Culture / Travel

A Holistic High?

This Houston-area Resort Challenges You to Detox — No Solid Food, But Lots Of Pampering

BY // 02.24.16

“Your destination is on the right,” echoed the Google Maps voice. Long ago, I made the decision to forgo the iPhone Maps app for Google’s improved rendition; a decision I began to regret as the navigation app ended my trip at a vacant dirt lot on an equally deserted roadway.

This was definitely not my destination, and as I pulled over to tinker with the directions, I grew increasingly stressed with the realization that somehow I’d gone adrift. Ironically, this was the exact mood I was en route to combat at a secluded sanctuary called Deer Lake Lodge.

Nestled in the tranquil town of Montgomery, Texas, the detox resort and spa is a place in which guests renew, reset and recharge from life’s daily stressors and toxins. A combination of fasting, juicing, cleansing and colonics is used to purge the effects of overconsumption — whether from poor food choices, too many drinks, environmental impurities or plain old stress. Also at guests’ disposal — a bevy of spiritual and nutrition gurus.

“When you know better, you do better, and Deer Lake Lodge and Spa’s goal is for each guest to return home not only feeling cleansed and relaxed, but also energized and educated about leading a healthier lifestyle,” says owner Tracy Boulware, who opened the lodge 10 years ago, following an epiphany.

Boulware embarked on a life-changing jaunt, which landed her in California and Mexico. Leaving behind her hectic life as a Houston petroleum executive, she committed to countless, rigid detox spas hoping to undo years of internal damage. Fast forward to 2012, when she decided to import the detox secrets of the West Coast to the Lone Star state with the opening Deer Lake Lodge — the only spa in the Southeast to offer a combination of juice fasting, colonics, body works and energy works as part of the detox process.

After my brief spat with the GPS, I arrived at the rustic gates of Deer Lake Lodge with just 20 minutes to spare, before a 9 am yoga class. Prior to the yoga, staff member Shapel Burkhart took me through a brief orientation process, which included an analysis of my daily meals (or lack thereof), supplements (probiotics, food enzymes, fiber tablets and green capsules) and activities. This would be the detox that not only helped cleanse me physically, but also mentally and spiritually.

I’ll be frank, I didn’t have high expectations for my trip. For starters, I was on the tail end of a nasty respiratory infection, and the thought of having to endure a rustic setting with minimal food didn’t make me jump for joy (chicken noodle soup isn’t exactly detox-approved). Then there was the whole no-food thing. Vim + Vigor’s beginner juice cleanse (which allows a green salad during dinner) was the extent of my detox practice; needless to say, the thought of three days without chewable food seemed a bit daunting. Meals for the duration of my stay would consist of a specially formulated detox drink (which each guest makes themselves in a personalized mug), fresh juices, soups and lemon water.

Yoga class and a quick walk around Deer Lake Lodge’s scenic grounds was enough to soothe my initial reservations.

“This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself.

What Deer Lake Lodge lacks in solid food, it makes up for in amenities. The resort’s plush cabins are a welcome distraction from food-less afternoons, demonstrating that a wellness retreat needn’t lack small luxuries to be effective. Let’s be honest, the absence of food is one thing, but to be deprived of television and Wi-Fi while semi-starving is a misery I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Each cabin (lodgers can also opt for a smaller suite), which is fashioned from repurposed shipping containers and insulated with recycled denim, is equipped with a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi access, organic towels and sheets and around-the-clock housekeeping. A quaint pool surrounded by vibrant, green umbrellas anchors the center of the facility.

As the hours progressed, I became increasingly satisfied with my stay. Complimentary classes filled the lingering hours, offering everything from yoga instruction to meditation and healthy eating classes. There was even a lesson in iridology — the study of the iris to help target areas and stages of inflammation throughout the body — led by Cheryl Lemoine-Kainer.

Guests also have unlimited access to Deer Lake Lodge’s sauna, which is recommended to sweat out leftover toxins. A la carte offerings include one-on-one sessions with the lodge’s spiritual and nutrition professionals, acupuncture, sound therapy, private grocery store tours, natural spa treatments and colonics. While some of the alternative techniques seemed a bit too far for comfort, I was determined to get the most out of my stay, which meant trying at least one treatment out of my comfort zone. I opted for the colonic, a decision I quickly began to regret as my appointment time grew near.

I’ll be completely honest: I went through a lot of anxiety thinking about the colonic procedure. Was it safe? Would it be painful? I contemplated canceling at least five times, but a conversation with a veteran of Deer Lake Lodge helped soothe my fears (she was completing a seven-day stay). While I doubt colonics will become apart of my routine, it’s an experience I’m glad I checked off the books. It’s also worth noting that the DLL staff suggests at least two colonics during your stay.

I rewarded my bravery with a spicy radish facial that could only be described as heavenly. So heavenly, in fact, that the entire collection of products is now in my medicine cabinet.

A J.Lo-worthy glow smothered my skin by day three. My face was supple, smooth and hydrated — a feeling I rarely encounter in my day-to-day life. My usual sluggish mornings were replaced by newfound energy, and the liquid diet pummeled my battle with bloating. The thought of returning to solid food was almost bittersweet. Would I ever feel this way again?

A class entitled “Breaking the Fast,” taught by life coach Tamber Zawadzki (who also led one of my favorite sessions, on self-discovery), served as the finale to my detox journey. Our first chewable meal — raw zucchini noodles with cashew Alfredo sauce.

After a short hour on the road, I was back in Houston, confronted with my first moment of edible temptation — brunch with girlfriends. Devouring biscuits and bacon, they drilled me about my detox journey.

“So you’re not even hungry?” one friend asked.

“Are you sure you don’t want any bacon; I would faint,” another expressed.

But no temptation could force me to erase this incredible feeling. I was on a holistic high, and I was never coming down.

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