Fountain of Youth in Pacific Northwest

By on August 1, 2011

By Charlene Peters –

For many, British Columbia is a long way to travel, but the journey to wellness is worth the commute. Aside from Vancouver Island’s beauty in watching the whales and seals frolic in the sea, there’s a place where attaining inner and outer beauty is within reach. Fresh Start Health Retreat Centers is located on beautiful Oyster Bay, and might actually be the true Fountain of Youth. OK, it’s not in Florida, but the weather on Vancouver Island is mild and the air is clean. Most importantly, it’s where Ania and Vasili Kastashchuk run Fresh Start, offering 5-, 10- and 14-day intense programs for healing, as well as weekends catered to relaxation and raw food menus.

Beet and wheatgrass Cocktail

Beet and Wheatgrass Cocktail

De-toxing, cleansing and healing is what Fresh Start is all about. And although you have to experience a Fresh Start program to truly appreciate what good it can do for you, I’ll share the experience of a 5-day cleanse.

With open arms (literally, as everyone at Fresh Start is open to affection) you are greeted by everyone at the Center, where you arrive at dinnertime to enjoy your last solid food for a few days. The food, however, is all “live,” meaning raw, uncooked — but, deliciously prepared by Chef Carol Kopp. Think salad, vegetables and grains. But don’t think about drinking with your meal. What you’ll notice is that no water is served with your meal, for reasons of proper digestion.

raw healthy crepes

Rasberry Crepes

The dining room has picture windows overlooking the ocean, and a large dining table and many accessories made from local driftwood. It is here that you will first meet other attendees in your group. Within your time spent at the Center, you’ll become quite intimate with everyone.

Following dinner is orientation, so that before you call it a day, you’ll know where to go come morning. A good night’s sleep is in order, so an early retreat to your Ocean Resort room is spent unpacking, washing up and gearing up for an early morning exercise class. Alternating mornings spent with the soothing Gabriela Eikeland, who offers massage and reflexology, and the best personal care products made from natural resources.

couple sitting at the water at fresh start healing centerFollowing your first morning exercise class, held downstairs at the Fresh Start Health Retreat Center, you’ll head upstairs to the dining room, where a 2-litre bottle of isotonic drink must be consumed within a half hour. Made with warm water and Celtic sea salt, it was soothing … sort of. While drinking the solution, some members in my group who had been at the Center for 10 days already, began to share horror stories of the isotonic’s outcome. Each person will react differently, but every single person will begin cleansing straight away. “You feel great afterwards,” I was told. This was not the case for me. I felt exhausted after the isotonics, which we consumed for three days in a row. Apparently, if you’ve been living a life fueled by stimulants (think coffee, sugar, anxiety); you will feel the most sluggish after isotonics.

Although a juice smoothie shortly followed the isotonic, I was OK with not drinking it, or for that matter eating – as I was full for hours from the isotonic still lurking in my stomach. Plus, after weighing myself, I realized I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. We also had to measure our chest, waist and hips, take our blood pressure and heart rate — every morning after yoga or meditation.

woman exercisingAlthough the isotonics proved to be the most challenging during my visit, there was one member in my group who actually wanted to continue one more day, when the rest of the group was told they were done. That is how rewarding the cleansing and detoxing experience is for those who can muster the courage to do good for their bodies.

In fact, one member in my group was there for the second time. So, I knew there was something about this place that worked. But it’s hard to determine your success when you’re in the midst of detoxing. In addition to the isotonics, many in my group signed on for massage therapy, and then there’s colonics, performed at the Center, and recommended to do twice during the cleanse — once to hydrate your six-foot colon, and once to flush everything out – including that Barbie shoe swallowed as a young girl, or that crayon or candy wrapper, and the barium leftover from a lower GI test. Yes, you can count on a total cleanse if you sign on for colonics. Although I chose to skip this part of the program, which costs extra, it was definitely something I should have done. In hindsight I know this, but at the time, I was still in shock over what was happening to me. It was a stripping down and then building up with nutrients.

All through the cleansing days, juice smoothies were doled out, and our itinerary became labeled as a kidney cleanse day, a liver cleanse day, and a blood cleanse day. The juices of the “day” were actually delicious, and “warming stomach soup” proved successful to all in our group. This smoothie was extra thick, served in a warmed bowl, yet cold, but offering the effect of soup. And it worked for dinner.

Group counseling after isotonics seemed appropriate, as you were, figuratively, stripped raw by then, the perfect time to deal with emotions. You might discover a better appreciation of what you have in your life, or you might realize what you need to change. There may be tears shed, intimacies discussed and decisions made. And then there’s juice. More juice. Beet juice, kale juice, every kind of juice that will add nutrients to your body. And 2 shots of wheatgrass, daily. You also have the choice to sit with a doctor of naturopathy for a blood analysis and energy testing (additional cost).

If you choose to do this, be prepared to know the truth about what you’ve been doing to your body via emotions, lifestyle and food choices. After this, you will be scared straight, for sure. Animal proteins will show up, as will a sluggish digestive system. And the energy testing is in a realm of its own. After this, you’ll know yourself better than you ever thought you could.

“Chew your juice and juice your food” is a common theme around the Center, where a showing of “Food Matters” is just one of a selection of educational tools utilized.

Facts discovered while at the Center include:

• Black spots on bananas mean they were gassed in order to ripen.
• Stick with organic everything possible.
• Drink milk thistle tea to cleanse your liver, and drink it 2-3 times each day.
• You have free will to choose what you will or will not eat.

But, whatever you decide, know this. Two weeks after I returned from the Center, still eating healthy, mostly raw foods in my diet, I had a blood test with my doctor, which showed my cholesterol dropped 62 points — and I’d lost 12 pounds (4 pounds during my time at the Center), and gained a lot of energy – without coffee in the morning (not planned, but you feel so much better without stimulants!).

So, after relaxing, exercise, steam baths, counseling, lectures, art class and walks in the magnificent outdoors, including a few walks inside the on-site labyrinth, what is one supposed to do once you leave the Center?

Well, first things first: eliminate temptation by cleaning out your kitchen cupboards as soon as you get home. Next, purchase the proper kitchen equipment, such as a dehydrator (recommended: Excalibur 9-trays), a Vita-mixer for chowder and green smoothies, and learn how to make raw desserts. Add protein to salads, such as hemp, nuts and avocados, and know that vitamins are not intended for long-term use, but are transitional supplements until your body is working at peak performance. Eat two-thirds vegetables to one-third fruits and purchase a raw food cookbook immediately.

Leaving Fresh Start, I felt proud of my accomplishment in detoxing/cleansing, and empowered by the experience. And please know – it’s definitely worth the investment of your cash, time and energy. To take your health to the next level, visit

Located north of Boston, Massachusetts, Charlene Peters has spent years experiencing spas, food and wines of the world. She enjoys sharing tales on the best stops in her travels, and hopes readers will follow the footprints she leaves behind via her reviews. To reach Charlene, e-mail: [email protected].

Charlene Peters

About Charlene Peters

Located north of Boston, Massachusetts, Charlene Peters has spent years experiencing spas, food and wines of the world. She enjoys sharing tales on the best stops in her travels, and hopes readers will follow the footprints she leaves behind via her reviews. To reach Charlene, e-mail: [email protected]

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Fountain of Youth in Pacific Northwest