October 27, 2010

Vibrant Life

Living vibrantly continues to be the mantra of one of Adventism’s top health journals, Vibrant Life, even after more than a century of existence, says magazine editor-in-chief Heather Quintana.
“Every article must provide a good answer to the question ‘How can this information help me live more vibrantly?’ That’s our goal,” says Quintana, who has headed the publication’s three-person, part-time editorial-and-design team for two years. “When I get a card or an e-mail that reads, ‘I’m now making this [lifestyle change] because of something I read in your magazine,’ then I just say, ‘Praise God,’ because that’s why we get up every day and do this.”
The 32-page, bimonthly health magazine, based at the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Hagerstown, Maryland, is celebrating its 125th milestone. Launched in 1885 by church pioneer J. H. Waggoner, the journal initially was named the Pacific Health Journal and Temperance Advocate. Then 100 years and a few name changes later, Vibrant Life took on the task of heralding the Adventist health message. (See sidebar titled “Sobriety, Peanut Butter, and Hot Fomentations” for a short historical sketch.)
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Quintana is confident that the health message “still remains the right arm of the gospel,” and notes, “When our health journals were first formed, those pioneers said that the health message would be received by people who wouldn’t be willing to hear heavy doctrines from the Bible, but it would open the door for them to get to that next step. I believe that’s still true. Jesus spent a lot of time healing physically as well as mentally and emotionally and spiritually, so this is an extension of His ministry and still relevant today.”
Beating depression and having a positive attitude are included on Quintana’s list of vital health topics to appraise in the magazine. Disease prevention, physical activity, a strong spiritual focus, and the concept that food is medicine, however, are also core, she says, then adds, “We don’t read our bodies very well. We often ignore the signals they give us.”
As with every long-running journal, much has changed since the magazine’s inception. For one thing, the new editor’s target reading audience—both Adventist and those outside the church—includes young adults.

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THEN: The cover of the June 1921 issue of Life and Health, now called Vibrant Life. AND NOW: Vibrant Life today.

Quintana concedes, however, that appealing to young married couples and professionals isn’t easy.

“We’re fighting against a culture in which good health is often gauged solely on looking good in a swimsuit,” she says. “We interpret it differently. No matter what the person’s age, we need to look at the whole person—the mind and the body and the spirit—and increase wellness in all those areas.”

Quintana also promotes healthful living as benefiting not only individuals but the planet and God’s nonhuman creatures as well. Along with the Adventist Church’s wholistic perspective of personal health, we sometimes forget, she says, that there’s a connection to the health of the planet.
“It’s not just about us,” Quintana explains. “What’s healthy for us is also healthy for the planet. For example, in our special ‘Going Vegetarian’ issue this year [an undated issue released in May/June 2010], we have some really significant statistics and facts about what it means for the planet when someone eats a hamburger.”
Revealing Results
The editor’s new approach appears to be working. An unofficial survey of the magazine with a few dozen randomly selected General Conference employees resulted in accolades such as “refreshing”; “green”; “hip” and “with it”; having “a colorful, appealing design”; “addresses practical topics of interest to the general population and not just Adventists”; “tackles controversial issues regarding ecology”; “easy to read”; and “great recipes.” But there was one negative: “It’s too light; it doesn’t cover topics sufficiently in-depth.”
“I’m pleased with the responses,” Quintana says. “It makes me feel like a lot of what we’re trying to convey is coming across to the reader.” She adds that because of the limited space available in the six annual issues of the magazine, she’s not surprised by the observation that the articles don’t cover the topics sufficiently. “We can barely scratch the surface,” she says.
A Diverse Background
Quintana hopes the 22,000 people who subscribe to Vibrant Life* will be comfortable sharing the magazine with others outside the church. Her own rich background has equipped her for seeing health issues from “both sides of the fence,” and she uses this knowledge to craft articles in a way that’s appealing to all readers.
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 Born and raised in Oklahoma by an Adventist mother and Baptist father, Quintana was exposed to two ways of life. Her mother, whom she describes as a committed Adventist, a person who faithfully honors the seventh-day Sabbath, and a vegetarian, lived a lifestyle that contrasted sharply with that of her husband, “a steak and potatoes guy” who raises beef cattle and attends the local Baptist church on Sundays.

“I have memories of attending both churches: singing ‘I’ll Fly Away’ at the Baptist church and ‘Lift Up the Trumpet’ at the Adventist church,” she recalls. “My parents gave us the option to choose what we wanted to do. When my mom made meals, she prepared a vegetarian option and a meat option. Then we just chose. It was an interesting thing. Early on—when I was about 6—I chose not to eat meat anymore, even though it was on the table.”
Quintana believes these experiences help her better understand the perspectives of persons not immersed in Adventist culture.
Quintana’s education included both parochial and secular experiences. She attended a one-room Adventist church school for three years, but the remainder of her elementary and high school years were spent in public school. She then moved to Texas to attend Southwestern Adventist University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in corporate communication, eventually graduating from Andrews University Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree.
“I always believed I would go into ministry of some sort, but I never imagined it would be health ministry—although it was always an area of personal passion,” she says. “But the combination has helped me to insert a spiritual component into articles about physical health while trying not to make the message overbearing or uncomfortable. I believe that spiritual health gives us the force and courage to make changes and to improve physically. It goes both ways. Physical health clears the way for spiritual growth.”
Developing Empathy
Quintana’s own health problems, she says, have given her empathy for fellow sufferers and helped to shape her for this editorial role.
“I understand the feeling of having your health slip away and losing just enough of it to treasure what you have,” explains Quintana, who’s been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. “Once you don’t feel well, it’s much harder to make a change, to get up and exercise, to cook a healthful meal rather than eat a frozen pizza, or whatever. I can’t understand everyone’s illnesses, but I do have a heart for people who struggle with their health.”
She adds: “There are few greater blessings than good health. It’s a gift by divine design. God wants the mind, body, and spirit—all of them—to be high-functioning so we can live abundant, happy, and full lives. Good ?health is a blessing.”
Together with Quintana and the other two members of the editorial-and-design team, additional Review and Herald employees assist in areas such as marketing, Web development, and subscriber services.
For more information about Vibrant Life, go to www.VibrantLife.com or call 1-800-456-3991.
* A total of more than 94,000 copies of Vibrant Life were sold in 2009, including special issues and those purchased for evangelism, conferences, and various other events.
Sandra Blackmer is features editor of Adventist Review. This article was published October 28, 2010.