Ever since I started blogging in 2010, I’ve wanted to attend a blog-related conference. I’d heard of many in the US, but living in Canada at the time, knew it would mean a commitment of money for travel, accommodation and the conference itself. Because of this, I never made it happen. BlogHer has always been on my radar, so you can imagine I was pretty excited to find out a few months ago that the location for this year’s BlogHer Health was right here in LA!
For a bit of quick context, BlogHer has become known as a company that empowers women to find their voices and turn their passions into content, community and commerce. From food and health to parenting and politics, BlogHer has brought together women from all walks of life and areas of expertise. BlogHer Health is just one of several BlogHer events, and focuses on celebrating women who are using their platforms to raise awareness for women’s health issues.
Whether you’re a blogger, entrepreneur, or neither but rocking life as your rad self, I think it’s fair to say we all go through waves of inspiration. That could be inspiration for excelling at work, training hard towards fitness goals, saving for that dream vacation, or just doing life in general. Speaking for myself, there are some weeks where Saturday arrives and all I want to do is spend hours in my kitchen, playing with food, creating recipes and snapping a bajillion photos with my camera. Then there are other weekends where this is the LAST thing I want to do. In my earlier blogging years, I might not have admitted that.
Lately (and naturally, after 9 years) I’ve noticed myself wanting to spend more time connecting with friends, exploring new-to-me parts of LA, being outside and embracing the opportunity to unplug. I knew my inspiration tank was running a little low, and BlogHer Health just happened to arrive at the exact time when I needed it. I was joined by 500+ other content creators, subject matter experts, social influencers, digital marketers and brands for a packed day of discussion and learning, and today I’m excited to share some of the best bits with you.
5 takeaways from BlogHer Health 2019
Takeaway #1: There is SO much innovation happening that is changing the game in women’s health, thanks to the people who know those problems best: women.
Hormones, periods, pregnancy, depression, bladder leakage, mammograms, boob sweat, body image, STDs, and every gyno issue you can possibly imagine – you name it, nothing was left undiscussed during this conference! Not only were all these topics openly talked about, but so were the amazing new solutions that offer potential to solve for so many of the issues women face. Apps, in-home testing, improved 3D mammogram technology for earlier cancer detection, and feminine care products free of harmful ingredients (why were they even used to begin with!?) are just a few examples. While ‘solutions’ to these problems in the past were ones created by men, the next wave is coming from women just like you and me who won’t settle for anything less than the best.
Takeaway #2: Loneliness plays a legit role in our life expectancy.
Just as food quality and daily exercise can be used as predictors of lifespan, so can the quality of our social relationships. I can’t think of many people who, when asked “how are you doing?” respond with “I’m lonely”. It’s not something we tend to admit, but loneliness is a BIG deal and shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to optimizing our holistic health. Studies like this one (a meta analysis of 31 studies) show that loneliness can be just as impactful on lifespan as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Crazy, right?
One of the women-led companies working to fix the loneliness problem is Hey Vina, founded by Olivia June. When I first downloaded Hey Vina, it reminded me of a Bumble BFF concept – but better and far more fun. Once you’ve created a profile, uploaded a photo and answered some fun questions about yourself (ie. describe yourself in 5 emojis), you can browse profiles of other women (aka Vinas) and say ‘hey’ to ones you’d like to meet. If the feeling is mutual, you’ll be digitally introduced to each other. From there, you decide where and when you’d like to hang out.
The app also allows you to create and post events for pretty much anything you could possibly want to do (go shopping, take a yoga class, go on a hike, grab a coffee, go dancing, etc etc etc). Other Vinas receive notifications when those events are happening nearby, and can RSVP to join you. Cool, right? Lastly, Hey Vina also exists as vinazine.com, a site dedicated to helping women who want to feel more connected. There’s everything from friendship advice and conversation starters to influencer interviews and fun fashion articles. I only just discovered Hey Vina and vinazine.com a couple of weeks ago, but I know they’re going to soon become places I hang out on the regular.
Takeaway #3: You CAN get support for your struggles. No matter how shameful or embarrassing they may seem, keeping quiet is not the only option.
Part of the conference was called #ThePitch, a chance for 3 female entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. (Think Shark Tank, but more like a dolphin or starfish tank where everyone is supportive and encouraging of everyone else.) One of the pitchers, Ana Pompa Alcarón, is the founder of the app findSisterhood. It’s an anonymous app for women, and a safe space to connect and get support for everything from motherhood venting to domestic violence and sexual assault. The community of users contributes experiences about sex, relationships, mental illness, and a ton of other topics that many are too afraid to talk about – even with the people we’re closest to. In doing so, other community members can find encouragement and support they need to cope with whatever they’re dealing with.
While Ana fully acknowledges that the app won’t solve for everything, there is technology at work behind the scenes to recognize contextual cues and present community members with resources such as suicide support hotlines as necessary. Tech aside, I think we’d all agree that expressing our feelings and emotions, whether by talking, writing, or otherwise, can be incredibly therapeutic. I love that a safe space like findSisterhood exists to help women talk (or text) out those bottled up stories and emotions – AND get social support from each other in return. No matter how embarrassed, ashamed or scared you are to talk about something that’s happened to you, chances are that someone else has been there too.
Takeaway 4: Nobody has it all figured out (not even influencers with the most polished Instagram feeds), and that’s a wonderful thing.
Once upon a time, I believed that I wouldn’t be a “real” blogger if I wasn’t forming partnerships with big brands, churning out daily blog posts, and creating a whole bunch more for my social channels. Similarly, I thought I wouldn’t be considered a “real” holistic wellness coach if I didn’t have proper nutritionist credentials, or if I didn’t have my own holistic wellness completely dialed in. Looking back, I spent an incredible number of hours stressing about what would make my next salad or smoothie recipe more creative than the last, all because of a mostly self-imposed, demanding expectation. (Note to my younger self: There’s beauty in simplicity.)
Zooming out from trivial things like recipe ingredients, there’s the bigger issue of work-life harmony. We’ve all looked at people we follow on social media, thinking “wow, she’s got it all figured out” or “I wish my life were like that“. Listening to the BlogHer speakers and connecting with other attendees was a good reminder that when you’re passionate about something – a business, an idea, a hobby – there will always be more that you could be doing to pursue it further, grow faster, or achieve more. Growing a business or undertaking a big goal can mean that other areas of life don’t get quite as much attention as they should, and that’s ok. The women I’ve looked to as role models may seem to live beautifully balanced lives in their Instagram feeds, but in reality, the grass isn’t always greener.
Karena Dawn of the Tone It Up duo spoke about her struggles with depression that eventually led her to rediscover her love for fitness. CeCe Olisa, Co-Founder of theCURVYcon shared how she dealt with feelings of body insecurity and blogged anonymously for years before finally embracing her now-motto, “Don’t wait on your weight to live the life you want.” These ladies have done a lot of hard work to get to where they are, with plenty of imbalances along the way. No matter how effortlessly perfect things might seem to us as observers, at the end of the day they’re real women with real struggles, just like you and me. Celebrating our successes instead of envying or wishing for those of others creates a more supportive environment, and I don’t know about you, but that’s the one I’d rather be part of!
Takeaway 5: Entrepreneurship – and life – is much more fun when you take on a mindset of collaboration instead of competition.
It seems obvious, right? Just the word ‘collaboration’ sounds more friendly than ‘competition’, and even though we know bigger things can be achieved with more (wo)man power, sometimes it’s still easy to feel like it’s you against everyone else. Those of you who run your own side hustles or full-time hustles have probably felt at some point that you have to do more to differentiate yourself amongst other bloggers, entrepreneurs, coaches, influencers, etc. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt this way on many occasions.
Being at BlogHer Health quickly made me realize that there are SO many conversations happening in wellness and women’s health – many of which I know very little about. That diversity means there’s room for all of us to bring our experiences, opinions, passions and expertise, and you never know who you’re going to meet. Both in business and in life, collaborative spaces can spur so many great ideas, powerful partnerships and creative ideas – all of which may never see the light of day if we’re constantly trying to one-up each other. I’ve never been one to label myself a feminist, but by the time I walked out of the conference on Friday, it was pretty clear to me that sisterhood is a powerful, necessary thing. Encourage, celebrate, and support other women, and you’ll get that in return.
I’d love to hear… are there any women’s health issues that are particularly important, interesting, or relevant to you right now? Where are you looking for advice and support with these things? Do you feel you’re getting what you need?