When we put out the call for women who embodied the Delicious Living spirit last summer, we were showered with letters and e-mails. Mothers wrote passionately about daughters, office workers profiled enlightened colleagues, and patients saluted holistic health care providers. From hundreds of nominees, ranging in age from their early 20s to their 90s, we had to choose just five. No easy task! We hope these five stewards of wellness and sustainability inspire you, too.
Carol Ann Spalteholz
When Robert Coelius arrived for his first home-cooked dinner date with Carol Ann Spalteholz, his taste buds were in for a bit of a culinary shock. The menu included barbecued tempeh with grilled mushrooms and green tea soy ice cream. Quite a change from Coelius' usual diet of processed snacks and pizza. But these adventurous foods were just the beginning of the natural lifestyle Spalteholz would encourage Coelius to embrace over the years.
Although a vegetarian since age 15, Spalteholz also relied heavily on Fritos and pizza, early on. It took a car accident at 21 tohelp her appreciate true health.
While living in Australia, Spalteholz looked the "wrong" way when crossing the street and was hit by a car driving in the left lane. "I had never had any pain before," she recalls. "And then suddenly I had to have two people walk me down the hall just to use the bathroom."
Muscle relaxants and painkillers upset her stomach, prompting her to seek out alternative treatments. After returning to the States, she learned about chiropractic care and acupuncture while working in health food stores. Eventually, she trained to become a massage therapist, and she recently opened her own clinic, Relax and Renew Massage in Ann Arbor.
Spalteholz says she's still amazed at bodywork's powerful healing effects, especially with troubled youth she's worked on. One time, she and a few other interning therapists decided to offer free massages in an Austin, Texas, park.
"This kind of scary group of guys came over and said, 'What's this about?'" she recalls. After his session, one of them told her, "If I had one of these every day, I wouldn't want to hurt anybody. I wouldn't be angry at the world." "That has really stuck with me," she says.
Many strangers have driven up to Nancy Wicks' farm—nestled in the mountains near Crested Butte, in southwestern Colorado—full of questions>> Is your house really made of straw? What's it like inside? Did you really used to live in that yurt? (The answers, incidentally, are: yes (straw bales); nice and warm; and yes.) "I must have given a thousand free tours," laughs Wicks, "so it's kind of been an education center by default."
Established in 2000, Round Mountain Institute is the nonprofit educational component of Wicks' 40-acre spread. (She started a commercial two-acre organic garden in 1997.) An Iowa native, Wicks grew up surrounded by chemically intensive farming but was inspired by a work-study internship in Nepal to follow more traditional, small-scale farming methods.
On Farm Days, local Gunnison Valley preschoolers make field trips to Round Mountain. "The biggest attraction is the chickens," Wicks says. "I also have a solar oven, so I like to show the kids how you can use the heat of the sun to bake things. We make cookies and nachos or something simple like that." On monthly Dirt Days, adult volunteers also hit the farm for hands-on workdays. "In exchange, I provide an organic lunch and encourage everyone to take a bag full of vegetables home."
The farm is not yet a financial success, but Wicks stays true to her mission, supplementing her income by doing odd jobs. "You have to love it to do this, because you don't get rich farming," she says. "It has to be your passion, and that's definitely what it is for me."
When Eileen Webster was diagnosed with breast cancer more than two years ago, she was 44 and training for her first marathon. After surgery, she had an unusual question for her doctors: "Can I still run this race?" She ran all 26 miles—and started chemotherapy three days later.
"It became sort of symbolic for me," she says. "I was like, 'OK, here's a challenge, and I'm going to face it head-on and move on.'"
Although Webster had always eaten well and exercised, she rededicated herself, making sure her diet was as whole foods–based as possible. "I did anything I could do to make sure my immune system was strong."
She was soon inspired to make even bigger changes, enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Webster came away convinced that balance is the key to wellness. "You can eat perfect foods, but if you're eating under constant stress or if there's some other aspect of your life that is really out of balance, you won't achieve true health," she says.
In 2004, Webster launched Your Health in Balance, offering her services as a holistic health counselor. Clients enroll in a six-month program, meeting with her twice monthly. She also presents workshops at her local natural foods store. There's this empowerment," she says about her clients. "People start to realize they can figure this out for themselves by listening to their bodies' wisdom."
One might not expect a lawyer's favorite motto to come from Gandhi: "There's enough in this world for everybody's need, but not enough for everybody's greed." But then, you probably haven't met Jeanine Boyers. This lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom treads on the earth as lightly as possible. "I often think, 'What do I want and what do I really need?'" she says. "I just try to live as sustainably as I can."
Boyers' environmental awareness has a tendency to be educational, like the time she decided to conduct a little experiment at her office. One day, she started toting around a plastic shopping bag, vowing to carry everything she threw away for a week. As the first day passed, in went paper coffee cups, a huge Styrofoam take-out container, paper napkins, and more and more mounting trash. By the middle of day three, Boyers' bag was overflowing and the experiment came to an end. "I thought I was very conscientious, but I really wasn't," she says. From then on, Boyers began to bring her own mug to the coffee shop and ask for take-out sandwiches to be wrapped in napkins rather than Styrofoam.
When she decided to stop practicing law and stay at home with her young children, Boyers and her husband, David, had to adapt to a more modest single income. Brainstorming ways to cut costs, they decided to garage Boyers' car (the family's second) for six months. After proving to themselves they could manage quite well without it, they sold it. The family now walks or bikes whenever and wherever possible—including to the local preschool, farmers' market, and co-op. "It gives the kids something to do rather than sitting in the car," she says. "It's an adventure; they love it."
Marian Haynes, DC, 46
Travel 50 miles south of Nashville and you'll come to the rural town of Columbia. Let's just say it's hardly a mecca for alternative medicine and organic foods. Townspeople here are more likely to visit fast-food chains than health food stores. In fact, the nearest natural foods supermarket is 30 miles away. Naturopaths are not even allowed to practice in the state of Tennessee.
Yet here is where you'll find chiropractor Marian Haynes quietly practicing and preaching a holistic lifestyle. Coming from the melting pot of the Northeast, Haynes and her husband, Phillip, settled here and opened their health care practice 19 years ago.
Beyond holding office hours, Haynes offers public lectures on holistic health as well as whole-foods cooking classes, often conducted in her own kitchen. Major milestones, she says, include getting her students to try millet, or switch from white rice to brown. But gradually, they do just that. "The real doctor for the family," she tells them, "is the one preparing the food in the kitchen."
Haynes' long-term vision is already coming to fruition. "I've been in practice long enough that I have had children as patients, and now they are grown up and have children of their own." Haynes especially enjoys seeing these children being brought up with a healthy lifestyle. "I take every patient one by one. I'm very gentle the way I begin. Health is a lifetime goal. I try to see as many patients as I can, and soon they begin to look different and see things differently," she says. "The more patients come in, the more seeds get dropped. I can't imagine doing anything else—it's who I am."