Restore, rejuvenate and repair at this celebrated wellness getaway in Spain
Not far from the madding (holiday) crowds
The subject: An exhausted individual, who finds it difficult to switch off, and has come to rely on sugar and junk food to fight off stress, migraines and fatigue. The recovery plan: A 4-day discovery program at SHA Wellness, in Alicante (a charming town on Spain’s southeast coast) for a crash course in self-awareness, healthy eating and slow living.
The infinity pool overlooking the town of Alicante
It seems like a vague goal, especially for a place that’s otherwise known for weight loss and anti-smoking programs, but it was evident from the get-go that SHA puts serious thought into wellness. The founder and Argentinian businessman, Alfredo Bataller Parietti, converted his holiday home into this retreat after he self-cured his chronic illness by following a healthier diet and better lifestyle habits—practices that form the foundation of SHA. This isn’t just any getaway spa, but also a result-oriented medical facility that gives equal emphasis to Eastern philosophy with modern medicine for complete mind-and-body wellbeing.
Spelt tagliatelle with boletus mushroom sauce
On day one, I found myself at the doctor’s clinic for my medical assessment. Together we set-up specific goals to rebalance my diet and to learn to compensate my long work hours with time for self-care and de-stressing, creative pursuits. And their team of MDs, naturopaths, nutritionists, and healing experts were going to ensure I wouldn’t slip into a laissez-faire approach during my short stay.
SHA’s minimal facade
My breakthrough moment came during the cellular bioanalysis session, where Dr Rosario Garcia projected a microscopic close-up of my blood sample on a large screen. What should have looked like plush, circular red blood cells, appeared to be squished disks with hollow centres—finding a healthy cell was like a game of Where’s Waldo?. “This does not look good,” Dr Garcia exclaimed, shaking her head. “Ignoring signs of fatigue and following an unhealthy diet over a long term can cause cellular damage.” She assured me that supplements like folic acid, vitamin C, and omega-3 would be a good starting point to get back on track.
Private yoga session at SHA residences
The second blow came right after, during my consultation with Dr Ana Maria Olivia at SHA’s energy health unit. She uses Prognos, a technology devised by Russian cosmonauts to test physical and mental wellbeing. Dr Olivia touched a pen-like device to some acupuncture points on my hands to detect each organ’s energy flow, while a whirring machine graphed the results. “It’s like checking your batteries,” she explained. I was feeling quite peaceful and expected a steady graph, but the zig-zagging lines on my results looked like a convict’s lie-detector test. My digestion and pancreas displayed a huge imbalance, which Dr Olivia said was the result of an overworked mind. “Your constant state of fight or flight is triggering your sugar cravings, and causing havoc on your nervous system,” she explained. I left with instructions to meditate, ban my phone from the bedside, and spend time filling in adult colouring books to calm my mind.
A healthy breakfast of miso soup, oatmeal and hummus
I had other treatments too: a deep cleansing facial, a photobiomodulation session with LED lights to stimulate the brain, and Tibetan sound therapy to help me feel zen. Any spare time was spent on an early morning walk by the sea, at a mindfulness class, or at their cooking studio where I learnt to bake gluten-free cakes.
Sugar-free chocolate raspberry temptation
These therapies are supplementary to the food. With the food-as-medicine philosophy, the meals are the real star at SHA. Based on a consultation, guests are placed on one of three diets: Kushi, a hardcore weight loss plan; Bio-light, a less restrictive version with larger portions; and SHA, a gastronomic indulgence that’s so good that people who aren’t staying at the retreat drop in to try it.
The private SHA residences
I was placed on a mild detox diet that would pacify my stomach and mind. My primary food groups: refined flour, dairy, white sugar, and table salt were outlawed. Caffeine was replaced by several cups of soothing tea. Any doubts about starving during my stay were satiated by a lavish menu of whole grains (there was pasta!), veggies, beans and some seafood. My post dinner sugar cravings were taken care of by a syrupy apple kuzu tea. It was inevitable to feel food envy each time a waiter passed my table with desserts from the SHA menu, but I was pleased to find that after four days I woke up feeling less bloated and de-puffed.
However, the true test of any wellness program lies in what you retain a few weeks later. I’m happy to report that my meals feature more greens and fewer dairy products. I still indulge in cookies and dessert, but it’s not stress-induced. I practice 20 minutes of meditation every night, and step away from my desk, every few hours, to focus on my breathing. The adult colouring book is a regular weekend activity, and my morning Pilates class is sacrosanct.
This is common advice that anyone could have shared with me, but seeing my sluggish blood cells and a warped energy field was the shock I needed to set things straight. These may not seem life changing, but I’m definitely happier and more balanced. (Shawellness.com)
EAT miso soup, hummus or oatmeal at breakfast for an energy boost.
CUT OUT meat and dairy from your diet. They are high in saturated fats.
PRACTISE singing or dancing. It releases endorphins and relaxes muscles.
CHEW your food well. It helps digestion and keeps you from overeating.
DO a body rub with a brush or wet towel to improve circulation.
PUT your phone in flight mode when sleeping to keep distractions at bay.