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This article appears in Volume 30: The Health Issue.
Tackling the millennial brag of burnout with a week-long detox at the Swiss retreat Clinique La Prairie.
Like the puns you use on your selfies to soften the narcissism, burning out is the new humblebrag of our times. We all secretly want our lives full to the brim like a helium balloon, but we keep pumping in the viscous gas of our busy lives until they start to overfill and warp like Munch’s The Scream. We dash though modern life like we’re late for all four weddings and a funeral. I like to blame the London smog for my ashy completion, but the truth is it’s self-inflicted. I choose to burn bright at the risk of burning out. I somehow embrace the hellfire of the tube with a stranger’s morning breath at my cheek. Between the hustle of freelancing, I’m currently renovating my house and have buried the rubble of my anxiety at the back of a storage unit because emotions don’t lay floors.
There are numerous remedies to our compact schedules, including the infamous wine o’clock. Most of us love a little tipple, but something happens around the fifth glass of grog on a weeknight. Time becomes a flat circle. The sky looks like a Van Gogh. You delete important emails. You gobble chips in pitta. You voicemail your ex. You find a mysterious dry-cleaning fee on your Uber account. At least you forgot about work for a few hours.
With all the noise, staying well can feel like bunkum – too controlled and faddy, bolstered by anecdotal benefits from online preachers. The knot of wellness remedies includes homeopathy and reiki facials and balneotherapy and drinking enough water to drown Jonah. Wellness can be both everyday, like green tea, and completely extreme, like sunbathing your perineum. However, an hour offline for a colonic won’t even touch the sides when you’re burning out. I don’t want a time out: I want a retreat. I want extreme rebuilding from the ground up, like the Statue of Liberty. I want a complete change of scene after clocking up slightly too many air miles, a physical and psychological refuelling. I want to remedy my burnout efficiently in order to burn even more brightly when I get back home. In short, I want Clinique La Prairie.
The clinic is a mere 90-minute flight from London. On terra firma we pass stunning Unesco-protected Swiss Riviera, bouncing from the limousine straight into the clinic and the Master Detox programme. Clinique La Prairie offers an equilibrium of diet and movement to aid the purification of the body, stimulating vitality and apparently “rebalancing my body’s homeostasis”. For the Master Detox they rouse with heat and douse with ice, blowing hot and cold like a university boyfriend. They massage out toxins (the signature massage still stands out because I’ve never had a vibrating bowl on my back before). They check your chemical balance. They let you nap a bunch. They change your diet.
I assumed that being on a detox diet meant consuming gruel like Oliver Twist – or no solids at all and litres of watered-down water. The food recommendations in my room read no booze, no meat, no fish or shellfish. No eggs. Oh god, no eggs?! No caffeine. No dairy. Even fruit intake is limited. I sense the “Clinique La Prairie detox tea” mightn’t stave off the cravings for real food, but I also feel like a teenage girl who’s just seen a Netflix documentary on burgers and refuses everything her parents put on the table. This is going to be extremely limiting. I plot an escape route that might get me into town for a Toblerone.
But what the detox diet loses in animal protein, it makes up for in flavour. A quinoa risotto topped with strawberries is a triumph, as is a mango ceviche with a coconut foam. Each meal satisfies in the way a steak can’t, because a steak is a product of death. Sure, the chefs have slightly over-egged the presentation of the detox smoothies by serving them in martini glasses like 1970s Angel Delight, but they still taste great. The standout of my stay is the chickpea tortellini filled with hummus in a cooling magma of tomato-y goodness, which sounds soft enough for the toothless but was perforated with shards of unknown-but-delicious crunch. A tour of the kitchen – “where the usual garnishes have become the mains” – also reveals the acute tailoring the clinic offers to differing global taste buds. Any client can enter the space to speak one-on-one to the chefs and ask them to personalise their meal plan. It’s weirdly unbullying. They accommodate your needs, rather than dictate restrictions.
My first evening meal is surprisingly buoyant, a ramen broth of the kind I’d like to make at home. It’s vibrant and deep with textured vegetables that fill me up, and I’m surprised that I’m allowed a tangy little pudding of cacao mousse. The first night is fine because I have that morning’s coffee tapering in my bloodstream, but with dawn comes withdrawal, the comedown jaggedly jarring against the picturesque surroundings. Turns out my triptych of vices is saturated fat, refined sugar and caffeine. Coming down from all three is like the worst jet lag I’ve ever had, as if experiencing the world from behind those personal bed dividers in business class. I don’t have a headache per se, just blanket exhaustion without the constant keepy-uppy crutches I usually have as props. The clinic serves hydrogen water with each meal, which aids muscle recovery, but at this point I would sell a kidney for a cappuccino.
Rather than a kidney, they ask for my hand, reading my palm for heavy metals but not drawing any blood for screening, which I was morbidly looking forward to. On to reflexology, which I doze through before proceeding to take an intensely satisfying, snore-filled nap midway through the seaweed wrap. I spin upside down in aerial yoga, which I’m now certain is my new thing. When exercising I often crave a good slapping about like a blockage in a u-bend, and leave classes feeling beaten to a bloody pulp, but these are, on the whole, gentle. The lack of extreme pushing is part of the experience – I never feel near the edge, faint, truly stressed or ravenously hungry.
The targeted medical examinations and bespoke treatments don’t rattle the cage – toxins are politely invited out rather than aggressively excreted. A couple of times I mentally retreat into a world of pure imagination, but on the whole the experience is a steady one. It’s odd to be peckish and fetishising food and then eat something that doesn’t spike your blood sugar in the slightest. It’s a life of no peaks and troughs. No adrenaline rush or sugar rush. The experience is itself a pious high: I am ingesting good things, I am absorbing dense nutrients.
I’m desperate to see the outside world, but when I finally find time for a walk to a famed local Christmas market I discover that I have contracted Stockholm syndrome and miss the clean comfort of the clinic and the kind, massaging hands of the therapists. After a couple hundred more massages, I accomplish the focus of a Jedi or a cat ready to pounce. My mind is as clear as consommé after a breakthrough in therapy. I’m un-burnt out. I’m reignited.
There is, of course, an inevitable crash back to real life. I scull a black americano and am as high as a kite by the time I reach Heathrow. Nevertheless, I’ve had full vegan days since returning from the clinic. It’s balanced me out somewhat – that’s kind of the point. Clinique La Prairie wasn’t a chrysalis to morph from carb-y caterpillar to butter-free butterfly, and I didn’t retreat to irrevocably change all of my behaviours. I went to reboot my system and rethink commonplace habits. A little less sugar, honey. A little more veg. A consciousness that’s not extreme. I clinic-ed for personal renovation, and now I’m ready to re-tackle my house.
Prices for the week-long Master Detox programme at Clinique La Prairie starts atfrom £11,506 and includes full-board accommodation, limousine transfers, access to an award-winning spa and various holistic wellness treatments such as a cellular purifying facial, reflexology, personal training and private medical consultations.
- +41 21 989 3407
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