We all know about detoxing, right? Old-style detoxing is about laying off the toxins after the party season; the pretox is all about laying up merit so as to eat, drink and loaf around for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Detoxing is a dreary affair which casts a blight over the new year; pretoxing is all about anticipation — cleansing the system before you hit the champagne, a quick hit of exercise, healthy eating and abstinence before the pudding and port.
The first step is cleansing from the inside. ‘What you’ve got to do,’ a girlfriend told me, ‘is get Teapigs’ Matcha Green Tea. It’s amazing. It gets your metabolism going and your skin looks really good and you lose weight.’ This wonderproduct is actually a little box of light green powdered tea. You mix a tiny spoonful with liquid and drink. It’s tasteless, £25, and an easy-peasy way to get your system going.
Next I got on to Pure Package, the company that takes the choice out of dieting by delivering your day’s food to your very door. I tried it for five days. It’s good stuff: three balanced meals a day and a couple of snacks including a substantial salad and a bit of fruit. You need, however, to have the minimal self-restraint to space out your quota. Reader: I ate my breakfast, lunch and both snacks by 9.45 a.m. on the first day. It worked, though. I lost three pounds in five days.
Bodyism at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge is where fat cats go to become sleeker, leaner cats. It’s the baby of James Duigan, an Australian fitness and diet expert whose best-known client is Elle ‘the Body’ Macpherson. The going rate is £1,500 for a week’s package that includes spa treatments and training sessions. I went twice. As Nathalie, the lovely Swedish girl who put me through my paces, remarked, the cost means ‘our clients are very, very motivated’. Exercise is part of the system, a manageable eight minutes a day, but diet is the big element. So, sugar’s out; so are refined carbs (white bread and pasta) and, um, alcohol, though it took me half a minute to spot that James prefers white spirits and red wine to other drink, if you really must. Organic everything, full-fat everything, and avocados at every opportunity. It’s really very sensible. Oh — his other tip is to take a bath with Epsom salts twice a week. That’s right, Epsom salts.
Pretoxing, like most things, starts in the mind, and my mind, frankly, is that of a greedy and slothful piglet. So I took myself off to Susan Hepburn, the Harley Street hypnotherapist who specialises in weight loss. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about hypnosis. She’s friendly and down to earth and can sort out most errant eaters in three sessions. Does it work? All I can say is, after my first session, I spent the best part of a week in the same house as an almond and raspberry cake and didn’t touch it.
London at present is blessed with some brilliant new LA-style fitness centres — gym is too coarse a word. There’s been endless hype about Equinox in Kensington and it took one visit to see why. The trainers go to enormous trouble to test your fitness, fatness and flexibility before you even start. Nick, a nice Californian, measured everything from my gait to my blood pressure before he started the workout and when he did, it was geared to what I could do and wanted to do. It sounds obvious but not everyone does it.
Barry’s Bootcamp is a Hollywood favourite and opens in London in the new year. I got a preview session from Olly Truelove, one of the instructors. It’s famous for burning about 1,000 calories an hour and by God you can see how. Classes consist of 20 to 40 people, there’s a mixture of loud music, cardio exercise and weights, and you get a trainer bellowing at you throughout. Sounds awful? Stars from Katie Holmes to Sandra Bullock are queuing up to do it. The thing is, each spurt of exercise lasts only a minute or two, which makes it somehow do-able. My half-hour session nearly killed me but as Olly says, ‘after a Barry’s workout you can eat anything’. Yay!
But if you want to sub-contract out the whole business of pretoxing to the experts, let me recommend La Réserve in Geneva, a fab hotel-cum-spa ten minutes from the airport, which does it all for you. For £3,620 for the four-day detox you get a doctor’s and osteopath’s assessment, diet advice, personal training and an apparently endless succession of very good spa treatments: the three-in-one targets cellulite the way a vacuum cleaner targets dust.
But obviously, there’s a sybaritic element to the pretox. Espa has a very good range of pretox/detox products. The mineral salt scrub is lovely and so is the seaweedy Detox Bath. In fact, I had an entire Espa detox treatment at the Bulgari spa, including an algae wrap which sent me straight off.
But the best therapeutic treatments to get rid of toxins in the body involve no unguents at all. It’s manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, which works through gentle massage to stimulate the body’s own mechanism for shifting toxins, the lymph system. I swear, it can make you look like you’ve been on holiday. So there you go: a pretox in a fortnight. I’m five pounds thinner, a party-dress-fit New Woman and my toxins are on the run. So energised and cleansed, it’s time to party. Gangway for the pudding! Bring on the eggnog!
Pure Package, purepackage.com; Bodyism at the Bulgari, pre-Christmas Clean and Lean spa day, £380, or a week for £1,500, 020 7151 1055;- Equinox, Kensington, 020 7666 6000, www.equinox.com; Barry’s Bootcamp, 020 7387 7001, www.barrysbootcamp.com; La Réserve Geneva, £3,620 for four-day detox programme, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0041 22 959 5959; MLD — see mlduk.org for list of practitioners.