One sure-fire way to send a hot flush into meltdown is to spend 4 minutes in a temperature-controlled chamber set at minus 113 degrees and with a boost of 30% windchill factor for good measure. The impact puts your body into fight or flight mode as its core temperature drops, and my goodness me it’s chilly. How many words are there for extreme cold? Who knows, but I must have used most of them during my session, accompanied by a few unladylike adjectives and clad only in swimwear, mittens, crocs and a mask.
But oh what a feeling as I warmed up from my baptism of arctic chill. As the adrenaline and endorphins surged around my body, I felt like dancing on the ceiling, as I tingled and sparkled…and immediately booked another session for the next day. It’s called Cryotherapy and, trust me, the tears are worth it.
This was my introduction to the Glass House Retreat, a purpose-built spa and detox haven located deep in the Essex countryside, which has introduced two new packages specifically designed to relieve symptoms and concerns around the menopause, and to mark the occasion of World Menopause Day on 18 October.
For many women, “The Change” as it’s ominously labelled, like the title of a Stephen King horror movie (the sequel to “The Curse” perhaps), is not only an irreversible and non-elective transition to later life, but also the onset of a whole host of potential health minefields. From mood swings to depression, weight gain to osteoporosis, and the most unwelcome appearance of hair in places where frankly we’d rather it didn’t grow. The menopause can also be a taboo area and the subject of humour, some (but not all) of it funny. The comedian John Bishop recently did an entire stand-up performance based on his long-suffering wife’s experience – “it’s like sleeping with an Aga” being one of the more memorable quips.
Facebook clearly knew before I did that the Change was imminent, when a couple of years ago I started to be targeted with advertisements for ghastly ultra-absorbent menopausal night dresses “guaranteed to wick away the moisture” (wick away – what kind of language is that?); comfortable but hideous footwear promising relief from puffy swollen ankles; and a bewildering range of supplements, vitamins, HRT, lotions and potions to swallow or rub on myself (often hard to fathom which).
Flushed with hormonal imbalance, I was a perfect candidate for the “Love the New You” overnight break at the Glass House Retreat, and to experience their refreshingly natural and healthy approach to the menopause. Their experienced team have intelligently researched the range of symptoms and come up with a thoughtful package of culinary treats and specialist treatments, designed to promote health and wellbeing.
First of all, forget the supplements and don’t rush for the HRT until you’ve learned about how plant-based food really can make a difference. Portuguese Chef Miguel Gouveia trained at Fort Brack in California and is passionate about raw food and wholesome, colourful organic cuisine. He has put together a delicious menu specifically intended to reduce and control menopausal symptoms – the natural way.
My day began with a blueberry and spirulina smoothie. Spirulina? Me neither. It’s a type of bacteria packed with nutrients; the blue variety is very rare. And its high level of fibre and protein promotes cellular regeneration, increases energy, offsets hot flushes and mood swings. All in one delicious drink, the colour of which is vivid blue, like a shoal of exotic fish in a David Attenborough documentary.
On the lunch menu was tofu and noodle salad; I’ve never really seen the point of tofu as it’s unappealing to look at, tastes of nothing much and has the consistency of ageing blancmange. However, thanks to Chef Miguel, his magical flavouring and good advice, I’m now a convert: tofu reduces menopausal symptoms as it contains high levels of isoflavones which mimic oestrogen. What’s more, there’s proof in that Japanese women who consume diets rich in tofu and other soya products traditionally have much lower rates of menopausal problems. It’s no wonder they also have the longest life expectancy in the world.
My day of plant-based nutrition concluded with a fruity rice salad, made from whole grains with antioxidants, and nuts with high magnesium content which stave off mood swings and maintain hormonal balance. There’s no alcohol or caffeine at the Glass House Retreat, and instead a wide range of herbal tea is on tap. I’ll be honest that I would have loved a decent cup of builder’s brew at breakfast, but I did become quite partial to the Teapigs apple & cinnamon tea after the third cup, and have now invested in my own supply!
The same emphasis on natural therapy can be found in the menopause-specific treatments offered as part of the package. Snuggling down onto the waterbed for my Pro-Definition Lift & Contour facial, I was in heaven while my therapist concentrated her efforts around my chin and neck area with a deep massage and masks. Her aim? To tighten, lift and contour those tell-tale jowls and say goodbye to that double chin. I wish I could tell you more but I slept throughout the treatment awakening only when the focus moved to the other end of my body and the Foot Refresher treatment. This focuses on tired feet and calves, helping increase blood flow and reduce any possible swelling. Emerging from my cocoon at the end of two blissful hours, I felt firm of jawline and ready to pirouette down the corridor.
There are many other benefits of the retreat to enjoy including a lovely warm swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym and programme of fitness and wellness classes including a pumping high-octane aqua aerobics class, early morning hikes, and a wide range of beauty treatments.
The aim of the menopause programme is to help alleviate symptoms so that guests will look and feel “as fabulous as they are”. For me this was quite literally a taster of plant-based food and sound advice, and I returned home with new menu ideas, and with what I fondly imagined to be a chiselled chin and slender ankles – as well as fully relaxed and with a renewed zest for life. And frankly we could all do with a dose of that in these challenging times. Chef Miguel told me that a member of his team who has been trying out the menopause menu over a number of days has already reported reduced symptoms – less hot flushes and no more headaches. I’ll raise a glass of spirulina to that!
Love the New You Spa Break
- An overnight stay in a Superior Glass House Room
- Breakfast with Blue Spirulina Smoothie (Menopause-friendly option)
- Pro-Definition Lift & Contour 55 min
- Foot Refresher 25mins
- Cryotherapy Session x1
- Full use of Glass House facilities, daily exercise classes and vegan chef demo
- 10% discount on additional treatments booked prior to arrival
- Dinner included. Lunch is extra.
Weekdays – 2 people, 1 night: £445 (£222.50 per person) or weekend – 2 people, 1 night offer: £545 (£272.50 per person)
Go With The Glow Spa Day also available
The experiences are available to book until the end of December for a stay in 2020 or 2021
Full Covid-19 protocols are in place to ensure guests feel safe but not so that the enjoyment of their experience is diminished.