Ask Calorie Ken: Whole Foods Opens Pilot Wellness Club

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Boston Globe correspondent, Kathleen Pierce, reports in Shelves and Health that Whole Foods is debuting their first Wellness Club in their largest New England store. For a one-time $199 membership fee and $45 per month, you can, among other things, access a reference library, undergo a lifestyle evaluation, take a cooking or yoga class, learn how to caramelize onions, or set off for a group hike.

Calorie Ken likes Whole Foods and applauds their effort to help people live healthier lives, but he is troubled by the glaring omission of any reference from the experts interviewed, or the folks at Whole Foods to total calories consumed. Two quotes are particularly troublesome.

“’The key is what you are eating,’ said Alona Pulde, a Los Angeles doctor who helped shape the concept for Whole Foods. ‘It’s the how and why,’ behind a healthy lifestyle, Pulde said."

What you are eating is not the key, Dr. Pulde. How much is the key. Actually, the key is more of a trinity of what, why, and how much. You can get just as fat eating healthy foods as you can eating crap if you eat too much of it.  

And then this from Whole Foods’s Heather Hardy, who is overseeing the effort: “This isn’t about weights and scales and measures. It’s about empowering people to make healthier choices.’’

Au contraire, Heather. It is absolutely about weights and scales and measures.  They are significant elements of the healthier choice equation. Ignore them at your peril. It’s great that one of the perks is a Wednesday night supper club, where, for only $10, "members can dine on such foods as sweet potato tacos and healthy lasagna in the store cafĂ©," but how many calories are in the servings?

It’s no surprise to Calorie Ken that Whole Foods chose the store they did to kick this initiative off.  It’s located in Legacy Place, a collection of upscale stores in suburban Boston catering to affluent shoppers.  These are people who can afford the membership fee and monthly dues.  Perhaps they should’ve chosen to do it in Mississippi, the fattest state in America.  Oh wait!  There’s no Whole Foods in all of Mississippi!

They could’ve stayed even closer to their Austin, TX corporate headquarters home.  According to Men’s Health, (America's 10 Fattest (and Leanest) Cities), five of the nation’s fattest cities are in the Lone Star state, with “Corpulent Christi” right at the top and only 200 miles away instead 2000.  (Austin, by the way, is one of the 10 leanest.) 

Calorie Ken hopes he doesn’t sound like Nelly Negative, and he really does applaud this effort, but he also encourages Whole Foods and other grocers and food purveyors who might do something similar not to ignore total calories consumed.  In fact, that’s the place to start.  Teach us how to eat better and help us have a good time doing it, but build the effort on a foundation of portion control and calorie awareness.  Turn a blind eye to the metaphorical elephant in the room, and we’ll continue to be the embodiment of it.



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For two years, Ken Brooks (Calorie Ken) was a volunteer in the Tufts University CALERIE Study. He is now a nutrition evangelist. Send your nutrition, weight management, general health and exercise questions to

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