Choose Your Own Health Adventure – Chicago Magazine


Illustration by Pablo Lobato

Imagine a wellness scale where 1 is the Patron Saint of Wellness™ Gwyneth Paltrow obnoxiously running around in a fat suit in the film Shallow Hal, and 10 is the Patron Saint of Wellness™ Gwyneth Paltrow obnoxiously hawking a $75 candle titled This Smells Like My Vagina. On this scale I would rate myself a 6. I own a Peloton and have a regular Pilates class, a seven-step skin care routine, and a Botox regimen. But I love greasy pizza, Coke products, lying on the couch, and avoiding foods with chia seeds, flax seeds, or any sort of health seed — too much to ever truly be well. Literally, I can’t imagine myself embarking upon a fast unless it’s medically directed before a colonoscopy. Nevertheless, I remain a woman living in America, so the topic of how “well” I am is a near-constant source of angst.

The rules of wellness remain murky to me. Like how am I supposed to trust Kourtney Kardashian when she tells me to eat a tablespoon of ghee before meals for “calm energy and clarity of mind”? So when I walk into Biân, Chicago’s new members-only club “built on the foundation of holistic health and social well-being,” let’s just say I’m 50 percent skeptical about what I’m going to find here and 50 percent filled with shame because I’m worried the staff — gorgeous paragons of good health and good fortune — are looking at me like, Oh wow, unwell.

Biân is beautiful. Everything is white or cream or black and clearly for rich people who never spill or sweat. Kanye would approve. For a cool $3,600 a year plus a $1,000 initiation fee, members get access to all the things a well person could need: a fancy gym, yoga, chiropractic, Chinese herbs, energy healing, nutritional coaching, Botox and fillers, facials and peels, and a lounge featuring food from Lee Wolen, Michelin-starred chef of Boka and Somerset. A concierge medical service is an additional $3,600 annually.

My Biân experience is beautiful and convenient and pretty standard as far as well-person fare goes — a half day filled with private yoga, an açai smoothie bowl (with chia seeds, natch), a massage, acupuncture, and cupping to suction up all the impurities. (Don’t ask me what the impurities are; I told you wellness is a murky biz.) When I stand in the cryotherapy machine in nothing but my skivvies, moon boots, and arctic mittens, with freezing air blasting on me for an unknown purpose, I think, This is why Nicole Kidman couldn’t see the truth about Hugh Grant in The Undoing — she was anesthetized by wellness! When you have a lot of money, you can throw it at herbs and COVID-killing HVAC systems and a slew of doctors to prick and primp you at will, even in the middle of a pandemic. Why worry about what’s happening in the world when you can spend full days being rubbed and oiled and having entire conversations about ancient grains?

When it’s all over, I smell nice and herby, like a Thanksgiving turkey, and feel sort of drugged. As the valet brings my car around and I load up my to-go lunch (a shrimp, lentil, and quinoa bowl), I think about how well I could be if I were rich. And that I’m definitely ordering pizza tonight. Look at how well I’ve been all day. I deserve it.



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