By Annette Hinkle
With a New Year on the horizon comes the inevitable slew of new resolutions. For most folks, top among them is the vow to be active and live a healthier lifestyle in the coming year.
And while resolutions are based on the best of intentions, not long into the new year, the will and the way tend to recede and we revert back to our good old bad habits. That’s because in the absence of a strong support system, sticking with it can be a problem.
Fortunately for those on the East End who are looking to get healthy in 2014, there is a place to turn for support — the Wellness Foundation. Since it’s founding by East Hampton resident Doug Mercer in 2005 with a goal of “making East Hampton the healthiest town in America,” the Wellness Foundation has expanded its mission. It has offered lecture series, vegan potluck dinners, outreach for kids and the popular Wellness Challenge — a program in which participants eat an all-vegan diet for six weeks with the goal of losing weight, lowering cholesterol and improving overall health.
Sag Harbor’s Barbara Kinnier is the Wellness Foundation’s community outreach director and in the seven years she’s been with the organization, she has found that living a healthy lifestyle requires a multi-pronged approach.
“In the very beginning it was nutrition for wellness,” explains Kinnier. “People were saying, ‘Where do I buy the ingredients?’ ‘How do I cook it?’ So we started cooking demonstrations. Then we developed online support during the week and having potlucks every month.”
“But it’s so much more than nutrition. The exercise component and the stress management part is huge and the big difference is the implementation,” adds Kinnier. “We know people need support past the challenge. We’re trying to build this community.”
With that in mind, in recent years the Wellness Foundation has also implemented additional programs — including “Healthy Mind, Healthy Mood,” a stress management workshop offered at Southampton Hospital, and two weekly outdoor walking groups —one led by Pam Keating meeting Tuesdays at 10 a.m. at the John Jermain Memorial Library on West Water Street in Sag Harbor and a Thursday group led by Sarabelle Prince that meets at 10 a.m. at the East Hampton YMCA.
“We encourage each other and talk about what we’re doing for dinner or the latest gadget helping you in this journey and walk at the same time,” explains Kinnier. “It becomes social and we’ve seen it be a consistent group.”
What isn’t consistent, however, is the weather on the East End, and walking outdoors isn’t always possible. So Kinnier is excited to report that the East Hampton YMCA RECenter is now allowing Wellness Foundation walkers to use the treadmills at the Y on days when the weather outside is frightful. Through the winter months, the Tuesday Sag Harbor walkers will also meet at the YMCA where Keating will make the call as to whether the group will walk inside or outside.
It’s a win/win in that it not only allows walkers to stick to their routine, but it also gets people who may have been reluctant to go into a gym in the past to try something new.
“They’re hoping our people will feel comfortable and join the Y,” explains Kinnier.
Connecting not only with the Wellness Foundation’s challenge participants, but also local businesses like the YMCA has been a big focus for Kinnier lately. In addition to partnering with local restaurants who make eating out easier by marking vegan-friendly menu items with the foundation’s trademark “W,” new in the past year for the Wellness Foundation the Wellness Zone Membership. This is an annual club program that provides members with online nutritional support, teleconferences with professionals in the health field and a card giving them discounts or free introductory classes at various health and wellness based businesses on the East End. Membership also includes access to the walking track at SYS on Majors Path in Southampton.
“This new membership program currently has 200 members,” says Kinnier. “Besides discounts at local businesses, there’s a monthly support group, a newsletter and live teleconferences with doctors like Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. T. Colin Campbell [whose philosophies on nutrition tie into the foundation’s].”
Come January 4, the Wellness Foundation will sponsor a new kind of event at Hampton Dance Authority in Southampton (formerly Arthur Murray) featuring a bit of dancing, fitness and yoga.
“I’m always looking to think outside the box, and dancing might not be the most strenuous thing, but it’s fun and people don’t have that negative connotation they often have with exercise,” she says.
“The social aspect is a huge part of wellness,” she says. “There’s been so much research about it. To have the connection with people with the same goals, that’s what’s really important.”
“It’s getting the community involved and helping people to invest in the community,” says Kinnier.
The Hamptons Dance Authority Fitness Class will be on Saturday, January 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 pm at 425 County Road 25A, Southampton. Call 283-1488 to reserve. The next six-week Wellness Challenge begins the week of January 20 with groups meeting in East Hampton, Southampton and Bridgehampton. Prior to starting the challenge, participants must complete registration materials providing physician’s consent, baseline blood test results and other information. The cost of the challenge is $150. Registration begins January 2. For information on the challenge or the Wellness Zone Membership, call the Wellness Foundation’s office at (631) 329-2590 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.