As featured in News.Com “HOW would you describe your health right now?” Dr Liu, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, asked at our first meeting.He was sitting behind a beautiful wooden desk, in a large, light and airy consultation room at the 101 Wellbeing Centre in Brisbane. I moved uncomfortably in my chair, tears began to pool in my eyes, I cleared my throat and with a slight tremble in my voice, I told him the truth; “I haven’t felt ‘well’ in more than a decade”.
Perhaps it was that desperation that made me do it; my desire to feel well again after many years spent battling auto-immune disease. A struggle that continues today.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was also the program’s promise of rapid weight loss that sparked my interest. Blowing out my thyroid last year caused my body to blow out too.
While I am working my way back to normal, the prospect of speeding up that process was too enticing to pass up. No doubt I also wanted to prove to myself I could “achieve” something again when it comes to wellness, after the ups and downs of the past year.
These are my very personal reasons for accepting an invitation to try the 101 Wellbeing Program for two weeks. Is the program extreme? Some say it is. It is mainstream? Absolutely not. Is it for you? That’s something you should consult your physician about. This is simply my own experience.
It was some years ago that I first heard about the 101 Wellbeing Program. I was waiting for an acupuncture appointment at Dr Liu’s clinic in Sydney’s Bondi Junction when I saw a number of people coming into the clinic, collecting a bag from the front counter and promptly leaving again.
I couldn’t help myself and asked one woman what was in the mystery bag. She showed me the herbs and summarised the program saying, “It’s expensive, but it works”.
That’s exactly how news of Dr Liu’s program has spread among inner Sydney circles for years. You won’t find flashy banners or infomercials advertising it, Dr Liu’s clientele comes largely from referrals by past patients, among them celebrities and high-profile figures including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who reportedly lost 14 kilos following the plan.
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With patients typically losing between 5 to 8 kilos in the first two weeks, the weight loss element is undoubtedly an attractive side effect of the program, but Dr Liu stresses weight loss isn’t the whole story.
101 Wellbeing is about helping people to live beyond 100 years old. It’s about longevity; “designed for people who have a gap between their current health and optimal health,” he explains.
Despite the restrictions of the program itself, Dr Liu says it is about helping people to achieve more balance in their daily life once they are back in their own routine so they can lead to a longer, healthier life; “The idea is every single person should have the chance to pass away naturally, not from disease and sickness,” he says.
The program has three phases; Cleanse and Release, Repair and Recover and Whole Body Recalibration. The time spent in each of the phases depends on the clinic’s assessment of you and your health needs.
Generally, the minimum time spent on the whole program is 4 to 6 weeks. For many, it is 12 weeks. I was invited to try the initial 2 week Cleanse and Repair phase; arguably the toughest as it is also the fasting and cleansing phase. The length of this phase varies for each person; some will only need to fast for 5 days, others for 3 weeks.
During the two-week program, I was given three sachets of liquid herbs to drink each day. I was also allowed to drink as much still water and pure black tea as I liked. That was it. I couldn’t eat any food at all. I was told the herbal mixture would target my liver and kidneys — which could explain the overwhelming bitterness of the herbs.
The custom brewed tea that became Skye’s breakfast, lunch and dinner on the program. Picture: Skye GilkesonSource:SuppliedThe first few days I struggled to get the herbs down but by the end of the fortnight I had become an expert at guzzling the thick, black mixture at lightning speed.
Each morning I also went to the Brisbane clinic for a treatment with my practitioner, David. The treatments included Tui Na (massage), acupuncture and on a few occasions, cupping.
Each day, I was also weighed.
While the clinic is clean and quiet with soft lighting and music playing, this is not a day spa. I became increasingly sensitive to the acupuncture needles (even as someone who has acupuncture treatments regularly). But I gradually managed the pain and even began to nap during the treatments.
Mentally, day one of the fast was the toughest. My mind was chaotic. Feelings and emotions swirled. As a self-confessed coffee addict, I was struggling with withdrawal from caffeine and my head was pounding. On day two the headache continued and I was overcome with fatigue. I was definitely swimming in self pity.
On day three things got interesting. A calm washed over me, an intense calm. I began to really reconnect with my body. It went beyond hunger: Sounds were more intense, I reacted with strong emotion to music, I became acutely aware of my surrounds; the people, the smells, and sunlight.
I joked with my husband that I had finally become Superwoman, just as I had always planned. I sat still without fidgeting during the day and after sinking into the mattress each night, I slept more deeply than I had in a very long time. My mind was clearer and I became less reactive.
Interestingly, I was reminded of my emotional connection to food too. My husband had a health scare while travelling in the United States, during the first week of the fast. It was a terrifying time and with my emotions peaked my thoughts ran to food for comfort. While I didn’t indulge them, it was fascinating to watch those feelings and that pattern resurface.
Socially, it felt safer to become a recluse in order to avoid the temptation (and torture) of being around people and all of their delicious food. I only left the house once a day to buy an overpriced take away black tea from a local coffee shop, adding a modest slice of normality to my day.
Leading up to the fast, I had images of myself sprawled out in bed during the day, unable to move from utter exhaustion. It was quite a dramatic scene in my mind. In reality, that wasn’t the case at all; I worked full days, albeit at a much slower pace; my energy remained steady, except for one evening when I climbed into bed, mostly out of boredom.
Daydreaming about food became my new occupation. It occupied my mind and my time for large parts of the day. I would find myself consumed by food videos hitting my Facebook feed.
Initially, I just stopped to watch them as they passed amid a sea of baby photos and status updates. Soon I was actively seeking food accounts, becoming completely absorbed by their mouth-watering creations.
I found myself bingeing on Netflix one evening too; watching the entire season of Chef’s Table in one sitting.
Awkwardly, I then began asking my husband to describe his meals to me in detail.
The physical cravings were fascinating as well. The first day it was a green apple (and I don’t even eat apples) but for the rest of the fast I only had one dish on my mind. It wasn’t chocolate, pasta, wine or anything super-indulgent, just a simple breakfast of eggs on toast.
During the daily weigh-ins I became increasingly impatient for the numbers to fall. Despite David’s reassurance, I began to sigh with disappointment each time. I could see how this could easily become an obsession and I quickly understood the importance of daily monitoring during these first two weeks of the program.
They were as much about the individual’s mental health as their physical progress.
My smile was a mile wide on completing the program. I was full of energy. Losing eight kilos in 14 days proved that my body is more dynamic than perhaps I have been giving it credit for.
But it was overcoming the mental challenge that was by far the most rewarding part for me, and a powerful personal reminder that perhaps I had been craving more than any gourmet meal (or even those delicious eggs on toast).
This is my personal account of the 101 Wellbeing Program. Consult your own physician before undertaking this treatment. The medical information in this article is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.