I remember the exact moment when I found out that green juice was a “thing.” It was 2011, and I stumbled upon a health coach’s website (who, ironically enough, I know today — she coached me through my first big public speaking experience). She was — and still is — beautiful, glowing from the inside out, and empowers other women to live a healthy, vibrant lifestyle at any age. “I’ll have what she’s having” was my first thought. This was the beginning of my journey down the rabbit hole of health and wellness. There were two main triggers that sent me running — wait, no — sprinting down this path:
1. A general quest for more knowledge and a pursuit of passion. I’ve always loved to cook, I’ve been active and enjoyed exercise my whole life, and I thought all of this on-the-verge of trending health stuff was really interesting. I loved learning how food, exercise, and lifestyle affect our body — I needed to know it all, and there’s so much to learn!
2. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had digestive issues. For the past 10 years, I’ve had hormonal struggles. In the spirit of leaving a little to the imagination, let’s just say it was either too much or too little. If you’ve ever experienced those feelings, you know the impact that it has on your life. For once, I wanted to just feel normal.
So off I went, dangerously and obsessively sprinting, not running, down the #wellness path. What started as a true passion, interest, and desire to feel well (digestively speaking) became overcrowded with right versus wrong, this versus that, self-judgment, and what the wonderful Lisa Hayim calls “noise.”
I began to fear myself, added a “good” or “bad” label to food, and thought the only path to self-care was an intense workout — because if you’re not sweating or in pain, did you even do it?
Worst of all, I lost the ability to be present — to be here now — because my mind was fretting with anxiety over life. Was I #livingmybestlife? Or was there something better out there?
I was wrong. Instead of becoming well, I ended up putting a black cloud over things that I really loved. After opening many wrong doors, what I found was a journey about what it means to live well for me.
I began to fear myself, added a “good” or “bad” label to food, and thought the only path to self-care was an intense workout — because if you’re not sweating or in pain did you even do it?
In 2013, I landed a job at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. As soon as I started, I felt different — happier and more at peace with myself. Soon after I started my job, I went through the year-long program and got a health coaching certificate. It was like a dream come true. This was pre-ClassPass, pre-influencer, and pre-complete social media absorption. It was when SoulCycle was just coming of age, and unless you had celiac, gluten wasn’t the devil. During the health coaching program, I discovered two concepts that enhanced my outlook and for a period of time:
1. Bio-Individuality: One person’s food is another person’s poison.
2. Primary Food: All of the things that nourish you that aren’t found on your plate.
The first, bio-individuality, changed my outlook and helped to improve my mental health by teaching me that comparison is the thief of joy. It doesn’t matter what he, or she, or they are doing. What matters is that I do what feels right for me, which is rarely intermittent fasting and or doing a juice cleanse. I learned the strategies to tap into what made me feel good versus bad so I could make informed decisions.
It doesn’t matter what he, or she, or they are doing. What matters is that I do what feels right for me, which is rarely intermittent fasting and or doing a juice cleanse.
The second, and most powerful, taught me that it’s not just about a hard workout session and food. In fact, feeling well is rarely about those things. It’s about nurturing your soul and having compassion in the most substantial, fundamental ways possible. It’s the things like relationships, spiritual practices, community, having a fulfilling career, and feeling financially stable. When these things are in balance, the others tend to fall into place too.
As social media continued to gain traction, boutique workout studios popped up everywhere, and influencers became a thing like green juice had all those years ago — those two core concepts that had turned my dangerous sprinting into a light, peaceful jog fell to the backburner.
I became consumed, again, by what I was seeing, what I was reading, and what other people were doing. What we consume consumes us, and #wellness was all I was consuming. It was becoming cool, and I wanted to be part of it.
I tried to amp up my Instagram account, posting my latest kitchen creations, and sharing my workouts. I even went to Bali and Australia for six weeks by myself. Is there anything more #wellness than that?
As the true crux of my health coaching education continued to sit on the backburner, I felt like Alice going through the looking glass sitting at a tea party where I just didn’t quite fit in. That tea party was what had become the #wellness world.
It was a party where the outfits were as trendy as the runway at fashion week; the tea was green juice enhanced with sex dust; everyone and no one were experts, but the voices were strong, conflicting, and often confusing. Comparison, not money, was the root of all evil, and competition was the way to the top.
For me, it felt like being healthy and living well had become such an industry that some of the true meaning, purpose, and integrity had been lost. Isn’t the purpose of health to fundamentally feel good?
But even more detrimental, it also caused me to lose the ability to tap into my intuition. Instead of being able to listen to my body when it whispered cues about what to eat and how to exercise and doing what it really needed, I did what I thought was the “right” thing to do.
Additionally, like many women, I’m challenged when it comes to body image. My mental health took a major hit. I wanted to look and feel as good as all of the people I saw, often forgetting that “objects on the screen are less real than they seem.” I felt disempowered to live life in the way it worked for me.
I’ll admit, perhaps some of my feelings of isolation in this new world were a result of jealousy, of not being “enough,” and my own missing self-confidence. But, I know wholeheartedly that I’m not alone.
I wanted to look and feel as good as all of the people I saw, often forgetting that ‘objects on the screen are less real than they seem.’ I felt disempowered to live life in the way it worked for me.
That said, before I continue, you should know a few things about what I believe:
1. I love that there’s more information available for people to improve their well-being. There’s so much work to be done and information to be shared.
2. What you eat and how you move your body matters. It literally gives you life.
3. You get one body and one life, so treat it well in a way that’s meaningful for you.
4. There are people and influencers who have amazing, powerful messages that can help you improve your life that should be shouted from the rooftops.
5. I’m not “over” living well. Living well is your greatest asset. In fact, I talk all about how to live well on my podcast. What I’m over are industry-created standards about what that means. You do not have to do the following to be #wellness, but if you love it, by all means, do it:
- Drink green juices, green smoothies, or green anything for that matter. Personally, I’ll get a craving for that fresh juice taste every so often, but in reality, I don’t even like them that much.
- Wear expensive workout gear.
- Go to a boutique workout class. A walk is a pretty powerful form of exercise.
- Go on a “diet,” do a juice cleanse, go keto, do Whole30, or intermittent fast.
- Have toned arms, legs, or a six-pack.
I think what wellness really means is actually quite simple:
- Move your body regularly in a way that works for you — and no, it doesn’t matter which outfit you’re wearing.
- Eating real, whole foods that come from the earth most of the time. This is not only healthier but better for the environment.
- Believing there is no “good” or “bad” food but simply nutrients that make you feel a certain way.
- Building high-quality, meaningful relationships.
- Enjoying meals with others.
- Doing work that matters to you.
- Having clarity around your purpose and what’s important to you.
- Standing up for what you believe in.
- Staying true to your word.
- Enjoying the great outdoors and getting some vitamin D.
- Loving your life (all of it and all of you) and designing it so that it can be a reality.
- Doing, living, and being in a way that feels authentic and holds up to your morals.
Living well is an exploration of your life. It will change by the day, but remember, no one — not one single person or an industry leader, no matter how many degrees they have — is an expert on you.
Be curious about life and empower yourself to make decisions that work for you, and I promise, you’ll be the most #wellness person you know.