One of the first things patrons will see upon entering Life Style Enhancement, a new clean-living establishment in Johnston, is a noticeably open space in the middle.
That is by design, according to owner Eileen Vieira. She hopes that her location at 1200 Hartford Ave. can become a haven for those seeking tips on a healthy lifestyle and more of a relationship with their community.
“I intend to have conferences, that’s why you see this whole place is open,” Vieira said during a Feb. 26 interview at her business. “Sit down and discuss, make the food from the kitchen, just because I want to make sure that we have connection with the community. That happens once in a while.”
Vieira, who hails from Nigeria, comes from a substance abuse treatment background. She spent 15 years in the industry, and practiced in her home country despite the protestations from her father. “You’ll be poor like nothing,” she said he told her.
She said she focused on writing and implementing treatments for correction centers, schools and other establishments. She loved her line of work, even though her caseload was substantial. She dealt with patients who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but she said she felt there was something missing.
“I still felt in my heart that what is missing is connection,” Vieira said. “Most institutions or agencies don’t take the time to train the families … It’s not like when you come with a child to a conference or to counseling. They give you five minutes to say, ‘Let me talk to your parents. This is what you should expect, this is what you should look for.’ We never had that there. And now it’s even worse.”
Now, Vieira aims to set up shop as a meeting place, both for residents to seek connections with one another and find more healthy alternatives for a cleaner way of life.
Vieira said that after her son was born prematurely, he was treated at a hospital in Toronto. She said that it was “more like a home than a hospital,” and it focused more on integrative medicine. She wants to bring that same mindset to Johnston.
“I found out that most of his treatment wasn’t really based on medication, it was based on paying attention to what he eats,” she said. “So, even when you have a cancer patient, it’s the same thing. In Sweden, in Australia, every part of the world, food is a big part in family connection, or community connection. That’s something we’re missing, completely missing.”
She used the example of tea time in the United Kingdom, set aside during the day as a “time for connection,” to describe how she sees her business.
“Here, we don’t have it,” Vieira said, referencing tea time. “So I’ve opened this place for them to have tea, have a natural tea, just name it. Shakes, micronutrient shakes, which means they absorb easily in your body. There’s no way you’re going to be able to cook food that is sustainable these days. I have the trace minerals there, that is good to add to your water to drink.”
There is a kitchen set up right in front of the meeting space with merchandise surrounding it, ranging from the aforementioned trace minerals to blankets and tea. She held a soft opening this past Saturday to give the community a sense of LFF Enhancement Fund’s vibe, but the grand opening is about one month away.
She hopes to encourage patrons to look beyond just drinking shakes and losing weight.
“I think the biggest thing here is that most people in this country, they believe that weight loss is a regiment. It’s not,” Vieira said. “It’s a lifestyle. You don’t really need to work at losing weight if you eat right, if you understand your portion control.”
Food, she said, is key to mental health, and it will be vital to establishing the community connection Vieira wants to see at 1200 Hartford Ave.
“Food has to nourish the brain,” Vieira said. “I found out, too, that the mental health organizations here, most of them do not teach you how to start cooking right or eating right. And people don't have time for themselves, let’s be honest.”