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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Gut Health Reset at Cedarvale Health and Lifestyle Retreat

I had a clear intention going to Cedarvale Health and Lifestyle Retreat. To rest and heal. I heard about it from a client who had attended recently. Admittedly, I was most looking forward to having someone else cook for me wholesome foods! The Cedarvale retreat experience exceeded all my expectations. The combination of the food, community, staff, health talks and location make Cedarvale a sanctuary for anyone looking to reset, recharge, rejuvenate and relearn the simple joys of life.


You might also be interested to learn that over the 4 night stay I lost 1.4kg, my waist circumference decreased 4.5cm and my blood pressure lowered. Some women had up to 2.5kg weight loss. Keep reading to find out how this was possible while eating so much!



I arrived to Cedarvale Monday Lunch time, a bit later than recommended. Regardless of this I was welcomed warmly, shown my room and brought to the buffet lunch filled with colourful foods. After lunch I was taken around the premises, introduced to some of the staff and the rest of the ladies staying there at the time. It is not a women’s only retreat, it just so happened that during my stay there were women only. It is a smaller retreat with a capacity for maybe 8-10 people at a time.


I participated in the 4 night stay which is the shortest duration. Check in Monday morning and check out Friday after breakfast. The moment I arrived I knew I wouldn’t want to leave on Friday. I felt very blessed and looked after. The days revolve around structured meal times at 730am, 1pm and 630pm. After breakfast there is a health talk followed by free time or an organised activity such as a cooking class, walk at the Fitzroy falls or gentle stretch class. After lunch we have free time around our scheduled treatments. In the evening after dinner there is another health talk.



TREATMENTS – REJUVENATE YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH


Prior to arrival there are some lifestyle forms to fill out making you think about where you are currently on your health journey, your intentions for the retreat and future goals. On Day 1 we had a short chat about our goals with one of the lifestyle coaches and we chose our preferred treatments which occur over the next 4 days. I upgraded my package to include evening foot massages (it was so worth it!).


There is an array of treatments to choose from. I was provided with an information pack about Cedarvale and the treatments which was very easy to read. If you’re not sure, they can help you choose based on your goals. I went for the Facial Indulgence, Upper body massage, Clay wrap and Therapeutic massage. The treatments are scheduled in the night before and you can refer to the white board to check when you should be around in time for your treatment. There was a spa on the premises to use in the afternoons during our free time. A complimentary Lifestyle Consultation is also included and offered.


“It’s challenge by choice but the more you put in, the more you get out” – Dr Darren Morton


FOOD – RESET YOUR GUT HEALTH


I knew I was walking into a caffeine free and animal product free zone. Prior to attending the retreat I weaned myself off coffee over 2 weeks and kept to being caffeine free since. Knowing the benefits of plant based homecooked foods I was very excited to have someone prepare all my meals. I will admit, I was worried there would not be enough food for me. There was plenty to go around and I often had seconds.


The principles followed in the cooking are in line with everything I preach, teach and practice. Apart from the meat free part. However, I am well aware of the benefits of plant based diets and myself practice a plant dominant way of eating (occasional poultry and fish intake). There was plenty of variety, organic foods where possible, herbs and spices instead of salts and creative yet easy to replicate desserts.


It was humorous that many of the ladies (including myself) experienced an increase in gas and bowel motions. Many women felt they were eating much more than usual yet they were all feeling lighter and healthier. This was no surprise to me and I enjoyed listening to the other ladies be surprised by their results at the end of the week.



LOCATION – REST AND RECHARGE YOUR SOUL


Situated above Kangaroo Valley in Barrengarry, Cedarvale Health and Lifestyle Retreat is a small lodge on 150 acre property. The staff live in housing a bit further away from the guest lodge.



The lodge is surrounded by rainforest with a few paved roads and tracks. Cedarvale falls are a beautiful viewing and walking track. Be cautious of the leeches a few almost got through my hiking boots. After that, I stuck to the other paved road and walking tracks. There is a beautiful strangling fig tree to see as well. You don’t realise its size and magnificence until you are standing under it.


There is plenty of wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and birdlife and I saw them all! I was most impressed by the lyrebirds as I heard them make the chainsaw noise. I thought someone was up early to do some work and then realised I was listening to a lyrebird. I wouldn’t have known about this had they not told me how wonderful these birds are. I saw 2 lyrebirds run through the forest shortly after the “chainsaw” noise stopped.


My description and photos of the location and environment could never do the place justice. It is something that needs to be experienced.



HEALTH TALKS – RELEARN


The retreat is structured around “The Lift Project” by Dr Darren Morton. I had previously heard about it and was introduced to it through The Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine Virtual Event I had presented at. However, I never took the time to attempt the program online. Honestly, I believe the way I had experienced it at the retreat with the food, community and nature was the perfect way to learn how to incorporate it into my everyday life. The program is easy to follow and presents the basics of good health which many of us have forgotten, especially living the city lifestyle.


I live and breathe everything that was said. I often had something extra to share with the ladies. Some research, facts, figures, advice, tips and tricks. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I should say anything because I wanted them to get the full experience. I was mindful to share after the presentations and add on to their learnings rather than be a spoiler! We learnt about the below acronyms and how those aspects of our life help our “Limbo”. The limbic system of our brain responsible for Memory, Motivation and Many autonomic bodily reactions. Learn more about the Lift Project here. You can also read the book by Dr Darren Morton Live More Happy. However, like I said experiencing it in the setting at the retreat gives it much more impact. You will also go home with a copy of the book.


SMILERS

Speak positively

Move Dynamically

Immerse in an uplifting physical and social environment

Look to the positive

Eat nutritiously

Rest well

Serve


PEARM

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships

Accomplishment

Meaning



COMMUNITY


The staff are all hand picked for sure. From the chef who has been there about 7 years to the massage therapists who were lucky enough to find the place through their studies. Young women who have been living on the property for the past 3 – 4 years helping the program run smoothly. Some of them will move on to nursing roles. There is a reason, a season and a purpose for everything we do in life. Big shoes to fill!


I learnt from the women I met at the retreat. I was the youngest and they were all mothers, some grandmothers. One woman was gifted the retreat by her boss, one by her husband, the other women like myself gifted the retreat to themselves. I have been living alone now for 4 months with my family in Perth and friends often busy (Sydney life), and admittedly have been feeling a little lonely more recently. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such loving, caring, kind and compassionate women. Listening to their life stories, what brought them here, where they are from, what they have seen was very fulfilling. Some special connections were made and we all exchanged details with the intention of staying in touch and possibly returning to the retreat same time next year.


I was reminded of my mother’s big heart and hurt in saying goodbye to me as one of the women had a daughter in Perth whom she misses dearly. I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have my health and wellness and it’s importance as one of the women manages a few health conditions. She has witnessed and lived through many challenges and tribulations which are only a testimony to her strength. One of the women, a young mother living off the grid (under a rock) made me feel so important.


All of the women had such a genuine and authentic nature. We shared some good laughs together. Particularly when none of us could remember the 'R' in the acronym PEARM we learnt about. It was RELATIONSHIPS. I am 10 months out of a break-up (still healing), what was their excuse to have forgotten their husbands! ;-)




MOVEMENT AND OTHER ACTIVITIES


The purpose of my retreat was not to do vigorous exercise like I usually do but to allow my body to rest and recover. Movement is highly important for our mood and this was one of the health talks presented. Being in the beautiful setting was the perfect invitation to get active outdoors. I walked daily 15 – 20k Steps and immersed myself into the rainforest what is known as forest bathing.


There is a small gym on the premises with minimal equipment (for someone like me). I brought 2x 10kg plates and my skipping rope (these are always in my car) and on Thursday did a 100rep sets which gave me the blood flow I was after. I felt pretty invincible and ready to fight a kangaroo.


There was plenty of free time available throughout the afternoons to rest, relax, reset, recharge. I spent time journaling, meditating, reading. There was an organised trip up to Fitzroy Falls and nightlife drive around to see the glow worms and other animals. The staff drive you to the falls and around the property. I felt very important during the whole retreat.



COST


For the 4 nights including 3 generous meals/day, health talks, 1x treatment/day, day activities, foot massages every evening, lifestyle coaching consultations the experience was well worth the investment of $2050 AUD. There are couples rates too. Check out their packages and rates here.



It is the kind of place I would love to go to when I am in a committed relationship to make sure our values and beliefs align. If they don’t, I would extend my stay another 8 nights and heal my heart again.


Thank you Cedarvale Health & Lifestyle Retreat!

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