A brand new food and fitness philosophy is coming to the UAE in the form of SHA Wellness Clinic. At a secret location in the Emirates, the Spanish founder Alfredo Bataller is laying the foundations for the five-star health centre, which is expected to be completed within two years. We travelled to SHA’s flagship clinic in Alicante, Spain, to meet its founder, a former economist-turned-health guru.
What triggered your conversion from stressed businessman to wellness and macrobiotic evangelist?
Having spent almost 30 years of my life with severe stomach and digestive problems, they finally came to a head in 2000. A biopsy revealed the worst. My family’s history of cancer was well documented; I lost my mother very young, my sister, my aunt and my grandfather, all the same way. In light of this, I went to visit a doctor a friend recommended for his focus on natural therapies and nutrition. I brought him all my medical reports and he didn’t want to see them. He looked into my eyes, analysed my face, my tongue and numerous key points of the body. He was the only medical practitioner to give me hope and succinctly diagnose my colonic problems. His solution was an overhaul of my lifestyle, exercise and nutrition.
Was abandoning your old diet an easy process?
There were many firsts for me, from the inclusion of Japanese sea vegetables to mushrooms, which are very strong anti-cancer and antioxidant foods. Yet, in just one month my body completely changed, the problems I’d had for years were gone. I couldn’t believe it. Whereas before, I was overloading on meat, potatoes, rich sauces, salt and sugary foods, now I can’t even stomach them. I eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and cereals and it’s wonderful to taste healthy flavours again. Before the change, I had truly stopped enjoying life and the switch prompted great contemplation in me. How was it possible at 52 years of age, I wondered, to have only discovered the benefits of this way of living now? I had been given another chance at life and I had to share the idea with normal people from all over the world, suffering as I had.
How is your health today, 14 years later?
Fantastic, thanks to the changes made. Each day I can happily work up to 12 hours, play tennis, do sports and still have so much energy that I don’t want to sleep. My organs are stronger and my senses are heightened – it’s an unbelievable feeling.
Why choose Dubai for your first international clinic?
In the 10 years we’ve been running SHA, we’ve had more than 40 international propositions but we refused them all, until three very competitive offers appeared from Dubai and we chose the one that best suited our “life project”. We’re planning to build SHA in Dubai, as in Spain, in the highest natural part of the country and I’m currently researching a lot about the Arab world, its culture and habits. Why? Because we want to adapt SHA to the traditions and tastes of the region. I love Dubai and have been very impressed with what His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has done.
Tell us about the visitors from the Middle East that travel here to the SHA in Alicante.
We have a tremendous amount of royal family members from the Middle East. Some royal family members request to be treated like any other guest, others require special care and confidentiality. We, naturally, adapt to make them feel at home. There are self-contained suites (private pools, panoramic views, terraces) where meals and treatments can be received in total privacy, for example.
What are some of the most common reasons guests come here?
The reasons are diverse. Some people, like well-known models and actors, appear to be the picture of health, but come here to de-stress, find peace and readjust. Other people are recovering from serious illness and they want to learn new habits.
We try a macrobiotic diet - read the diary here