Kelly Koffman, a DrMitraRay.com staffer, interviews Kim Hewes and Gayle Lange, who talk about their experiences at Dr. Mitra Ray’s annual Beauty and Rejuvenation Retreat. They discuss going from a size 12 to a size 4 in a few months (and keeping the weight off), and seeing their cravings decline dramatically.

Kelly (KK): Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be at the retreat and what your experience was there?

Kim: (laughing) When Gayle and Mitra asked me to come to retreat, I said yes because they asked, but part of me was kind of afraid to do it because I’ve heard stories… I knew it was kind of a cleansing thing, which probably meant fasting, and I’ve never been able to successfully do that, and I was a consistent coffee drinker – that’s one reason I drove my own car, because I thought that if I needed to be able to escape to get coffee, I could do that. But as it turned out, I did not need to.

KK: So did you go back to drinking coffee after the retreat?

Kim: You know, for a while it still sounded really good, but I was really committed to doing as many of the things that we did on the retreat once I got home because the scale was finally, finally starting to move, and I wanted to see if it would continue to move. Now I sometimes have coffee, but… I’m not craving it like I used to, and I’m finding other things to do instead of coffee, like herbal teas. Just because I’m finding I like them. It’s almost like my tastes have changed.

KK: Yes, Mitra talks about your taste buds actually changing over time, that you go from needing salty, fatty, sugary foods, to not wanting them anymore. So it makes sense that that would happen with coffee. Do you find that you feel better when you’re not drinking it.

Gayle: I definitely do. I find that if I drink coffee in the morning, I need alcohol at night, so that it kind of feels like I’m taking an upper, and then I need a downer.

KK: I’d like to go back to something Kim said a minute ago about the scale finally moving when you were at the retreat, and you wanted to replicate the experience at home. What sorts of practices did you replicate?

Kim: Well my cooking changed – cooking without the oils, using the pressure cooker, avoiding meat, dairy, flour, sugar… To me, it’s good to see the numbers do down (on the scale), but I want to have a really healthy relationship with body weight and image. But knowing what I know, and having been in (the whole-food supplement and health) business for as long as I have, I was surprised that I was still stuck around 150 pounds. The scale just wasn’t moving, and I kind of resigned myself. I was a size 12 and I just kind of thought, this is where it’s gonna be. I lost 6 or 7 pounds on the retreat, but (after I returned from the retreat in late August) most of the weight loss happened by early November. It’s been sitting at the same spot since then; I’ve maintained it. I see fluctuations. I was down to about 125, I bumped back to 129 a couple weeks ago. I’m weighing myself every day, I’m writing it down. I don’t want it to creep back up. Now I’m wearing a size 4, almost a 2.

KK: Once you got home and were no longer in the retreat setting, did you find that you were often hungry when you cut out a lot of these foods?

Kim: There were times when I was still hungry, and I definitely relaxed some of the rules. But I would say the cravings are less. And sometimes I eat a cookie – I just don’t eat a dozen. But I still have to be really vigilant if I know something is going to trigger me, like if I’m watching a show, and I know there’s fresh cookie dough in the freezer, and there’s no one around that I’ll have to share it with… I still have to be aware of the situations I put myself in, and make sure I have better choices available. It’s not a completely done deal. 

KK: You’re thinking more about it all of the time: what are the good choices for me? And if I choose to eat a cookie, I choose to eat a cookie, but it’s more conscious.

Kim: Yes, conscious is a good description. 

KK: Gayle, when you first did the retreat, were there any aspects of it that were different than you expected them to be, or surprised you?

Gayle: Yeah, there were lots of things that surprised me. Eating completely clean for a week, I really noticed oil after I came home. Oil almost made me sick, my tongue felt like it was coated after I ate even a little bit.

KK: You already knew a lot about nutrition when you went to the retreat. Did you learn new things there? Mitra does some fascinating workshops.

Gayle: I learned a ton at the first retreat. The whole parasite conversation (see this month’s newsletter article about microbes), I didn’t know about that! They have you crave different foods. And I learned a lot about the psychology of eating, and how we relate to food. 

Kim: That knowledge and some of the things I learned, and the time spent there really shifted my relationship to my body. I almost felt like now I was on the same side as my body, like I were ready to give it the good food because I knew why. Even if my body was craving stuff – it felt like there was a shift.

Being at the retreat with Mitra and the other participants is such a different experience than just reading about the information – it’s like trying to learn how to cook from reading a recipe – you can read a recipe and know how things are supposed to go together. The retreat is like being at a restaurant, and the chef is cooking with you… you’re seeing the demonstration and putting it all together, it’s a completely different experience than reading about it at home by yourself.

Gayle: For me, I think it’s just having the support of other women. The camaraderie and intimacy, and the relationships that actually create support for you to feel like you’re not alone, and you can accomplish this because of the support of this community of women.

Every year I go back there and I think, I just wish I could live here. It’s beautiful: you’ve got the bunnies, you’ve got the trees, you’ve got the lake, you’ve got the deer, the flowers, the organic orchard. And the houses are warm and comfortable, it’s just a beautiful, peaceful, secluded place.

Kim: It is beautiful. But can I go back to Gayle’s comment about the community and the women and the support? (Gayle and I have continued to email and text, and we still help each other with this lifestyle and the weight loss). That has been a huge impact in sustaining me and keeping me focused on this. It matters, it’s huge, I so appreciate it.

KK: Do either of you have any words of encouragement to anyone else considering the retreat?

Kim: Don’t be scared. Just do it.

Gayle: I hate to say it this way because it’s kind of a cliché, but it will alter your life around food and weight, and your own body.

Click here for more information about the August 2013 Beauty and Rejuvenation Retreat. Space is limited.