What I learned from Women’s Wellness Day

15th Annual Women’s Wellness Day features renowned author and chef Alice Waters

By some stroke of luck, I won two tickets to the annual Women’s Wellness Day hosted by the UC Irvine Health Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine. (Thank you, Facebook.) The event was held at the Irvine Marriott hotel and I brought my friend Anne along to experience a thought-provoking day about health and wellness. Anne is into health and wellness and was the first person to talk to me about “leaky gut,” so I figured this would be right up her alley. For me, I was really excited to hear Chef Alice Waters speak, she of the famed Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley and the Edible Schoolyard movement.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I spotted holistic diva and makeup guru, Christy Funk’s familiar face in the crowd. As luck would have it, we were seated at the same table! We had a healthy breakfast of yogurt, oatmeal, and fruits and started the day with an enlightening talk on “The Emotional Gut: Nutrition and Lifestyle Solutions,” by Deanna Minich, PhD, FACN, CNS, IFMCP. This informative talk was followed by a fun interactive talk by Leila Astarbadi. It was about Ayurvedic Stress Reduction Practices for a Healthy Gut and before long, she had us dancing, breathing and chanting — just absorbing and generating positive energy!

The breakout sessions then began with topics ranging from Adrenal Health to Enhancing Memory in Aging. I chose to attend a session, entitled “Outsmart Your Genes with Diet,” by Rosane Oliviera, PhD, DVM and Shaista Malik, MD, PhD, MPH. and “Precision Medicine – the Latest Tests for Detecting Wellness,” with doctors from the Samueli Center. The former topic had the speakers talk about nutritional genomics or nutrigenomics, which is the study of the relationship between our genes, our diet, and our health. For me, this took the notion of “You are What You Eat” to another level. I was especially struck by Dr. Oliviera’s stories about being an immigrant and having an identical twin sister and how what she chose to eat. impacted her life.

Two things that the sessions got me thinking about: food and genetics! In between sessions, we browsed around the marketplace that showcased everything from jewelry, medical services to fermented foods and vinegar shots!

Finally, at 12:45, we gathered back in the main hall for lunch and the presentation I was most looking forward to: “Real Nourishment: Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food Culture” by Chef Alice. She walked us through her childhood (“I have distinct taste memories of our family’s victory garden.”) and how she came to adopt and adapt the “slow food movement,” after visiting France. According to her, “The question of health must include nature and culture.” With our dominant fast food culture, we are agreeing to conformity, speed, instant gratification. But she ended by saying there was hope for us yet, by reaching children in schools where we could combat this fast food culture. “Real nutrition begins in the ground. Our connection to nature is the key to well-being.”

What an amazing and enriching day it was! I cannot wait till next year’s Women’s Wellness Day.