishes like hummus and vegetables, nuts, muesli, rice milk, omelettes, fresh fruits and fresh fruit and vegetable juice.
“I don’t believe in fusion cuisine,” Spitzer explained. “Food should be straight forward. When the plate arrives, you should recognise what’s on it. Very often the simplest food is the best, especially when you have good quality ingredients. We work very closely with the local fishermen who bring their catch to our kitchens every day. We believe in local products and import very little and only when necessary.” The importance of a healthy breakfast was further underlined in a session led by all three experts, during which they suggested dishes both easy and quick to prepare.
A series of talks were held over the weekend. Burton explained how the ups and downs in cortisol – the stress hormone – affects our bodies in terms of weight gain, blood sugar imbalance, gastrointestinal problems and inflammation. In another talk he addressed the importance of hormonal balance which, when off kilter, leads to various health conditions including obesity.
Rhodes started his body fat talk by addressing common errors we all make trying when to lose weight. These include eating less, self detox, going on a diet, avoiding eating fat, starting running and even blaming our genes. Stress, he pointed out, is at the root of many diseases and therefore we should make every attempt to keep it to the minimum. Only then should we set realistic expectations of what we want to achieve.
“Always start simple and be conscious about the choice you make in creating new eating habit. Learn what food is good for you,” he told the group. After just four days, we did not of course walk out of the workshop looking any different. In fact, it is impossible to spend a few days in a wellness programme and come out completely changed. The way to sustainable healthiness is a life-long journey that demands both a mindful and practical approach, with advice and guidelines from experts, to achieve. And first, you need to really want to make that change.
“There is no cut-off age when it comes to health and well-being.” White said. “Come to us, or any practitioners that you trust, when you are ready to make a change in your life. Come before you get sick or start to have health problems. We don’t want to make you feel like a failure, and a lot of people do feel like failures because they only half want to do this, They’re not really ready, and instead of success they just end up with a bad taste in their mouths.”
The next inspiring wellness workshops will be held in May and September next year at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. The four-day programme is limited to 20 participants only.
For more information about the wellness workshop, contact Linda Overman, Director of Mandara Spa via email firstname.lastname@example.org