IIN’s Virtual Event on Holistic Health with Star-Studded Lineup
Nina Zorfass, IIN Content Editor
2020 is the year none of us planned
These unprecedented circumstances have put our lives on a collective pause. So many people around the world have experienced devastating hardship due to the pandemic and we’re all trying to manage the stress and anxiety while still taking care of ourselves and our families as best as we can.
We here at IIN have also been learning how to cope in these difficult times while finding new ways to support our incredible global community. This time of year, we usually hold our annual conference in the heart of New York City, a weekend-long event where students and graduates from all around the world come together to network, collaborate, connect, and get inspired. This year, we had to regroup and get creative with how we wanted to provide an interactive experience that still felt like we were all coming together as we usually would.
We also wanted to present an opportunity to reframe our current mindset, and instead of dwelling on what we’ve lost during this time, focus on the silver linings: slowing down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life; spending more time with loved ones; reprioritizing what really matters to us; and finally having enough time to address all areas of our health.
IIN’s first ever virtual event
We know that connecting with like-minded people, even virtually, can be rejuvenating for the soul. Our first ever virtual event, Leaving Normal Behind – How to Thrive in Our New World, brought the IIN community together for a day of exploration hosted by IIN’s Head of Brand Jim Curtis. We encouraged our community to consider that what we thought was “normal” before this pandemic - stress, anxiety, ailing health, and poor sleep and diet – isn't actually normal. Over these last few months, we’ve been asking ourselves, how do we move forward in a whole new way?
We invited wellness experts, speakers, and even a musician to answer that very question. Each speaker dove into one of the four major areas of our health – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – and how we can take better care of each area in order to achieve better whole-person health, even as we navigate this ongoing pandemic.
Kelly LeVeque, IIN graduate, IIN visiting teacher, holistic nutritionist and celebrity Health Coach
As the bestselling author of Body Love and Body Love Every Day, Kelly knows a thing or two about showing appreciation for your physical health through true nourishment. She kicked off the day by asking what every one of us has been thinking: What can we control in 2020?
While we can’t control what’s happening in the world, we can control what we feed ourselves and our health by setting small, attainable goals. Kelly makes the perfect analogy: creating a healthy lifestyle is like building the foundation of a house – it can only be done brick by brick. Wow – this was incredibly powerful to hear – and is what IIN is all about!
Starting small is key, Kelly notes, such as walking more instead of jumping straight into a vigorous exercise schedule, or upping your water intake by a glass a day instead of cutting out all sweetened beverages at once. She encouraged us to remember that starting over does not mean we have failed, but rather, helps us build new neural pathways that reinforce long-term healthy habits.
Ellen Vora, MD, IIN visiting teacher and holistic psychiatrist
Dr. Ellen Vora jumped right into her segment on managing mental health holistically by sharing her personal health journey, one that started with sickness but ended in finding her true calling. As a holistic psychiatrist – or “a weird psychiatrist,” as she calls herself – Dr. Vora takes a radical approach to addressing mental health issues, which includes addressing the physical body, such as inflammation, blood sugar balance, and hormone balance. All of these things can contribute to mood dysregulation and other mental health issues.
Much of her work is also focused on how we can manage our mental health through a shift in mindset. She says that we’ve been conditioned to focus outwards on other people’s needs and trying to live up to other people’s values and expectations. Dr. Vora emphasizes that this conditioned belief of ours must be re-calibrated to find our own inner compass to guide us forward.
One big part of this re-calibration is setting healthier boundaries with others, with ourselves, and especially with our technology and work. In addition to setting boundaries, she made the following recommendations on how we can nourish our mental health during this time:
- Create an end-of-the-day work ritual, such as dancing to music or taking a walk outside.
- Shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset by reclaiming your time and not glorifying being busy.
- Do your best to stay unattached from any outcome.
- Humans love control, but we’ve never had control! Surrender to an attitude of trust.
- Grant yourself permission to feel your feelings.
- Go on an “information diet” - what you read, watch, and consume impacts your mental health just as food does your physical health.
Deepak Chopra, MD, IIN visiting teacher and integrative medicine pioneer
“When there’s chaos, there’s opportunity.” Dr. Chopra opened his talk with this incredible quote. But, how do we create opportunity out of this chaos? He says this is only possible if we can shift our mindset (this is a recurring theme!) to one that focuses on finding our truest selves.
This form of ourselves, the truest self, is what Dr. Chopra calls “total meditation,” which is also the title of his newest book that helps readers cultivate greater levels of awareness and help them discover who they really are. In order to achieve this, one must address the seven pillars of their well-being:
- Stress management
- Biological rhythms
- Self-awareness and self-realization
One of the most amazing things that Dr. Chopra discussed was that through nutrition and lifestyle, we are actually able to change 99% of our genetic material!
Through these seven pillars, in addition to embracing a meditation practice, one can understand that they are able to construct their own reality and eventually find “the source” of this construction, or total meditation.
Jen Chapin, surprise musical guest, American singer-songwriter
Jen Chapin, daughter of the late musician Harry Chapin who co-founded WhyHunger, performed for the IIN community. She started her set addressing the work of our charitable partner, WhyHunger, who has been fighting to advance the human right to nutritious food for over 40 years. Jen sang some beautiful songs that also spoke to themes of wellness and political advocacy. This musical session was just what the IIN community needed: to connect with one another through songs with a strong emotional message.
Health Coach Voice of Experience:
Agatha Achindu, founder of Yummy Spoonfuls and IIN Health Coach
Agatha closed out the day by bringing everything together through her own experience. After coming to the United States, she was frustrated with the poor nutritional quality of the food in grocery stores, so she started hosting workshops with moms to teach them how to cook healthy meals for their families. Word quickly grew about Agatha’s work and what started with 300 moms turned into over 45,000 moms looking for ways to feed their families without sacrificing taste and nutrition.
In 2006, Agatha and her husband founded Yummy Spoonfuls, changing the face of convenient, packaged foods. With no additives, preservatives or emulsifiers – just real food you can find in your kitchen – Agatha embarked on a journey to reimagine healthy food. She shares that while she knew so much about nutrition, she found herself struggling with her weight that actually needed to be addressed through primary food – the unique IIN concept that refers to the areas of your life that can be found off the plate, such as your career, home environment, and relationships. Once Agatha realized the source of her weight gain was due to stress over a new work venture, she knew she had to incorporate primary food balance into her work and life.
As a practicing Health Coach, Agatha tells her clients that while 2020 is not the year any of us had planned, we still have the power to make healthier choices every day that add up over time. She emphasizes that even if it’s only 80% of the time, it still goes a long way in creating sustainable behavior change and greater health.
Charitable partner WhyHunger:
In our efforts to support our charitable partner, WhyHunger, in advancing the human right to nutritious food, we donated $10 of every ticket sale.
Moving forward by embracing 2020’s silver linings
One of the silver linings we heard from our community was that the pandemic led them to find IIN and finally gave them the push they needed to pursue their passion for health and wellness.
How are you embracing the silver linings this year? Share with us on our Instagram @nutritionschool under the hashtag #IINSilverLinings, or comment below.
If you’re interested in learning more about IIN and the programs we offer, check these out:
IIN Specialty Courses – small yet comprehensive courses focusing on specific areas of health!