On Monday, Sept. 29 I attended the Women’s Health Conference (WHC) held at the Ramkota hotel in Bismarck. I was really excited because where I work allowed us to go the whole day and also paid our entry fee of $40. At my previous job, I had the opportunity to travel on occasion and attend conferences. Currently, I don’t have those options and I do kind of miss it. I was thankful to attend this conference to network, learn more about my health and to be honest, have a day away from work – PAID! The conference looks to give women one day in activity and conversation focused on wellness, nutrition and fitness so we can continue in confidence with tools for a stronger, healthier, happier life. The focus is on education, self-focus and networking. There were nearly 600 women in attendance!!
I started off my day super early at the YMCA in Bismarck with a sweaty spin class. I love visiting other gyms and classes and they Y was a great facility. I thought with the theme of the day, starting out healthy was a wise move. The conference began at 7:30 a.m. where you could go into the large room and eat a healthy breakfast of yogurt with honey, fruit and a Kashi bar. You could also visit the exhibitors who were set up in an adjacent room. At about 8, the emcee, Marcie Narum (formerly with KX News) welcomed us and gave us a bit of background on the conference. If I remember and understand correctly, this was started by former First Lady Mikey Hoeven 13 (I think?) years ago and is held twice a year in Bismarck (fall) and Fargo (spring). Both Mrs. Hoeven and Mary Ann Foss (Chair of the Advisory Board) spoke and welcomed us to the event. We were encouraged to Tweet or Instagram our thoughts throughout the day using a hashtag and they would share those on the big screen. I loved this since I am a social media geek. Also, kudos to the group for blocking off a lot of the men’s restrooms and letting the women use them. 600 women on a break? Yeah, that is a lot of bathroom use!
Marci Narum (all photos from the WHC website)
The first keynote of the day was by Melanie Carvell, a Physical Therapist at Sanford in Bismarck and also a recent author of “Running with Antelope: Life, Fitness, and Grit on the Northern Plains”. Melanie shared with us very scary statistics of the modern day workforce. The biggest thing to me that she talked about was how as a workforce we are largely sedentary since we sit all day behind a desk. In fact, she said sitting is the new smoking and sitting all day is just as detrimental to your health as smoking 2 packs of cigarettes. The statistics she shared on obesity and diabetes this nation faces is shocking and frankly, scary. She took us through a series of exercises we could easily do behind our desk throughout the day.
Next, we were welcome to attend a 45-minute session of our choice from 5 topics. My first session I went to was by Beth Schatz Kaylor (you might remember her as the chef from Dinner at Riverbound Farm). Her topic was “Getting Real on Our Approach to Eating Well”. Her time flew by and it was great to hear her tips. The main focus of her presentation was to Drop The CRAP: carbonated drinks, refined sugar, artificial sweetener and processed foods. Beth provided us with plenty of resources (via a handout and PowerPoint) about why you should eat real food. She also offered a selection of cookbooks and food sources in the Bismarck area where you can find real food. I thought her time absolutely flew by so that is a good sign. I could have listened longer and I bet more people would have had questions if there was time.
After a break, we sat down to a healthy lunch and were welcomed back by First Lady Betsy Dalyrmple. Lunch was BBQ chicken with roasted potatoes, mixed veggies, a dinner roll, house salad and some Lindt chocolate truffles for dessert. I truly appreciate the effort to serve us something healthy. This is not an easy task when working with hotel catering. Generally, options are filled with cheese, cream, fattier cuts of meat, lots of carbs and more. I only wish the chef could have prepared the veggies in a more palatable manner. When feeding 600 women, it might not have worked but I would have seen something sautéed (in LIGHT oil) or roasted as it really brings out the flavor and helps the veggies shine.
I snapped these 2 photos. This was probably the first time I have ever been served avocado on a starter salad at a hotel in North Dakota. Yum.
The second keynote speaker was Kat Perkins, native North Dakota who went on to the Top 5 on NBC’s The Voice. Kat talked a bit about becoming fearless and making an impact, especially in children’s lives. She also sang two songs. I have to say I was not a Kat Perkins fan prior to this. Her passion and attitude turned that around. Oh, and her voice is insane. I imagine the acoustics in a hotel room aren’t that great but she sounded phenomenal.
The next 45-minute session I choose to attend was “GMO, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free or Natural? Clarity In Your Food Choices”. I have to say I went to this seminar as it was moderated by Katie Pinke who I follow on Social Media and got to meet that day. It was a joy to meet her and she is just as she seems online. I went into the seminar with no pre-conceptions – I eat gluten and GMO and don’t have issues with either. I was interested to hear more though. I wasn’t raised by a farmer (coal miner’s daughter here) and I don’t know a lot of farming terminology even though I live in a mostly agriculture state. There was a panel of speakers representing their farming or ranching practices and food choices. All were women and I’s say each had their own point of view from growing GMO’s to choosing not to eat GMO products. It was so refreshing to hear women talk about their different points of view in a calm matter. I think anytime you bring up GMO or organic or gluten-free you will get a heated debate. People are passionate on these subjects. I was there for information and felt I received a lot of great points. Again, I felt it could have gone longer. I personally think there is so much unknown and so many preconceived notions on this topics it makes it difficult to debate one or another. The point that really struck me is that they were there not to food shame. There shouldn’t be food shaming going on. We each have a right to pick what we want to eat and feed our family and that should be respected.
Finally, at 3pm we reconvened for snacks (veggies and hummus, yum!) and the final keynote of the day presented by Anne Malum. Anne was a fantastic speaker. She went long and I didn’t even care. She has a fascinating story; she was raised in Bismarck and eventually founded Back on My Feet (a running program to help homeless people get back on their feet) and is now working on opening fitness boutiques on the east coast where she resides full time. Her story of growing up, finding out part of her home life was a lie, attending school and competing in sports was just captivating to listen to. She is strikingly beautiful and spoke like a true professional. The takeaway was you can manage and create change in your life.
I always try to include a critique or something to improve on and I have a few ideas for this event, other than the food. The exhibit showcase was lovely. There was an area where vendors set up to showcase their items. It was plenty spread out, but when all of us women tried to make our way through, it was just too crowded. Next, since the group was very technologically focused, it would be nice to share presentations or PowerPoints after the event of the breakout groups.
I hope I can attend this event next year. I felt I learned a lot and was happy to meet/listen to such inspiring and healthy women. I would recommend this conference for any woman!