My phone beeped and a Watsapp message flashed up on my screen as I walked into the gym. “What time are we meeting?”
I sighed and stuffed the phone back into my pocket. I’ll reply when I’ve finished my session. But two seconds later my phone buzzed again with a new message, ‘oi read but no reply, what time are we meeting?’
This is the problem with Watsapp and smartphones in general. They’re so intrusive. Although your friends may not be able to see you physically, they can still spy on you thanks to all the stalker-friendly technology which show when someone’s online, when someone’s read a message and when someone is replying.
After that, I could barely concentrate on the rest of my gym routine – too panicked about being late to meet her.
This is not the first time I’ve quit my work out after being interrupted by my phone. Sometimes I’ve been mid run when I’ve got an ‘urgent’ work email and had to abandon my session altogether to make a call.
You may say ‘just turn off your phone’ but nowadays our whole lives are on our mobiles – including our music – and I need a bit of Britters’ ‘work b**ch’ to get me in the mood. Besides, if I switched my phone off I’d worry I was missing an important message and would still be distracted. So I can’t win.
Not only do smartphones mean we’re constantly hassled and connected they also distract us from our real lives and more importantly, our health.
On a typical day, I spend hours on my phone. Refreshing the Mail Online app, scrolling through my Instagram feed, attempting to reply to 1 million group Watsapp messages – the bane of my life. During these hours, I could have spent real time on me. Walking in the park, going to the gym, relaxing in the sauna.
Instead, I fritter away my precious time on strangers’ pages on instagram when I could be achieving peace of mind by simply tuning out of tech and tuning into nature. So, last month, I checked out of modern life and into Slimmeria retreat, which is run by weight loss expert Galia Grainger, 57.
Galia has a strict ‘no phones’ policy, and although the prospect of being cut off from the outside world seemed daunting at first, it was actually strangely liberating.
As well as the the ‘no phones’ policy, I would be living on a raw vegan diet of just 400 calories and exercising for five hours a day. The regime also had a strict no eating after 6.30 pm policy and we had to be in our rooms by 8.30.
Following this regime, I lost 6 pounds in just four days and dropped a dress size. Gruelling as it is, Galia’s strict rules get results and since leaving I’ve gone on to lose a further 7 pounds. Galia said: “How many of you have started diets and got distracted and fallen off the wagon?
“The reason we have a no phones policy is so our clients can concentrate on themselves away from the outside world. The diet is not supposed to be sustainable, it’s to kickstart the weight loss through intermittent fasting and burning fat through exercise.”
Slimmeria, in Crowhurst, East Sussex, was established 2006. Galia was inspired to launch her business after undergoing a dramatic weight loss of her own.
She said: “I put on four stone and lost it following my grandmother’s healthy lifestyle and weight loss tips. Because I’ve been overweight myself I know what I’m talking about. You have to believe in what you’re telling people and you can only really do that when you’ve been through it yourself.
“We gets lots of people at the retreat, some may have a lot to lose, other may just want to trim up before a wedding or a special occasion and we often get celebrities.”
Prices start at £700 for a one week stay at Slimmeria. In June 2016, I went to the detox retreat for four days.
Upon arrival I was weighed and had my bust, hips and waist measured. Over a group dinner I was given the retreat’s rules and weekly itineraries.
Because I arrived mid week, there were already 12 guests who had arrived on Sunday and were halfway through their detox. “I lost 9lbs in four days,” one girl announced, “it’s hard but it really does work.”
The rules include no sugar, caffeine, alcohol or food brought into the premises. Any ‘contraband’ will be confiscated upon arrival. All the guests’ meals are prepared on site, and it’s usually a fresh vegetable dish lightly cooked – containing no meat, dairy or gluten.
Guests must drink at least 2.5 litres of filtered water a day and always have a glass of water before every meal.
We were also taught intermittent fasting and to eat within an eight hour window. This encourages control, speeds up metabolism and gives the digestive system a rest.
Phones are not to be used in any of the communal areas but can be used in the bedrooms, although this is discouraged – we are, after all, attempting to retreat from our stressful lives.
All guests must be up at 7:15am when a bell rings and in bed by 9pm – those participating are NOT allowed to sleep throughout the day and there are no TVs in the rooms.
Galia added: “It’s important people follow these rules; for the retreat to work people need to, literally, witch off their phones and from the distractions of everyday life. “
A day at the retreat typically begins with a 7:15am wake up call, guests are then given half an hour to rise, before being served a breakfast of hot water with fresh lemon and a slice of apple.
At 8am the group will set off on a two to three hour scenic walk. Upon their return, the guests are served with a fresh juice or small portion of porridge.
They then enter their first ‘high intensity’ exercise of the day – usually a class such as boxercise or circuit training. Straight after, they spend an hour doing yoga before sitting down to a vegetarian lunch at 12:30. Guests then have time to themselves before an afternoon snack of herbal tea with a slice of fruit.
Their evening meal follows the same vegan theme, before an evening nutrition or motivational class. On most evenings there is the option of zumba or bellydancing too.
At 8.30pm all guests must go to their rooms and it’s lights-out at 9pm sharp. “In the afternoon you can rest but not sleep,” Galia explains, “you can have a massage or chill out by the pool if it’s warm outside. We also encourage our guests to go on another afternoon walk if they want to.”
I quickly became friends with a lady who was there to lose a few pounds before her wedding, we went on walks together and had a good laugh. The walk was a good way to bond with new friends, share thoughts and encourage each other towards positive goals. A refreshing change from the stresses and strains of urban living.
In the afternoon, we’d lounge out in the sun near the pool and read magazines. It was wonderfully relaxing. A perfect way to recharge overloaded batteries.
I must confess detoxing was not easy, especially in the first two days. Initially, you may experience headaches, nausea and light-headedness. Some people were tempted to cheat. They were easy to spot because they went on ‘drives’ in the afternoon and didn’t eat the meals provided.
But what’s the point? You’re only cheating yourself. We followed Galia’s rules because we wanted results.
Although I could have used my phone in my bedroom I chose not to. I missed speaking to my boyfriend and felt anxious that I was missing work emails, but it was also nice to have a break from it all.
Everyone and everything is so readily available to us nowadays, it’s actually quite boring. There’s no mystery and no real opportunity to miss anyone, as the minutiae of everyone’s lives is available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc etc.
For the first time in years, I wondered what my family and friends were up to and I felt excited about calling them when I got back to ‘the world’.
Four days later my time at the retreat was up and it was time for us to be weighed, it was amazing to learn I’d lost 6lbs. Just as importantly, I felt refreshed and relaxed – as if my mind had had a detox too. I felt proud and didn’t think I would have been able to achieve it had I been in London – distracted by my boyfriend, work, friends and life in general.
As I pulled back into London and turned on my phone, I felt a pang of anxiety as all the messages began to flood in. I didn’t read half of them. Instead, I deleted all social media apps off my phone and left group messages.
Now, I limit how often I use my phone during the day and am thinking about trading my iphone in for a trusty Nokia 3210. One month on and I’ve not only kept the weight off, I’ve lost more and learnt more about myself.
Sometimes you really do need to switch off to tune yourself back in.
My diet camp diary
7.15am The bell rings to wake guests up
7.45am A drink of hot lemon water and a thin slice of apple
8am A long walk, usually six miles or more through the countryside. Then a choice of a fresh juice or a small portion of porridge with one raisin and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
10.30 am A 45-minute exercise class – usually circuit or boxerise.
12.30pm A vegetable-based lunch, then
a break for a massage, walk or swim in the outside pool.
3.30pm Afternoon tea and fruit.
4pm Another walk.
6.30pm A vegan dinner of vegetables.
7.30pm An activity such as Zumba, belly dancing or Pilates. During the stay there are also talks from a life-coach and lessons about nutrition.
Typical day’s diet
Breakfast Apple and carrot juice or porridge100 calories
Lunch Raw vegetarian salad 150 calories
Afternoon tea A herbal tea and a small piece of fruit 50 calories
Dinner Chunky vegetable broth
Total 400 calories