Could YOU handle the world’s strictest wellness retreat? Lady Penny Mountbatten reveals how a £8,340 11-day escape to a German health farm with a liquid daily, daily yoga and sound massages helped her recover from a close friend’s death
Lady Penny Mountbatten, who was married to the Queen‘s third cousin Ivar, has revealed how she escaped to the world’s strictest wellness retreat to recover from the death of a close friend.
Lady Penny married Lord Ivar Mountbatten, son of the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven and third cousin of the Queen, in 1994 and the couple went onto have three daughters: Ella, 23, Alix, 21 and Luli, 17, before divorcing amicably in 2011.
She told FEMAIL she was ‘traumatised’ by the ‘sudden and unexpected death’ of her best friend, whom she discovered in her flat on 2 February, and went into a ‘deep shock.’
The tragedy prompted Lady Penny to consider her own behaviour, saying: ‘I knew I needed to slow down, change the balance in my life, eat a healthier diet, breathe, reset and focus inwardly so I could grieve and begin to heal.’
Lady Penny Mountbatten, who was married to the Queen’s third cousin Ivar, has revealed how she escaped to a £8,340 wellness retreat to recover from the death of a close friend
She travelled to Buchinger Wilhelmi, the world’s leading therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine clinic, which offers an 11 night stay – which involves 7 days of fasting and 4 re feeding days (left, having a sound massage, and right, a liver compress)
It was then she discovered Buchinger Wilhelmi, the world’s leading therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine clinic, which offers an 11 night stay – which involves 7 days of fasting and 4 re feeding days.
The range of services includes more than 250 different treatments ranging from massage and relaxation therapy to daily walking tours, yoga classes and even lectures and panel discussions.
Meanwhile every guest is also assigned a doctor who draws up an individual therapy plan and offers an evaluation of health objectives and therapy recommendations to take home.
Here Lady Penny reveals how her stay at Buchinger Wilhelmi transformed her physical and mental fitness….
Lady Penny was married Lord Ivar Mountbatten, son of the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven and third cousin of the Queen, in 1994 and the couple went onto have three daughters: Ella, 23, Alix, 21 and Luli, 17, before divorcing amicably in 2011
Arrival late evening. Warm welcome with a porter taking suitcase and a friendly white coated nurse showed me to my very comfortable room, which has the softest sheets and choice of cloudy pillows, fluffy white dressing gowns, fasting literature and a folder for all my paperwork.
Dr Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo’s top tips for boosting your immune system
8.30pm For dinner, I am given herbal tea, one apple and small handful of nuts, four large bottles of water.
Slept 7 hours, Weight 62.6 kilos, Calories 300, Steps 10,132
8am Awoke feeling excited and a bit apprehensive.
Each day at Buchinger Wilhelmi begins with herbal tea in bed, followed by one on one health checks with a nurse including blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight, and a Covid test.
9am Initial check up with my personal doctor Dr Siegler, who establishes I am an atopic person – simply put, I have a sensitivity to allergens.
My doctor and the nutritionist devised a fasting and re-feeding plan, avoiding all apple and nuts.
She explained that many diseases can be treated with fasting, so fasting could alleviate all of my allergies. Hallelujah!
Six vials of my blood were taken and sent off to Berlin for vital organ, allergies and food intolerance tests, cholesterol, diabetes, mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
11am Shiatsu – a relaxing treatment with Mr Thomas Lutz. This treatment involves putting pressure along meridians and being stretched – it stimulates energy flow and holistic energy balance.
Mr Lutz uses a tuning fork creating a vibration acupuncture, which he knocks against his heel and then applies to the body.
12pm Restaurant to eat a bowl of porridge with steamed vegetables – a strange but rather satisfying combination which filled me up.
2pm Skin brushing – this is the ‘fasting person’s answer to coffee’. A dry skin massage using circular motions with natural bristles. It is great for circulation and low blood pressure. Left me feeling revitalised.
4pm Swam 20 lengths of the glorious pool with views of snowcapped mountains in the sunshine.
5pm Read my book on the sun terrace overlooking Lake Constance.
6pm Restaurant to eat a second bowl of bland porridge. It feels comfortable to either be very anti social or engage easily with other guests. Everyone seems very calm and respectful of one another.
8.30pm Into bed early, I have jet lag having flown from Washington to London, then London to Zurich only the day before. Also, I had major sugar cravings and realised sleep was the only way to forget about them.
Slept 8 hours, Weight 61.7 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 7,300
6am Woke early feeling positive and very empty – as a distraction I read the newspapers and all the Buchinger Wilhelmi literature about fasting.
7am Daily visit to nurse for checks.
8am Herbal tea and teeny bowl of honey to use sparingly during the day if my energy was low.
11am Nettle tea and apple compote with linseed oil.
11.30am As I only wanted to lose a few pounds, my fast was supplemented with a daily glass of carrot juice, linseed and sunflower oil.
12pm Hay flower and back massage
1pm Lunch was a vegetable broth kindly bought to my bedroom suite.
For the first few days at the clinic, Lady Penny was eating 200 calories a day, with her limited diet supplemented with tons of water
Among the more unusual meals she was served while at the clinic was a bowl of porridge with steamed vegetables, which she called ‘a strange but rather satisfying combination’
Buchinger Wilhelmi is the world’s leading therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine clinic, which offers an 11 night stay – which involves 7 days of fasting and 4 re feeding days (pictured)
1.30pm Liver compress – a hot water bottle placed on my side and wrapped up in a large bandage around my tummy. This is offered every day after lunch to enforce a digestive rest and stimulate liver function and encourage a rest.
3pm Afternoon lying in warm sun, reading the 2nd of the seven books I lugged out to Germany with me.
4pm Walked down to Lake Constance through the picturesque town of Uberlingen – unexpected spring sunshine and I definitely bought the wrong clothes!
6pm Supper in the fasting restaurant – small bowl of celeriac soup – delicious but I nearly ate the actual bowl I was so hungry and had a hankering for bread rolls and butter.
8pm Herbal tea after a long bath.
9.30pm Went to bed with a hot water bottle – which is unnaturally early for a night owl like me but as advised by Dr Francoise Wilhelmi, following the Circadian calendar is a much healthier way to live. Go to sleep when it gets dark and wake with the light.
Slept 8 hours, Weight 61.7 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 6,500
While staying at the centre, Lady Penny also took part in walks in the grounds (pictured) as well as yoga and gym sessions
For the first few days of her visit, Lady Penny struggled with hunger pains and her concentration as she settled into the fast (pictured, a nettle tea with honey)
6.30am I woke feeling very grateful, supported and light headed.
7am Check in with nurse, urine sample followed by nettle tea with honey.
9am Walk around Lake Constance and while the 50 steps back into the clinic felt like climbing Kilimanjaro, the sunshine helped raise my mood.
11am Colon hydrotherapy- abdominal massage has regulatory impact on circulation, lymphatic flow and autonomic nervous system. It is meant to reduce hunger but I didn’t notice that affect! I am fantasizing about very unhealthy food!
12pm Lunch – small bowl of vegetable broth – tasty but hardly satisfying my hunger.
12.30pm Liver compress and enforced rest.
2pm Very little energy so I read my book most of the afternoon and attempted work emails, but my mental alacrity seems diminished.
6pm First to arrive in the restaurant for supper as so desperate was I – small bowl of sweet potato soup.
8pm Stretch and long bath.
9pm Very tired, rumbling tummy and a bit achy in my hips, lower back and calves (all normal side affects of a fast) and the nurse kindly gave me a hot water bottle and Aconite oil to rub on the achy muscles.
10pm Bed – I wish I was allowed a biscuit or a very, very small piece of chocolate! I dreamt about pizza.
By dinner on the fourth day of her stay, Lady Penny confessed she was finding the soup ‘delicious’ and said she ‘wanted to lick the bowl’
Slept 6 hours, Weight 60.6 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 4,573
7am Woke up in a negative place after weird dreams and interrupted sleep, wanting to wage war on every white coated person in the place.
Then remembered that it was my choice to be here and how privileged I was to have an opportunity to fast in a medically supported environment ….. and then calmed down a bit!
7.30am Saw the nurse and she could see I was hangry. She suggested an additional bowl of salty vegetable broth for breakfast to ease the muscles as well as nettle tea with honey.
Very hard to read or to focus on work. Managed a couple of zoom calls – I feel delirious with fatigue and hunger. Clarity and focus at an all time low.
12pm Small bowl of vegetable broth in the restaurant, I have an overwhelming longing for something to chew and bite.
1pm Liver compress and slept for nearly an hour.
2pm Lymph drainage treatment with Mr Lutz. Deeply relaxing.
4pm A second brush massage – excellent while fasting.
6pm More soup in the restaurant, it was beyond delicious and I wanted to lick the bowl.
6.30pm Forced myself to take a walk around the moat in Überlingen in the evening sunshine, with a very low energy supply, so I took it very slowly.
7.30pm In bed with book – sugar cravings are on fire.
Slept 7 hours, Weight 60.4 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 11,432
During her stay, Lady Penny took walks down to the lake and admired the views of the Swiss mountains in the distance
Meanwhile she also took part in daily yoga sessions at Buchinger Wilhelmi, as well as other activities
7am Woke up feeling much more positive, clean and have clarity! Have I turned the corner?
7.30am Organic black tea and honey for breakfast
8.15am Dr Siegler consultation to go over all blood test results – got thumbs up for all results which is such a relief and so comforting. Food intolerance and allergy results still to come.
What is Buchinger Wilhelmi, known as the world’s strictest wellness retreat?
The home of five-star fasting, Buchinger Wilhelmi, on Lake Constance, is where its founder, Dr Otto Buchinger, devised his fasting method over a century ago.
With 6,000 guests from over 60 countries every year, more than 250,000 successful fasting treatments in total, and 100 years of fasting expertise over four generations, Buchinger Wilhelmi is the world’s leading company for therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine.
Vegetable broths, herbal teas and laxatives are usually the only things to pass your lips.
Turn to yoga, meditation, hiking and an array of body treatments to take your mind off just how much you miss chewing.
There is a heated, open air swimming pool, enormous fitness centre, gym, sports ground and tennis court, all with far reaching views from the northern shores of Lake Constance in Germany to the snow capped Alps in Switzerland.
The only rules are no mobiles on the clinic premises, during excursions or on walking tours.
Smoking is also not permitted.
Clinic doors close at 11pm so any stragglers who defect to a local casino are locked out).
It offers 10-day fasting programmes from £8,340 per person.
The price includes two consultations with a doctor, daily check-ups with the nurse, food and drink, fasting provisions and daily activities.
The programme is based on therapeutic fasting developed by the clinics ‘founder, Dr. Otto Buchinger (1878–1966).
The clinic’s practitioners advocate the belief that therapeutic fasting is the quickest route to wellness where you learn to eat mindfully and notice your body asks for what it needs.
Leo Wilhelmi is the great grandson of founder, philosopher and pioneer Dr Otto Buchinger, and the fourth generation to run the Buchinger Wilhelmi clinic in Germany.
He told Lady Penny: ‘In a world that is spinning faster and faster to the point of derailing, we want to be a safe haven for those who wish to regenerate and get in touch with themselves.
‘We are a clinic, an hotel and a monastery all in one and fasting has never been more relevant than today with increased mental and physical health challenges’.
9.15am Finally feeling calm and in the right headspace for meditation.
10.30am Carrot juice and oil.
11am Meeting with Director, Leo Wilhelmi to talk about the history of the clinic and their scientific backed programme and anti trauma therapy.
12pm Yet more broth followed by wonderful daily liver compress and enforced rest.
2pm Few zoom meetings and felt slightly more eloquent than previous days.
3pm Emotional Balancing with Mr Lutz – an extraordinary session of deep guided meditation. It felt as if I was being enveloped by my guardian angel.
4pm Swim 20 lengths.
5pm Walked alongside Lake Constance.
6pm Soup in the restaurant which tonight was more than satisfying and I didn’t crave anything else before I went to bed. Breakthrough.
7pm Read my book and did a meditation – feeling grateful for absolutely everything in my life.
Slept 7 hours, Weight 59.5 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 13,467
7am Woke feeling fantastically excited about life and as if I could conquer the world- my cup of black tea and honey may well become habitual – I am enjoying it!
10.15am Cooking demonstration.
11am Osteopathy with Kaiser Schröpfer – a treatment which identifies disorders in the musculoskeletal system, organs and cranium and creates alignment in the entire body – he unlocked my wrist, elbow, hip and realigned everything else.
12pm Bowl of broth in the restaurant – no desire for bread or anything else!
12.15pm Zoom meeting – I felt very focused and quite eloquent!
1.30pm Excursion Day! So much energy, I decided to take the ferry to Mainau Island (Flower Island) 30 minute river trip to view the stunning Spring flowers and magnificent trees on family run island.
All my senses are heightened; smell, touch, taste and sight – everything seems possible today and the natural world more beautiful than ever.
5.30pm Swam 10 lengths.
6.30pm Bowl of broth – I am beginning to love the light suppers and one small bowl is enough.
8pm Bed and movie on the laptop.
Slept 8 hours, Weight 59.5 kilos, Calories 200, Steps 11,271
7am Woke feeling excited and positive and energised.
8am Third and final meeting with my doctor to go through blood test results
I am low in Biotin – Vitamin H, Zinc and Vitamin B. Immediately prescribed in the right dosage for 2 months and sent to my room – what an unbelievable service!
10am Carrot juice and linseed/sunflower oil.
10.15am Re-feeding lecture in The Pavilion – understanding how your body reacts after a fast. A lot to take in but really interesting and made it seem entirely possible to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
11am Walk around the local town and amazing thing happened, I didn’t feel I wanted anything sweet or savoury, even when I saw people eating ice creams and crisps!
12pm Soup followed by liver pack and a snooze.
3pm Sound massage with the wonderful therapist Mr Thomas Lutz – he placed different sizes of Tibetan singing bowls on and beside my body and gently tapped them.
The resulting vibration is felt within the body, resulting in deep relaxation, harmonization and a retuning on all levels.
By the seventh day at the centre, Lady Penny was beginning to feel more positive and energised after a lengthy fast
The mother-of-three revealed how she felt able to walk up a hill next to the centre because she had ‘so much energy’
4pm Swam 30 lengths.
5pm Meeting with The Wilhelmi Family at their home near to the clinic, Mr Raimond, Dr Francoise and Mr Leo Wilhelmi.
It is clear this family are ‘high touch, not high tech’ (Leo’s words) and they remind me that it is the people on their team who make the whole Buchinger Wilhelmi experience a unique one.
6pm Bowl of fennel soup – utterly delicious and quite enough to satisfy my diminishing needs.
7pm Walked up the hill – just for the hell of it and because I had so much energy!
8pm Bath and bed with book.
Slept 8 hours, Weight 59.0 kilos, Calories 400, Steps 10,693
7am Woke feeling positive and upbeat and wishing I could extend my fast! A huge change from the headspace I was in on Day 4!
I since discovered that a lot of people feel this way and wish to extend their fast and stay longer.
7.30am Nurse for health checks.
8am Yoga and meditation.
11am Shiatsu and back massage with Thomas Lutz.
12pm Met the Mr Klapdor – who is the patient champion of Buchinger Wilhelmi. He is 93 years old and has been to the clinic an extraordinary 95 times. That’s twice a year for 60 years. Total inspiration as he is as fit as a fiddle.
12.30pm Lunch in the second restaurant that serves actual food! Light lunch of soufflé and salad. Delicious, but felt like too much food. I had to lie down afterwards!
4pm Swam 16 lengths.
3pm Walked on the treadmill and did a gym workout.
6pm Dinner in the restaurant – delicious supper of steamed vegetables and cous cous.
7.30pm Bath, bed and movie.
On her eighth day at the centre, Lady Penny took to the gym for a workout, confessing she felt ‘so positive’ and energised
Slept 8 hours, Weight 58.5 kilos, Calories 600, Steps 10,493
7am Woke feeling glad to be alive and bursting with energy.
8am Visited the nurse.
10.30am Went to the gym to cross train and do yoga.
11.30am Swam 20 lengths.
12pm Lunch in the restaurant – salad and vegetables and pulses. Perfect.
2pm Beginning to focus more on work and did some overdue admin.
4.30pm Brisk walk around Lake Constance in the Spring sunshine.
5.30pm Picked up for a work dinner and driven to Switzerland for the evening.
7pm Broccoli soup with potato and charcoal crackers kindly cooked by my hosts in deference to my fast.
11pm Got back to the clinic in the nick of time before the doors are locked for the night.
Slept 7 hours, Weight 58.0 kilos, Calories 800, Steps 11,943
7am Woke feeling full of energy, focused, balanced, calm and very happy.
8am Saw the nurse for checks.
10.30am Yoga and meditation.
12pm Lunch in the restaurant – delicious array of vegetables and sliced potatoes.
2pm Gym workout and 20 lengths of the pool.
4pm Read my book in the sunshine.
5pm Long walk in the fields nearby full of poppies and cherry blossom everywhere
6.30pm Dinner of salads and aubergine.
8pm Bed feeling super grateful.
By the final day, she had one final gym session as well as one last swim in the pool before heading home
Slept 8 hours, Weight 58.0 kilos, Calories 1000, Steps 12,217
7am Woke feeling grateful and a little sad that my stay at Buchinger is over.
8am Saw the nurse for final checks.
8.30am Breakfast of porridge and fruit in the restaurant.
10am Gym session and one last swim.
12pm Light lunch in the restaurant, celeriac and cous cous and pulses.
2pm Picked up to go to the airport and fond farewells until we meet again