Rebel Wilson Says The VivaMayr Clinic Kicked Off Her Year Of Health – But What Really Happens There?

Headaches, toilet talk and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing. Laura Antonia Jordan detoxes at VivaMayr.

Rebel Wilson

by Laura Antonia Jordan |
Updated on

I spent a day of my summer holiday last year holed up in bed with a thundering, biblical headache. There were flashing lights in my eyes, and my vision was blurry, making reading or even binging on the emotional comfort food of Queer Eye impossible. I went to bed at 5pm.

A disclaimer before you feel sorry for me, however: this was at the world-famous detox destination VivaMayr clinic, and exactly what I signed up for. Those monumental headaches were the result of ‘the cure’, as the detox programme is euphemistically known, kicking in.

An hour and a half’s drive from Salzburg (the original clinic, VIVAMAYR Maria Wörth, is a few hours away in Southern Carinthia, a province of Austria that borders Italy and Slovenia), the VivaMayr is nestled on pristine Lake Altaussee, shrouded by mountains. It’s a Disney version of rural Austria; the staff even wear dirndls, for heaven’s sake. But it’s not for those chocolate-box views that the glossy, global clientele check in. Regulars include entrepreneurs and art-world power brokers, finance tycoons and fashion players, politicians and yes celebrities (Rebel Wilson, who has been refreshingly honest and open about her health and weight loss journey this year, is the latest high-profile fan. On Instagram she credited the VivaMayr as the place that gave her 'Year of Health' its initial kickstart. 'If you want to boost your immune system, this is the place to be,' she wrote). All of them float around in white bathrobes; none of them get special treatment. It’s strict.

Who goes to VivaMayr – and why?

The question is – what motivates these guests to swap cocktails for colonics, and use their downtime not being preened and pampered but embarking on this notoriously rigorous detox? Because come they do, in their droves, for issues relating to chronic pain, irritable bowels, exhaustion, and the ravaging side effects of steroids and chemotherapy. The Viva Mayr also promises to be a tonic for a smorgasbord of niggling modern malaises; if you’re over-worked, over-stressed, over-tired, just generally over it, the clinic promises to revive, regenerate and restore.

And as for me? I was feeling tired, sluggish, and moodier than my 14-year old self. I got sober five years ago, and when I put down the drink and drugs, I found a whole bunch of other pesky addictions – sugar, caffeine (six coffees a day, hence my body giving me a little payback via the brutal headaches), nicotine – ready to take their place. One staff member told me sugar was harder to give up than cocaine; from my experience that’s completely true.

But even more than that, emotionally I was craving a complete reboot. The two months before I went were unbearably shattering: some tragic news had rocked my family to the core and I was still dealing with the fallout of a breakup the previous year (newsflash: the particular, poignant pain of an ex moving on before you do is made no less acute by context). I wanted to rest and reset. I wanted to cleanse. I wanted a Mayr overhaul.

What actually happens on a detox?

The ‘Mayr cure’ was developed 100 years ago by Austrian physician Dr Franz Xaver Mayr, who believed that overeating and a bad diet are the root of many modern afflictions. We are poisoning ourselves by consuming the wrong things, which our bodies then struggle to expel. The fundamental principle of the cure is that you can improve someone’s overall health by improving their digestion. You’ll hear a lot of talk about the gut at the hotel.

But what actually happens at the Mayr? ‘Don’t they starve you?’ my friends all asked before I went. Ish. Believing that fasting gives the body a chance to rest, ‘meals’ are miniscule – or, sometimes, just vegetable broth. Dining is a Spartan experience; you are encouraged to eat in silence, with phones and books strongly discouraged from the dining room so you can focus on chewing, which here is the main event. One of the key tenets of Mayr philosophy is that you chew each mouthful between 40 and 60 times. This aids digestion but also means those Borrower servings last a lot longer than you might expect. Needless to say, coffee, sugar and alcohol are out.

The Mayr feels more like a utopian hospital than a five-star spa. Indeed, you meet with a doctor daily, and each person’s schedule, vitamin prescriptions and diet are uniquely tailored to the individual, based on their medical examination and blood test results. But there are some things remain the same for everyone: rancid Epsom salt water is consumed every morning to flush out your intestines (you will quickly become accustomed to toilet talk with fellow guests), alkalising ‘base powder’ is taken several times a day to counter the effects of an acid diet, rest and early nights are strongly advised, as are herbal teas and litres of water. My schedule also included oxygen training, nutritional coaching, detoxifying massages, electrolysis footbaths and mud wraps designed to draw out toxins.

Is it worth the pain (and the toilet talk?)

Needless to say the Mayr experience is no pampering juices-and-manicures detox. It’s hardcore. But is it hard though? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that a proper, thorough detox has painful early stages: headaches, nausea, back pains, lethargy. But no, in that for the guests – many of who live coddled lives back in the real world – the discomfort is a price worth paying. Weather those testing early days and the effects are liberating. By day four I had one of the most luxurious, solid night’s sleep I’d had in years; by day five I sprung out of bed at five and went for a (gentle) jog around the lake.

Understandably, everyone talks about what the Mayr does for your body but the experience is also emotionally beneficial. There is something liberating about stripping your life back to a minimal framework. To be undistracted, even a little bored, can be a novel luxury. Even that strict diet helps free up your mind; I’d wager I’m not the only one who’s used sugar/alcohol/coffee as a diversion technique. Sure, you can’t get a cheeseburger on room service, but there is a lavish indulgence to having time.

Visiting VivaMayr on my own, which gave me the perfect chance to take stock and reflect. (Anyway, you never really feel alone at the Mayr. There’s an almost cultish unity as fellow guests feel compelled to share their progress with you. And it’s perfect for a solo traveler, all those bathroom breaks hardly set the right ambience for a romantic trip a deux). I deleted Instagram for the week, I took solitary walks, I meditated (honestly), and I went to bed really, really early. I may also have taken my Juul on a couple of those walks around the lake, which obviously is not advised – but nobody’s perfect, right?

VivaMayr{=nofollow}********__, from €270 per person per night, based on single occupancy, including all meals

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Here Be Dragons, Westhall

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