As someone in her twenties with no severe health issues, health retreats were never on my to-do list.
So when we got invited by NewLife, a brand advocate of people living a healthier lifestyle, to visit their Holistic Integrative Medical Clinic (HIMC) last month, my editor and I mirrored each other’s expression of unsurety.
The marketing director of NewLife, Samuel Tan, offered to let us try the mini version of their flagship Detoxification & Rejuvenation Programme (DRP) over a weekend at their health resort in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
After reading about the benefits it claimed to give, we were quite intrigued. So we took up the offer, but were a little unenthused at being told we would be having more “health-conscious” meals while there, as dedicated carnivores who don’t really like our vegetables.
An Introduction To “Alternative” Medicine
In Sabah, Sam met us at the airport and drove us through the peaceful winding roads, towards the resort that was miles away from the city.
Along the way, he shared us the beginnings of NewLife. It started when his mother and co-founder of NewLife, Datin Dr. Lynn Tan, was forced to leave her athletic career due to an illness that couldn’t be cured with conventional medicine.
The illness pushed her to change her lifestyle, from the meals she ate to her daily fitness activities. Through that, she managed to recover and felt better than before. So she decided to take it upon herself to educate others about the wonders of alternative medicine.
With the health trend kicking in recently, Sam noticed more people were requesting for a weekend getaway where they can relax and unwind while improving their health at the same time.
“We’ve actually been running health retreats focusing on nutritional programmes and naturopathy for over 20 years, but now we’ve partnered up with medical specialists and professionals to provide an integrative approach combining both conventional and alternative medicine,” said Sam.
And that’s how HIMC was conceived in 2016, as an option for people to go for a total integrative healing experience.
“Our aim is to provide an all-round wellness experience that can cater to most health needs, and a great vacation alternative especially for busy executives or entrepreneurs who may not be able to dedicate time in their daily schedule to take care of themselves or their health. This would be a great option for them to ‘reset’ before they get back to the grind.”
Change Starts From The Inside
Arriving at Kasih Sayang Health Resort, I was captivated by the change of scenery.
The resort was perched up in the hills of Bukit Kokol Menggatal, where crisp fresh air greeted us and we had a clear vantage point of the beautiful sunset.
It wasn’t furnished with lavish decorations or outlandish designs, but it was well-equipped for what it sets out to do.
As HIMC looks to become an integrative approach, they also have a medical clinic in town to support their programs along with a full-time team of a medical doctor, naturopath, and nutritionists.
Our schedule for the weekend was a mix of leisure activities and therapies, such as morning walks, massages, infrared sauna sessions, and a coffee enema (which we politely declined).
Usually, HIMC caters to two types of patients, according to Sam—those who are generally healthy and looking to maintain it or prevent diseases, and those with pre or existing chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes who were looking for a different kind of treatment.
“When Dr. Lynn first started her practice in the ‘80s, alternative medicine was pretty much unheard of in this region. It was an uphill battle for her and she encountered many obstacles during that time.”
“It’s very interesting to see how many of the practices that NewLife has been teaching since the early days are now widely accepted and recognised due to changes in health trends and people (more-so in the affluent urban community) being more knowledgeable on how to live a healthy lifestyle,” added Sam.
Making An Overall Change
That weekend was an enlightening experience to say the least.
My body felt thoroughly relaxed after the foot and body massages and the infrared sauna sessions.
The supplements they provided weren’t a bother to consume as they were given in the form of a juice or mixed with apple cider vinegar and honey. It came to a point where I looked forward to the juices with the Super Green Food powder mixed in. Without going into too much detail, I’d say my digestive system reacted well to the supplements.
I did notice that by the second day itself, I was feeling nauseous. I was told this is a positive sign—the poisons in my body were being removed. By the end of the trip, the nausea was gone and I was feeling good again.
Normally, people going through DRP are put through a juice or vegetable-based diet to detox, but we were given the choice of healthy or non-healthy meals.
I attempted to take up the challenge of sticking to a healthy diet for this trip, but by the second bowl of healthy soup, I threw in the towel and went for the normal dishes.
My editor who’s equally as picky with her veggies soldiered through, a fairly impressive feat.
Overall, I didn’t notice any major differences with my body but that’s what alternative medicine is about: the subtle changes.
Sam believes there’s still a lot of misconception about alternative medicine, mainly that it’s an “alternative” form of healing, but he disagrees with the use of that description in the first place.
“Alternative medicine should really be called something else, because it should be the primary form of healing. Lifestyle and dietary changes can be done by anyone, and should be the first thing that people do when faced with a health challenge.”
And his patients we spoke to echoed his sentiments—they’ve managed to lose weight, recover from severe chronic gastritis, had gallstones removed without the need of surgery, and more, just from going through this programme.
In the two days I was there, I still couldn’t chomp down on the salads happily though.
Sam told me that’s fine, and emphasised that it all comes down to a lifestyle change than an overnight miracle cure. It takes time and determination for the effects of this programme to truly be seen.
“As practitioners, we do not prescribe or tell our clients what to do. Neither do we discourage them from undergoing conventional treatments. Much of our focus is towards educating and empowering each individual so that they can make informed decisions and take responsibility of their health.”
In the future, they’re hoping to expand their therapies based on the needs of their clients and they’re looking to work towards a goal of having a complete, purpose-built integrative healing centre right in Kota Kinabalu.
Maybe when that infinity pool they’re planning to build is done, I wouldn’t mind paying HIMC a visit again.