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April 6, 2024updated 10 Apr 2024 10:03am

Original FX Mayr: in search of ‘the cure’ at the world-renowned medical spa

The Austrian medical spa's unique detox ‘cure’ offers a powerful reset with an emphasis on mindful eating and gut health

By Audrey Dunn

‘Hey gannet, slow down,’ my ex-boyfriend used to say to me during mealtimes. I’ll easily lap friends at a dinner party, piling into a second plate while they’re still midway through their first. And my husband has had to slap a ban on sharing platters in restaurants, given my tendency to hoover up the tapas before he’s polished off a single Padron pepper. 

[See also: The best health clubs and spas in 2024]

The downside of practically inhaling my food is that I don’t allow time to register that I’m feeling full, which leads to over-eating. So partly for my husband’s sake – but mainly for mine – I am here in Austria at the Original FX Mayr, one of the world’s most renowned medical spas, hoping to be indoctrinated into the process of slow and mindful eating and to lose a few kilos in the process.

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Since January, the clinic has offered two programmes, the Med Diagnostic version which focuses on lab diagnostics, intestinal health and metabolism and the Detox programme which supports the immune system. I’ve plumped for the former but really there is little distinction in practice. As guests we are all disciples of ‘The Cure’, with its emphasis on a good gut microbiome.

The lakeside at the Original FX Mayr
The lakeside at the Original FX Mayr

The clinic takes its name from the Austrian physician Dr Franz Xaver Mayr, who was plugging dinner cancelling or intermittent fasting at the turn of the century, years before Gwyneth Paltrow was doing it through Goop, Tim Spector courtesy of the Zoe programme and Rishi Sunak via interviews about his weekly 36-hour fast. It took the scientists time to confirm Dr Mayer’s hunch but now most of us are aware of its positive effects on health, ageing and diseases. 

The Original FX Mayr building, which was opened in 1976, was once a holiday home for British royals, but nowadays you’re more likely to find A-listers, retirees or high-powered execs kneipping in the hot and cold foot baths. An American gossips to me about her stay last year during which she overlapped with the British actor, Tom Hollander. ‘He was making eyes at all the ladies,’ she says before adding somewhat ruefully, ‘I mean the younger ladies’. She also claims Tilda Swinton is a regular, coming up to three times per year. What’s good enough for Tilda…

Monastic mealtimes

Soup appears in every colour of the flavoursome vegetable rainbow

I’m here with my sister, who is slavishly devoted to a fast, and at breakfast on our first morning we nibble on what appear to be Sylvanian Family appropriate portions of food, although with the hindsight that comes post lunch and dinner, we realise that – relatively speaking – they are generous. We’re to chew slowly on our pot of non-dairy yoghurt with one lonesome blueberry at breakfast. There’s also a chew trainer; a buckwheat roll, which looks like a piece of bark snapped from a tree and served with a drizzle of olive oil in a jug. Thank God for molars. 

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[See also: Inside The Peninsula London’s Spa and Wellness Centre]

Meals are supposed to be eaten in silence. My sister and I fail to stick to the rule but we do manage to eke our meal out over the suggested minimum of half an hour, largely by side-eyeing each other’s plates and entering into an unspoken competition to be the last to finish.

Lunch is soup and over the next few days it will appear in every colour of the flavoursome vegetable rainbow. It is served with another chew trainer and goat’s curd or vegan spread. The waiters playfully tease us, ‘I forgot your steak and chips,’ one says. A bowl of bouillon, sipped with a teaspoon, is all we get for dinner and in between meals, we drink lashings of herbal tea and yet more bouillon. 

After breakfast on day one I meet my doctor, Katrin. Over the course of the week she’ll determine how healthy I am (or not), help me set my goals and plan my diet for my stay. I’m weighed, my waist is measured, my stomach palpated, I have urine, stool and blood tests. Later in the week, when the results of the latter come through, the alarm is sounded over high cholesterol (I had my suspicions) and apparently I’m low in vitamin D (isn’t everyone who lives in the UK?). After a consultation with the dietician she sends me on my way with a list of foods designed to help reduce my cholesterol and vitamin D supplements appear on my assigned table in the restaurant.

Guests can spend their days between hay wraps, mud baths, cryotherapy and trips to the sauna (pictured)

The second day kicks off with a dose of Epsom salts, alkaline powder and a quick bit of ‘swishing’ which involves rinsing oil around my mouth, to help my body with cleansing and detoxing. The morning is busy with consultations and treatments. By the afternoon my head is throbbing from a day of under 600 calories. My sister and I take to bed for a few hours but we’re up again in the evening for some singing bowl meditation. The vibe is less singing bowl and more stomach gurgling and snoring from one lackadaisical guest. On Wednesday there’s a cookery class, which proves torturous for this rookie dinner canceller. 

A week at the Mayr, overlooking forest, snow-frosted mountains and a lake, starts at around £5,000 and it can ratchet up once you go wild with the add-ons and health supplements, beauty products and products from the Mayr food shop. 

Taking Original FX Mayr home

A single bedroom at The lakeside at the Original FX Mayr

The dress code here is Lycra or fluffy bathrobe and in the mornings I zip between cryotherapy, food intolerance testing, hay wraps, mud baths, osteopathy and oxygen therapy while other guests head off for infusions and colonic irrigation but you can easily fill your day with the all-included elements; dips in the lake or pool, steams in the sauna, jaunts on the electric bikes, guided afternoon hikes, gym classes, nasal reflexology and lectures. 

One afternoon one of the doctors, Elka, gives a talk on gut health and weight management. She suggests taking away a couple of lifestyle changes from our stay, one small and one large. By Friday, feeling completely recharged and relaxed I’m going for broke with four; sit down for at least 30 minutes for meals, avoid drinking water with meals (it dissolves the digestive juices) and no raw food (fruit, vegetables etc) after lunch (too much work for the digestive system). For the big one, I plan to introduce ‘Mayr Mondays’, one day of dinner cancelling a week. 

[See also: Soak up the magic of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon at this five-star spa retreat]

Weight loss is the goal for many of the guests I talk to and by the end of a six-night stay my sister and I shift three kilos each which, frankly, is a relief. I couldn’t have coped with her smugness if she’d shed more than me. One guest tells me he lost 10 kilos previously over a 10-day stay. He is hoping for the same again but others are here for purely medical reasons including a Scottish woman in her 40s who is recovering from a hysterectomy and a Belgian architect in her sixties battling a disease of the small intestine.

An email from the clinic ahead of my arrival suggested that I swear off booze, caffeine and sugar during the week before my stay, which I did bar a minor fracas with a muffin. Once home, the recommendation is to continue with the programme for two more weeks to prolong the detox and cleanse of the gut. I feel sure I’ll succumb to temptation in the next fortnight but whatever happens, my first meal post-Mayr bodes well for the slow and mindful eating. I chew and chew to the point that my four-year-old son notices and starts to copy me. By the time my husband finishes his dinner, I’m only halfway through mine. Sharing platters – hold the raw veg – may soon be back on the menu.

For more information on Original FX Mayr, visit original-mayr.com

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