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Learning to live healthier in Phuket

PHUKET: I needed to do something for myself. As a mother of two small children, I have found it increasingly hard to keep on top of my fitness routine recently, let alone when you also factor in the overindulging that comes with visitors over high season.

Wednesday 9 July 2014, 04:41PM

By Kiri Heald

It was time for a jump start, and I desperately needed some sleep. Then I found the perfect solution: Santosa’s personalised, three-day “Active Cleanse”.

I arrived early on Friday morning to be greeted by Santosa Wellness Center Manager Sarah Nockles. She gave me a comprehensive tour of the facilities and sat me down to go through my schedule for the next three days, and to fully explain the benefits of the “active cleanse” and what to expect – physically and mentally.

A raw vegan diet supplemented with fresh juices is provided, and you are encouraged to join as many of the fitness classes on offer as you like, and, in addition, use their sauna, ice pool and gym. I was given a “Detox Diary” in which to record my diet, timetable and progress, plus reflect on my mind, body and spiritual health. The latter helps you to take control and be more self-aware.

I was too late to join the yoga class that morning, but Head Chef Manoj Poudel was waiting at the Santosa Vegetarian Restaurant to give me my first of several daily raw cooking classes.

Yes, probably like many of you, I was very sceptical about the whole raw vegan food diet, but Manoj taught me some great family-friendly recipes over the course of my stay, as well as showed me how to prepare and source ingredients and make my own sun-dried tomatoes without a dehydrator.

My favourite dishes were probably the “Caesar” salad with a flavourful creamy dressing made from, surprise, cashews, and the decadent chocolate fudge that is actually healthy for you.

Next up was one of the many fitness classes that I enjoyed during my stay. Although I do go to the gym fairly regularly, I felt the classes were challenging and well presented with a qualified trainer. The TRX Class was amazing and something I had never tried before – it really works your core and I like how it used your body weight as resistance (by long handles hung from the ceiling). Also as part of my cleanse I had a personal training class that allowed me to focus on some key areas and get advice on exercises I could do at home.

Laguna Golf Phuket

While I’ve never been a “yoga person”, since it was recommended by Sarah I made sure to attend the next session. I found it to be very helpful in stretching out my sore muscles and releasing tension. Once again, the instructor (The Phuket News’ columnist Kim White) was very knowledgeable and made sure that my posture was correct, assisting me to get into the position required.

Morning meditation was also something new for me, as in my busy life I rarely have time to sit down for 20 minutes, let alone think about “nothing”. But I was surprised at the calm and peacefulness it gave me, really helping to put me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

Of course, one of the highlights every day was a body massage. Exactly the kind of pampering a person needs with all this exercising and healthy eating. I looked forward to nodding off for an hour while the masseuse kneaded and smoothed my aches away.

After classes were done for the day, I headed for the steam room and ice bath. What an experience – sitting in a boiling sauna until you’re really hot, then running and climbing into an ice bath for as long as you can stand it then running back into the hot sauna. The first time I tried the ice bath I was only able to submerge my lower half for a few seconds, but by the time I left I got completely in for a count of 10. The ice bath/sauna improves circulation and increases energy and wellbeing, plus relieves pain (or as Sarah explained to me, it shocks your body into survival mode, so it needs to repair itself faster).
I took my meals in the restaurant. Having eaten it for three days straight, I now know that raw food is definitely not boring or bland.

Manoj – a trained hotel chef – has come up with some great flavours and textures, playing on classic favourites such as zucchini pasta with tomato sauce, raw ravioli with salads, and the rather moreish healthy “crackers” made in the dehydrator. Great service and presentation with a view overlooking Kata and the ocean, were bonuses.
My schedule probably sounds busy, but there was an adequate amount of down time, during which I read a book, took photos and relaxed. I avoided the TV and the internet (mostly) and I slept, man did I sleep. I haven’t slept so well in three years!

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy but it was worth it. The experience gave me a new perspective on my health, my diet and my fitness, and how important it is to look after yourself. What I enjoyed the most are the classes that Santosa offers, with professional, qualified instructors, which are open to both guests and the general public (they even offer special discount rates for “locals” like me). Even if you’re not training here, I recommend trying the restaurant, which also does cooked vegan food, and is a great option for the island’s vegans.

And so, after three days of healthy eating and exercising, did I celebrate by picking up an extra large pizza and a tub of ice cream? I’m not going to lie, I was tempted, but I refrained. Maybe things are changing – thanks Santosa.

For more information on classes and courses, visit



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