Last November I was invited to assist on an Embracing Health Detox Retreat held amidst the beautiful nature and surroundings of Tallows Beach Houses. Working in the kitchen alongside the head chef, we spent nine days preparing vibrant organic juices and gourmet raw food for the thirty or so guests who had taken time out of their busy schedules to cleanse, refresh, refuel and heal.
Over the course of those nine days, I was amazed and inspired by the transformations that I witnessed in the guests – from the opening circle of anxious and nervous faces to the closing circle of radiant, beaming smiles – it was like witnessing an entirely new group of people before me.
For Leisa Wheeler, the founder and director of Embracing Health Retreats the process of guiding people through a transformative journey to a state of better health, is something she always felt she was here to do.
“It wasn’t so much a decision as a calling.” Leisa explains. “By fifteen-years-old I was reading books on raw food and food combining – I always had an interest in natural medicine and attaining outstanding health.”
Initially, Leisa didn’t see natural medicine as a career, but more of a hobby and a personal interest. Instead, she studied and obtained a diploma in hospitality, but in her spare time she studied health voraciously.
“I did short courses, workshops, seminars, boot camps, I read hundreds of books, I spent hours researching on the Internet… I studied all manner of alternative healing methods, with a focus on detoxification, food as medicine and emotional healing.”
Leisa gained her certification in naturopathy and began to work at a health and detox retreat centre, coaching people through a rather intensive cleansing regime. She found the work to be everything she dreamed it would be, “I thrived in an environment where I had the opportunity to build wonderful relationships with the thousands of people who spent time there.”
“What I realised out of this process was two things: one, I needed to run my own business so that I had some level of control over my career, and two, that I absolutely loved the process of connecting with groups of people and guiding them through life-changing experiences.”
Leisa decided to design her own particular health retreats in boutique locations around the world. The Embracing Health Retreats started out with nothing more than a vision of what Leisa wished to offer but rapidly, the retreats took shape and, remaining true to her initial goal, they became something much more than Leisa ever could have anticipated.
“My first retreat booked out within three days, and since then I have only had one retreat that wasn’t booked to the maximum. I set an intention to create a space for people to come together for the purpose of connecting, sharing wisdom, and realising their potential. And that is exactly what has happened.”
Over the years, Leisa has fine tuned the retreats to create something entirely unique that appeals to a wide demographic of people, blending relaxation, education, luxury and ease to create a comfortable and enjoyable environment for what can often be a powerful and emotional journey. With a full team of staff that comprises qualified naturopaths, massage therapists, yoga teachers and healing practitioners, Leisa assures that every guest is in the very best hands.
“It is humbling and gratifying that so many people are willing to take the leap and trust that what we do at the retreat will be of benefit for them. That trust is a huge thing, and something that myself and the staff do not take lightly.”
Each day of the retreat begins with either a yoga class or a beach walk followed by breakfast. The retreat starts with two days of raw vegan cuisine as an introduction to the detoxification process, followed by five days of juice fasting and ending with two more days of gourmet raw food. The days are broken up with lectures on health and wellness, massage, one-on-one consultations, group activities and plenty of time for rest, relaxation and to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings.
Guests are often amazed with the possibilities of raw vegan cuisine and the concept of food as medicine. The meals are gourmet yet still simple, ranging from chia seed puddings and fresh fruit platters for breakfast to raw zucchini noodle pasta for dinner and even raw cheesecake or chocolate pie for dessert.
Having been studying the concept of ‘food as medicine’ for over 25 years now, Leisa has tried everything from a strict vegan diet to a blood type diet to Chinese Medicine to Ayurveda and in doing so, she has been able to formulate her own ideas around what food is beneficial for the body and what is not.
“Each healing regime has its own benefits and what I have learned is that there is not one true path to health, but many interwoven steps. The key to food as medicine, I believe – and the one thing that all healing regimes have in common – is that they all utilise whole foods from nature and eliminate processed, refined and chemicalised foods.”
Leisa states that the key to eating well is learning how to prepare healthy and delicious food, and it is this lack of knowledge that prevents people from leading a healthy lifestyle. Cooking demonstrations and raw food classes with the head chef are part of every program, giving the guests hands-on tools and know-how that they can take back home with them, prolonging the positive effects of the retreat long after they are back in familiar surroundings.
There is no doubt in Leisa’s mind that these retreats are powerful and transformative and her many years of research and experience have seen remarkable changes take place in people over the course of a week. As Leisa explains:
“I have been privileged to witness healings of nearly every disease known to man. This is why I have such a strong belief in the power of food as medicine, because for me it is not just knowledge I’ve read from a book, but is something I have been witness to hundreds of times.”
For Leisa, this is the most rewarding part of the experience – seeing first hand the healings, insights and awareness that the guests undergo.
After suffering from a fatigue disorder that failed to be properly diagnosed, and undergoing an accident that shut down the function of her adrenal and thyroid glands, Leisa discovered that practitioners – medical and alternative alike – had very little understanding of adrenal fatigue and hypothyroid disorders.
Since that time, Leisa has dedicated years to researching and understanding these conditions, which are becoming more and more prevalent in society today, recently completing her first, soon to be published book, The ‘F’ Word Solution: Fed-up with feeling fat, fatigued and forgotten? Finally the formula for a, fun, fit and fantastic future!
“My vision in writing The ‘F’ Word Solution is to offer everyone who has struggled with adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, an opportunity to find answers, ones that they may not have had access to before.”
Although adrenal and thyroid dysfunction are at the core of ‘The ‘F’ Word Solution,’ there are many other conditions that are closely related, including digestive issues, nutritional deficiencies, emotional traumas, symptoms of depression, anxiety and weight that is difficult to lose – symptoms that are being experienced by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
With the release of ‘The F Word Solution’ and the ongoing Embracing Health Retreats, Leisa is doing all she can to support people from all walks of life on their journey to health and vibrancy, “My aim is to be able to offer everything that a person needs to regain their optimal health.”