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By Colleen Friesen
For Travel Writers' Tales

There are sojourns, tours, journeys and vacations, but then there is travel of an entirely different sort.

On a recent trip to Fresh Start Health Retreat near Comox, British Columbia, I crossed far out of my comfort zone to spend five days in an entirely different world; the planet of plant-based eating. I spent four of those days drinking nothing but freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. But fear not. I have not become one of those Vegans with a vengeance.

Instead, I discovered a way to rejuvenate and nourish my body. This was an inner journey, the kind without passports and visas.

The word at Fresh Start is that a plant-based diet can reverse the damage we've created through the SAD diet (Standard American Diet).

It seems that we really are what we eat and most of us eat too much meat.

The resulting fatty cholesterol builds inside our arteries, reducing blood and oxygen flow to the heart (read attack) the brain (read stroke) and the tissues (read cancer).

To fight this, Fresh Start administers liver-cleansing smoothies that are prepared and doled out on a regular basis throughout the four-day juice fast. There are beet juices made with lemon and apple, juices from spinach, celery, apple and cucumbers, and then the real crowd pleaser of sauerkraut, cabbage and carrot. Not!

Let's not forget the shots of juiced wheatgrass that tasted like you'd licked your lawn mower blades clean and don't get me started on the warm saline water flush (with flush truly being the operative word) that started each day...

Yet this journey not only gave me a kick-start in clearing my body, but also gave me the tools to incorporate some new healthy habits. We learned how easy it is to make tasty meals using only raw plant foods. They won me over with the freshest-tasting cheesecake of my life - with not a speck of cheese in sight.

I don't imagine I'll be regularly slamming wheatgrass shots, and though I hate to say never, I'm thinking I will never drink the aforementioned cabbage swirl. What I will be doing is eating more fresh produce each day.

I felt energized throughout my stay and surprisingly, only felt hungry a few times, which was quickly remedied by the next juice. I could only have done this in their temptation-free, supportive and gorgeous environment.

Which brings me to the other part of this restorative retreat. Fresh Start takes place at the Ocean Resort in a rural area outside of Comox called Oyster Bay. The seashore is right out front ensuring an ongoing symphony of surf and waves.

The interior utilizes sun-bleached wood for the tables, light fixtures and signage, creating a beach-quiet sanctuary that is restorative and a welcome change from most standard resorts. There is no clutter or cuteness, just serene and calming quiet.

There is time for mossy green walks along forest trails and on the windswept beach. The morning yoga class is a gentle start to each day. The afternoon discussions on health and the cookless-cooking classes are both informative and fun.

My favourite was the nightly steam bath. Sitting in the hot fog was another chance to talk to the guests who were finishing a two-week program. I learned one couple had come from Alberta in the hopes of building her immune system to fight her cancer. Her husband was there to support her. Being Albertan lovers-of-all-things-beef, they were reeling with all the new information, but excited at a chance for change.

Another woman had no idea she was coming until three days before she left. Her daughters sent her after watching her deepening depression. She was glowing on that last day. "I feel stronger and more in control of my life. I've lost 11 lbs and…" she laughed, "Can you believe it? I'm actually excited about introducing green smoothies into each day."

Green smoothies are the easiest takeaway lesson from our stay. They are essentially fresh fruit smoothies blended with any fresh dark greens. The fruit disguises whatever greens you choose, delivering a body-blast of raw green goodness.

As people like Bill Clinton take up the torch, plant-based diets are making headlines.

Raw food is a hot topic.

But forget the trends. Instead, remember how you felt after your last vacation filled with burgers-and-booze.

This is a different kind of trip, one that demands a commitment, but returns a much bigger reward…your health.


More Information:

Photos by Colleen Friesen

1. Dining Room
2. Cheeseless Cheesecake
3. Beetjuice and Wheatgrass shots
4. Beach Chairs
5. Fruit Smoothie Lesson

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