The original Mayr Clinic sits in a to-die-for location
The original Mayr Clinic sits in a to-die-for location

Mayr Clinic: What it's like to spend a week at a world-famous clinic for healthy living

Good digestion equals happiness, is the message at Austria's famous Mayr Clinic. Dan Gledhill checks in to check it out

Dan Gledhill@Dangledhill
Monday 24 July 2017 14:24
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The Mayr clinic resort on Austria’s Lake Worthersee is not so much a break for you as for your stomach. From the moment you arrive, the message is drummed in. Good digestion equals good health equals happiness. And the way to good digestion is a rigorously controlled diet shorn of sugar, meat, animal fats, anything raw, coffee, alcohol… (I could go on but it would be quicker to list what you are allowed to consume). And I’m happy to report, perhaps contrary to expectations, that a happy stomach does indeed equal a happy holiday.

The original Mayr clinic, where I stayed for a week, was opened in 1976 by Dr Erich Rauch (who lived down the road). He was a student of the school of medicine developed by the eponymous Dr Franz Xaver Mayr, who was convinced that bad diet was the root of many modern health problems. Hence the idea of a resort that combines a five-star luxury hotel in an idyllic setting with a medical regime designed to restore and rejuvenate.

So to the diet. Breakfast is a small pot of yoghurt and a spartan hunk of buckwheat bread. That would be sheep’s-milk yoghurt because farmed sheep are healthier than cows and their milk contains less lactose. Thought soya milk was healthiest? Think again – who knows what pesticides have been used on the crop. And buckwheat bread because it’s gluten free. I’d naively assumed bread would be verboten but it’s there on the diet as a chewing device. Yes, chewing. That’s another big thing at Mayr. The more effectively you succeed in liquefying food in your mouth, the easier it is to digest. So chew each (small) morsel at least 30 times before swallowing (although with practice you can achieve the same result with 20 chews by the end of your stay). To wash it down, you get a pretty minuscule vegetable smoothie. (I say wash it down but I shouldn’t: we are strongly advised to avoid consuming liquids for 30 minutes before and after every meal).

It's not all buckwheat bread - you can relax by the lake as well

Lunch (five hours later, always leave five hours between meals – no snacking) is a perfunctory but very tasty bowl of vegetable broth which serves to rehydrate and boosts “alkalinity”, another term you’ll hear a lot. And dinner is a clear soup made from boiled vegetables. Clear because the less solid food you consume late in the day, the better – never go to bed on a full stomach.

It doesn’t sound like much fun. And to Puritanise mealtimes even further, guests are asked to leave their smartphones in their rooms and even (at lunch, at least) to eat in silence. Concentrate on the chewing!

And yet… the food, what little there is, tastes delicious. And it’s remarkable how absorbing the challenge of properly chewing one’s meal becomes. Plus there’s a spellbinding view across the lake if a distraction is required.

That’s the thing about Mayr. The deprivation is sweetened by such a beautiful setting that it doesn’t feel like deprivation. And the resort has the quality of amenities and service you would expect from a five-star hotel (the managing director, Gabriella Schnitzler, formerly worked for Prada and knows a thing or two about luxury). I didn't once suffer from hunger pangs during my stay.

The phone ban is a revelation. Guests actually talk to each other – occasionally to complain about missing chocolate but more commonly to boast of how good they feel.

Dr Stephan Domenig (right) and his team

Then there’s the medical attention, which is first rate. Every day I had a session with my doctor, Annette, who put me on a complex regimen of treatments – including alkaline powders, oily mouthwashes, Epsom salts and magnesium supplements – and gave me expert stomach massages to help shift gassy deposits. Various treatments are recommended, from Kneipp hot-and-cold foot baths to all-over massages. There’s a pool and gym equipment at Mayr but excessively rigorous exercise is not recommended.

The ethos, according to the head physician, Dr Stephan Domenig, is as follows: “It’s about respect for the healing of nature, persuading our system to wait, counterbalancing stress.”

So who comes to Mayr? According to Dr Domenig: “Stressed people. Although they may not know that’s why. Stress comes in many forms – it can be manifested in stomach problems, adrenal problems, immune problems, even hair loss. But it’s all caused by stress.”

The rooms could be your average five-star hotel

And why the emphasis on the stomach?

“At worst, the stomach becomes a cemetery for roasted chicken. When stuff isn't digested properly it putrefies, causing gas which in turn causes bacteria.”

Which might be enough to put you off your food for life – or move into Mayr permanently. In fact the parting message is rather less draconian. Go home, eat a bit less, avoid certain foods, fast once a week, and come back to Mayr once a year – which most guests do. I can understand why.

Travel essentials

Getting there

The closest airport is Ljubljana, a 90-minute drive away. Wizz Air flies from Luton from £36, while easyJet flies from Gatwick from £42 return.

Staying there

The Mayr Basic programme at the Original FX Mayr costs from €1,350 per week and includes all meals and a seven-day programme including medical examinations, detox and massage. Accommodation is extra and costs from €1,120pp per week, on a room only basis.

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