In her job as private wealth adviser with the New Order Bank, Lauren Nichols has recently indulged in one too many client lunches and panics when she discovers that she has to be photographed for the corporate brochure. On the advice of a beauty-editor friend, she books a week with Total Detox – a boot-camp outfit that runs small and very exclusive breaks in a private villa in Ibiza.
The flight to Spain is full of people travelling in packs, most of them, it seems, planning to massively intoxicate themselves in the coming days. As a posse of loud, plummy-voiced schoolgirls – all cowboy hats and Fake Bake tans – pass around a duty-free bottle of vodka, Lauren sits among them quietly contemplating a week of raw vegetables.
At the villa, Catrina Mace, the owner of Total Detox, is waiting in the marble entrance hall, dressed as if for a cocktail party in floral silk Dries Van Noten and strappy heels. The detox doyenne casts a critical eye over her client (in jeans and Converse plimsolls) and looks none too pleased with what she sees.
“Right, let’s get you checked in,” she says, handing Lauren over to Derek, a chiselled 20-something armed with a tape measure and a clipboard. The humiliating half-hour that follows includes a weigh-in and extensive logging of body measurements. “How fit are you?” Derek asks, all dazzling smile and breezy manner.
“Pretty fit,” she replies. “I do a lot of walking.” “And have you ever done yoga?”“Lots,” she replies, dropping the name of a world-famous guru. (In fact, it’s two years since she last went to his lunchtime class near her office, and even then it was only to have a lie-down after a morning of stressful meetings.) “Great stuff,” says Derek, looking impressed. “I’m putting you in Group A for both.”
At 6am the next morning, Lauren reports to the villa’s all-white lounge, where several women in fitness kit and sparkly FitFlops are discussing their private chefs. She feels as if she is crashing a private party, where the only drink on offer looks and smells like a milkshake made from grass cuttings. And since her fellow guests are all well over 50, she starts to worry that the ensuing hike might be more of a casual stroll.
Catrina appears, dressed in a slinky purple Lanvin number and silver sandals. At her side are three instructors in taupe shorts and green polo shirts, who look like male models. “Lauren, the Group As are waiting for you outside,” she says.
In the entrance, Lauren finds six super-toned women in their 30s who look as if they’re limbering up for the Olympics. Armed with a bottle of water each and a bag of nuts, they set out for a two-hour march up a mountain in blistering heat. It takes less than 10 minutes for Lauren to drop to the back, where she is obliged to make increasingly stilted small talk with Derek as, pink-cheeked, she pants her way upwards.
In the yoga class that follows she is so exhausted that all she can do is lie quietly in the Corpse pose, while her head thumps from caffeine withdrawal. After a lunch of raw vegetables, it’s a relief to discover she’s been demoted to Group B.
During the evening hike, Lauren suddenly finds herself getting on like a house on fire with the Bs – who include the wife of Texan billionaire and the owner of a well-known lager brand. What they lack in speed and flexibility they make up for in fun conversation and facetious remarks. By day three the headache has gone and Lauren is actually enjoying herself. Catrina, however, is displeased that she has formed a “clique” and, as punishment, “forgets” to book her in for the daily massage.
At the end of the week Lauren has lost three kilos – it works out at over £1,000 for each of them – and several centimetres around her waist. Full of good intentions, she foregoes the G&T on the flight home and it will be a full fortnight before she succumbs to a cappuccino and a Pret Bakewell tart. Her skin is still glowing when she is photographed for the corporate brochure, and she is no longer addicted to caffeine. She has also recruited several new clients. In the end, it doesn’t take her long to regain the three kilos, but she’s reassured to know that, thanks to Total Detox, she can always lose them again in a week.