The Mayr Clinic in Austria is famous for its fasts, vitamin injections and healing powers. Jonathan Foreman, a long time fan, takes his fourth trip to the clinic to meet its new director and answer some essential questions.
Anyone who is anyone in the fashion and film world knows about the Mayr, and most of them have been there. On my first trip Uma Thurman was checking out as I arrived. On my most recent one a well-known, slightly plump British cabinet minister had come hoping to drop some serious weight.
Where is it?
The F.X Mayr & More clinic is located on the Worthersee lake in Southern Carinthia, a province of Austria that borders Italy and Slovenia. The Worthersee is the Austrian Riviera, or rather MittleEuropa’s equivalent of the Hamptons. Thanks partly to the famous casino at Velden on one end of the lake, it has been a playground for Germany’s and Austria’s wealthy for decades. The families that own Porsche and BMW both have houses on the lake, and even small lakefront huts here are fabulously expensive.
What is the Mayr Cure?
The Mayr is not about being “pampered”, although cosmetic treatments are available. It’s about health, in particular digestive health. Dr Mayr, like many of his early 20th century contemporaries, was convinced that overeating and bad diet was at the root of many modern afflictions. He believed that if you give your digestive system a rest by fasting, then the body’s ability to heal itself gets a boost.
The modern version of Dr Mayr’s method is less spartan than the original: you don’t have to live on herbal tea for three weeks. You do eat much less than you would at home or if you were doing any kind of work, and you avoid anything and everything that is hard to digest, including fruit and raw vegetables.
You are encouraged to rest, to avoid TV and to eat very lightly at night, usually only a bowl of soup, taken by teaspoon. At the same time you detox by drinking lots of water, taking a dose of salts every morning to clear out your intestines and doing without things like alcohol, coffee and sugar.
Is it safe?
The Mayr cure is without question the most effective way to lose real weight quickly and safely. It’s less extreme and much healthier than the Spartan regimes you encounter at places like the Ashram in the USA, and it does not involve the kind of deprivation that puts your body into starvation mode and prompts weight gain immediately when you stop. Your weight loss is the by-product of a healthy process of fasting and relaxation. There are several places in the region where the Mayr cure is on offer, but Mayr and More is its original home.
Is the Mayr for me?
At least a third of the people I met at the Mayr were not there to lose weight, though most were happy to have that as a side effect. They were there to boost immune systems depleted by chemotherapy or steroid treatment, to cure irritable or spastic bowels, to deal with other persistent afflictions like candida or to recover from various types of exhaustion.
Should I go alone?
Having to run to the loo frequently, as many people do in their first few days as the salts take effect, is something of an icebreaker. On the other hand, the Mayr is no place to take a lover. The headaches, tiredness and other detox symptoms – and the requirement to monitor the qualities of your stools – don’t make a Mayr visit conducive to romance, despite the extraordinary beauty of the turquoise lake.
Is the Mayr regime physically challenging?
The doctors here are adamant that you should only do moderate exercise while on the cure. You can swim, try acquacycling in the indoor pool, do pilates and yoga and go for good walks in the hills but they discourage anything much more strenuous than that.
What is the regime?
Each person get’s their own diet plan based on a doctor’s examination and blood tests. You are given alkaline powder to take at night and in the morning. This is to make up for the excessively acidic diet of most Mayr clients. It is also because when fat melts as part of weight loss ketonic acids are produced.
You are given infusions of vitamins and minerals to make up for the effect of the salts and the diet. It’s advised that you don’t watch TV – though there are TVs in the rooms – during the cure because it undermines the whole relaxation aspect and keeps people up too late. The Mayr doctors believe that sleep before midnight is especially valuable, and that rest is vital for losing weight. For most people the Mayr fast includes a decent sized, central European style breakfast.
The Mayr has a new director. What changes has he made?
The new director, Dr Stefan Domenig, who was formerly at the competing Viva Mayr clinic just up the Lake at Maria Worth, has to some degree taken the institution back to its roots with a slightly more simplified menu. Monotony, he believes, is extremely helpful both for the cure – “it calms the flora” he told me – and for fat loss. The food served at the Mayr is now exclusively organic.
Domenig also plans some changes to the physical environment that will make it more competitive with its glitzier rival, the Viva Mayr. Soon guests will be able to sip their evening soup outside. He also says plans to boost the exercise component of the cure, which is currently one of Mayr and More’s relative weaknesses. Although the Mayr currently has two first class physical trainers, both women are part-timers, and when they are not around there are no qualified instructors present. Younger clients in particular would appreciate kayaks or stand-up-paddleboards if they were made available on the beach during the summer, and ought to be able to go cross-country skiing in the winter.
The nearest airport is at Klagenfurt at the top of the Worthersee. Klagenfurt is served by Ryanair though given the misery of flying on that carrier many Mayr people instead choose to come via Lubljana which is an hour away by car but reachable on Easy Jet and BA.