wilhelmi-lake

Creative director of her eponymous fashion label and luxury concept store, Alex Eagle Studio and The Store X, Alex Eagle is a contributing editor at SUITCASE, specialising in spas and wellness.

In a world preoccupied with action, it is sometimes hard to justify taking 10 days to focus on your own wellbeing. But after having my second baby earlier this summer and almost immediately going back to work, I was looking for a chance to reconnect with my body and mind; to take a moment to rest and regroup ahead of the British winter.

Craving fresh air and new energy, I headed to Buchinger Wilhelmi in Überlingen, Germany. The world-famous clinic was founded by Dr Otto Buchinger in 1953, and has been rejuvenating its clients ever since via a rigorous regime centred on therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine. In short, I was headed for 10 days of next to no food – undoubtedly a disconcerting prospect.

However, from the moment I arrive at the clinic – a minimalist white building set in exquisitely kept gardens sloping down to Lake Constance – I feel heartened. In early November, the air is crisp and fresh, the lake shimmers in early winter sun, my jacket is on but open, sunglasses are essential and the cold is revitalising rather than debilitating. The dark, rain and smog of London feels forever away.

Food is, of course, limited – breakfast is apple tea with a small pot of honey, lunch is soup or a juice, and then soup again for supper. For the first few days, its absence plays on the mind – I have elaborate fantasies involving huge almond milk lattes – and it is important to fill the days to distract from hunger. Luckily, this is easy to do. There are plenty of activities, meditation and stretching classes, personal training sessions, mountain, forest and lake hikes, swimming in the heated pool or browsing in Überlingen’s delightful vintage shops. I dive into all the baby books I didn’t have time to read the first time round.

The treatment side of the program is strict but nurturing. During my stay, there are three sessions with the doctor – the first to do an assessment and take bloods; the second to discuss the initial results; the third to discuss the final gains and takeaway steps for the real world. Day to day, there is a phalanx of nurses who keep a close eye on each guest, applying warm, scented liver compresses in the afternoon and making sure everyone feels cared for. I have the added joy of spending time with my friend Leo, Otto Buchinger’s great grandson, who takes over running the clinic next year. He is evangelical on the benefits of fasting, a much needed inspiration when my self-control is on the blink. In these moments, I make bookings for all the restaurants I want to visit on my return to London such as Trishna and Brat. I’m excited about food as an event again; a special treat to be savoured rather than mindless fuel to get me through the day.

This is my key takeaway from Buchinger: food matters, but in a mindful sense. The philosophy goes that when the body isn’t constantly working on digestion, it has the time and energy to do other things like manage mood, boost creativity or even help with diseases such as diabetes and thyroid complaints. I’ve realised how much time I spend thinking about what I am going to eat, and how – by taking that option off the agenda – I have so much more time to think about other things.

There is a profoundly spiritual element to the experience. Time slows down, and I feel like I’m living in time rather than chasing it. My mind is clearer, my sleep is deeper and there is the added pleasure of seeing actual physical results – I lose half a pound a day. I feel refreshed and rebooted, not least by the conversation of the other guests at the hotel – a fascinating combination of creative and interesting people from around the world. As I prepare to leave the clinic, packing up Coco in readiness for our return to wintry London, I am amazed at how revitalised and strong I feel, my body back on track and raring to go, my mind clear and buzzing with ideas.

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