An old friend thought she was pregnant. Helen Wilkinson thought it was time to get thin and clean with a week of intense naturopathy
Modern life: stress, poor diet, not enough exercise. For me the last straw was meeting a schoolfriend after 14 years who asked when the baby was due. I am not pregnant. It was time to book into Tyringham, one of Britain's leading naturopathy clinics.

Tyringham doesn't just give you a body MOT like most health farms. It gives you a philosophy. The idea is to expunge the body's toxins by a week on strict detox: a battery of heat- and water-based treatments including steam tubs, sitz baths, wax treatments, massages, Jacuzzis, sauna and pool aerobics, and a strict salt-free diet or fast, so the body "flushes" itself. The only thing they don't do is irrigate your colon.

Day One - en route: a McDonald's burger. I arrive 10 minutes after the 10pm curfew and am just able to make out the beautiful Georgian mansion.

Day Two - Sunday About to tuck into my muesli, I am whisked away to see the consultant. He marks me in the category Lifestyle Change, recommends a two-day fast and reminds me that "anyone can change their lifestyle if they have willpower".

Strolling around the nearby woods, Inotice fish and chip wrappings left by guilty absconders. My lunch and supper are herb tea. I join a group to meditate. Images of food dominate.

Day Three - Monday Day two of the fast, first day of major treatment. I start with a sitz bath, my bottom being dunked alternately in hot and cold water to boost circulation. I'm sent off to sit in a room where a machine pumps out purified air to clear my airways. I'm accompanied by an 89-year-old lady who thinks she is still in the waiting room. I think about eating her.

Day Four - Tuesday The fast finishes. Now acupuncture for repetitive strain injury. I ask that it be used to remove my appetite as well. Lunch: unsalted vegetable soup - I think I would be better off fasting. For the 45 people at Tyringham, conversations always gravitate back to weights and ailments.

Day Five - Wednesday I feel slimmer, lighter, energetic. My skin is smoother.Hooray. My day's highlight is a visit to the osteopath who locates spinal twists I didn't know I had, then savagely cracks me into shape. I leave feeling several inches taller.

Later, during a wax bath, a middle-aged male sceptic tells me that naturopathy has been disproved. I am so relaxed that I don't care whether it works or not. Still, later several patients claim that the air purifying room has cleared their nasal passages when it turns out that the machine wasn't switched on. I learn a renegade group has escaped to the pub. Inner discipline indeed.

Day Six - Thursday Breakfast: the talk is of the escape party. One escapee, herself a regular, tells us in the early days the owner would raid the pub and drag patients back. Now local takeaways are barred from delivering. I have an appointment with a seaweed bath (smelly) and later am treated to the infernal current: an electric current passes through my body, stimulating the nerves. Life returns to my fingers.

Day Seven - Friday Weighing day. I have lost 9lbs. The doctor confides that two people have actually put weight on. I have two hours of aromatherapy. The therapist is also a reflexologist. She says I grind my teeth and hold the car wheel too tight - all from two minutes playing with my feet.

Day Eight - Saturday I wish I had another week, but resolve that this is the beginning of a new life. En route to London on the M1, I realise I am gripping the steering wheel like there is no tomorrow. Still, I can't expect Tyringham to be a cure-all. It's a start. That night I meet up with a friend over salad and mineral water. She asks me where my stomach has gone.

Helen Wilkinson spent seven nights at Tyringham for pounds 286 in a three- bed dorm with en-suite facilities. Single room costs pounds 449. All weekly tariffs include three massages, two visits to an acupuncturist, a visit to an osteopath and five to six heat- and water-based treatments a day. For more details here and abroad, call Healthy Venues: 01203 690 300.