MOUNTAIN views, spa-like surroundings, and around-the-clock room service – all the ingredients for a great holiday.

The only catch here is that there is no food. Well, very little of it.

Buchinger Wilhelmi is a world leading therapeutic fasting clinic on the glorious shores of Lake Constance in the German town of Uberlingen. And this clinic-come-medi-spa retreat is designed for guests looking to detox from daily life.

For some this may mean a post-lockdown detoxification – perhaps after hitting the treats and afternoon wines a little too much.

Others may require a mental health retreat to take time out and recharge after a stressful few months.

Whatever the reason, the original – and I am told by many, the best – therapeutic fasting clinic gives you the ultimate, no-nonsense recipe to do all this.

The retreat is made-up of a minimum 10-day stay – including six days of full fasting – under medical supervision of in-house doctors and nurses. Shorter stays without fasting are also possible.

Running throughout the stay is a host of therapies – sometimes at eye-watering additional cost – including practices such as osteopathy (115euros), leech therapy (160euros), and all kinds of massages from herbal to health related (a cabbage compress to cellulite massages for instance).

There is also a jam-packed schedule of optional extras including cooking demonstrations (my favourite despite not eating!), personal training, art classes, language lessons, and seminars that are inclusive. Then there is a gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, and saunas – everything and anything to keeping your mind off the lack of food.

Mention the two words ‘fasting retreat’ and it is met with bewildered responses consisting mostly of ‘you’re paying to not eat?’.

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Before coming, I admit I was the same. But a flicker of curiosity prompted me to sign myself up to the 10-day stretch, knowing that for a lover of all things food – mainly cake – it would be the ultimate challenge.

Fear most definitely surrounded the days leading up to the trip, not helped by the taxi driver who shepherded me from Zurich Airport to the clinic opting to point out only one local point of interest: the closest hospital.

But, almost all my preconceived ideas were wrong. We didn’t arrive at a gated clinic, where once inside you are trapped. Instead, I found a functional, no-frills hotel with beautiful views from almost every corner, with the odd white-coated medic pacing the halls every now and then.

Check-in was efficient and I was taken through to my first meal of the stay, armed with an instructional iPad that all new guests receive for their stay.

The iPad proved a clever touch and it was comforting to have video updates of what to expect each day while your digestive system goes through a lot of changes. In fact it was vital when you’re as clueless about fasting as I was.

The whole stay, predictably, went like clockwork.

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The first day started with the process of being weaned off food, and included surprisingly filling light meals of braised leeks, lentil curry with cucumber and broccoli, salad or aubergine and courgette lasagne.

All meals totalled 800 calories that day (minus the fry-up I panic-ate at the airport that morning, obviously).

Guests are given one day to settle in, before a digestive rest day with an option of rice or potato-themed dishes all day.

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I opted for potato which meant it was fruit for breakfast then spinach and mash for lunch, and potato wedges and salad for dinner. Of course, every last bit was eaten to make the most of the food while it lasted.

On the same day you are introduced to your nurse, who you will see daily throughout your stay, to check your blood pressure and weight each morning. Again, it was a comforting addition knowing someone had a constant eye on my wellbeing throughout.

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On this second day, guests are also introduced to an assigned doctor, in my case Dr Lischke, for an initial examination. Thankfully this was simply a quick chat about existing health complaints, plus taking height, waist, and weight measurements.

So within the first 24 hours I had been weaned off food, seen one nurse, one doctor and booked in for the additional therapies of choice.

The final stage before fasting truly began was the slightly ironically named Welcome Cocktail – in reality a not-so-tasty fruit juice – plus an awkward introduction to us newcomers and guests.

The days of fasting that followed flew by – and, honestly, hunger didn’t feature once. It started with Glauber salts (a salt/laxative solution) which is designed to completely clear your system ready for fasting – the idea being your digestion can get a rest. However, as someone at risk of migraines, I was given an alternative.

A daily routine quickly became the norm: waking up to run across the corridor to the nurse every morning around 8am, then two scoops of honey and herbal tea for breakfast in my room afterwards while enjoying the beautiful views.

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Straight after, it was an activity or gym session from the huge amount staged daily, before lunch (one glass of fruit juice), then a recommended afternoon nap, before further evening activities either side of the vegetable broth that was for dinner.

The best part of the day was the midday nap – called a liver wrap, in which a nurse came to my room to place a hot water bottle and warm flannel on my belly. The nurse would then swaddle me up like a baby and leave me to sleep for at least an hour.

It was absolute heaven and something I was being told to do medically to help with the detoxification of the liver – guilt free napping.

The mixture of time out in a beautiful setting, weight loss, and ‘detoxification’ of my digestive system, left me feeling clear-minded, clean, and 10 times healthier.

The regular yoga sessions, sport facilities, movie nights, the fantastic Hayflower massage (82euros) and Shiatsu therapy (98euros) all added to the ease of tension. A particularly difficult German language lesson, and an un-beneficial osteopathy session (115euros) were less relaxing.

The cherry on the top were the cooking demonstrations. I know it sounds like a tease, but the butternut squash/pumpkin themed session I attended in the stand-alone kitchen was great.

A fantastic chef took guests through six or so recipes showing us how to make the most of seasonal vegetables.

I still can’t quite believe it myself, but the fasting was easy and actually quite enjoyable.

It apparently helps if you don’t already drink coffee or smoke, as there are fewer cravings to fight off.

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The fasting proved possible thanks to the clinic’s set up, away from temptations and enough distractions to occupy the mind. My experience, included losing almost 9lbs over10 days, and left me slightly confused when acknowledging my hunger.

Despite the day of ‘reintroducing you back to food’ it was a strange adjustment back to eating.

The ongoing effects include me no longer swearing by the three meal a day rule. I eat when I am hungry and avoid eating for the sake of eating. That is not to say I don’t gorge on cake on a regular basis still, but I feel I have a much healthier relationship with food.

I left with a refreshed mind, relaxed body, and a renewed relationship with food.

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  • GO: Buchinger Wilhelmi Lake Constance, Wilhelm-Beck-Str. 27, 88662 Überlingen, Germany
  • T +49 7551 8070
  • STAY: Buchinger Wilhelmi offers 10-day fasting programmes from £2,340 per person. The price includes two consultations with a doctor, daily nurse check ups, food/drink, fasting provisions and daily activities.
  • COVID-19: The clinic has not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and continues to take visitors with adaptations made to ensure safety for both guests and employees. Restrictions may apply to procedures on which details can be provided from the reservations department.
  • GET THERE: British Airways flights from London Heathrow to Zurich, Switzerland cost from £72 return. It is a 90 minute drive to Uberlingen.