29 January 2012

What I loved about Be Healthy Boston

I spent this weekend at the first ever Be Healthy Boston conference, which was held in the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel. Brett Blumenthal, the President and CEO of Be Healthy, Inc., described her event as an affordable and experiential "urban wellness retreat", intended to introduce attendees to a wide range of new information and tools that would support us on our individual paths to health and wellness.

I'm thrilled to say that Brett really hit the mark with this one! Below are just a few things I loved about the weekend.

The People
Each morning the strong and beautiful Leslie Salmon Jones led a high energy stretch that had me shedding my hoodie in even the coldest spaces of the hotel. Terri Trespicio's no-nonsense style made for a powerful keynote, where she validated and acknowledged the doubt we can sometimes feel when trying to live healthy in today's culture, seemingly swimming upstream much like those who choose to be single in today's expectantly-coupled society. She took issue with the idea of being healthy as "being selfish," stating that everyone in our lives stands to gain from the unique, healthy lifestyles we are all capable of crafting. Candy O'Terry kept her lunch-time audience riveted with her powerful story and enchanted us with interludes of beautiful song. All that, plus Margaret Moore leveraged her roots in biology to give us all some great tips about organizing our frenetic minds.

Of course, it wasn't just about the speakers. From the moment Donna shared her experience of losing 150 lbs, quitting smoking, and curing herself of diabetes through diet and exercise, the attendees contributed a lot. Throughout the day I met a lot of wonderful, like-minded people, such as attorney-turned-Zumba instructor Judy, who told me about her studio and how wonderful it was to be helping people become healthier. Later I sat with needles in my ears alongside Elizabeth, a young girl with cold hands like mine who was taking care of herself by experiencing the whole event while staying at the hotel. I chatted a lot with Adam, the dude who checks me in for classes at Inner Strength Yoga Studio, who was excited to be teaching his first class later that day and is six years past touching a cigarette. I shared information from the different sessions and ran out for Starbucks tea with Dominique, a wellness / fitness coach and personal trainer, and finally felt like someone shared my deep interest in these topics. Over lunch I helped the oh-so-grateful Connie set up her iPhone to work with her Google calendar, and heard more about her studies in the Integrative Nutrition program.

Every single person I met at Be Healthy Boston was willing to talk and listen, and made me feel supported in my own personal journey into better health and wellness.  

The Information
Breakout sessions throughout each day provided a wealth of information on many interesting health-related topics. And with three choices in each time slot, I'm sure there was something for everyone. Lauren Mackler was an engaging speaker who reminded me of the internal family systems model, and how a systematic look at our core, limiting beliefs is what needs to happen for us to take action and live more deliberately. Husband and wife team Russell and Stacy Kennedy shared some amazing statistics about how food production has shifted since the 1970s, how our brain experiences hunger, and how we can use this knowledge to make healthy eating a part of our every day lives. Panels of experts facilitated by Terri and Brett helped attendees separate health from hype, and gave us tips for staying pain and injury free as we age. In the session on mastering stress I relearned the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, and got to see firsthand how my daily meditation affects my heart rate and supports optimal oxygen intake--being connected to a biofeedback machine validated how I intuitively felt about the benefits of my practice (and it was so cool!).

I wish I could have attended each and every one of the sessions.

The Samples
The first morning I was overwhelmed with the size and contents of our reusable "goodie bag", which included tons of free samples from vendors like CamelBak and many interesting brochures. At the MarketPlace, there were enough healthy food and beverage samples available to keep us all well fed and hydrated (even without the wonderful catered lunches). I had the most amazing organic carrot cupcake from Local Pickins, sampled all the different flavors of Joos, and got to try juice, soup, and ice cream made in a Vitamix blender. But my favorite was definitely the Budibar--every flavor was tasty, and I couldn't resist making these my first purchase of the weekend.

And the samples weren't just limited to food and drink. Over the course of the weekend I was able to experiment with several different types of fitness, some of which I had tried before, and others I'd been curious about. HealthWorks taught a lot of great mini-classes, including Zumba, Core Express, and Yoga Beats. After being away from it for 10 years, I got to re-familiarize myself with Gyrotonics under the wonderful eye of Peter Breen from Charles River Gyrotonic. I tried using a kettlebell, and although I didn't click with the instructors on that one, I definitely want to investigate it more. My final mini-class, offered by the Bar Method Boston, took me back to my childhood ballet classes and reminded me just how intense and effective small, controlled motions could be!

The professionals at Dana Farber's Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies allowed me to safely re-experience acupuncture, and get a glimpse of what Reiki is all about. I enjoyed Dr. Kimberly Deramo's panel responses so much that I visited her at the Wellesley Sports Medicine table, and purchased her prescribed vitamin cocktail that will allow me to toss most of my individual pills (which I hate swallowing) and get almost all of my most essential vitamins from a tasty powder dissolved in a small glass of water (including a multivitamin, which I typically can't take at all because they make me nauseous). I also have enough samples of Omega-3s from Nordic Naturals that I may not have to buy any for months.

I wish I could have done some of the mini spa treatments, but alas, there were only so many hours in the days!

The Atmosphere
Lastly, I have to say that as far as conferences go, Be Healthy Boston had a great schedule. There was a lot to do, but the sessions ran on time and offered a nice balance between break out sessions and independent time to visit the MarketPlace. There was ample time between sessions for asking speakers follow up questions, taking restroom breaks, socializing, or running to Starbucks for a warm beverage. "Musical transitions" in the hallways, performed by students from Berklee College of Music and folks from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, were also a very nice touch.

My journal is full of new ideas, my desk is overflowing with information to look into more closely, and Leslie's Core Power DVD is waiting for me in my workout room upstairs. Tomorrow I start integrating more healthy practices into my life, and I'm excited to see how my personal journey is impacted by this experience. I'm extremely grateful to Brett for organizing such a fabulous event, and also to Roman Szpond at Inner Strength Yoga Studio for having a fantastic studio that I love frequenting, for participating in Be Healthy Boston, and for posting the flyer that made me register in the first place.

I will definitely be there next year, and hope some of you will consider joining me.

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