pura vida, pt I

Many of you know I was in Costa Rica for 10 days last month, but you probably don't know why! It was a semi-sporadic decision I made, and it began when I met Maria at church. Maria is a great friend and currently the program director of Birchcreek, a weight loss retreat in Costa Rica. In one of our first conversations, she told me all about what they do and their focus on juice fasting and healthy living. I thought it sounded intriguing--exercise, juice fasting, and outdoor activities all taking place a resort in a gorgeous beach town in another country? Sign me up! When she mentioned that they took on interns, I was all about it.

So off I went. My ticket was cheap, my flight was direct, and my room/board was free. I was so excited to see another Central American country (Honduras being the first and only) and meet some really interesting people. Samara (in Guanacaste) is a popular surfing town and there are a TON of travelers there. Many go on vacation and never leave! I'm going to tell you more about Samara in my next post about Costa Rica, but for now I want to tell you more about the weight loss program itself.


First Samara sunset

Birchcreek Retreat basically gives people the opportunity to jump start themselves on a path of weight loss and healthy living. They participate in a juice fast of one to three weeks (sometimes longer!) while working with personal trainers for multiple hours a day doing cardio, strength training, yoga, pilates, etc. I took part in the juice fasting and exercise for four consecutive days, and I've never been that physically challenged in my life.

Juice fasting was a brand new experience for me. If you don't know what it is, I didn't either a few months ago, and I'm not claiming to know a lot about it now--but I'll tell you what I've learned. You need a juicer (we used a Champion), which extracts the juice from pretty much any fruit or vegetable, leaving behind a dry pulp (we discarded it, but some pulp can be reused for baked goods, etc.). We drank 8 oz. of juice for breakfast and 16 oz. for dinner using different concoctions approved by a team of doctors and nutritionists. The juices amounted to a daily intake of approximately 1200 calories, but the nutrients you receive from them are more than what you could ever get from eating a regular day's diet. Made from fresh, raw fruits and vegetables only, the juices are basically amazing for you. Your body gets to rest from breaking down and digesting all the solid foods (mostly crap) you are used to eating and has the chance to benefit from all the amazing things you're putting in from the fruits and veggies. Paired with the several hours of fitness and exercise a day, you are immediately launched into some extreme weight loss. Although that wasn't my goal in going to Costa Rica, I did really love the results--I felt amazing! The way I viewed it, juice fasting was purely to detoxify my body and give it a break from all the crap I eat.

The juices were incredibly delicious--especially the fresh, local pineapple! It was the best I've ever had! Some of my other favorites were: cantaloupe (love that flavor!), a pineapple/apple/cinnamon blend, and, oddly enough, a dinner drink called "salad" made from tomatoes, green pepper, celery and cilantro. I never was much of a V8 fan, but I guess when you're hungry enough, many things will unexpectedly taste amazing.


Salad juice! Mmm.

One of my favorites: Pink Lady. So pretty!

I'll be honest--I had a difficult time at first. Maria warned me that people typically get pretty emotional the first couple of days, and it happened to me too. I was hungry, I was missing Luke, the dirty dishes never stopped piling up. One afternoon I was stocking juices in the refrigerator when one toppled and, like dominoes, they all spilled out at once. I broke down and cried.

I also learned an important lesson from the difficulty I experienced at the beginning, and that was how IN LOVE with food I really am. Before my trip I never would have said that I'm addicted to food, but this reality hit me the second morning of juicing when I woke up hungry and extremely unhappy. My thoughts were so negative…I wanted to go home. As I made the breakfast juices, I was staring out the window at the gorgeous blue sky, palm trees and tropical flowers blooming brilliantly around the resort and I wondered how I could be so unhappy in such a beautiful environment. I asked myself "What would make me happy right now?" And my first thought was…breakfast. Sitting down to a big breakfast and a cup of coffee (at that point I'd been off of coffee for several days, too)--THAT was my happy thought! Scary. I'm hoping to control what I eat more now that I am aware of how easily I can make food my love.

But then by day four I had come "over the hump", and it was basically a breeze. My body felt amazingly cleansed and my hunger level decreased significantly. I slept great, I woke up feeling great, and my cravings were gone! If I was staying in CR longer, I would have absolutely kept the fast going. However, my time there was limited and I didn't want to miss out on the local fare, so I cut the fast a bit short in order to enjoy some restaurants my last couple of days.

The exercise was amazing too! What a perfect way to launch into summer--getting out and doing some walking, hiking, conditioning, yoga, pool cardio, you name it. I hope I can keep it up. I have such a hard time getting myself out for a workout sometimes, but when it becomes habitual nothing feels better. Like one of our clients said to me while I was there, "The only workout you'll ever regret is the one you didn't do." Wise words.

If all of the above sounds completely foreign to you, you might want to challenge yourself to take a few days to eat raw fruits/veggies only and up your exercise regimine. You may be shocked at how amazing you feel afterwards.

Here are some more photos. Enjoy!



The picture above is from one of the most amazing experiences I got to have on the trip. The terrified-looking woman clutching the rock is a Birchcreek client who was continuing her weight loss journey (I'll call her Jen). Three years ago she was over 350lbs! She decided that she wanted to go on an adventure tour while in Costa Rica which included horseback riding, whitewater tubing, rock climbing, and ziplining. Everything was going smoothly until it was time to do the zipline. I looked over at Jen and she was crying. She had never done anything like this before because her old life wouldn't allow it. I tried to be as encouraging as possible, and she faced her fear and completed the zipline. I was really happy for her, but little did we know we had about an hour or more left of extreme climbing, ziplining and rappelling. When we had to scale the rock wall in the picture, Jen looked at me like a deer in headlights and said "Margaret, I can't do this." I was also super nervous at the sight of the handles protruding out of the rock (one actually had some kind of glue seeping out. eeek!) but I just looked at her and told her she could do it and was going to do it. She was shaking profusely as she tried to hang on to the handles, but she made it! I screamed for her the whole way until she was on solid ground again. I was so so so proud of her. When it was all over, she could not believe what she had just accomplished. I can't imagine how awesome it must have felt to do something you NEVER could have done three years ago due to the restrictions on your lifestyle from your weight. She's living a brand new life now. So amazing!