A retreat with a difference

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Tim and Maria Walkden- Brown walk their talk in creating their social enterprise base on healthy living.

Tim and Maria Walkden- Brown walk their talk in creating their social enterprise base on healthy living. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

Letting thy food be thy medicine is not just a philosophy but a way of life that creators of the Whole food plant based Retreat, want you to experience.

Owners of the Samoan Highland Hideaway, Tim and Maria Walkden-Brown, have always rented their unique modern fale-style out to visitors wanting a private holiday experience in the middle of tropical lush gardens and plantations. 

The idea to host a health retreat based on the principle of returning to a diet of whole foods sourced from our own plantations came from Tim’s personal experience when he attended a health seminar given by Dr. Walter Vermeulen late last year.

What was initially supposed to be a courtesy acceptance of an invite by a family member turned out to be a life changing experience for Mr. Walkden-Brown, who said he came away from the health session on the benefits of a plant based diet, feeling inspired.

“In November, my relative invited me to a lecture by Dr. Vermeulen. I just thought out of courtesy I would go along with him because he was supposed to bring someone along that needed the treatment so I said I would fill in that spot. 

“That was on December 7th and since then I was so impressed with the nutritional benefits, not only that but the credibility of the nutritional pathway and basically it’s just good food. It’s about getting away from the meats and the fish, the dairy and refined products.”

Mr. Walkden-Brown discovered after following the plant based diet for three months that the health benefits were both felt and seen.

“I’ve always been physically strong and active but I had a bit of a beer gut,” he laughs. “But I thought I would try out the plant based to get my weight down, but for no health reasons at all just to get my belly down. I lost nine kilograms in three months but my whole energy level (and that’s purely relative to my age) increased and I was rather excited about it in many ways.”

It wasn’t just a breakthrough moment for Mr. Walkden-Brown’s personal health, the research on the disease-reversing results that came with living on a whole foods based diet were hard to ignore and he wanted to tell everyone about it.

“When I saw the figures on the obesity, diabetes and heart disease and also how this whole food plant based diet can affect it, I can see how absolutely beneficial this can be for everyone and I know because of what it’s done for me in terms of boosting my health.”

Mr. Walkden-Brown and his wife had an epiphany inspired by Dr. Vermeulen’s talk about plant based retreats held overseas. Realising that immersion in the plant based life is one way to get the message across; Mr. Walkden-Brown had the perfect place to hold a retreat. 

“Walter talked about retreats in the United States and they are very expensive but very successful and it’s pretty much where this whole plant based food idea came from. I told him he should come up to our place and he said this is the perfect place for a retreat.

“When we started planning the retreats we planned for a 10-day retreat but we have cut it down to a 2 day retreat. The costs are about a third of what it costs in the U.S and half of what the other retreats are around the world because we’ve got a lovely advantage in that we’re not doing it in a hotel or resorts like other retreats are doing around the world.”

Living the plant based lifestyle wasn’t hard for Mr. Walkden-Brown and his Samoan wife, who view the nutritional pathway as returning back to the eating habits of our early pre-colonial ancestors of sourcing all their food from the plantations.

“My whole lifestyle is oriented around nature,” said Mr. Walkden-Brown. “We’ve been a mountaineer for about 50-60 years around the New Zealand and Canadian rockies. I just love nature. I’ve a big passion for nature, for whole food or basically plantation food.”

Mr. and Mrs. Walkden-Brown have a vision that’s grander than just running a business; they want to make a positive social and environmental impact in Samoa.

“We are very well on our way to meeting those values. We are one of the very few properties that have solar power and we grow our own food. This retreat is for people in a diabetic state or in obesity state and we want to bring people in from overseas who want to turn their health around even if it’s in a dire state. We want to spread this out because it works and I will do it every weekend fi I can and I’ll do it as often we need to get people back to enjoying healthy lives.”

The whole food plant based retreat will be held on 20-22 July. The introduction programme is a full immersion experience of whole food plant based lifestyle. During the retreat, attendees will learn how to prepare quick and easy whole food plant based meals that nourish their body and support their health. They will also learn how to equip your plant based kitchen and how to prepare staple recipes and make eating that way super easy. 

Dr. Vermeulen, who is promoting whole food plant nutrition, will be giving presentations on the benefits of this lifestyle throughout the retreat.

The weekend retreat includes: accommodation, all meals, presentations and demonstrations, samoan cuisine cookbook.  Costs: SAT $975 registration deposit: SAT$500. 

Contact samoan.highlandhideaway@gmail.com for more information

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