I love sugar. I love wine. I love caffeine. I also have a rather strong aversion to needles. You may, therefore, be asking yourself how I found myself at The Original FX Mayr, the hallowed medi-spa set on Lake Wörthsee in Austria.
The original Austrian spa synonymous with detox, gut health, and buckwheat rolls, has amassed quite a reputation in its 300-year history. Visitors range from socialites and oligarchs, to stressed-out lawyers and wealthy retirees looking for a health reset. I have long heard tales from fellow journalists about how transformative a week at FX Mayr is, and so when the chance arose to spend a week there myself, I jumped at it with reckless abandon, batting away friends concerns about how I was going to survive on a mere 400 calories a day, and whether I’d be stashing emergency snacks in my suitcase – I did not.
Trepidation began to build as I boarded the plane to Ljubljana, equipped with a weighty Pret haul, savouring every delicious carby morsel in the knowledge that this was the most substantial meal I would be seeing for the seven days ahead…
The Packing Edit
Opened in 1976 on Lake Wörthersee by Dr Erich Rauch, FX Mayr remains the mothership of the Mayr cure. Whilst glossier, celebrity-attracting outposts have followed suit, what makes FX Mayr stand apart is the discipline to the programme and also the generous staff-to-guest ratio.
Centred around 5 pillars: resting, cleansing, training, rhythm, and abstinence, the focus of the programme is mainly on prevention – that is, taking time for oneself, de-stressing, detoxifying the organs, and maintaining a balanced diet. Gut health is at the root of the programme, upholding the belief that a bad diet leads to a multitude of health issues. The programme is ideally 21 days to clear the body and mind, whilst a seven day stay is the absolute minimum.
Having made the mistake previously, I followed the pre-retreat guidelines to a T, cutting out my beloved vino, coffee, and sugar seven days in advance so as to aid the detoxification process, and prevent the famous withdrawal headaches.
Many guests, myself included, book onto the Basic Cure. The first day of the retreat is your orientation, involving a comprehensive medical examination with one of the affable doctors. There is no judgement here, thankfully, as there are no holds barred. Guests are quizzed on everything from alcohol consumption and stress levels, through to exercise, diet, and bowel movements, all to build a picture of your health and determine the best treatments throughout your stay. I experienced my first of many abdominal massages – which became the norm – to gain an understanding of my gut health. This was followed by a quick consultation with the dietician to draw up the all-important diet plan. Guests have a methodical daily routine of supplements and tinctures to aid detoxification from coconut oil to swill every morning, potassium and magnesium tablets, as well alkaline salts to really flush out the system. The cure also includes multiple holistic treatments: warm hayflower packs which are placed on the abdomen, classic massages, and yet more abdominal exams, as well as check-ins with the gentile doctors to monitor progress and address any concerns.
The Mayr Diet
Mealtimes are muted at Mayr, to ensure you chew each mouthful around 60 times before swallowing. Likewise, smartphones and books are discouraged to truly focus on meals and aid digestion. Guests are usually put on a diet of approximately 400 calories, with breakfast consisting of sheep yoghurt and a buckwheat roll. Lunch features more buckwheat bread and hand-blended spreads of vegetables or goats curd alongside soup served with an impossibly small spoon. The ubiquitous vegetable bouillon, which FX Mayr is famed for, is served at 11AM and also in lieu of dinner to allow the digestive system to rest for the requisite 16 hours to achieve ketosis, whereby the body burns fat. As my week progressed, lunch became a revelation: pumpkin gnocchi with Jerusalem artichoke and deer with chestnut sauce were both exceptional.
The word medi-spa conjures all sorts of visions of clinical baselessness; however, this couldn’t be further from the reality of FX Mayr. A beautiful old mansion – which was originally a holiday home for the British Royals – the decor is traditional and unpretentious. There are plush carpets, original wooden beams, and a roaring fire in the private library room. Cosy and inviting, the emphasis on convalescing is very easy to follow here. Indeed, you very quickly feel at home: in no time at all I was shuffling around at all hours in my mandatory white fluffy robe and slippers.
There is plenty of downtime for reading and recharging, extracurriculars which are mirrored in the interiors of the suites. Plump beds are laden with pillows, and guests can select their preferred model from a pillow menu depending on their qualms. Cosy sitting rooms with plump sofas and arm chairs, and a multitude of throws beckon to catch up on Netflix or a good book with your evening hot-water bottle.
Following my consultation and fitness, my doctor designed a comprehensive programme of suggested medical and therapeutic treatments to aid my stay. This truly is the place to confront all those health niggles you’ve ever wondered about. I worked my way through the impressive massage roster: from deep-tissue sports massage for my desk job-worn shoulders, to pummelling lymphatic drainage, methodical osteopathy, and even shiatsu, which made me feel a little drunk.
The medical offering is outstanding. From Kinesology to determine allergies or intolerances, blood work to identify deficiencies, and colon therapy to supercharge the cleanse – I’ll spare you the details. Most guests are recommended vitamin infusions via IV drips. Despite my needle phobia I had a trio of these infusions to detoxify, burn fat, and energise, through a cocktail of hard-hitting vitamins. Despite my reticence, I felt AMAZING.
For exercise bunnies wanting something a little more intense, there is the option for personal training sessions and aqua cycling – imagine your favourite spin class but with the resistance of water; I was hooked.
Once the day’s therapies are complete, the afternoon is the perfect time to unwind in the spa. Hop between the sanarium and salt-water steam bath, before some languid lengths of the indoor heated pool. The separate beach spa, away from the main house, is a peaceful haven to escape to with picturesque views across the Wörthersee. There is easy access to the turquoise lake; however, few dare to brace a dip post-sauna in the winter months.
There is an emphasis on gentle movement – but not too much, due to the calorie deficit. Morning exercise classes consist of gentle stretching and balance work whilst evening yoga or meditation help to wind down post-evening Bouillon. Guided walks around the surrounding woodland and farmland take place most afternoons, a welcome change of scenery, and distraction from hunger.
Guests are encouraged to visit the Kneipping baths daily – alternating hot and cold foot baths – to aid circulation and lymphatic drainage. Those after a traditionally pampering experience should make use of the beauty spa which offers blow-dries and mani-pedis. For the hardcore guests there is also fat freezing and skin peels, as well as invigorating salt baths and body wraps with pressotherapy to sculpt and reduce cellulite.
Yes I lost a few kilograms, but it was more my gleaming skin, and feeling of being utterly recharged that I marvelled at the most. I returned home with a heightened appreciation of the need to prioritise health and with the mechanisms to alleviate daily stress. I can’t say I’ve looked at a cup of herbal tea, or a buckwheat roll again though…