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This Is Northern New South Wales

Belly-Friendly Retreat



A pop-up retreat in Byron Bay will echo a key message made by Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago – the man widely credited as the ‘father of modern medicine’ – that all disorders begin in the gut. Held in Ewingsdale over the June long-weekend (6th and 7th), the two-day, “belly-friendly” event for women hopes to debunk nutritional myths using food as medicine, bio-individuality, and holistic wellness techniques. “A big one is the diet-heart-myth and the relation of saturated fat and cholesterol to heart disease,” For Life Retreats Program Manager Anna Surrey said. “Most of us grew up being told that foods like red meat, eggs and butter raise our cholesterol levels. This idea is so deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche that few people even question it. But is it really true? We look at the recent evidence-based research and look beyond outdated studies.”

Anna, who co-owns Alive Foods Byron Bay with husband David Mendes, said a balanced digestive system is the foundation of health, vitality and longevity. “From the anecdotal research we have done, a majority of people tolerate digestive discomforts, or perhaps have tried a variety of treatments, but nothing seems to work for them,” she said. “I’m sure most people can relate to the uncomfortable symptoms of eating foods that simply don’t agree with them, and within hours or perhaps the next day feeling lethargic, bloated, painful cramps, reflux – the list goes on. So, it’s about eliminating these foods to determine if there’s any change and tailoring your eating and lifestyle accordingly.”


Inspired by nutrition pioneers including Sally Fallon, Natasha Campbell-McBride and Chris Kresser, Anna said For Life Retreats’ pop-up event will hopefully inspire women to have a better understanding of the food they ingest and the effects it has on their bodies. “Our retreat is specialised and, we believe, the first of its kind,” Anna said. “The digestive-friendly menu, which follows a food-is-medicine and bio-individuality approach, has been accredited by qualified nutritionist Josh Reed from Sol Nutrition. It is known that our digestive system functions best between the hours of 10am and 4pm, and this is when the main meals will be served.”

A vocal advocate for consuming fermented foods, Anna believes the bacteria boosting microbes they contain offer a variety of health benefits ranging from increased energy and clear skin to strengthening the immune system “Fermented and cultured foods have made an enormous breakthrough in recent times for many reasons including the evolving research around the healing potential of probiotic rich foods,” she explained. “One example is Sauerkraut, a food that has created a real buzz with people re-discovering the incredible health benefits of this ancient traditional food across a broad range of cultures. During ancient times, Sauerkraut was know equally for its delicious taste as its medicinal properties.” Fermented foods, Anna explained, are capable of replacing probiotic supplements “and are more concentrative in friendly bacteria and cost-effective than pills we can buy in the store”. “Full of active enzymes, fermented foods also assist in the digestion of animal proteins and carbohydrates; foods that require more work and energy to be broken down by the digestive system.”


While not everybody is able to tolerate eating fermented foods – “especially people with chronic digestive problems and histamine intolerance” – Anna said starting with small amounts was a great start. To help guests avoid the “post-retreat blues”, take-home tools were an integral part of For Life Retreats’ program. “As a result, often when we leave a retreat setting with the principles we learned that will change the way we feel, it’s easy to fall by the wayside. Life back home, becomes busy almost immediately and we tend to slip back into old patterns. Consequently, each guest receives a fermenting kit they can use at home, as well as a program filled with recipes, slides and information on dietary protocols they may wish to apply. Furthermore, they are supported through an online closed community where we can chat about how they are experiencing their respective food and lifestyle related changes and how their new approach to wellness is actually working out for them. Our ultimate goal is that women are able to take control of their health and wellness goals.”

Register your place at For Life Retreats’ pop-up weekend retreat in Byron Bay here.