A sign at the front counter reads “Our health is not an expense. It’s an investment.”
Nearby, on a part of a wall above a tabletop crowned with fresh citrus fruits, a black square border surrounds a quote from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food.”
For holistic nutritionist Bly Rash, those are words to live by. They’ve helped her live better, she said, and she set out to bring the lessons of healthy nutrition to the YMCA with her Clean Vibe Café.
At 10:30 a.m., a cold wind pressed against the exterior windows and doors of the Beatrice Mary YMCA. Inside, the radio played a pop medley, and the upstairs hummed with workout machines. Rash kept busy, tossing measured amounts of organic fruit into blenders. A steady stream of customers filed through Clean Vibe, which Rash said offers nutritious, organic meals and snacks.
“I had no idea how the community was going to respond to it,” Rash said. “But I was willing to give it a try with the encouragement of Alison Leonard here and Dr. Brent Ruiz. And it’s gone over very well. The community has supported me immensely. There’s been an excellent response.”
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Clean Vibe, located in a room next to the lobby that was added by the YMCA’s recent renovations, is in its second week of operation, and Rash said she’s still tinkering around with the café’s hours. She said her work serves a dual purpose: to feed people in the moment and to instill in them a desire for clean, nutritious food.
“Nutrition is so important for keeping your body healthy,” she said. “Every time you put something into your mouth, it will move you closer to or further away from your goals. Whether it be better functioning of your body or more clarity of your mind, food affects all of that.”
Brent Ruiz, a trainer at the YMCA, said Clean Vibe helps the YMCA accomplish its mission of establishing a broader, more comprehensive wellness.
“The purpose of the YMCA is really to be a wellness center,” Ruiz said. “And we really felt like we had the physical exercise component of it covered very well with the new equipment and various classes and programs we have in place. And we do a lot with the mental side of things, people gathering together in the lobby… But what we were lacking in was really the nutrition piece.”
Ruiz runs several workout and weight loss programs, but he said the biggest battles of a healthy body can’t be fought in the gym.
“You can’t run fast enough to catch your fork,” he said. “Exercise and the gym will help get you fit, but if you want to lose weight and you want to be healthy, that happens in the kitchen. For people who are trying to maintain a healthy weight or get to a healthy weight, at least 80% of the equation is eating right… If you want to lose a pound of fat, it takes about 3,500 calories you have to burn. If you have a great work out, you’re dripping and you lifted and had good cardio, you’ve probably burned off about 500 calories, maybe.”
Ruiz and Rash said nutrition can be hard to maintain because of the time commitment. A workout may only take 30 minutes to an hour. Acquiring ingredients, cooking and cleaning for every meal can prove far more taxing. Rash said Clean Vibe aims to confront that problem head on.
“It’s easily accessible,” she said. “I think people do want to eat clean, but they don’t necessarily know how or they don’t necessarily have the time to go gather all the ingredients and make one dish and have all these extra ingredients laying. I think convenience is a big part of it. I try to keep my costs low so everyone can enjoy it. And we just don’t have anything in Beatrice like this.”
Clean Vibe is open to all, not just YMCA members. Its hours, still subject to change, are 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 6 to 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.