Nurturing yourself with nature and nutrition
Small changes creating dramatic differences
Katrina first set up The Body Toolkit Retreats in 2014. Originally based on the west coast, her 7-day programme is designed to inspire small changes, which in turn make a dramatic difference to the emotional and physical health of those who take part. Six years on, the programme is a regular sell out. Guests from across the world attend the retreats in the picturesque village of Arisaig, on the Road to the Isles.
Her inspiration behind the retreats is her own experience of health and wellbeing. As a teenager she struggled with acne, IBS and depression. During her early 20s, after graduation, she developed anxiety, which stopped her in her tracks. "It was something I couldn't ignore; I'd been able to hide everything else. But, by then I felt that my world had imploded in on me," she explains. "I had a first-class degree in engineering. I had worked abroad - yet anxiety meant that I could no longer order a cup of tea or pick up the phone to make a call."
She researched her symptoms and stumbled on the idea that reducing her sugar intake could form at least part of a solution, acknowledging that during periods of anxiety, she'd reach for treats. "I cut sugar from my diet and my anxiety levels shrunk by half. Inspired, I began juicing and felt my energy levels begin to increase. At the same time, my IBS calmed, and then I felt my depression beginning to lift." Katrina refined her approach - one that's about listening to the body and supporting it back to its natural state of wellbeing.
Katrina became passionate about sharing her experience: "Ever since my own personal metamorphosis, I've had an itching passion to share this stuff with others. The changes I made were so small and simple, and yet they made such a dramatic impact on how I felt - both physically and emotionally. That is where the Body Toolkit comes from - a week of juicing, coaching, relaxation and nature - added together, are the 'tools' I found to improve my own health."
Food for the soul
The retreats are usually based in Arisaig - overlooking Skye and the Small Isles. It's a part of the world that offers 'food for the soul' as Katrina says, and it's a main reason why people return from all over the world. However, Covid19 brought her business to a standstill this year. The changes came quickly, and like many rural businesses, bringing guests to the area could no longer be an option. Travel had to stop. Those guests who had booked could no longer come.
It's an experience that will be familiar to many business owners on the islands and coastal areas. "I think I grieved for a full two weeks, and then I decided to see it as a nudge to create an online version of the retreats. Long before Covid19 entered our lives, I'd had requests for a virtual option from those who couldn't afford to take a week out for various reasons. Worries about the technology side of things had previously stopped me, but facing the reality of being unable to run my retreats as usual, it felt like it was a case of now or never."
Less pain, less weight, less stress and more energy
The move online allowed those who had already booked onto the retreats to attend - albeit virtually. It also meant Katrina could provide another version of the product to others. Katrina meets her guests from all over the world in her online space for now - live video calls allow her to recreate the sense of the community she has on her retreats. The feedback about the virtual programme remains very positive. Guests consistently 'leave' with less weight, less pain, less stress and more energy. One recent attendee reported she'd had the best night's sleep she'd had in eight years, and another who had suffered from arthritis in her neck, back, hips and shoulders reported the pain had completely subsided.
Antidote 1 - Mother Nature
Mother Nature is a huge part of the original retreats. "I am missing the West Coast sorely," says Katrina before explaining that she encourages online participants to find nature from their front door. "Focusing on nature for some time each day is something that's important for everyone, especially now", she says. "Whether that's in a garden, or a local city park, like myself. It is hard, but time in nature is fundamental for our wellbeing; we need to be getting outdoors, engaging in nature and increasing our Vitamin D."
Antidote 2 - Nutrition
As with nature, Katrina is passionate about the importance of nutrition, again a subject that's taken on more importance for her during Covid19. "Sadly, we all now know the term PPE, but nutrition is our own internal PPE." She continued: "The Body Toolkit Retreats were borne out of my own experience of anxiety and this is an anxious time for many. It's totally understandable that during a stressful period, we'll find comfort in food, and relax with a drink. But we need to be looking after our immune systems and nurturing ourselves with good nutrition, fresh air and outdoor exercise, to help us navigate this really difficult period, and beyond."
Antidote 3 - Purpose
"Finally, all the stories from across the world on how people have stepped in to help each other are powerful. Whether that's checking on neighbours, staying in contact with family, picking up shopping - focusing on what can be done to help others is not only important and practical, it also helps the helper too. In the book, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E Frankl - a Viennese psychiatrist who experienced Auschwitz writes about how man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. The conclusion is timely - having a purpose by helping others is also a powerful antidote to stress."
You can find out more about the award-winning health retreats online at The Body Toolkit To find out more about how businesses and island communities are coping at the moment, look out for our Island Diaries series - Bringing the Islands to you. Whilst we can't currently visit the islands at the moment, it's a series that keeps us connected with the people and places we love.