Spa days and pamper packages aren’t enough these days. We want to return from every getaway feeling refreshed and inspired to get on with our lives in a healthier, happier way.
Enter ‘wellbeing’, the buzzword on every health nut’s tongue this year.
Spa chain Champneys has jumped on the bandwagon with its ‘Lifestyle Audit’, an evaluation of the way you live from what you eat to how you sleep with the aim of creating a personalised lifestyle ‘prescription’ to help you live and feel better.
I was packed off to try out the programme, which involves one-on-ones with experts in nutrition, fitness and sleep. And for me, it resulted in a few suprising revelations about what I thought were my healthy habits.
I thought I was pretty healthy. I’m a health and fitness writer and I trial every fitness craze going (for this very blog) so I’ve spoken to hundreds of experts and been given thousands of tips.
But I was feeling tired all the time, I wasn’t losing any weight despite cycling 13 miles a day on the work commute and I was suffering the classic sugar cravings mid morning and afternoon.
How could I be doing everything right and still not be seeing any benefits?
Because, it turns out, I was actually getting it all wrong.
I wore a Ki monitor for five days ahead of my weekend at Champneys Tring, so that experts could analyse my day-to-day activities, sleep patterns and food intake and when my report arrived it was full of red marks and 'must try harders’.
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Diet and nutrition
With all the mixed messages we get from the media these days about food, actually sitting down and speaking to nutritionist Melissa Cohen was utterly enlightening.
I thought my diet was top notch. My breakfast porridge has a sprinkling of chia seeds and I usually get in my five-a-day. But she explained that my fruit-loaded mornings were giving me sugar spikes and I wasn’t eating enough protein to help my muscles recover after my cycle commute.
She re-wrote my daily food plan entirely. It involved the introduction of protein powder shakes for breakfast (post-cycling, for those poor thighs), less fruit, more seeds and a variety of high-protein snacks. And no carbs in the evening to help me drop those pesky pounds.
She stuck to what was important for my lifestyle and ignored all of the food fads than usually have me going in circles, instead focusing only on what was most important for me.
First stop for fitness is the fit test. This sounds a bit ominous but Fitness Manager Nick is brilliant, tells me I’m not that out of shape after all and we have a down-to-earth chat about what I want to achieve, what’s realistic and what problems I have with fitness now (and how to solve them).
He tests my body fat, blood pressure and the only physical exercise I’m required to do is six minutes or so on the exercise bike where he measures my heart rate to find out how well my metabolism is working.
The next day I meet him again and he picks which weight machines and cardio I should be doing and shows me exactly how to do them, what weights to pick and how long to work out for.
He also sets me straight on various myths I’ve read regarding weight training, reminding me that for women to up their metabolism and strengthen their bones, it’s key.
According to my report, the major red area of my life is sleep.
The first thing I’m asked by sleep Professor Jason Ellis is if I’m an insomniac or have a para-somnia. It’s that bad.
As I have neither he tells me I have a lifestyle problem and I have to find out what my optimum number of sleep hours is. My current average is five hours and fifty-eight minutes. Not great.
Jason gives me a string of simple rules about when to go to bed and when to shut off technology, and he has a fair few insights into my lifestyle and why I’m not prioritising sleep (and of course why I should be). He also makes me feel better about it, and has helped me stop obsessing, which ironically has probably improved my sleep more than anything else.
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After the weekend I return home feeling empowered and pretty sure I can change my life.
I change my diet and armed with my gym plan I get to work on the weights I’d have ignored without Nick’s guidance. And a few weeks on I’ve noticed a genuine improvement.
After reading so many self help books and embarking on every fitness and diet plan going, I think this one might have cracked it. And the personalised, holistic approach (working on everything rather than targeting particular symptoms) seems to be working far better than anything else I’ve tried - even the phase that saw me alcohol free and training for a half marathon.
I’ve lost weight, my energy’s up and I’m looking brighter and healthier.
The weekend is the same price as a holiday so it is quite an outlay to make for a getaway. But the long-term benefits will outlast anything you'll find on the beach.
However healthy you think you are, and however many diet and health books you read, as I've discovered, there’s no substitute for expert, tailored advice.
And having a lifestyle prescription built for you that works means you can spend less time reading/obsessing about your wellbeing and concentrate on actually living life with your newfound energy.
4-night Monitor Me Well packages available at Champneys Tring from £595 including accomodation, meals and use of spa facilities.