[This post is first in a series about my stay at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. I'll be writing about my experience during the three-week Life Transformation Program.(you'll find the second installment here. Please note that these posts reflect my own impression and opinion of the program; I was not compensated in any way, financial or otherwise, to write these reviews, and I participated as a paying guest just like everyone else there. I hope you enjoy this insider's look into the program and institute! You can find the second installment here (about the diet) and the final one (with results of all my treatments) here.]
[Entrance to the Hacienda building, the original building that started it all! They've expanded quite a bit since.]
My, my, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea and settle in. . . I’ve got lots to share!
As some of you know, I’ve spent the last three weeks at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, in their Life Transformation Program. Let just say that the program is aptly named; it has been, truly, a transformative experience. I’ve undergone an incredible amount of detox, healing and learning in the past three weeks; and I’ve loved every second of it (yes, even the detox headache, weepiness and sinus congestion those first couple of days!). In fact, I feel as if so much has happened that it’s difficult to put into words (which is why it’s taken me so long to write this post). Thank you all for your patience!
Since there’s no way I could sum up everything that transpired in a single blog post, I thought I’d share in stages. Today’s post will review the institute in general, their approach and philosophy, which may be of interest to those of you considering this type of detox or battling a serious health condition. Installment number Two will feature the diet itself and how it heals, plus major therapies; finally, I’ll end with the piece de resistance–how my (and others’) health was affected while there.
Why did I choose Hippocrates?
As may be the case for many of you, my life in recent months seemed to ricochet between work, blogging, social media, smart phone, appointments, food prep and myriad other obligations that were never quite met.
My daily “to-do” list regularly contained 8-12 items, yet I’d manage to accomplish only one or two, wondering where the other 16 hours of the day went. After two years of writing books back-to-back, full-time blogging, freelance writing, recipe developing, holding down a “real” job (I teach full-time at a college) and frantically trying to answer all the emails I get in a day (and seriously, when did I ever subscribe to all those newsletters?!!), I felt entirely burnt out. And sitting all day most days with my derrière planted on a chair at my computer, turning it off at midnight so I could fall into bed, certainly wasn’t helping.
[Rear entrance to the Hacienda. Don't you feel more peaceful already?]
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I love (I lurrrrve!) my work here on the blog and in the kitchen. It’s just that I had somehow allowed the concept of “balance” to fall from my vocabulary.
Ever since I was diagnosed with candida in early 2009 and started the anti-candida diet, my health had been on an upward trajectory. After implementing the strict diet for the first 6 months or so, then slowly easing up and reintroducing more candida-friendly foods until I was on maintenance, I felt better than ever. My weight dropped effortlessly; my candida rash disappeared; my head cleared; and my body felt better than it had in years.
Then, a few months ago, I began to notice the effects of too much work and not enough recuperation. I was overwhelmed and basically stressed out on a daily basis. I kept telling myself, “You need to relax! You need to play! You need to meditate!” Instead, I became a walking illustration of the truism, “If you don’t have time to meditate once a day. . . then you should meditate twice a day.” It seemed the only time the HH and I ever saw each other was to mumble “goodnight” before our heads hit the pillows; and without The Girls, I likely wouldn’t have breathed outdoor air for about 4 months straight.
Slowly, the weight began to return. Aches and pains appeared where they’d never been before. The rash began to flare even when I didn’t eat any “banned” foods (I’ve never veered from the maintenance diet–more than five years without a granule of sugar, no gluten, no alcohol, etc.). Needless to say, the situation became rather disconcerting. Despite supplements and short-term detoxes, nothing seemed to help.
I realized that I needed a stronger intervention; enter Hippocrates. Although I’d known about the place for a few years, I finally decided to bite the bullet and just register. And let me tell you, for this uber
economical frugal parsimonious cheap gal, it was quite a leap. But now, having gone and returned home, I can say unequivocally that it was worth every single penny–and more.
[One of the many fountains and sitting areas on the 50-acre campus.]
Hippocrates: An Incredible Healing Synergy
April 6, 2014. Arrived today and nervous about meeting everyone. I needn’t have worries; orientation was incredible. So many striking stories. First met E, who is incredibly beautiful and well put-together, with features like Sharon Stone and a voice like Kathleen Turner. After months of asking her doctor to test her, they finally discovered tumors throughout her legs and a major tumor in her brain. What I thought was perfectly coiffed hair was actually a wig. She’s always so well dressed, with an easy, sandpaper laugh–one that emerges surprisingly often given the situation.
Or S, whose husband died from cancer last month, and who was herself diagnosed only four days later. She booked her trip to Hippocrates that week. She never had a chance to mourn her husband, and is now determined to beat the disease that snatched him out of her life. She has the warmest eyes and one of the sweetest smiles I’ve ever seen.
I can’t help but smile at H, too, whose cherubic cheeks and twinkling blue eyes suggest a youthful impishness–despite her 39 years. With three children and a husband at home, she ventured across the globe from Norway to stay here after she’d had a mastectomy and radiation in 2011. Last month’s checkup revealed new tumors in her other breast, as well as some that had infiltrated her lungs. Now that she knows the effects of the allopathic treatment, she refused it and came here instead. She strikes me as incredibly brave.
So, just what is this Hippocrates place, anyway, and what exactly do they do there? If you’re envisioning a typical spa vacation, think again (and in that case, the Institute is likely not for you). Instead, what you find at Hippocrates is a genuine, and very intentional, focus on health and healing, and that’s their number one priority. In fact, as I said when I received my certificate and “graduated” from the program, there is a palpable energy that you can feel from the staff and employees there. Virtually everyone I encountered exuded a vibe that communicated, “I want what is best for you, and I want you to heal whatever isn’t working.” I’ve literally never met a staff that is more willing to help, more generous or more kind in their dealings with guests. Basking in that positive, compassionate, caring energy for three weeks alone was enough to make anyone feel better!
[Waiting area for various treatments at the Oasis spa.]
April 9, 2014. I’m continually amazed by the level of service at this place. When I discovered that I’d need a new pair of prescription support socks (stupid me for thinking I wouldn’t need them here!), the guest services not only did the research and called around to find two local medical outlets; but Andie even DROVE ME TO THE PLACE herself!! So lovely. Thank goodness I was able to get them here. . . so much more comfortable now.
April 25, 2014. Final graduation ceremony, and of course I spent half of it bawling like a baby. One of the most touching stories was B’s account of how, since she had problems raising her arms and couldn’t juice her own wheatgrass, Pam skipped her lunch hour to do it for her–for the entire three months of her stay. Above and beyond!
Hippocrates is probably best known as a program for last-chance cancer patients. Often patients who have been neglected or let down by conventional medicine go there because they have no other options; sometimes, if they have done their research or already have a holistic bent, they will seek out Hippocrates before the situation becomes dire. Kris Carr, for instance, famously visited the Institute while on her quest to heal from her Stage IV epithelioid hemangioendothelioma cancer in her liver and lungs. Now ten years later, she is the image of glowing, vibrant health and is free of symptoms. Hippocrates is also known to have one of the highest recovery rates in the world for stage four cancer patients of all kinds.
So what makes this place so magical?
[Walkway between the main building and the smaller buildings on campus.]
Hippocrates Philosophy: Treat the Whole Person, Body Mind and Spirit
What makes Hippocrates unique, in my opinion, is the balanced focus on all parts of an individual–body, mind and spirit. In this way, it truly is a “holistic” program. Led by husband and wife team Brian and Anna Maria Clement (who took over directorship from the original director, Ann Wigmore, in 1980), the program is designed very specifically to treat all aspects of the person.
While the food is the cornerstone of the physical treatment, there is so much more than diet advocated at the Institute: guests are encouraged to eat raw, living foods, and green juices, of course; but they are exhorted, perhaps even more, to change their attitude about their illness, take charge of their lives and responsibility for their own healing, and deal with any mental or spiritual impediments to that goal. As Brian Clement mentioned in one of the talks I attended, you can eat the most perfect food on earth and still be sick if you’re stressed out, never exercise, or have no joy or relaxation in your life.
The program is also based on extensive research and the science behind it; they regularly examine studies to find the the key components of a long, healthy life, and then adapt the program to reflect the very latest techniques and approaches.
[Dr. Brian Clement, the Institute Director, lecturing in the Hut. His lectures were always hugely popular with standing room only at the back.]
As a three-week guest in their “Life Transformation Program,” here’s what I received (I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things, but here’s a fairly comprehensive list):
General: [note: unless designated as "optional," everything listed below was included in the basic cost of the stay.]
- full room and board at the Institute; a Welcome binder with 239 pages of information, articles, recipes, tips, notes, etc outlining the program and how to implement it at home;
- access to all the on-site facilities on the 50-acre, toxin-free, meticulously landscaped and tended, stunning and idyllic grounds (see below);
- access to any of the staff, including guest services (for general help/inquiries; staff nurses; the two directors, Brian and Anna Maria Clement; kitchen staff; and anyone else on staff);
- weekly all-inclusive excursions (paid for by Hippocrates) to local stores, beaches, and raw food restaurants;
- once or twice weekly entertainment, such as musicians, belly dancing, comedy shows, etc.
- complimentary blood draws with full reports of blood results and consultation about the results;
- weekly weight/blood pressure measures;
- a host of complimentary alternative treatments (see below) each week;
- complimentary fitness, yoga, meditation, therapy, etc (see below);
- Graduation ceremony and celebration, including food to send you off on your trip home;
- follow up from the staff within a month and thereafter;
- free copies of the Institute’s magazine;
- lifelong friendships with other participants!
Specific treatments/offerings for “Body”:
- living space free of toxins (filtered water including showers and pools, clear air with no pesticide use anywhere, protections against electromagnetic pollution)
- daily wheatgrass juice (2x/day)
- daily super-nutritious green juice (2x/day)
- as much pure, filtered water as you can drink all day
- breakfast if warranted/desired (cold or hot cereal)
- lunch and dinner buffet with huge variety of fresh, 100% organic raw sprouts and vegetables, plus raw “happy food” addition(s) each meal (such as Caesar Salad, Stuffed Avocados, Raw Pizza, Raw Tacos, Raw Pad Thai, etc; and ice cream dessert on Saturdays–whoo hoo!)
- complimentary treatments each week (up to 11 different treatments, including massage, various types of laser treatments, H-Wave treatment, colonic, mind-body assessment appointment; plus optional additional spa treatments such as acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, deep tissue massage, manual lymphatic drainage, neuromuscular therapy (designed specifically to reduce pain), reflexology, facials, reiki, Thai yoga massage, seaweed and clay bodywrap, and more.
- fitness center with optional personal fitness trainer; exercise classes; organized hikes, walks or runs; aqua fitness; rebounder/stretch/strengthen classes;
- five saltwater pools with hot/cold pool, mineral salts pool, regular swimming pools
- saunas and infrared saunas available in various buildings for use whenever you like
Specific treatments/offerings for “Mind”:
- several lectures each day on a variety of topics; some of my favorites included “Detox and Elmination”; “Food Combining”; “Mind, Body and Spirit Connection” panel discussion; “Sprouting Techniques”; “Kitchen Techniques” series (with recipe demos); “Principles of Health”; “Ancient and Current Self-Help Techniques”; “Self-Lymph Breast Massage for Men and Women”; plus many others I’m sure I’ve forgotten!
- complimentary individual therapy session with one of the two amazing psychotherapists on staff
- leisure events (music, excursions to Target, beaches, restaurants, mall, etc); entertainent (music, singing, dancing, etc.); a full library of books, videos, DVDs, games, etc.
- complimentary and voluntary participation in Healing Circle (group therapy with psychotherapist) and journalling classes
Specific treatments/offerings for “Spirit”:
- daily complimentary meditation classes
- daily complimentary meditative exercises like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Kundalini Moving Meditation, yoga
- optional shuttle to place of worship off-site each weekend
If that sounds like a lot, it was!
In fact, I was amazed at how busy I was that first week! Between visits with the nurses, my health assessment meeting, orientation events, tour of the property, basics of wheatgrass and juicing, lectures and meals, I literally fell into bed exhausted by 10:00 PM each evening (and several evenings, long before that!). Nothing like the “turn off the computer at midnight and fall into bed” end-of-day routine I’d left behind.
[Walkway outside the Oasis spa.]
Fairly quickly, though, I established a new routine: the day began with a shot of wheatgrass juice (which guests juiced themselves in the always-open Juice Bar); then to lemon water and a dehydrated buckwheat cereal for me (breakfast is recommended only to those guests for whom it’s deemed necessary; however, the kitchen is always open, and if you feel you need a bowlful, they are always happy to accommodate). Additional power green juice is served at 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, with lunch between 12:30 and 2:00 and dinner between 5:30 and 7:00. Herbal teas and filtered water are available all day.
April 16, 2014. I’m continually amazed by the calm, kind, accommodating staff at this place. Despite the massive buffet lunch and dinner, the kitchen is always open to anyone, and they even had a doorbell just outside the kitchen door so you can summon someone any time you need something! I can’t even remember all the times I’ve rung for a straw or a cover for my plastic cup so I can take it outside and walk around. They always show up in seconds, smiling, happy to provide whatever you ask for. If only I could get the HH to do this at home!
[Another bench to sit and rest, or reflect.]
Between meals, I scurried from lectures to treatments to massages to the pool to long strolls on the grounds to long chats with people I’d met there. More on those next time.
April 8, 2014. This place is so incredibly beautiful, and has obviously been planned with every detail in mind. I feel totally safe walking along the paths between buildings or anywhere on campus. And wherever I turn, there’s one sign or another that this place is intended for you to relax, reflect, and heal. Benches line the pathways, with little sculptures and statues here and there; streams, fountains, waterfalls adorn the property; foliage is lush and tropical, and even the trees are smiling down on you.
[Happy tree on one of the many walkways.]
April 15, 2014. Today I tried the meditation Labyrinth for the first time. It’s not really a maze, since there’s only one way in, and once in the center, you go out the same way you came. The idea is to meditate on what in your life is good, or what you want more of, as you walk slowly in; then think about what aspects of your life you’d like to change or get rid of on the way out. It took me about 15 minutes and I just loved doing it. I’m feeling calmer and more grounded every day (though I do miss the HH and Girls). I suppose the weekly massages and saunas don’t hurt, either.
April 12, 2014. R tells me this is his second visit to Hippocrates. I’m so impressed with him! He’s an emergency physician from Mobile, Alabama. He came here because he was disillusioned with the conventional system and felt it was failing too many patients; he wants to try to change the system from within. Go, R!! When he started eating this way, his blood pressure and blood glucose levels improved and he wasn’t as hungry; I’m finding the same thing–with all these drinks and meals, keeping my blood sugar stable, I haven’t had a single craving since I got here . And R told me he lost 15 pounds in three weeks–bonus!
If you’ve made it this far, dear reader, I applaud you! I hope you’ve got a good general impression of the place so far.
In upcoming installments, I’ll share more about what I ate and the treatments I received during my stay.
[Evening settles on the Hippocrates campus.]
Is there something specific about the place or my trip that you’d like to know about? I’d love to answer any questions you may have! Please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer, either here or in the upcoming installments!
Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls! Click here to subscribe to RickiHeller.com via email. You’ll get recipes as soon as they’re posted, plus cookbook updates and news about upcoming events! (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as we love treats!”