A trip behind the Gold Coast’s Golden Door
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A trip behind the Gold Coast

PERHAPS it was a sign, but I could not get The Golden Door’s sliding security gate to open.

I had arrived 10 minutes before my allotted time. No one was answering my calls on the intercom. I pushed button after button. Punched in various codes, but all to no avail.

There was no way in. But that also meant there was no way out.

Should I go, or stay?

Then a car pulled up behind me and the person behind the wheel shouted the entry code. My escape option had been closed.
The Golden Door is a much-loved health retreat in the Gold Coast’s hinterland. This remote rainforest retreat has been changing lives for decades one vegie burger at a time.

The Golden Door a while back introduced a wellness concept to its philosophy, so now the focus is on much more than just weight loss.

After dropping my bag off at my basic but neat, TV-less timber cabin, high on the hill, my first appointment was with the wellness coach.

I’ve had football, tennis and cricket coaches, but this was my first time with a wellness coach. She led me to a windowless room in The Golden Door’s spa where we sat facing each other in comfortable lounge chairs and she asked me what I wanted to get out of my time at The Golden Door.

“I want to lose weight,” I blurted out. She wanted more. She expected me to look into my soul and share. She wanted to know if I was happy and if I was doing enough to be the best person I could be. At this point you can go one of two ways open up or shut down. We chatted well past our allocated hour.

After this, we headed to the communal dining room to meet the rest of the inmates, sorry guests. Golden Door visits start on Sundays and last for either five or seven days.

I had been given permission to join this group of 25 people on the Thursday morning so my first meeting with them was a bit like attending your first day at a new school.

These people had been strangers on the previous Sunday but, by Thursday, there was an incredible group bond.
I was also surprised by the make-up of the group. It was about 50-50 men and women. For some reason I thought The Golden Door’s core business would have been females.

For a lot of these guests it was not their first visit either. Some had been coming for 10 years. Some came to break bad habits, again. Some came to lose weight, again. Others just wanted to take the accelerator off busy lives and do something completely different.

Wayne, a Brisbane businessman, told me that he comes for at least two weeks every year. He usually loses about 10kg in that time and returns to work fit and ready for action.

Glenn, who was also there for two weeks, told me his record weight loss was 16kg.

So how do they do it?

Firstly, and most importantly, it is the food. Executive chef David Hunter, a Scot from Fife, has abandoned his country’s fried-food traditions and developed a dining regime that is not just tasty but it is incredibly good for you.

You are encouraged to pile the food high on your plate. You never leave the table hungry. But there’s no alcohol, coffee or sugar.
Mostly it is soups and vegetables, although one night we did have an amazing poached salmon, and there’s even dessert on a couple of nights.

Hunter, who has been cooking at The Golden Door for more than 15 years, also invites guests into his kitchen where he shares his simple, yet effective, cooking philosophy.

The second secret to weight loss is that while the sun is up you never stop.

That’s not quite true. You don’t have to do anything at The Golden Door. No one shouts (Biggest Loser style) if you don’t want to participate, but most people do opt to involve themselves in the group activities. You are always walking up and down the property’s hills from one activity to the next.

A typical day starts with tai chi qi gong followed by deep water running, which is a fantastic aerobic workout. Breakfast fruit followed 10 minutes later by porridge is at 8am and the morning is filled with a stretch class, yoga and fitball.

After lunch, the volleyball net goes up for an hour. Then it’s boxing training and another stretch class before dinner at 6.30. Most guests collapse into bed, exhausted, about 8pm.

Depending on the length of your Golden Door stay, you get a number of indulgent treatments from the world-class spa.
There’s also group wellness discussions and meditation classes. The female discussion group went for an hour. I can’t comment on what was said because they wouldn’t let me in.

The men’s group went for two hours. All I’ll say is that there were tears, hugs and laughter. The message though was serious: get your priorities right and the rest of your life will fall into place.

So who goes to The Golden Door?  ...

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