Foundations of Healthy Living – a Health & Wellness Retreat

The Foundations of Healthy Living (FOHL) is a four-day health and wellness retreat hosted at The White Haus in Ohakune by Andrea Schroeder and the team from Weight Loss Surgery Ltd.

The retreat originally began as a Back On Track for those that had weight loss surgery and needed, or wanted, to reset themselves. Over the last five years, FOHL has constantly evolved and is now held monthly for any and all who want to reap its benefits.
Today the retreat’s main focus is self-care – both mental and physical.  For those who have their surgery through WLS, it is part of your package and you’ll see that I seriously seriously seriously encourage you to use it!

It has been a few weeks now since I attended my (second) retreat and I’ve had the time to process my thoughts and feelings from it.  Before I went, I was given my pre-work… a questionnaire to get me thinking about why I was going and what I wanted to get out of it.

But before I go any further, my own ground rules for this particular blog – as it’s quite personal to me and also, there were other people there.  On Day One we are introduced to the Five Healthy Boundaries. Aside from Housekeeping, these are the basic rules of our time spent at the retreat. And these rules will be used in the context of this blog too.
The 5 Healthy Boundaries are;

  • Confidentiality
  • Letting people have their say – no interruptions
  • No “Rescuing’
  • Permission to ask for what you need
  • “I” Statements

Where I am right now is right between knowing I am the healthiest I have been in my adult life and feeling like a big fraud or an imposter and thinking that someone is going to rock up one morning and say “Haha sucker – this isn’t really your life” and take it all away from me.
Recently I have been waking up in the mornings from dreams where my clothing is all tight and constricting and I touch my belly and my hips in fright just hoping that it was another dream.
My brain is playing some crazy games with me.  So I knew that now was the right time for me to head back down to FOHL.

The White Haus is the perfect location for such a retreat.
Each participant has their own room, there are plenty of showers and bathroom facilities and there is a spa pool.
We are given towels and bathrooms and Sheryl is our Camp Mother.  FYI, she gives THE BEST HUGS EVER and she also looks after our bellies – preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every single one of us.
There is plenty to eat, it is all delicious and you will find a few of the recipes in the WLS Cookbooks.
There is tea and coffee – and vitamins.  You really just have to pack your clothes and arrive.

Every morning, before breakfast, we all go walking.
There is a river walk, a bush walk and a walk to the waterfall.  Each walk is around 5-6km and takes (not even) an hour.  And every walk is absolutely gorgeous.
If you can’t make the whole course, just do the bit you can.  Every step counts.
I just love exercising in the morning.  I feel all self-righteous if I have cracked my step count by lunch time so doing it by breakfast is actually exhilarating!

But after walks, and after breakfast, comes the real work.
Our days are split into different sessions, which last a couple of hours, with a range of knowledgeable facilitators. We have a work room which is warm and comfortable and has a beautiful view of the mountain – and this means that when the session is finished and we leave, you can freshen your mind away from the space where the business end of the retreat is happening. For me, by Day 3, the room felt heavy and I needed to get out and move around more often. You could go to retreat and just sit there and stare out the window. I think you would absorb a lot however for me a lot of the benefit comes in the form of listening to others and sharing my stories. Hearing myself speak my truths helps me work through them.

I was very fortunate to get my ass on a retreat where Dr. Connie Stapleton was visiting and attending.  If you aren’t aware of Connie or her work, totally Google this lady!

So I guess people really want to know – what are the sessions?
How touchy feely/airy fairy is this retreat really?
Well, without giving away too much, here’s a quick summary of some of the sessions in the four-day programme of my retreat:

  • Values. I needed to re-establish what is important to me and what I cannot see myself living without. I needed to re-establish how I want to be in my life. This session really helped me to determine where my efforts should be and what my priorities are, so when I make decisions, I can ask myself whether those decisions will they lead me further towards my values (and goals) or further away from them.
    • This exercise is more practical than anything so my Touchy Feely/Airy Fairy (TFAF) rating = 2
  • Mindful Eating.  So many times I eat something without paying any attention to taste, smell or texture.
    • Another practical exercise – TFAF rating = 1
  • Exercise Circuit Class.  No fancy equipment, just 40 minutes of my time and a little space … and some bad ass music.
    • As practical as it gets – TFAF rating = 0
  • Self Sabotage + Limiting Beliefs.  One of Connie’s sessions where she talks to us about WHY we do some of the things that we do and why we need to work on resolving the negative feelings we have about ourselves, our actions and our lives and why the mental health journey is a very important part of recovering from obesity.  These were quite confronting sessions for me as I recognised some of my obsessions and habits were self-sabotage and that these were happening because of some past experiences that I had just pushed down and tried to forget about.
    • TFAF Rating = 2
  • Sustainable Success.  How changing our words can change our behaviours and ultimately, our results.
    • TFAF Rating = 4
  • Healthy Eating Habits for Life.  Reminders on how we should be eating post-WLS, what we should be eating and some really good suggestions for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
    • TFAF Rating = 1
  • Meditation and Mindfulness.  David teaches us breathing techniques for stress reduction – and for focus.  I enjoy these sessions, I’ve downloaded the apps and I use them and earlier in the year I did a one month Introduction to Mindfulness course.  So for me, its another tool in my box and its a technique that I use when I need it.
    • TFAF Rating = 3
  • Staying on Track.  Realising that triggers and stresses are everywhere is actually part of the healing process, we talk about the Stages of Transformation and I realised that most people experience the same stages that I am but we all handle them differently.  Given by a Bariatric Nurse, it all makes sense!
    • TFAF Rating = 2
  • WLS does NOT treat Food Addiction.  Another amazing session from Connie.  She really gets it – WLS is just a tool but in order to truly beat obesity and master our addictions we have to look at what we are soothing, why we are soothing and what else we can use … that is not another addiction.
    • TFAF Rating = 3
  • Home Truths & Complacency.  Maree has an amazing way of rounding out the day and keeping it all real.  She’s been a ptient and a participant and has ridden the WLS rollercoaster.  Her story is amazing and its sobering.  She hits you hard with the stories of how complacency allowed her to experience set backs and how she has dealt with it.  So not airy fairy.
    • TFAF Rating = 0
  • Goal Setting and the Future.  And then Andrea steps in and asks “Where to from here?”  And we set some goals for the future.  Using the notes and the reminders we have left ourselves from sessions during the previous days.
    • TFAF Rating = 1

So as you can see, sure there’s a lot of talking going on.  But we are humans and I believe that we need that.  We need to share and discuss and learn.  It is how we evolve.

One of the takeaways from the retreat was the statement “Heal In Community”.  For me this means sharing – talking, journaling, being clear about my intentions and my priorities.
I tend to bottle my thoughts and feelings up.  And then they burst out from time to time.  Keeping my journals and now this blog has helped me release things more, however, it’s still a work in progress.
In terms of the FOHL Retreat, I find it so valuable to be able to take myself away from everything else for 4 days and concentrate on me.  It is time to be seriously honest with myself and with a group of people who are doing the same for themselves, I can let go of my shame and embarrassment about my ‘issues’.

I came away with a goal to be less obsessive and less hard on myself.
If I don’t go to the gym 6 days a week and do X number of cardio sessions and X number of weights sessions then that’s okay.  I don’t have to weigh and record absolutely everything I eat and drink.  I do like to do those things – as I like records and numbers – but the question “well what actually happens if I don’t” needs to be asked and answered.  And if the answer is … well, not a lot.  Then I can let it go and move on.
My fear of weight gain has me self-sabotaging.  I’m looking for something to replace that (not shopping as that could become another addiction in itself! … and possibly not exercise … see the notes above).  But I am still going through my Stages of Transformation and mastery is happening.  Life is good.  I can appreciate where I have come from, I can celebrate my successes and I can enjoy this new life.  I don’t just have to be Tara who had a Gastric Bypass.

FOHL is on my To Do list annually.  I hope that if you haven’t been yet, you will.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have but also may I remind you, bookings and enquiries can be made online via FOHL and WLS Hamilton and Wellington and



2 thoughts on “Foundations of Healthy Living – a Health & Wellness Retreat”

    • It truly is – after writing this up, I got a little of my buzz back. It is a wonderful experience 🙂

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