When my fiancé announced to me last January that as part of his new chef job at Whole Foods Market we would begin eating mostly vegan, I winced. “So we’ll be eating sticks and rocks?” I worried. After all, one of the benefits of living with a trained culinary professional is a delectable home cooked meal. Vegan sounded draconian, not delicious. But with his next words, he captured my imagination. “According to the doctor who developed the program, your body will find its natural weight,” he said.
Here’s the deal: I’ve battled weight issues my entire life. I was seven years-old at my first Weight Watchers weigh-in. Ten years-old when I cracked open The Scarsdale Diet. In my teens and twenties, I worked my way through a steady stream of fad diets—from Butter Busters to South Beach. But now at 40 (more or less) my body might magically find its “natural weight?” My question turned from “what will I eat” to “where do I sign?”
Within four weeks I dropped 15 pounds and was back to a weight I hadn’t seen since college. More importantly, my cholesterol levels—worrisome given a family history of heart disease—were so low my doctor sent me for multiple tests convinced they were inaccurate. Bonus: my skin looked healthier and younger. A mini-face lift sans needle or knife. Suddenly, friends stopped wondering “where do you get your protein” and started asking “how can I join?” Good news: now you can. Whole Foods Market is testing a new in-store concept called a Wellness Club, and it’s opening in the Tribeca Store on October 17.
Whole Foods describes the Wellness Club as a place “to educate, inspire and empower those looking to make positive lifestyle changes.” I call it an admirable move for a company willing to tackle the health crisis in America. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview John Mackey, the company’s provocative founder and CEO, and have always been impressed by his passion for helping America live a healthier life. He told USA Today about this program, “People are woefully ignorant about how to eat healthy. I almost feel an ethical obligation to help.” If the Wellness Clubs are successful in the test markets that in addition to Tribeca include ones near Boston, Oakland, Chicago and Princeton, the company plans to roll them out to the over 300 stores nationwide.
For monthly dues of $45 (currently the store is waiving the $199 processing fee), Wellness Club members get unlimited access to a wide range of nutrition and cooking classes (with my fiancé), 10% discount on thousands of designated healthy items in store, free yoga classes and discounted fitness classes, as well as a range of discounts to other similarly minded health and wellness offerings. Not sure you always want to do the cooking at home? The Wellness Club is offering a Supper Club to members. A couple of nights a week and for Saturday brunch, members can enjoy a dine-in or take-out meal for an additional fee of $12. On the menu for the October 18 supper club is Candle Cafe Market Salad, Acorn Squash Soup, Balsamic Green Beans and Mushrooms, Shepherd’s Vegetable and Mushroom Pie, and Apple Spiced Cake. Where else in NYC are you eating a healthy delicious meal for $12?!
So let’s talk about the cost. Some folks roll their eyes at having to pay yet more money for the privilege of learning to eat healthy. But think about it. In one month, if you took a cooking class and a yoga class, you’re probably spending at least $50. For $45 at the Wellness Club, you not only get unlimited healthy cooking and nutrition classes and yoga classes, but you also get a discount in the store. If you’re serious about learning to eat healthier, seems like a no-brainer to me.
Of course, some might think I’m biased. After all, “the whole foods whole paycheck” joke takes on an entirely different meaning in my household. But after doing the Whole Foods Wellness Club eating regimen for over six months now, I’m with Shakira—my hips don’t lie. Even if they are shrinking.
Details: Opening October 17, Whole Foods Market Tribeca Wellness Club, 270 Greenwich Street, 212-349-6555. $199 processing fee currently waived; monthly dues $45. The first 50 members will also receive a VIP Wellness Bag ($500 value), and free 30 min personal lifestyle coaching session.
doB EXCLUSIVE: Whole Foods Market Wellness Club Recipe
Pumpkin & Corn Pudding
2 cups corn
1 15-0z. can pumpkin puree, pumpkin only
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup soy milk
2 pitted dates
Blend ingredients in a high-speed blender of food processor. Spoon into small soufflé dishes and serve chilled with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon.
Serves 5 to 6
Variations: Use butternut squash or sweet potato (canned, or fresh and cooked). Play with alternative spices like ground ginger, cardamom, or nutmeg to give it a little pumpkin pie flavor.