Whole person health in Vail
Ryan Summerlin February 15, 2010
VAIL, Colorado -Nutritionist Mary Horn – who has shared her expertise on Oprah and Martha Stewart – has a friend who was diagnosed with heart disease. Before ushering him out of the office, “the doctor tells him, ‘you need to lose weight. Go on the Internet and find yourself a diet,'” Horn says.This is an all-too-common scenario in modern medicine. The doctor diagnoses the disease, but doesn’t necessarily treat the patient. Horn tells the story as an antithesis to her philosophy on wellness – which is simply, treat the whole person in order to make lasting health changes. It’s an idea she’ll practice locally as nutrition consultant and exercise physiologist for the new Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa.Like Horn, the Vitality Center offers a comprehensive approach to health and wellness. Located within the Spa and Vail Athletic Club, the center houses experts in nutrition and medicine, meditation, stress reduction techniques, cardio coaching, yoga and strength training and spa therapies. In addition, there are two traditional doctors at the center – Dr. Tom Schneider MD and Dr. Heidi Archer – who focus on age management and hormone therapy, respectively. In essence, it’s about giving people all the tools under one roof to lead a healthier lifestyle – whether you are 20-something wanting to start a fitness and meditation regime or you’re 50 with a metabolism that isn’t what it used to be.”This is the future. This is how we’re going to manage our health, through mind, body and spirit,” Horn says, who most recently was the director of nutrition and exercise at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tuscon, Ariz. “We’re going to take a look at the whole person in medicine.”
Using Horn’s friend as a hypothetical example, after being diagnosed with heart disease, he might begin his Vitality Center visit with Horn for a nutritional consultation to help take off the extra weight that’s stressing his heart and to feed his heart with vitamins and minerals.It’s here, she introduces him to “mindful eating,” a practice Horn developed that forces people to be in the moment when eating. Tools to teach it include setting the fork down between bites, breathing between bites, acknowledging the farmers who cultivated the food and plating your meal to incorporate a variety of textures and colors that appeal to the senses. Slowing down is another favorite trick of Horn’s, as it takes the body 20 minutes to process satiety, to tell the brain that you are full, it’s time to stop eating. If you scarf down a meal in 10 minutes, it’s no wonder you don’t feel full, she says. “Mindful eating is something we don’t do anymore. We multi-task while eating, we go through the drive-thru and throw bags of food at our kids in the back seat,” Horn says. “Mindful eating is teaching you to enjoy food at a different level.”After consulting the patient on nutrition, Horn might send him to Ellen Miller, the Vitality Center’s exercise coach, so she can develop a fitness routine that not only makes him thinner, but will also build the strength of his heart for optimal wellness.”My knowledge is how to exercise properly, my passion is getting people outdoors,” Miller says, who founded Mountain Divas, a motivational fitness program for people who want to hike, run or climb their way into shape. Miller is the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest from both sides. She coaches the U.S. National Mountain Running Team and is a certified endurance coach. Working with so many athletes, her fitness coaching is heart-rate based. She understands how to work the body – and how not to overwork the body – to achieve results, whether it’s improved heart health, weight loss or faster times for an upcoming race.”I introduce people to fun ways of exercise, to give reverence to their bodies, improve energy, sleep better and to improve self esteem,” Miller says. “I introduce people to outdoor activities that change their perspective on exercise in general.”Having worked the mind when it comes to eating, the body during his fitness routine, this hypothetical “patient” of the Vitality Center might book a session with Felix Lopez next, the center’s “Prajnic” healer and meditation instructor, to forge a connection with the spirit.Pranic healing is based on the idea that by increasing prana, or life force, the healing process of the physical body is accelerated. Lopez calls his style of pranic healing, Prajnic Healing, with a “j”. Prajna, in Sanskrit, means knowledge or wisdom, and Lopez works with both energetic life force and the mind to help people harmonize and transform, he says.”It’s a combination of traditional pranic healing and helping people to be more awake,” Lopez says. “I like to go to the root of the problem, help people to discover, go deeper, to see what is really creating this pain.”
Complementing the nutrition, the fitness and meditation education that helps make life more enjoyable longer, the Vitality Center plays host to two doctors who specialize in age management and anti-aging medicine.Dr. Tom Schneider believes that the process of physical aging can be slowed, stopped or even reversed. He brings to Vail the age management program he pioneered at his Florida Healthspan Institute. Dr. Schneider’s approach to “anti-olding” blends western and eastern medicines with practical everyday advice to slow down and reverse the loss of hormones that cause physical aging. Dr. Heidi Archer has opened her BodyLogicMD clinic at the Vitality Center, which uses a combination of bioidentical hormone therapy and personalized nutrition and fitness programs to help men and women find relief from the symptoms of hormone imbalance.”Why wouldn’t you want to feel as young as you can,” Dr. Archer says. “I can test hormone levels and bring them back to optimal levels.”Cassie Pence is a freelance writer based in Vail.