James Walker reports from a Thai fat camp where things aren’t going very well. Names have been changed to protect Kamalaya’s long-suffering staff from being slandered by James’s self-serving distortions.

The Kamalaya Health and Wellness compound is set hillside, in a tropical forest on Koh Samui. Huts are set amongst coconut trees, and jurassic-sized beetles whir about. Despite the serenity, check in was ominous. I was told all the restaurants were uphill from my room and they presented me with a medical history form.

I completed the health evaluation with my usual integrity. When asked about my weight, I lied. Then, habitually, I rounded down the number of standard drinks consumed, and rounded up the number of exercise sessions completed.  

I hoped the Kamalaya team would take this self-evaluation at face value. Unfortunately, there would be further interrogation. I suppose they reason that guests don’t check themselves into a health resort without a history of being less than honest with themselves.

After being comprehensively weighed and measured, I was passed onto a soft-spoken Canadian naturopath, Natalie, for the results. Natalie explained that I had attained, “Obesity Class One”. Sensing a potential emotional breakdown, she offered reassuringly, “It’s not so bad, James. You could easily be 'Obesity Class Two' or 'Morbid'.”  

I decided there was no point dwelling on the regrettable number of Uber Eats deliveries that had led to this. Instead I told Natalie I would embrace Kamalaya’s motto and ‘feel life’s potential’.


Pleased, Natalie said that if I worked really hard during the week, I could aspire to reach “Overweight”. Natalie cautioned, however, that for me this would be a “stretch target”.

I replied, "Oh, I have no problem hitting stretch targets, just ask my track pants."  She pretended not to hear me.

Instead Natalie prescribed a remedy of vegan, carb-free Thai cuisine. Breakfast was a smorgasbord of raw vegetables, hibiscus tonics and lemongrass elixirs. At dinner, the chefs did daring things with mung beans, transforming them into a pad thai noodle; a fettuccine; and a hummus.

The first taste of mung bean hummus was when I doubted if I would see out the week. Afterwards, I ran downhill to my room with Class One momentum, and desperately flung open the mini bar seeking respite. Kamalaya was one step ahead. The fridge was stocked with one mulberry juice, a bag of pumpkin kernels and two cans of green tea. I slammed the door in disgust. It may as well have been empty.


Time went quickly during the daylight hours, as I was scheduled into back-to-back pseudo-medical treatments, like Chinese stomach massage, lymphatic draining and acupuncture. While I was never really convinced of their efficacy, I participated because I enjoy lying down.

My acupuncturist Ernie, an expat German, was dressed in head-to-toe white linen, presumably to give the impression of a health professional. Ernie was convinced he could remedy the lack of motion in my broken right pinky finger, by tapping needles into my left foot. He happily added that this procedure would also benefit weight-loss by improving the function of my small intestine.

He slid needle after needle into my dermis, and after each one asked, “How about that, better?”

“The finger or the intestine?”, I would reply.


“Not yet...”

Eventually, with a foot like a blowfish, I gave Ernie what he wanted. “I think that last needle just hit the spot, Ernie. The pinky is better than new. Oh, and what’s that? Yes I can feel those mung beans just slip-sliding through the small intestine. Shall we call it a day?”

Photos: Getty.