Jamie Gold spent years focused on her work, neglecting her health, eating the wrong foods, putting on weight and living a less-than-healthy lifestyle. One day 11 years ago she decided to change her life, lose extra weight (100 lbs of it) and focus on a healthier lifestyle. She has used her skills as a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and her expertise as a top innovator in kitchen and bath design (awarded her by Kitchen & Bath Design News), to write a book combining these skills in her latest book Wellness by Design: A Room-By-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home For Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press, 2020). I had the opportunity to speak with Gold and find out more about her experiences and what she has learned in this wellness journey.
How did your own experience changing your lifestyle influence your writing this book?
I realized in my evolution from 233-pound coach potato to someone completing endurance events and training to summit Kilimanjaro for my 60th birthday this year, that my home environment was my “secret weapon.” Making healthy fueling as quick and convenient as possible has definitely been an asset in losing about 100 pounds and largely keeping them off. Having a bathroom optimized for hygiene after long days on trails and a bedroom optimized for sleep are also hugely helpful to achieving my fitness goals.
I’ve shared these insights with clients and readers of my first two design books, my Gold Notes design blog, and in many newspaper, magazine and online articles over the years, and I knew they’d make a very helpful book for anyone interested in their health. After all, when most of us decide to get healthy, we say to ourselves something like ‘I’m going to change my eating habits’ or ‘I’m going to exercise more.’ We don’t usually say ‘I’m going to redo my kitchen or bedroom,’ but where and how we live can support or sabotage our wellness goals, as I learned myself.
What have you learned while researching this book that has changed your own life?
As I was researching the book, I came across hundreds of pictures, projects and information that pointed to one hard-to-miss fact: Much of what’s produced and designed for wellness design is aimed at the most affluent among us. I knew I could fill the pages of Wellness by Design with premium features like steam showers, chef sinks and other amenities like these – and they’re definitely included – but it became a mission of mine to offer wellness design ideas and products that could work for anyone, from a recent graduate renting her first apartment to a couple planning their forever retirement home. I do that in the book with free or low-cost Wellness Tips in every chapter that could be implemented by anyone.
Writing this book has given me a new purpose in life, reinforced by the pandemic that followed: Support the ideal that wellness design should be available to everyone, not just the well-to-do.
You talk a good deal about “wellness design.” Can you describe what this term means?
I define wellness design as creating built spaces that support the physical and emotional well-being of their occupants. That’s a pretty broad definition, but wellness design encompasses so many disciplines and principles, from accessibility to safety to non-toxicity to biophilia, etc. that keeping it broad makes sense to me.
I know you wrote this book before the pandemic hit the world. How do you think it is now particularly relevant?
I’m so glad you asked this question! Even though the book was completed before Covid entered our lives, many of the concepts it includes address issues that science is now proving valuable to reducing the spread and lethality of the virus. For example, air pollution is a risk factor in Covid fatalities, and many homes have indoor air quality that is worse than outdoor, according to the EPA. There is quite a bit of content in Wellness by Design that addresses how to reduce pollutants in your home.
Other chapters cover creating healthier work from home and home fitness spaces; with millions of people now telecommuting and looking for gym alternatives, these ideas are also very timely!
What are the main elements of creating a healthy home?
I define them as the Five Facets of Wellness Design (and have a questionnaire on my website that anyone can take confidentially). They are: 1) Health & Fitness; 2) Safety & Security; 3) Accessibility; 4) Functionality, and 5) Comfort & Joy. A home that successfully addresses all five can help its residents stay healthier, more fit, safer overall, able to use their homes even if disabled, less stressed and happier.
What do you hope your readers will take away from reading your book?
I want readers to realize that there is a strong link between their homes and their health, and that they can (and should) look at the many ways they can enhance their living space for their well-being and that of their families. That is especially important now as we spend so many more hours at home, require so much more functionality from them, and want to do everything we can to keep from contracting Covid.