If the organizers of this weekend’s Take Back Your Health conference could have any say in the health care debate, food would probably be listed as a medicine. Well, healthy, local, nutrient-dense food, that is. And the means to detoxify from all the chemicals in our air, water, and earth.
After the success of last fall’s inaugural conference, organizers Robin Shirley and Ryan McGrath and have widened their program for the spring conference to two days and with the subtitle “Sustainable Health Restoration for Body and Planet.” Many of the speakers, including Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Real Food Media founder and blogger Ann Marie Michaels, and raw foodist Jason Wrobel will address the ways we can find health for our bodies through food and for the planet through the way we raise and grow that food. Most of the faces are new this time, but Wrobel is making a repeat appearance after everyone “went crazy” for him last fall and bought up everything at his table after his talk, according to Shirley.
Before they’d even pulled off their first successful conference, Shirley and McGrath envisioned repeating the event twice a year in the DC area. Once as year is not enough, the peppy Shirley said; it’s just too much fun to not do more often.
This spring’s conference, April 14-15 at the Washington Dulles Hilton, has expanded to two full days of talks, demonstrations, book signings and roundtable discussions. The exhibit hall will bring together health-minded businesses and organizations to educate the more than 250 people already registered.
Since last fall, the name of the business sponsoring the event has changed. Shirley and McGrath will announce at the conference that they are launching a new project, the International Health Coach Association (IHCA). This new membership organization will support health coaches in developing their businesses and in continuing education and networking. There will be different levels of membership with different benefits, starting at free membership and going up to $247 per year.
Members will get access to future conferences, which will continue to be open to the public. Shirley said about 30% of the attendees at October’s conference were health coaches. The new organization may also add workshops in between the spring and fall conferences, and the group will be collaborating with the existing Mid-Atlantic Health Coach Association, which already helps health coaches in the region by connecting them with job opportunities and raising public awareness of the profession.
In addition to being fun, staging a conference is important work, Shirley feels. “People who have the means to facilitate change need to take responsibility and create change. We need to do it fast; the future is bleak,” she said, referencing Google Earth images that still show radiation from last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. “It’s frightening to see that happening with the chemicals in our environment. It’s coming down to adaptation at this point. If you’re smart enough to live in a way that facilitates cleansing and detoxing, then you’re going to survive.”
Such cautionary words belie Shirley’s upbeat can-do attitude, which she says is really at the core of the conference. “Ryan and I are so positive. We’re trying to put that into everything we do.” After getting such glowing feedback from the first conference, after which comments like “it changed my life” flowed freely, she’s excited about the community to be created this weekend and through the association. “It energizes us and fuels us” she says of this momentum.
Shirley has observed outside the holistic health community that “no one’s enjoying life as it is” and so she asks, “Why not be kinder to ourselves? Why not eat well and live healthily?”
This weekend’s conference will teach how to do just that.