I went to Dr Eva Orsmond's health hotel in Portugal - here's my diary of despair

When Esther N McCarthy was invited to get firsthand experience of Dr Eva Orsmond’s health hotel in Portugal, she jumped at the chance… until she learned there were no carbs, sugar, or alcohol. Here’s the diary of quiet despair she kept during her visit to the exclusive resort
I went to Dr Eva Orsmond's health hotel in Portugal - here's my diary of despair

Esther N McCarthy and Dr Eva Orsmond's at the health hotel Solar Alvura in Portugal. =


Sitting at table on patio of Solar Alvura, can hear Aoife from production crew talking to Eva in dining room.

“Esther’s here to observe and give feedback, she’s not here for the diet part so you can give her the normal menu.”

I raise my eyebrows to the others. Andrea, Mark and Conor are clients of Eva’s clinic in Dublin, they’ve been here a couple of days now. Dr Eva bustles out, looks me up and down and tells me to go on the fast weight loss diet.

“Eva!” laughs Aoife, nervously, “she’s not here to do the diet.”

“I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t want to lose weight,” declares the doc.

“Well!” says I. “That’s really problematic, Eva, women shouldn’t feel they’re not good enough, that’s a shocking indictment of a society where we’re constantly exposed to ridiculous pressure to adhere to unrealistic standards of ... actually, it would be pretty sweet to get back to Cork half a stone lighter, sign me up, girl.”

Eva gives a satisfied little nod and, Tracey, her girl Friday and my new BFF, ushers me off. Worry am shallow and have missed feminist opportunity to take stand against misogynistic toxic culture where am judged on BMI instead of inner beauty, but then picture myself fitting in dress without buttons popping off and allow myself to be meekly led to weigh-in room.

There, I confront an old nemesis. Ah Tanita, we meet again. Tanita is a body composition analyser that first humiliated me in 2016 during a press trip to the four-star Marble AMA Andalusia hotel. The results then were a 24.4% degree of obesity and my metabolic age was 53.

Tanita has not softened since our last showdown. Today she says, among other things, that my obesity level is 33.6% and my metabolic age is 58. I know it’s not possible for a machine to be gleeful but I get a definite vibe off this one. Tracey pats my back fat kindly and promises not to tell Eva I tried to unplug her superscale. This ain’t over Tanita, watch your back, bitch.

But it does highlight the undeniable fact I’m a couple of stone too heavy. I can’t blame Eva, or Tanita. Part of the problem is I am cursed with the inflated ego of a Cork person. I think I’m massive. Leeside, that means fabulous. In Solar Alvura it just means fat.

Lunchtime! Hurrah!! I’ve chosen tomato soup and it’s gorgeous, I’m happy until Eva rocks over with a steak. “Eh, what’s the story there, blondie?” Eva doesn’t even look up, she eats like she does everything else, quickly with nonsense levels of zero.

“You’re a hard case, horsing into steak and me on soup, ya hound,” I say, with a hint of menace.

“This is a high protein meal that is available on the maintenance plan, you’re on the VLCKD plan.” replies Eva, stabbing her minute steak. “Very Low Calorie and Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet.”

One thing I learn and love about her is she is unfazed by my bullshit and gives as good as she gets.

A burrito bowl, one of the meals Esther N McCarthy was served while staying at Dr Eva Orsmond’s health hotel.
A burrito bowl, one of the meals Esther N McCarthy was served while staying at Dr Eva Orsmond’s health hotel.

After lunch I settle into my room. Elegant, bespoke, luxurious, Eva and now just-business-not-life partner Wyatt have done an incredible job bringing the property from wreck to wonder. The Tyrone crew mic me up and ask for first impressions. Aoife explains, “We just want you to share your honest opinion informed by your experience and knowledge of the lifestyle and wellness sector.” Break out in cold sweat and it’s not just the air con. 

Should I tell her the closest I’ve got to experiencing the wellness sector lately is when I pretend I’m going for a poo so the kids will leave me in the bathroom long enough to get through a couple of chapters of my book? Oh, who am I kidding, I’m watching old episodes of Veronica Mars on my phone, ok? I blather on, they seem happy enough, but I can’t remember a single word I’ve said as soon as the camera light blinks off.

Time for my massage! The camera follows, what fresh hell is this? “Is it ok if we just get a shot from the door?” asks Aoife. “Oh lovely,” I say, like she’s a hairdresser who’s just given me a wonky fringe and asked me what I thought. The therapist is incredible, I bliss out and forget about the camera peeking… did I… did I just show my white, 33.6% obese arse on RTÉ?

Dinner is a vegetarian burger with tzatziki and quinoa, absolutely delicious, but they’re taking the piss with the dessert. Mark, Conor and Andrea are giddy when they get theirs. “You’ll be like this tomorrow,” predicts Mark, darkly. He and Conor first met Eva on Operation Transformation in 2010.

The day I get orgasmic over Hartley’s strawberry sugar-free jelly will be a sad day. I’d have mangled a gin and tonic but there’s a strict no alcohol rule, which Aoife revealed after the plane tickets had been bought.

Considered sneaking in duty-free, but honestly, my liver could do with a break, it’s been all go this summer. Sure, I don’t need alcohol to enjoy myself. (I recant this statement; see day three and karaoke.)


A walk at the salt plains. 
A walk at the salt plains. 

Go for a swim in the glorious infinity pool. Read in the dappled sunlight and stroll in for breakfast. Shake off images of a full Irish and a cheeky Bloody Mary and sit down for an omelette. It’s made with Laktolight sachets, a Eurodiet sachet, mixed herbs and spices, black pepper and asparagus spears. The others ooh and ahh. “No eggs?” says I.

Eva pops up like a blonde meerkat. “I am passionate about vegetables, come to my cooking class later and find out how to make these delicious recipes.”

She tells us to get ready for our walk. “Alright, bossy boots,” I sulk. She laughs her head off.

The production gang meet us and we do the ‘walk’. And then do it six more times so they get their shots. Eva orders them to put a drone up for better views. It’s fairly featureless, flat salt plains with creepy-looking crabs and it’s hot as balls. But I tell Eva it’s lovely; I don’t want to miss lunch.

Back at the resort, I spot a glass jar of what look like jellies.

Steal a handful and shove them into my gob. Tracey later reveals they’re laxatives as constipation is often an issue. I want to take this opportunity to apologise to the cleaners at Solar Alvura but there was no toilet brush in the bathroom and I was not in control of the situation.

Realise need to score some snacks. Make friends with chefs by bringing plates into kitchen. Eva’s there doing the dishes. Must admire work ethic. She thrusts mop at me and takes the piss when I start using it.

Get palmed a silver package from sous chef, Edgar. Contains contraband of four dark chocolate biscuits. Do I regret my actions? Yes. Only because they were disgusting.


Dr Eva and Joyce the yoga teacher setting up to film a yoga class on the roof top
Dr Eva and Joyce the yoga teacher setting up to film a yoga class on the roof top

Eva wakes me up at 7am to join yoga class with Joyce on rooftop. Eva’s metabolic age is apparently 26. Try not to do Nelson Muntz’s ‘HAHA!’ when it turns out am more flexible than her. I fail.

Grand opening party tonight. Will be buffet-style dinner which means I can gorge at will. Am excited. Must also give feedback on camera to Eva and Wyatt about the resort. Not so excited. David McCoy from Strandhill Lodge, a proper expert, will be giving his professional take on the place. Try to bully him into telling me what he’s going to say. Fail again.

No hairdresser in spa and Andrea had prebooked a wash and blow dry.

Eva sashays over to sink. “I’m a qualified beautician, I did a course when I was 18. I will do your hair!” Andrea tries to hide terror but it’s palpable. 

Dr Eva trying out her hairdressing skills on Andrea at Solar Alvura
Dr Eva trying out her hairdressing skills on Andrea at Solar Alvura

Eva attempts to tie towel in fancy knot. but ends up placing it like a small tablecloth on Andrea’s head. Her self-belief is mesmerising.

Party is great except hands are shaking and have massive headache. Apparently, it’s the sugar leaving my body.

Marian Doyle, who created all the curtains for the resort, slips me two paracetamol and a fake G&T. We are now friends for life. Guests toast with alcohol-free wine as Eva and Wyatt make speeches about the long road to get to this moment and the cameras capture it all and then they set up a karaoke machine and Conor goes wild. 

Sober karaoke. I stare deep into my mockeyah drink and try to remember the words to Cake by The Ocean. If you can’t beat em…. 

Dr Eva Orsmund and Conor O'Connor from Dublin singing karaoke
Dr Eva Orsmund and Conor O'Connor from Dublin singing karaoke

Arrive home and weigh self. Have put on a pound. My final epic fail. But as I tuck into my omelette with real eggs, goat's cheese, and a slab of buttered sourdough, it somehow doesn't feel like it. Sure, I'm massive the way I am. 

Dr. Eva's Great Escape will air on RTÉ One on Monday August 8 and 15 at 9.35pm

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