Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie at… SHA Wellness Clinic

A diet that includes chocolate fudge pudding and organic red wine? This is heaven

Spa Junkie at… SHA Wellness Clinic

May 21 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2

Spa Junkie is on a six-night programme at SHA, the macrobiotic retreat in Spain.


I’ve created a daily outdoor-activity routine; today it’s a run on the beach. The scores of admiring grey heads that stop and stare have become a sort of fan club as I run past them, cheering me on while they take morning coffee at the string of little Spanish cafés in the sleepy village. A clear sign of my improving physicality.

Kenneth, the macrobiotic consultant, is at breakfast, and I decide to join him for a few moments. Why is macrobiotics not more popular, I ask. It seems incredibly intuitive and simple – why all the myth and mystery?

He explains that in the 1950s in California, macrobiotics was seen as a kind of sect. It was adopted by the Beat Generation, who at the time were fascinated by all things Zen. By the 1970s, however, it had very much gone underground. This controversial history, coupled with a fractured community, differing opinions and uncertainty on how to create a modern macrobiotic lifestyle, are the factors he says contribute to its lack of adoption. The macrobiotics programme I am experiencing at SHA is very different to what it was then; Kenneth believes that tailoring the diet to each country and region, applying the “locally sourced and in-season” elements that run very deep through the philosophy, is the only way forward. He is hopeful that over the next few years, as the world discovers the power of food to heal, the diet will spread organically.

After breakfast I run to the lighthouse, and then have an exceptional shiatsu massage with little Pablo. At dinner, given that it’s my last night, I can’t resist ordering from the menu. I have a four-course, out-of-this-world gastro-supper with a macrobiotic chocolate fudge pudding, and not one but two glasses of organic red wine. I’m in heaven.


My last day is spent seeing the doctors and nurses who have treated me. They check my weight and measurements; they discuss the various test results and dedicate their individual hour to devising a home strategy to help me continue along this path.

I’m given packs of information: recipes and results are handed over, lists of ingredients, and a bag full of Japanese products including sea vegetables, fermented plums and special teas are signed over. They slog back on the Monarch flight with me, at a serious extra baggage cost.


The first thing I noticed when walking into SHA was the “glowing” staff – and as I walk out seven days later, I understand that the most compelling reason to stay at SHA is the macrobiotic diet. The resulting clarity of my own complexion is due to this pure and healthy diet, and it was achieved in one week.

But SHA is not just for aesthetics and detox. Some of the guests shuffling past in their robes and slippers were being treated for serious addictive conditions or acute skeletal and muscular disorders. It’s a humbling experience to be among them.

The service here is exemplary, the level of intensity of one-on-one service is outstanding. The staff are entirely flexible – they reschedule appointments immediately and any request, no matter how spurious, is never questioned. As Alfredo Jr said, “There is no option but to provide the highest level of service – this level of clientele expects nothing less.”

By the end of the week I have lost 3.8kg and my belly, which is usually bloated, is as flat as a buckwheat pancake. But most importantly, I think I have found a diet that, with a few tweaks and an agreed set of “cheat days”, I can actually manage. I have continued to lose weight and at the time of writing, two weeks later, I am 4.5kg down. Making vegetables and wholegrains your staples actually feels good; my gut is less toxic, and my body is thanking me daily for the protein respite. I’ve already booked to go back and do a two-week cookery course later in the year.

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, accommodation and treatments.