By Lainey Younkin, RD
Fitness classes, massages, and cooking demonstrations – this event was calling my name. I was thrilled when I heard about Be Healthy Boston, an urban wellness retreat designed to inspire members of the Boston community to live and sustain healthy lifestyles. This year was its debut, and it was held January 28-29, 2012, at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. Be Healthy Boston was created by Brett Blumenthal, President and CEO of Be Healthy, Inc. Though she holds degrees in architecture and business, she has had over 20 years of experience with wellness.
When I hear the word wellness, I pause and think about what it means. With my educational background, I have found myself in an environment where health and nutrition information comes from peer-reviewed journals, researchers, and professors of nutrition – all credible sources in my mind. However, this weekend proved to be an opportunity for me to use my critical thinking skills to analyze what was being said about wellness.
I noticed, when browsing the program outline, that speakers with a variety of educational backgrounds would be talking on the subject of wellness, which in this instance included nutrition, fitness, and integrative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, and reiki. I approached the weekend with an open mind, excited to learn more about integrative and holistic therapies since I have only been taught through the lens of Western medicine in the past.
The event kicked off with keynote speaker, Terri Trespicio, former senior editor of Whole Living magazine. She encouraged the audience: “You can design how you’ll be healthy, [and you should] try new things this weekend so you know what’s out there to support your path to wellness.” This was exactly what I intended to do: try new things.
The workshops ranged from healthy eating for kids, to living in a green home, to the benefits of spa therapies. In between workshops, the Marketplace, my favorite part of the weekend, was open for perusing. It featured local vendors who worked in different areas of wellness. I signed up for chair massages, tasted food samples, and talked to representatives from local fitness clubs (as well as picked up a free 7-day pass to Healthworks!). I even gave acupuncture a try. And despite my new experience lasting less than 5 minutes (because I began to feel woozy) I walked away feeling good because I had tried something new. Because of the Be Healthy Boston Marketplace, I plan to check out other businesses in the area such as the Harvest Co-op, Local Pickins, and Beantown Bootcamp.
After the Marketplace, I attended the first of two noteworthy workshops, Reading Between the Lines: Separating Health from Hype. As a Nutrition Communication student, I was hyped about this workshop because it sounded exactly like what people needed to hear. The panel consisted of four women: a chiropractor, a registered dietitian (RD), a writer “specializing in exploring the mind-body connection,” and a naturopathic doctor (ND), who was also a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). Trespicio moderated the panel by asking questions related to health myths, detox diets, and vitamins.
I noticed that all of the questions asked were related to nutrition, even though only two people on the panel had a background education in nutrition. The conversation moved from how bitter foods, like kale and collard greens, help your digestion, to one of the panelist’s personal detox diets in an effort to remove mercury from her body after dental work, to the individual vitamins and minerals that each panelist takes on a regular basis.
This free-for-all nutrition conversation made me antsy. I certainly respect the fact that these women have worked in their respective fields for 15-20 years. What irked me was that not all of their fields encompassed nutrition but that they were answering questions on the subject in front of a thirsty-for-wellness audience. Don’t get me wrong; you can certainly have studied a subject for years without having letters behind your name. But, this workshop in particular, was the first time I found myself critically thinking about what other professionals are advising regarding health and nutrition. I realized that while these experts were dishing out some facts, some of them were also serving up a recipe of random nutrition practices that may not have been applicable to everyone in the audience or backed by science.
Then I moved on to Integrative Weight Management for Success: Making Healthy Eating Part of Everyday Life. The two speakers were a registered dietitian from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a behavioral specialist from Tufts University. I know if I reviewed this workshop, I would clearly be biased. What was interesting, however, was the stark contrast in information from the previous panel. Here, they focused on how incorporating plants into one’s diet can assist in weight management, and overall, the presentation was much more cohesive. But, while I regarded this information as accurate, I also found myself thinking critically about it after coming from the first workshop.
Overall, I found this wellness weekend to be an enlightening experience for me. I enjoyed learning more about the local businesses related to wellness, as well as increasing my knowledge of traditional spa therapies used for healthy living. And though it frustrated me at times, I am glad I heard experts with a variety of backgrounds speak their minds on health and wellness. It reminded me to carefully balance being open-minded with thinking critically about science and health.
Lainey is a first year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. She enjoys writing about various events around Boston and Friedman. When not event-hopping or writing, she enjoys working at her jewelry business – Stella and Dot.