Pain potential: 9/10 Fun factor: 6/10

The idea: This sleek retreat is among the UK’s more hardcore – it calls itself a “weight loss boot camp”. Guests stay at least a week and lose up to 4 kilos. It also tackles the psychological side to wellbeing with a variety of therapies.

Food: Locally sourced low GI foods and vegetables grown on the grounds are all served in moderation. There are lectures too on how food can affect your mood; healthy cooking masterclasses and one-on-one

Fitness and spa: Yoga, hiking, resistance training and massage are the core activities; for the mind there is hypnotherapy, NLP and meditation. A typical day includes yoga first thing, two hours of hiking, two hours of resistance training and circuits; meditation, massage and hypnotherapy before dinner.

ACHAMPNEYS Nationwide (pictured: Tring)
Pain potential: 6/10 Fun potential 9/10

The idea:
The most famous name associated with the British “health farm” concept, Champneys has several locations in the UK and abroad and is a favourite among WAGS, weekending girlfriends and City types. Rooms range from the basic to the magisterial.

Food: The self-denial element is manifested in a “portion plate” for balanced consumption of fat, carbs, veg and so on. Food is low fat and high GI, though not gourmet.

Fitness and spa: Exercise-wise, the options are endless – there’s Nordic walking; hoola hooping and yoga, from Iyengar to Haha, and a 25 metre pool. Once you’ve had your exercise, relax and unwind with one of dozens of spa treatments. You can also have a medical exam and/or glucose screening to ensure you’re off on the right food and exercise programme.

Pain potential: 6/10 Fun factor: 6/10

The idea:
Classic health farm and former “club” dating back to the Sixties when business men made deals in the sauna while the wives sipped carrot juice in their robes. There are still plenty of elderly regulars there for their yearly dose of massage and diet – and even the odd celebrity.

Food: Well balanced and pleasant, with lots of low GI superfoods, and strictly limited to meal times so no grazing. But there is, thank the Lord, dessert.

Fitness and spa: Standard gym, studio and spa facilities are complemented by superlative treatments – particularly massage – and the most beautiful grounds you could ever hope to jog or walk on, stretching over fields and through deep pine forests.

RAGDALE HALL Leicestershire
Pain potential: 4/10 Fun factor: 9/10

The idea:
Indulgence or detox or both – it’s up to you at this Victorian mansion in the Leicestershire countryside. A relaxed atmosphere, exotic treatments and state-of-the art spa and gym facilities make it popular with young people.

Food: Much of it is home-made and sourced locally. There are plenty of low fat options but you can indulge too in meat and mash and cake, washed down with vino, if you so choose.

Spa and fitness: There’s everything from swimming coaching to one-on-one pilates. Classes range from cheerleading to salsa to tai chi and core conditioning. Or you can just relax in the candle pool and enjoy one of the dozens of body and wellbeing treatments.