Spain’s pioneering SHA Wellness Clinic is best known for achieving results through its unique fusion of natural therapies from millenarian Eastern wisdom and advanced Western techniques.
Owner Alfredo Bataller Parietti underwent 30 years of different medical treatments for digestive pathologies. In 2000, he was diagnosed with an inoperable stomach tumour and decided to visit a naturopath knowledgeable on the curative power of ingesting the right foods. A full recovery followed. Shortly afterwards, the SHA Wellness Clinic was born on the site of his family’s holiday home on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean.
Found on the edge of the Sierra Helada Natural Park, the area is recognised by the World Health Organisation as having one of the world’s best climates. The creation of architect, Carlos Gilardi, and the prize-winning designer, Elvira Blanco Montenegro, the SHA complex includes large swimming pools and waterfalls with Zen and tropical gardens. Breathtaking views ensure guests feel on top of the world.
93 suites vary between 80 and 230 square metres in size, but all include sitting areas and beautiful terraces. Just 40 minutes from the nearest airport (Alicante International), SHA even has its own heliport for guests who require it.
Before arrival, guests complete a detailed questionnaire on health and visit expectations – with aims such as attaining an ideal weight, 0r prevention of premature ageing – followed by various appointments to ascertain these goals at the start of the stay. Diets are prescribed depending on what you’d like to achieve, the most common of which are a detox or weight loss. (Both, in my case.) Guests are supported through proper choice of eating habits, personalised exercise protocols and appropriate spa therapies, to help them leave feeling both inwardly and outwardly renewed.
Given the owner’s experiences, it is unsurprising that SHA’s major fields are nutrition and natural therapies. SHA is famous for its macrobiotic approach to eating, based on choosing foods that are less processed and more natural. Guests are advised to eat whole grains, vegetables, beans and sea vegetables on a daily basis; fish and seafood, seeds, fruit and nuts weekly; and red meat, eggs, poultry and dairy only on monthly occasions. The health properties of the diet are confirmed by some of today’s foremost nutritional scientists, who chart benefits in preventing or controlling cancer, reducing violent behaviour among young juvenile offenders and improving geriatric and psychiatric health, to name a few.
At SHA, the macrobiotic diet merges Mediterranean and Japanese elements, and is prescribed individually for each guest. Menus are sent directly from consultant to kitchen, meaning guests avoid temptation in the dining room. SHAMADI, SHA’s main restaurant, is run by master chef Pablo Montoro, formerly of El Bulli. Its healthy menu is always prepared with natural organic ingredients. My meals were half diet, which were fairly plain, but for breakfast and lunch I was given their standard restaurant food. It was hard to believe this excellent fare was cooked with such healthy ingredients, and no surprise that the restaurant has been awarded Millesime’s highest recognition: Best Gastronomic Trend Grand of 2009. The food is a highlight.
Daily exercise is encouraged and the weekly programme of activities includes morning walks to the beach or lighthouse, yoga and pilates classes, aqua aerobics and tai chi. However, much of SHA’s approach is educative: teaching guests to understand the facts themselves, so they have the power and will to change their habits. Daily afternoon classes teach macrobiotic cooking, traditional Chinese medicine and how to understand blood sugar.
Everything is created and supervised by experts, including Michio Kushi, the father of modern macrobiotics and President of the World Association of Natural Medicine (1995). Specialised treatments include Physia, a revolutionary system emitting physiological frequencies to achieve non-invasive facial and corporal rejuvenation. As the first and only cell regenerator of its kind, I instantly experienced improved skin tone and a reduction in wrinkles.
Alongside its numerous natural therapies (acupuncture, shiatsu, chi-kung, tai-chi, watsu, physiotherapy, laughter therapy, reflexology and reiki), SHA also provides countless services: hairdressing, manicure and pedicure; dental aesthetics; and medical services such as health examinations and electrocardiograms. But with all these appointments, my advice is to take a good book. Unfortunately, waiting appears to be a way of life at SHA. In fact, I got through two books in two days.
It’s early to bed in the evenings, although there are occasional dancing classes, magic shows and a weekly ‘mocktail’ party. On the subject of alcohol, apart from a beer in the mini-bar next to the carrot juice, it was never on offer. However, my beady eye did spot some red wine glasses on a room service tray heading back to the kitchen.
SHA also offers special programmes lasting two, four, seven or 14 days, for detox, weight loss, anti-stress, anti-tobacco, sleep well, absolute rejuvenation, chronic muscular pain, chronic fatigue, and aesthetics. But whatever the reason for your visit, a stay at SHA obviously works. The recipient of Condé Nast Johansens’ Most Excellent European Destination Spa (2012) and Condé Nast Traveller’s Favourite Medical/Thermal/Natural Spa (2010) awards, it’s no wonder 40 per cent of guests are return customers. Russian President Medvedev was returning for a second visit the week after I left!
So had I re-established a balance between body, mind and spirit? Although I wasn’t able to stay that long – I’m told that two weeks is ideal, to allow the biological rhythm of the body to profoundly readjust – after just two days, my clothes were looser and I felt a lot lighter on my feet. But ‘how can I manage this macrobiotic existence while leading a busy life in London?’ I asked Dr Vicente Mera, head of Anti-ageing and Internal Medicine Divisions. He replied, ‘Do as I do. Follow the macrobiotic life for four days out of every seven. No one will begrudge you a few days a week for yourself.’ Wise words from a wise and extremely youthful looking man. Let’s see how I do…
For symptoms of chronic stress, poor concentration, lethargy, irritability, migraines, headaches, feelings of anxiety and general fatigue.
The combination of the fast pace of life with poor eating habits is a major cause for increased emotional and physical stress. The scarcity of energy does not allow us to enjoy our true potential. SHA is the perfect environment to review the habits that contribute to increased stress and create a personalised plan to reduce this, allowing us to enjoy a better quality of life. Natural remedies, exercise and other natural treatments are a fundamental part of this programme, aimed at restoring health and energy levels and maintaining them forever.