Aro Ha: An Adventure in Wellbeing

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The best way to describe my recent health retreat at Aro Ha? An escape into a healthy dreamland.

I have never ever felt so far removed from the real world – and that’s a good thing! At Aro Ha Wellness Retreat in New Zealand, you really are in the middle of nowhere. The serenity of the lake and mountains before you is so comforting and calming. They give an incredible sense of shelter and security. It’s truly like a postcard – I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of traveling all over the world and I’ve never experienced scenery like this.

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I experienced a very real transformation during my week at Aro Ha – both physically and emotionally.

For example, I had no idea I would be hiking up mountains for 4-5 hours daily. In fact I really didn’t think I could do it. I had to break down so many emotional barriers to prove to myself I could and I was surprised how well my body coped. It’s all in the mind – a running theme during my weeks’ stay! The power of the mind – once you make this connection – your world shifts. It’s not easy to make the shift, I know. Hiking actually became meditative for me – constantly focusing on breath.

It’s amazing for me to see how my body responds when I cut myself off from the real world (especially from my work and email demands) and travel to these amazing retreats. The best way to describe what happens is a total body FLOP – I literally flop. My body starts to feel tired the first few days – I just feel like sleeping. In my normal life at home I have an abundance of energy but perhaps a lot of it is pure adrenaline and living in a rushed world – no time to stop. My body tightens. I now feel completely loose, relaxed, invigorated and full of true energy. I’m ready for the world!


A typical day at Aro Ha:

6:00am – Wake up

6:30am – Vinyasa flow yoga

7:30am – Delicious gourmet breakfast – healthy, balanced portions

9:00am – Hike time! 4 hours of hiking. The scenery is the most beautiful I have ever seen. It’s worth doing the retreat just to see the beauty on the hikes.

1:30pm – Lunch. A delicious gourmet raw vegan lunch. It’s a true work of art created by Roni and his team – such talent.

3:00pm – Optional body resistant workout with Adam – he is amazing!

4:00pm – Massage. Some of the best massage I have ever experienced

5:00pm – Cooking class

6:00pm – Yin yoga. So deliciously relaxing and restorative. I find myself falling asleep at the end – rare for me. This means my body really was relaxed!

7:30pm – A light raw vegan dinner

8:30pm – Write to Ignite. We wrote about our emotions and feelings from the day. There was also the option to watch a film.

9:00pm – Bed time!

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The food

Incredible. Gourmet! Raw and vegan. I have never been vegan for a full week! Find out how I managed with this in my next blog post.

The food is truly an artwork each and every time.

Warning: tiny, tiny portions. They do this on purpose. You can ask for more, but many people are there as part of a weight loss journey.

A sneak peak at some of the amazing meals I enjoyed:

FullSizeRender (26)Raw seaweed pasta with a cashew sauce and zucchini chips – amazing!
FullSizeRender (27)Raw spring rolls with an almond butter dipping sauce! Divine!

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 Vanilla chia pudding with chia spices, pear puree and topped with crunchy cacao granola!

What I loved most:

  • The amazing people I met
  • The delicious food
  • The rejuvenating yoga
  • The scenery on the hikes
  • The incredible massage
  • The ability to connect with nature and stillness
  • How fit I feel now

What I found most challenging:

  • The length and steepness of the hikes – but such a good challenge!
  • The small portions of food – you soon learn what your body really needs
  • Being alone at night – I get a little afraid of the dark!


My body’s response:

  • My head is clear and light
  • I am cleansed – my liver loves me for sure!
  • I feel physically stronger
  • I feel energized and ready for my life here at home 

What I took home from the experience


Stillness. It’s okay to just be. Simply being gives you more energy.

The power of nature. It really calms and heals me. I want to commit to being in nature every day for the incredible effect it has.

Doing things with love and care. I want to take my time with things I love, especially cooking.

Mindful eating. As I’ve said before, it will change your relationship with food. I was reminded of that during the week.

Leaning into life. Ease up! Stop trying to dive into it all.

Alone time. It was challenging for me to spend time alone, but it ended up being such a healthy experience.

Rushing is unhealthy. It is truly the main issue I’m dealing with on a day to day basis and definitely puts strain on my health.

Laugh more. Simple, right? But it’s much easier to do that when other things are in balance. Always a good challenge to find more reasons to laugh.

Find joy. The experience reminded me to bring more JOY to my life, too.

Mind your breath. Shallow breathing must turn into deep breathing for a healthy body.

Disconnect. Switching off from my email regularly is a must. I actually felt myself breathing better from this.

Slow down! Doing things slowly makes every experience richer and more focused.

Have a mantra. My mantra this week was ‘ I love and approve of myself.’ I usually pick an affirmation for each retreat and I found there to be a huge sense of peace with my body. I felt so incredibly thankful toward my body for how hard it was working or me (yes, I survived a 4 hour hike!)

So that is my challenge for you, whether you go on retreat or not. Choose a weekly mantra for yourself – you’ll get the benefit of it regardless of how you spend your week. No matter what you’re doing, take those few moments to repeat positive thoughts. You’ll feel the difference in a week, too!

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The Healthy Life


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14 Day Slim Down Plan - 2 weeks to a leaner you!


The JSHealth Shopping List - Stock up on these foods for a healthier household


Nutrition 101 - A step by step nutrition guide to optimal health


Emotional Eating Guide - Learn how to rebuild your relationship with food and your body


The Clean Life - An Expert Guide To Health From The Inside Out


Restart Plan - Cleanse your system in 2 - 4 weeks & reveal a slimmer, healthier you


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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.