Credit: Michelle Varinata

Cool alpine breeze flowed through my nostrils as I walked around the lake. Clear blue skies, tall mountains and orange autumn leaves framed the scenery around me. A far cry from the glittering night lights of Marina Bay Sands, Altausee was like a storybook town in a battered copy of your fairy tale book. It wasn’t an ideal destination spot to vacation, yet being there was a reset I needed in October 2021. Instead of a five star hotel, I stayed at Viva Mayr, Austria’s most famous detox clinic for 10 days. 

A destination for Rebel Wilson and Suki Waterhouse, Viva Mayr was the go-to wellness centre for celebrities to reshape diets, go for weight loss programs and make radical lifestyle choices. Though I was 49 kg and 5’3”, my body soaked up all the wine from a family friend’s wedding alongside daily courses of French pastries.

I may be tiny, but I needed to revamp my lifestyle as I used to go for all types of alcohol — White Claw, red wine, soju and bokbunjae — to destress after a long work day. Sometimes, I just needed a bit of booze to chill out to Emily in Paris or get through anxiety-ridden moments of Money Heist. Alcohol was a once in a blue moon treat that gave me comfort during the height of Covid as I used it to numb my feelings of loneliness from not going out.

Pre-covid, going booze-free wasn’t a challenge for me as I went on a no alcohol and plant based cleanse twice for 10 days. But this time around, I wasn’t really ready to give up the alcohol as it was an emotional crutch for the physical isolation I was subjected to for the past year and a half. 

Soaking up rays at Lake Altausee in front of Viva Mayr. Credit: Michelle Varinata

Not your average weight loss clinic

Going to Viva Mayr was a pilgrimage for my family and me as we heard about it from a family friend who had previously tried the program. It was not my first dance with Viva Mayr as my family and I went there in 2017. The first time I did it, I only went there to try out a cleanse as I used to think they were a gimmick. What I loved most about the cleanse Viva Mayr put me on, was that it didn’t cut out fish, meat, and eggs. Although if you can’t live without eating fruit, Viva Mayr is also best known for cutting out dessert and fruit as sugar was linked to inflammation

What I loved about Viva Mayr was that it doesn’t tout itself as a weight loss clinic as it allowed me to concentrate on the impact of food more than the reduced portions. If you have to do it, get prepared to shell out 2,145 Euros (XX SGD) for a week of the Classic Program. If you want to spend two weeks doing the Classic Program, time to shell out a fraction of your savings for 3,705 Euros (XX SGD). Since there’s an array of programs, you can try out an anti-inflammation program (that was designed with Dr. Barabara Sturm), a post-covid treatment, stress control or a diabetes treatment. For the cost of the treatment, you are expected to complete the full program as there’s zero shortcuts to get the body of your dreams.

The Mayr diet: no sugars for 10 days – including coffee and alcohol! Credit: Michelle Varinata

While Viva Mayr built its name on its diet, the cleanses were customised to each individual. In my case, a nurse assigned me to go on a Classic detox program, where I had to take extra supplements to nourish my body. I had to disclose my health history by mentioning my allergies, pills I took to offset the sinus-related allergies, body aches, how often I drank and if I smoked. When I was weighed, my stomach formed knots. Seeing numbers on the scale made me nervous, but I knew that it was part of the process of helping me to recognize how I could start improving my diet and lifestyle. I was assigned to do the Classic as I didn’t need to lose weight. Additionally, the Classic allowed me to try various treatments as they expanded their spa and medical programs since then.

This is literally all you eat for dinner. No cap. You can ask for seconds, but I don’t recommend it as you need to train your mouth to chew 40 to 60 times. Credit: Michelle Varinata

Mayr way or the highway

The first night I checked in, my usual dinner portion of a 12 inch plate shrank. Instead of a big bowl of Naengmyeon or a plate of gluten-free pasta, I had a small bowl of potato-based soup with flaxseed oil and hand-sized buckwheat bread for dinner. I would normally finish my meal in 10 minutes, but this meal took 45 minutes to an hour to finish. According to the Viva Mayr method, I had to chew 40 to 60 times in order to push myself to stop when I’m feeling full. The concept seemed strange, but for a fast eater like myself, it was out of my sensory boundaries as I was used to stuffing food in my mouth to feel full. 

Breakfast of the champions: all solids with supplements. You get a brochure every morning to check out the activities of the day, but, book your activities in advance as they fill up quickly! Credit: Michelle Varinata

Compared to dinner, breakfast was heaven. I could eat a palm-sized portion of smoked salmon, thumb-sized amount of dill and eat my eggs with rice crackers. If I was hungry, I could ask for seconds. The menu looked like a brunch haven, but it’s designed to cut down inflammation in your body. However, the biggest challenge out of the dietary program was to skip snacking as there was a six hour gap from lunch to dinner. 

Sitting down to have tea with a view is one of the best things to do when you need to recalibrate yourself. Credit: Michelle Varinata

Virtues over vices

A vice I loved apart from booze, snacking was a past time I partook in since childhood. I’m still a sucker for vegan and gluten-free snacks, but it was time for me to change it. In place of a sorghum vegan cheeto, I drank tea followed by a glass of Basen, an alkaline-based powder to alkalise my stomach. The teas I drank were assortments of herbal teas, which changed from day to night. Each tea was meant to offset the effects of detox from hunger, cramps to headache. Depending on the type of detox, sometimes you would have to drink Epsom salts mixed with water for an intense detox. In my case, I didn’t have to do anything too extreme as my nurse advised me to stick to the Classic Program, where I only drank magnesium, calcium and potassium supplements to help me flush out the toxins in my body.

If there was one aspect about Viva Mayr that I found challenging, it was the digital detox. Going off the grid was out of the ordinary save for Easter weekend. Since I spend the majority of my day engaging and creating content for IG, it was a routine I had to work on compromising. Rather than being stuck in my room all day as a side effect of being lethargic, I pushed myself to try different activities to avoid caving into digital temptation – save for my nightly Squid Game binges. One of them was going to the spa, where I tried three types of sauna treatments (salt, wooden and infrared) and swam. Out of the sauna treatments I tried, I loved going to the salt sauna as the saline vapor alleviated my sinuses and simultaneously helped me to detoxify through sweat. Being alone in a heated room helped me to practice mindfulness to offset the lethargy.

Golden hour walks with a 360 view of the area like this is pure bliss. Credit: Michelle Varinata

Since it was cold outside, walking around the lake with my family helped me to rejuvenate my energy. A full 7.9 km distance, being able to see a 360 degree view of the area felt like I stepped into a Nat Geo scene. Given that it was a YOLO opportunity, my family and I took countless pictures to capture the golden hour for two hours. I don’t do much nature walks outside of Botanic Gardens, but this trip to see the lake pushed me to make the most of the environment around me. 

How my body feels after a week without coffee and alcohol. Credit: Michelle Varinata

If I wasn’t feeling active, I could go for massages and spa treatments. Watsu, a shiatsu in the water massage, was a treatment recommended by the nurse. Like a baptism, I floated above the pool while my masseuse applied gentle pressure on my body as she moved me around the water. There was zero aching while my muscles were being kneaded in the water. Sometimes, I couldn’t relax at some massages as the pressure was too painful, but at Viva Mayr, the watsu massage helped me to catch up on more hours of sleep as I struggled with insomnia. It felt like all my aches disappeared during one treatment as it was designed to offset inflammation. 

Medicine meets spa

Spa treatments could run the risk of being too basic; however, the types of spa treatments being offered were body wraps and ionic foot baths, which both assist in detoxification. The former was recommended by a friend of mine, who sang the praises of the salt wrap. I floated on top of the Dead Sea a few years ago but never had I ever had salt wrapped around my body. I laid on top of a tarp, had liquid salt massaged on my limbs and chest, then slept for an hour as I floated on top of a water bed-like table. Acting as an exfoliant, the salt helped to shed dead skin faster as it removed toxins from my skin. Compared to a standard body wrap, the salt wrap left my skin feeling softer than a baby’s.

Tried an electrolysis foot bath once. Credit: Michelle Varinata

Not a conventional treatment I would get anywhere, the electrolysis bath consisted of me soaking my feet for 50 minutes with a ion-based battery. The colour of the water transformed into a shade of poop brown, a result of detoxification of the bowels, liver, kidneys and removal of blood clots. Though I was someone who had zero problems with my internal organs, it was a shock to my system to see how much toxins from my alcohol and pastry consumption were previously absorbed into my body.

While I thought I would have time to relax, the medical concierge at Viva Mayr booked me on back to back treatments that were scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends. It was out of my routine, but it was something I had to adjust to.

Wearing a mask is recommended in the medical area, but I just love how I can sleep like a baby during my IV infusion. Credit: Michelle Varinata 

What medical treatments can you try? 

Apart from the spa treatments, I was directed to try intense medical treatments despite not having any chronic illness save for my general lethargy caused by late nights and spending too much time in front of a screen. Usually, I’d do a vitamin-laced IV drip to offset the side effects of lifestyle induced lethargy but, I was booked to try a hypoxi training oxygen machine. A machine that dispenses oxygen, I had to do intervals of 20 minutes of breathing followed by three minutes of rest in between. This machine was used to help me assist with pacing my breathing and increase energy into my body. I wore a clear plastic mask over my head that left me looking like Bane. 

Having to breathe through a mask was challenging the first five minutes, but it forced me to match the pace of the machine as it timed how much air you had to breathe and rest. Though this type of treatment was not something I could get in Singapore, trying out this funky machine was worth the journey for me as it forced me to train my brain into using breathing as a source of energy.

Throughout my stay, the hypoxi machine was a treatment I had to do three times as a way to make up for the lethargy I would face from my new detox diet. Most detox diets only focused on the food to do most of the detoxing, but Viva Mayr’s balance of detoxifying food, spa and medical treatments was a unique method that helped my body to detoxify and energise without the need for any medicines to assist with detoxing alongside fatigue. 

Cooking classes are offered in case you want to make the Viva Mayr food at home! Credit: Michelle Varinata

A new perspective

Throughout the 10 days I spent at Viva Mayr, it changed my perspective on detoxing. Detoxing from certain food and drinks was a form of detox I understood best. However, I realised that detox also meant detoxing from electronics, unhealthy mindsets (e.g. can’t live without your phone) alongside being open to different forms of self care. Though Viva Mayr was a long stay, I drank less, ate without stuffing my mouth and continued to indulge myself in massages. Phone-wise, I only posted whenever I felt like posting without the need to be hung up on algorithms all day. Would I do it again? I would. In fact, I left feeling like I wanted to come back to Viva Mayr every year.