[Written in Bali]
Every so often, I feel the urge to push myself out of my comfort zone and see what I am capable of. The last time I felt this, I ended up climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. This time was different; I wanted to feel completely cleansed, mentally and physically, like pushing the reset button on my body. That's why about 6 months ago the idea of doing a full on fasting detox came into my head.
I wasn't feeling 100% back in September 2016 - I was working a stressful job as a critical care nurse which required me to do a lot of night shifts in a busy metropolitan emergency department. I worked with both children and adult patients, and for some reason I would catch every single illness those kids carried into the department, which left me sick for at least a week with a different disease every single month for an entire year. I was also living in Perth, Western Australia which seemed to be going through the longest winter in its history, and I don't cope well with the cold (not that 'Perth cold' is comparable with other harsher winters in the world, but when you live in an uninsulated home and are made of skin and bones, it feels much worse than it is).
Despite all of that, I actually really love this job I do and this city I live in, but I felt I did not have the thriving health I was so craving, and I wanted to try something, anything, to get me feeling like a young vibrant 26 year old woman should.
So, I booked a fast in beautiful Bali.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to Bali anyway for my friend's 30th birthday. She had booked a villa in Ubud and invited her close mates to join her for some celebrations.
After a week of fun and high energy with these beautiful souls, I was off to the little coastal fisherman town of Amed to try something I have never done before...
Amed is beautiful, known for its stunning diving and close proximity to Lombok. The detox centre, aptly named Golden Rock Retreat, was nestles in the edge of a cliff, and encompassed all the beauty of Amed.
It is an extremely beautiful and relaxing place. There is no wifi or phone service available in the rooms, which meant a total technology detox too ! Hard for a Gen Y like myself.
The detox was 7 days long and extremely intense. There was myself, a German woman, and an Australian woman there at the same time as me (both in their 60's, both amazing and coped far better with the detox than me!). The first day involved eating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and settling into the accommodation and program, easy peasy! You finish off the evening with a special 'bowel cleansing' herbal tea (which tasted as good as it sounds) and a large glass of chalky magnesium oxide, not so easy.
I woke up at 2am on day two with the first trip to the loo and basically spent the next week in that little tiled room (at least it was a pretty place!). I had to have those two drinks every single night, but eventually just tipped them down the sink from day 3 onwards because of the horrendous sleep disturbance (shhh, that will be our secret).
After day 1, I was on strict liquids only, drinking only a few hundred calories a day. Coconut water and lemon juice to start with, then a green juice and a fruit juice in the afternoon, and a clear veggie soup broth for dinner, with some strange liver tonics and mineral supplements along the way. That was my sustenance for 5 whole days.
We were expected to also do daily exercises of Qi gong, yoga, trampoline bouncing, and cycling (on a fixed bike overlooking the ocean, which made it far more bearable).
Our yoga / Qi gong teacher was an older Balinese man with super long dreadlocks and wore the most amazing homemade jewelry (which was his other job apparently). After the exercises, we each had a turn in the infared sauna, zen Chi machine, and had biomagnetic and ozone therapy to finish the morning. If you care to translate all of that, you can read about these treatments from their website here . We also got daily massages, and were completely spoilt.
I thought I would feel amazing, but I felt awful. I had never experienced fatigue so deeply that I was barely able to move. It was physically and mentally debilitating. I tried to read books but was reading lines over and over again because my brain just couldn't understand the words on the page. I had to spend hours lying down next to the bathroom door to avoid any overexertion between my multiple trips there, and I dreaded having to go anywhere outside my room which required me to walk up and down all those stairs to get there
(oh the stairs...).
Not only that, but I realised I had never spent so much time in a place where everything was done for me: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry with the additional pamperings of daily massages and beautiful surroundings. You would think I was in paradise but after a few days, I felt like I was in jail. It made me realise how much I value my freedom and independence.
On day 5, I was beginning to seriously question my sanity as to why I was even doing this. I was feeling worse than when I started, I was averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night and was unable to sleep during the day to catch up, I was basically self-confined to my room, binge watching dodgy 'Bali DVDs' that had a 70% skipping rate. I had lost 4 kilos and weighed only 52kg/114lbs for my 170cm/5ft5in frame. But worst of all, I still had to do the dreaded 'liver cleanse' to finish it off. This involves completely dehydrating your body by drinking nothing but Epsom salt water for 8 hours prior to drinking an entire cup of olive oil + lemon juice concoction before you fall asleep... Yes, you heard me correctly. Olive freaking oil.
And as you can imagine, about 3 hours later I nearly vomited the entire contents of my (by then) empty stomach with the mere memory of what I had just drunk. I sat next to that toilet bowl, with saliva building up in my mouth and tears streaming down my face feeling so dizzy and terrible, and fearing that I would literally die right on that bathroom floor and I couldn't even phone anyone to tell them I loved them and beg them not to write "Here lies Kam: Darwin Award Winner 2017" on my gravestone. To this day, I can't stand the smell of olive oil.
I don't even drink alcohol, maybe once in a blue moon, if that. Why I thought I needed a liver cleanse is beyond me. But, I was there, and I wanted to push my health to the extremes, and that's exactly what I did.
So finally, glorious day 7 arrives, and I am so excited to chew food again that I feel like I've woken up to Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa AND my birthday all at once. According to my schedule, I was supposed to wait till 10am to eat my first meal. But at 7am, I felt so unwell and lightheaded, that I went down to the kitchen and said "I need food now, please" with my big puppy dog eyes. The detox nurse assessed me and did a blood pressure check reading 92/58 (which equals pretty bloody low if you don't know), so she 'allowed' me to break the schedule and break the fast then and there.
My God, papaya has never tasted SO GOOD. I was given 6 cut up squares of that cold, sweet, glorious fruit and I savoured every bite. I was also given the equivalent amount of pineapple too. Has pineapple always tasted this incredible ?? The sensation running through my body in that moment was a mixture of that 'opening Christmas presents' 'fireworks' 'first kiss' 'discovering the cure for cancer' kind of feeling you get, you know? I said to myself about a dozen times "I will never take food for granted again".
I was so excited to be let out into the real world again to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. On day 8, I left Golden Rock at 10am and literally drove straight to 'The Spicy Coconut' in Canggu for lunch to indulge in some seriously delicious vegan eats.
This meal made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world !
It's been a month since I've thrown myself back into the life I lead before my detox. The experience made me appreciate my meals so much more, but of course it's a daily intentional practice that needs to be continually exercised. I don't feel like a new person, or completely cleansed. I feel exactly the same if I'm honest. But I realised an important lesson: finding true health isn't about spending 1 week a year 'resetting', it's about spending every day being more conscious of my actions and being more compassionate towards myself. I need to prioritise moments of calm in 'the storm' to connect with my breath, my mind, and my body...
I love living life in the 'fast lane', I love the adrenaline rush I get when I'm involved with an emergency at work, I love doing 100 things a day to feel productive, I love working out intensely and running off to go meet friends... but I realised I also need to take the time to 'fast' daily, from food, technology, over-indulgance, greed, over-stimulation, ect, if I ever want to find balance, peace, and true inner health.
[p.s. what goes around comes around... so let's be kind]