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Fasting My Way to Thin – Palm Springs

01/07/2013

Why does anyone live anywhere but San Diego I thought to myself as I got off the plane from Chicago on Saturday morning in early December. I was here for a visit with friends then a drive to Palm Springs for a week at a spa. Does it sound glamorous? Actually it is a juice fasting and spiritual retreat so that means no food for 7 days so the glamour factor diminishes and the need for a little rest and weightloss becomes the clear motivation. I meet up with my friends my favorite California former military couple and we head from the airport straight to …. a champagne tasting! Now this is my kind of juice fast kick off!

We go to a groovy, Mom and Pop wine store specializing in seldom heard of wines and low prices. As we walk in the door the first wine is Screw Kappa Napa – a wine valley red with the made-popular-by-the-Aussies screw cap. We wander to the back of the store to the tiny tasting room with about 12 other people and do-si-doe around the tiny room for our champagne tasting – delish. As an aside I am constantly fascinated with the military element in SD – in the same parking lot as the wine store was Boll Wevils Bar, home of the one pound steel burger – hmmm what sort of hunky military types are attracted to that little strip mall dive? I would love to spend hours with beers to find out!

We return to my friends house – where the living room and outdoor patio of slate stone flooring and slatted roof strewn with blooming flowers are the same size. Again, why does anyone live anywhere else? The three of us settle into the late afternoon with magazines to flip thought, chatter to chat, icy voldka cocktails while flipping between the TV Food Network and college football – heaven in some senses but wait it gets better! The massage therapist arrives and we each take a 90 minute turn on the cozy table for next to the fireplace in the upstairs master bedroom. The fact that we are all foodies and will only be dining on vegetables as we have been for the last three days to prep for the juice fast is a distant concern as I lie under the oily cozy massage sheet.

Sunday dawns and my travel partner is too dizzy from the all vegetable diet to do the drive to Palm Springs . I take the wheel and it is a beautiful drive with bright sun and lush plants and trees and the occasional wisp of Autumnal color – why doesn’t everyone live here? Then we hit some serious traffic on the 18 lane Highway 10 and I realize that everyone does live here and they are all people who believe in eating only vegetables and I remember that my brother sent me a Honeybaked ham for Christmas and it will be waiting for me when I get back to appropriately wintery Chicago and I know that when the spa week comes to an end I will go back to Chicago where turkey sausage is a fast.

As we drive we have plenty of time to wonder about what exactly we have signed up for – spiritual retreat/fast/colonics – what are the logistics? A colon ic? Enough said. Is Pinot Grigio juice part of the juice fast? Good thing I brought my friend Kathy one of the most laid back and accepting types you can find. Good thing also she is a woman of her word she says juice fast there will be no late night KFC visits so we’re in. We’re committed.

We drive through tony Palm Springs with its’ golf resorts and Indian reservation casinos and nice restaurants and miles of lux outlet shopping and we keep driving and driving then we take a left on a road that soon becomes dirt. We are trading sidelong glances and definitely checking the directions. This spa is in the Spa Finder Top Ten List – why is it on dirt road? Turns out the dirt road won’t matter because we spend the rest of the week in the little oasis of We Care. Yes, the name is We Care. It’s California everyone wants to live here – get over it.

The center of We Care Spiritual Retreat and Spa is a small building that over looks a very tiny po ol. The center has a front desk and a kitchen and a library and an internet station, a knot of overstuffed chairs for lounging. The main stage of the center is a marble bar/island. It all feels like partially someone’s house or a really nice individually owned Williams Sonoma. Each guest is given a We Care mug that is left in the community kitchen which contains all the various powders, pills, teas and juices for the 14 drinks each guests consumes over the course of a day. You might not be eating but you are very busy downing the drinks. There are twice daily pills and powder greens providing nutrients – they taste like liquid grass. Remember, starving is no food where the body is in distress and fasting is providing the body with nutrients but no solid food so the digestive system can rest itself. Additionally, the fasting allows you to examine your daily relationship with food. There is so much real and physiographic time in a day where the when/where/what of the three squares a day are not being continuously debated.

The property itself is contained but each space is very private. There are villas a few yards away from20the main center and rooms off the pool. Every room seems to be a bit personalized and very cozy. The beds are comfy and the maid service is excellent. Oddly all the towels and lines smell delicious as does everything else. The Juice Fast Types are of course aromatherapy enthusiasts! Each room has a small secluded patio with a comfy chaise. Every room comes stocked with a few books on natural healing and the ubiquitous rock salt lamp regulating the ions without damaging the ozone. I generally feel the ions are good wherever I am but I am not particularly sensitive.

The second element of fasting is elimination; the colonic. Let’s just be clinical it’s a narrow water tube and a larger waste tube inserted to fill and empty your small and large intestines. It is done very much like any other spa treatment. Think about it wrapping yourself in seaweed is not a little gross? You and the clinician can watch the expellant as it rolls through the larger tube and the rule is the blacker the better for evidence of successful de-toxing. You feel bloated at the ‘fill’ portion and slightly self absorbed at the other en d. I mean there are better things going on in the world than literally this crap. Oddly, I keep hearing my grandmother old admonishment for the self centered ‘he thinks his shit doesn’t stink”.

The other pills and powders you consume all day are ‘cleaning” your insides. There are teas that are detoxing your kidneys, liver and blood – they taste like old broth. Twice a day you drink fiber to aid the elimination and at about drink 7 you have a cup of organic vegetable juice – it looks a little brown and tastes like celery and carrots. Excitingly enough at drink 12 you have warm organic vegetable soup. It’s one warmed pureed vegetable. You can add garlic or cayenne powder – hmmmm delish! We have taken to skipping any food commercials on TV but I don’t feel hungry. The constant influx of liquid and various portions keep you full. There is a little hunger maybe mid or end of the day but it is discomfort on the level with mile 4 of a 6 mile run – gut it out or ignore you are doing something good for yourself and your system. On day two20I did notice that I washed my face and brushed my teeth (and tongue!) twice in the morning to really feel clean. This release is part of the elimination and I am promised glowing skin by the end process.

There are other elements available to add the cleaning and elimination process. A detox bath that you do in your own private bathroom it is a ginger smelling powder you put in a bath hot enough to make you perspire. I just felt like a Chinese soup but it is said that the skin as the largest organ is very powerful for moving toxins from your system. Each guest is given a digestive massage which is simply and 20 minute belly rub with oil. I tried purring but no one thought I was funny. There is a sauna and a hot tub as heat relaxes the muscles and allows your system to release toxins. Finally, one is encouraged to jump on the mini-trampoline prior to a colonic to use good old gravity motivate the the dirt lined colon; I never did get to try this I would rather be ginger soup or a hot tub lounger.

There is a bit of a cult element here in Juice Fast World. The centers founder speaks a few times a week about the 7 Principle of Good Digestion. The colon is described as the second brain which might have some merit in that it runs the all important digestive system. (This, of course, prompts the question; is the colon the second or third brain for men? ) There is a class with a shaman and yoga and healing work and a labrynth and a sculpture representing gravity from the Burning Man Festival. We have skipped a lot of those. The resort only houses 17 guests. There are young pretty women in their yoga pants and flip flops, there are Glam-Ma’s with their Guicci glasses and spa-ready wardrobe, a few very fit looking men and even one Hollywood star with a current role on network television and a former recurrent role on Beverly Hills 90210 – Lindsay Price from Lipstick Jungle if you must know!

The rest of the day is spent relaxing. It is a beautiful dessert setting. As we walked the quarter mile walking path at the base of the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park I suggested a higher elevation hike through the mountains and I was roundly turned down20in favor of more chaise lounge reading. Some people experience some flu like discomfort or low energy; I felt good through the process but with an endless supply of warm sunshine, beautiful vistas, books, free wi-fi and 800 satellite television channels it seems difficult to not be happy and relax.

But frankly I could use a grilled cheese

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