The Viva Mayr’s newest property, Viva Altaussee, is a premiere med spa. (Photo: Viva Altaussee)
Imagine a spa retreat where celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley, the Duchess of York, and Uma Thurman are regulars. Sounds like it would be gauzy, relaxing and frou-frou, right?
That’s not quite the case at Austria’s Viva Mayr, the world’s premiere med spa, where it’s more about dawn wake-ups, IV vitamin infusions, rigorous exercise, colonics, and a daily bitter salt-water drink to make you go.
The spa — and its new sister property Viva Altaussee — operate on the Modern Mayr Medicine principle of detoxing, which involves optimizing digestion to clear skin, get rid of illness, and even address fertility issues and diabetes. (Bonus: you’re guaranteed to lose weight, thanks to strict diets tailored to each guest.) I visited Altaussee for a week to see if I could survive the world’s toughest spa. Here’s my story.
I arrive and go straight to dinner since the dining room closes at 6:30 to allow time for digestion before bed. When my dinner arrives, I’m ready to eat my napkin. A cup of broth and a piece of hard spelt bread are placed in front of me…and that’s it.
After dinner, I attend a lecture by Dr. Sepp Fegerl, who explains the principles of the Mayr Cure. The hard bread encourages chewing every bite forty times. (Remember your grandmother telling you to slow down and chew properly? Exactly.) No water half an hour before or an hour after meals and you eat your bigger meals earlier in the day. So, salads for dinner? Forget it. Nothing raw after 4pm.The dining room at Viva Altaussee. (Photo: Viva Altaussee)
Days begin early at Viva: I rise at 7 A.M. and drink the salt-water concoction from the lake outside. (Altaussee is the site of Austria’s most famous salt mines.) This means frequen trips to the bathroom — all day long.
People schlep around in their white robes and slippers. Everybody has a glazed look in their eyes. It feels like the world’s fanciest loony bin.
I have an initial appointment with Dr. Ingrid Eysn to discuss my goals. While explaining how stressed I am — I ’m dealing with a looming book deadline, family issues, and Twitter trolls because of my participation in a reality show — I start crying. Dr. Korak hands me a tissue and tells me de-stressing will be the goal. She prescribes vitamins, orders me off Twitter, and arranges an IV drip.
The caffeine-withdrawal headaches begin.
I meet again with Dr. Eysn for an abdominal massage to help digestion. We also do a food-intolerances test. (Verdict: none.) When I confess I haven’t stayed off Twitter, she gently scolds me before sending me for a fifty-minute massage. While floating away next to a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the Alps, I almost forget the hunger rumblings in my tummy. Almost.
Meals at Viva are spartan, but they’re delicious, fresh, and beautifully prepared. My lunch sounds boring — cooked vegetables — but the presentation and taste are Michelin-level. However, dinner is more broth and bread. It occurs to me that I’m drinking a cup of flavored water and I almost lose it.
Before bed, I find a movie ticket stub in my pocket, and I’m yanked out of my Austrian-reverie. I would give my right arm for Sour Patch Kids and a bag of popcorn.
The headache has worsened.A room at the Viva Altaussee. (Photo: Vivia Altaussee)
Things are turning around. My headache has disappeared. I feel lighter and I only check Twitter once.
During my daily check-in with Dr. Eysn, she offers a heartier diet, but I resist. I don’t want to disrupt the cure.
I return to my room, take a bath, and feel invigorated. I sing One Direction to my reflection. I put on real clothes. I stare into the mirror at my reappearing abs and shimmy with happiness.
During my abdominal exam, Dr. Eysn says my small intestine is shrinking. This is, apparently, a good thing.
Next up, a workout in an electric wetsuit. I feel like a cross between Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible and a scuba diver. Electrodes are attached to my wetsuit and my instructor turns up the electricity while I jolt and shake while doing squats. He keeps asking if I’m sure I don’t want the electricity higher. I decline.
I sleep ten solid hours and feel like a million bucks.Inside Viva Altaussee. (Photo: Viva Altaussee)
It’s the last day and three people tell me I look like I’ve lost weight.
I hike through the forest behind Viva Altaussee, feeling energized and grateful. I’m sad to leave but am very excited to rejoin the “real” world.
To help re-acclimate, Viva gives guests a lunch bag for the plane home. I stick with the diet as far as London, but on my ten-hour Air New Zealand flight from Heathrow to LA, my willpower collapses.
I have not one but two glasses of sauvignon blanc! I eat salad with my dinner! I eat a donut! I have coffee! The Viva diet works in the spa world, but in the real one? It’s all but impossible.
Still, my benefits — however fleeting — were real: five pounds lost, caffeine addiction (briefly) overcome, and stress levels reduced.
Yes, it was the weirdest spa getaway ever, but I can’t wait to return. Here are four ways you can apply the Mayr Cure principles at home:
1. Chew each bite forty times. You’ll eat more slowly, get fuller faster, and digest better. If you follow only one Viva principle, this is the key.
2. Eat your biggest meal early in the day. The Viva mantra is, “Breakfast like a King, dinner like a pauper.”
3. Water impedes digestion, so no water half an hour before meals, during meals, or up to an hour following. (Weirdly, one glass of wine with dinner is okay. Sign me up!)
4. No raw food after 4 pm. Never have salad for dinner.
5. Eat dinner at least four hours before bed. Learn to love early bird specials.