To say that things weren’t going exactly to plan is putting it mildly. Picture this:
There I am, an experienced journalist dressed in a white bath-robe and white plastic slip-on sandals with hair wet around the edges, all set to interview an expert who is also my host, in an elegant office situated in a former palace. Add a lack-of-caffeine-induced headache, a spluttering cough that started half-way through the interview, and a spaced-out mode that increased with every minute, and we’re in most surreal professional experience to date.
My mission was to find out why politicians and bureaucrats, actors and athletes, high society and high fliers, models and more mortals head to the small spa town Merano on the Italy-Austria border to pay over €6,000 for a week’s detox cure at Espace Henri Chenot, Palace Merano.
Before I even unpacked I was given a school timetable that included my meeting with Henri Chenot, the guru of detox whose first centre in Cannes some 40 years ago was one of the first of its kind.
The meeting was scheduled immediately after my hydrotherapy session. Couldn’t I skip the hydrotherapy (which turned out to consist of an individual Jacuzzi style bath to which various sea minerals are added at intervals, followed by a seaweed thermal wrap, culminating in a hard-core hose-down of body)? Given that it was on the timetable every day, wouldn’t that be logical? No. Part of ‘the Cure’.
Couldn’t we rearrange the meeting to one of the slots for my daily massage treatments? In fact, couldn’t I just skip the massage as massage is boring and I’d be missing the daily Pilates class too? No. This was no ordinary massage but part of ‘the Cure’. (It certainly was far from ordinary with a combination of what felt like a hand-held vacuum cleaner with tennis-balls swiping the body, plus cupped glasses attached to a machine sucking the body, electrical needles vibrating at certain points of the body, and strong hands pummelling away).
Not yet knowing what I was set to experience, my logical mind was focused on work for the magazine I was writing for. How would I have time to change from bathrobe to clothes and get to the other side of the palace without being late for Mr Chenot? Wouldn’t it be disrespectful to see Mr Chenot in a bathrobe? I confessed: I’ll feel really awkward in a bathrobe. A. No. Mr Chenot sees everyone in their bathrobe.
I was always aware of the concept of detox through my late paternal Greek Cypriot grandfather’s interest in naturopathy, as well as a German-based naturopath in the family, and my ongoing interest in complementary therapies and healthy eating. I’ve always felt it makes sense to give the body’s digestive system a rest sometimes, to cut out certain foods from time to time, and to really listen to the body. But I was never a fan of the more fashionable notions of detox, the idea that once a year you get rid of the year’s excesses.
Our body has a perfectly effective system that gets rid of anything we don’t need. The intricate system consists of the liver, the kidneys, intestines, as well as the skin, lungs and lymph. We basically pee or excrete what our body doesn’t need. However, the system can break down. And that’s the point of Espace Henri Chenot: getting the answers to what’s up with the body, what has broken down or isn’t working so well, why this is, and above all finding the solutions to the problems. It may be a one-week wonder in terms of what you might learn about yourself, but these lessons will be ongoing.
The Chenot method combines Western Medicine with Chinese Medicine, so that the combination is both scientific and holistic. Even for people who can’t afford to stay here that’s a lesson in itself that can be easily applied. There is no need to choose between West and East. Go to your doctor. And go to the alternative therapist too. A session with a doctor is compulsory at Espace Henri Chenot. And anyone who wants to come here to lose lots of weight is told in no uncertain terms that ‘the Cure’ is not just about weight loss. It’s about health and wellbeing. Again that’s a lesson for people who don’t have the means to visit: think about health and wellbeing first, and the body will willingly follow.
Henri Chenot himself is the best ad for Espace Chenot. He looks far younger than his years (72 soon), is full of zest, and his mind sparks like that of a man half his age. When Chenot qualified in Chinese Medicine he recalls proudly that he wanted to tear up his certificate. ‘I didn’t want the diploma. Everything has to evolve. You cannot stay in tradition. The ancient (Chinese) techniques are folkloric. Science has progressed.’
Chenot explains that acid reduction, alkaline oxidation, alkaline reduction and acid oxidation are four chemical processes going on in our body after we eat, and we need a chemical balance of alkali and acids for this to happen effectively. Getting to that balance is what ‘the Cure’ is all about. (In the next blog post I will give some simple advice from the Espace Henri Chenot team on eating in order to achieve this balance.)
I’m not reproducing the interview/article I wrote for the magazine here because (as well as producing original content) what followed is really of more interest. Of all the experts I have interviewed over three decades Henri Chenot is in my top three. I was also very lucky to be diagnosed here as severely dairy intolerant (that’s another blog post too); I’m not sure how long it would have taken to get this diagnosis in the UK, and don’t like to imagine how ill I might have become. One of the reasons this blog is underpinned by my belief that it’s essential to get sound medical tests and good advice, both medical and holistic, is because of seeing this work seamlessly and so effectively at Espace Henri Chenot. The regular clients I spoke to said this was the reason they returned. As we get older inevitably our bodies function less efficiently so we do need good support.
I follow daily what I learnt during the week here from Chenot and his team. Except for one thing – I’ve never interviewed anyone else in a bathrobe.
A one-week stay at Espace Henri Chenot, Palace Merano costs from €6,620 including the 6 day Detox Programme, accommodation for seven nights in a Double Comfort Room and all meals for the week. For bookings and further information please call +39 0473 271 000 or visit www.palace.it.