By Amanda Capritto
What is “wellness,” anyway? Well, that’s sort of the beauty in it—nobody really knows what wellness means to everyone, but everyone knows what wellness means to them.
We spoke to some of the most influential women in wellness—women who are movers, shakers, and innovators in the fitness, nutrition, medical, and lifestyle spaces.
These women are working to address issues in wellness such as community, accessibility, burnout, mental health, fertility, body image, nutrition, and much more. From obstacle racers to functional physicians to spiritual healers, these women are forging a better balance not just in their respective industries, but in employment, entrepreneurship, and more. Let’s celebrate them.
Lauren Ash: Founder of Black Girl In Om
In 2014 when Lauren Ash finished her yoga teacher training, she would notice that she was consistently one of very few women of color at studios and workshops. Her 9-to-5 job at the time had a focus on fostering community, and Ash began to realize that she could combine her love for wellness with her love for community.
Black Girl In Om was born out of a need for women of color to have a safe space in the wellness industry.
Her desire to create these spaces goes back to her time as a college student in the early 2000s, when racially motivated hate crimes inspired her to look for healing and connection.
Since its launch in 2014, Black Girl In Om has become an influential online presence with a blog, podcast, and event series.
Robin Berzin, MD: Founder of Parsley Health
These days, it’s difficult to envision functional medicine without Dr. Robin Berzin. Founder of a rapidly growing functional medicine practice, Dr. Berzin has combined cutting-edge diagnostic testing with the latest in nutrition and lifestyle interventions.
Using an outcomes-driven approach, Parsley Health pairs doctors and patients for the long haul—life—and gets to the root cause of health problems.
By redesigning primary care to focus on the root cause of disease or ailment, the Parsley model has reversed and even cured chronic conditions for patients, which in turn, reduces their long-term health care costs. Parsley Health centers are currently located in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but expect to see more in the coming years. You can also access Parsley Health’s services online in over 40 states.
Arianna Huffington: Founder and CEO of Thrive Global
Arianna Huffington is a media mogul turned wellness superstar. After suffering from severe burnout in 2016, Huffington left her namesake media company Huffington Post and started Thrive Global, a new media platform dedicated to ending the burnout epidemic.
Thrive Global is “on a mission to unlock human potential” by creating awareness about stress, over-working, lack of sleep, and other burnout-related factors.
Huffington realized that many people wanted to change the way they work and live, and Thrive Global is her manifestation of that.
Amy Morin, LCSW: Psychotherapist and Author
Not many people can call themselves “accidental” authors. Amy Morin can. After losing her mother and husband, Morin, a psychotherapist, shifted her focus to studying why some people were stronger than others. One day in 2013, Morin wrote a letter to herself about bad habits she wanted to avoid. That letter turned into her first book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
She later published 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do and 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do. As an international best-selling author, Morin’s work has helped millions of people struggling to get through life after emotional trauma.
Morin’s top tip for people struggling to maintain their health after emotional trauma: “Talk to a mental health professional.”
“Talk therapy can be very effective in reducing the long-term damage that can be caused by trauma. Emotional wounds are a lot like physical wounds. Minor ones can be addressed at home. But, bigger ones may require help from a professional to ensure it heals properly.”
Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy: Co-founders of Modern Fertility
What if you could take an accurate fertility test without scheduling an appointment with your OB/GYN or a fertility specialist? Thanks to the bright ideas of Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, you can.
Modern Fertility was born because the founders wanted to make fertility testing more accessible.
While Vechery and Leahy are quick to point out that no fertility test is a predictive crystal ball, the test they’ve developed can tell you a few pertinent things, such as: if you have more or fewer eggs than average; if you may hit menopause early; information about your general reproductive health; and more.
“The first is a shift in thinking where we help women embrace fertility as a core part of their healthcare that they can and should be proactive about it,” Leahy says. “We think fertility testing should be as routine as getting a pap smear. Whether a woman wants kids or not, she deserves all the options.”
Jessamyn Stanley: Yoga Teacher and Author of Every Body Yoga
Jessamyn Stanley is living the dream of many a yoga teacher: She travels the world to teach classes, speak and encourage people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities to take up the practice that changed her life.
Often called the “yogi who breaks all the stereotypes,” Jessamyn wrote Every Body Yoga to prove that there is no such thing as a yoga body.
When people feel down about their physical appearance, Stanley urges them to answer the question “How do I feel?” rather than “How do I look?” because she’s found that most often, the answer to the first will inform the answer to the second.
Emilie Hebert: Founder and Blogger at Emilie Eats
A native of a small town in southern Louisiana, Hebert didn’t grow up with much excess—and now she encourages her followers to reduce their excess in all areas of life, plastic usage and toxic relationships included.
An integral part of wellness for Hebert is doing good for the environment, whether that means reducing plastic use, conserving water, or buying secondhand clothes.
“Wellness is a combination of physical, emotional, mental and financial factors,” Hebert says. “Coming from the industry I’m in, it’s hard to take the focus off of nutrition. But we often ignore the other forms of wellness, like making sure we’re okay emotionally.”
Jamie King and Alyse Mason: Founders of Fit Approach and Parenting Gurus at #ParentRiot
Who says parents can’t be fit? Not these two, that’s for sure. King regularly runs 40 miles a week and Mason treats Gixo as her right-hand man (she’s also a fan of fitness “snacks,” or small bursts of movement throughout the day when you can’t fit in a full workout). Jamie and Alyse left their corporate jobs to found Fit Approach, an influencer marketing agency.
After life events (read: having children), the two fit friends decided to launch #ParentRiot, an offshoot of the Fit Approach brand dedicated to busy parents who just want to stay healthy.
Wellness is “evolving from a perfection mindset—Must feel confident in a crop top! If I don’t work out for at least an hour every day all is lost!—to more of a make-do perspective,” Mason says.
“Sometimes I get to make myself delicious, nutritious meals. Sometimes I get to luxuriate in a 90-minute yoga class. Other days, taking a shower counts as wellness, and that’s okay.”
And King on parenting: “Parenting isn’t always Pinterest worthy. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s vulnerable, and it is perhaps the most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced—and what better way to share in that experience than forge a group of parents supporting parents talking about being parents?”
Robyn Conley Downs: Founder and Blogger at Real Food Whole Life
Gentle is the new perfect for Robyn Conley Downs. True wellness begins with self-knowledge and self-trust for this paleo blogger. She encourages women to ask themselves: “How can I make my life more incremental and sustainable, rather than perfect?”
For Downs, that means embracing the two-thirds rule of wellness. Instead of doing everything every day, think about getting two out of three: two out of three healthy meals, two out of three workouts for the week, etc.
This helps you escape the all-or-nothing trap.
“Give yourself credit for everything,” Downs says. “If you order pizza but eat a side of broccoli with it, that broccoli counts! Stop discrediting your efforts and notice a positive impact on your entire life.”
Amelia Boone: Full-Time Corporate Lawyer, Obstacle Racer, and Ultrarunner
Amelia Boone might be the most impressive weekend warrior you’ll ever come across. Boone is a full-time corporate attorney who somehow finds the time to train for intense obstacle races and consistently top the podium. She’s also developed an obsession for ultrarunning.
She’s a four-time world champion racer and has completed a course called the Death Race more than once.
Her biggest accomplishment, naturally, is juggling a dual career as a full-time attorney and as a high-level athlete. While she’s proud of her accolades, Boone says one thing she’s very proud of is actually detaching her sense of self-worth from those awards.
“‘Wellness’ can be a dangerous word as currently used,” Boone says. “There are a lot of extreme and unhealthy things, like diets [and] detoxes, that people do in the name of wellness. For me, wellness is honoring and respecting both my body and mind, and constantly working on the connection between them.”
Sahara Rose: Author and Ayurvedic Expert
Author of Eat Feel Fresh and Idiot’s Guides: Ayurveda, Sahara Rose makes spiritual wellness and Ayurveda accessible and understandable for everyone. Deepak Chopra has praised her work as Ayurveda’s “next evolutionary step.”
“Wellness is to embody the mind, body, and spirit in a holistic approach,” Rose says.
“I encourage people to discover their Dosha (Ayurvedic mind-body type) which gives you the blueprint to specifically what you need for ultimate balance.”
To learn about your Dosha, you can take Rose’s free quiz.
Aviva Romm, MD: Functional Physician, Midwife, Herbalist, and Author
As a mom, a midwife, and a functional medicine doctor, Romm has seen and experienced healthcare in a number of capacities. But it all comes down to one thing: Our bodies can heal themselves beyond what we’ve been led to believe.
Dr. Aviva Romm’s mission is simple: to show you that traditional wisdom and modern medicine can coexist.
Romm describes herself as fiercely protective of women’s and children’s healthcare, and her life’s work proves it. No one is supposed to go through life feeling exhausted, moody or hungry, Romm says, so she’s dedicated her career to helping women navigate hormonal imbalances, poor sleep, mood disorders, fatigue, and other common ailments.
Rachel Krupa: Founder and CEO of The Goods Mart
Rachel Krupa is making better-for-you options easy to find and easier on the pocketbook. She grew up spending time at the Sunoco gas station convenience store in her rural Michigan hometown. That and the site of her first job bagging groceries at Pinny Food Center inspired her to create a healthier convenience store.
“These spaces shape us,” Krupa writes on The Goods Mart website. “They matter.”
Everything in The Goods Mart meets high standards such as no artificial colors or flavors, no artificial sweeteners, more environmentally friendly packaging, and humanely-raised animal proteins, among others.
The Goods Mart combines two critical human longings (community and convenience) with a newer, but equally as important, yearning—wellness.
What’s more, Krupa has managed to keep costs down.
Krupa’s advice for entrepreneurs (and something she’s had to remind herself of while creating a brick-and-mortar business in a high-tech world): “Drill down and know what’s most important to you—don’t follow the fads.”
Kayla Itsines: Founder of Bikini Body Guides (BBG)
If you’re into flexible fitness programs, you probably already know about Instagram star Kayla Itsines.
Itsines is the creator of the insanely popular Bikini Body Guides: the original at-home BBG, and the gym version, BBG Stronger.
The BBG workouts are only 28 minutes long, which is ideal for busy women and men alike.
After BBG came the SWEAT app, which is now the largest digital fitness platform for women in the world, according to the website. Itsines recognized from the beginning that women want flexibility, variety and support when it comes to health and fitness, so she focused her career on just that.
Itsines has always been a source of motivation and support for women of all fitness levels, but after she welcomed her first child into the world, she garnered even more adoration by providing prenatal workout modifications and inspiration for other pregnant women.
Taylor Simpson: Founder of The Money Mindset Masterclass
Taylor Simpson is a business fiend. She quit her 9-to-5 to start an online fitness coaching business before online fitness businesses were cool. She became wildly successful as @ilikemyfitnesstaylored on Instagram, but later changed her handle to @iamtaylorsimpson when her business interests changed. Now, Simpson offers one-on-one business coaching as well as some highly successful online programs, like The Money Mindset Masterclass.
After years of struggling with a scarcity mindset, Simpson’s mission is to help women develop an abundance mindset and go after everything they want.
Backed by a masters degree and more than half a decade studying neuroscience and psychology, she helps women dissolve limiting beliefs, discover their worth, and create the lives they desire.
Her words of advice: “Focus on your desired outcome in every area of life. When you take something up out of lack—like drinking celery juice because you think it’ll make you skinny—you’ll find yourself in more lacking situations. But when you approach things from a place of abundance—drinking celery juice because it might be a great, nutritious addition to your regime that’s already enough—you will experience abundance in other areas, too.”
Kelly Roberts: Runner and Founder of the #SportsBraSquad
In 2013, Kelly Roberts started a blog called Run, Selfie, Repeat, and claims she had no idea what she doing. A year later, Roberts became an accidental Instagram sensation after jokingly posting a series of selfies with male runners during the New York Half Marathon with the hashtag #HottGuysOfTheNYCHalf.1
As those images went viral, Roberts quickly became known for her outspokenness about body positivity in the running world. After bravely posting an image of herself in a sports bra as a gesture of embracing her body, she founded the #SportsBraSquad and the Badass Lady Gang to help redefine what health and fitness looked like for women.
For most of her life, Roberts says, she was the “self-appointed president of the ‘I f****** hate running club.’” But after her younger brother died in an accident, she struggled with weight gain while she was grieving and subsequently, body image, and took up running to heal. Years later, she’s still running, and is now inspiring women all over the world to run and show off their strength by accepting their bodies.
The offshoot of her platform, the Badass Lady Gang, is a free global movement that connects women who run to feel empowered regardless of their size, race times, or fitness level.
Roberts’ advice: Choose to fight the inner dialogue that says you aren’t thin enough, you aren’t strong enough, or you aren’t fast enough, because you’re always enough.
Randy Patterson: CEO of ProDoula
Female healthcare providers are still undervalued and underpaid compared with their male counterparts.2 The work of Randy Patterson may very well help to change that.
A woman’s right to doula support is important. Patterson is on a mission to elevate the role of a doula—a trained companion who provides non-medical support before, during, and after childbirth—to a professional level. A professional doula certification would raise the standards for their qualifications so that physicians, obstetricians, and other medical professionals could see the value of doula support in both prenatal and perinatal care.
ProDoula is a twofold business: It offers training and certifications to aspiring doulas so they can enter their profession with self-confidence and the tools to run and market their own business, and it offers pregnant women the ability to find a judgment-free, caring, and experienced doula to assist with pregnancy and delivery.
Many doulas are shamed for wanting to make a living, Patterson says, which has led to an expectation that doulas will work for free or cheap. ProDoula was founded on the premise that doula-ing is as respectable a profession as any, and professional doulas should be able to pay their bills.
Katerina Schneider: CEO and Founder of Ritual Vitamins
“For skeptics, by skeptics” is the motto at Ritual. Founder Katerina Schneider couldn’t find a vitamin she wanted to take while pregnant, so she created her own.3
That was the beginning of Ritual, a vitamin company that’s created what it calls the ideal daily vitamin for women.
When Schneider realized that most vitamins are packed with unnecessary fillers or are developed through questionable processes, she set out to develop a vitamin that was simple, effective, and supported by scientists.4 What’s even better is that Ritual makes understanding the multivitamin easy.
Transparency is the name of the game at Ritual, and Schneider invites everyone to take a deep dive into the science behind The Multivitamin 18+, The Prenatal Vitamin, Reborn, and The Multivitamin 50+, the three products offered by the company.
Brynn Putnam: Founder and CEO of MIRROR
In 2016, Brynn Putnam was newly pregnant and found herself—a gym owner—with no time to work out. She started working out at home, but felt she was sacrificing quality for convenience. She didn’t have room for a treadmill or bike in her NYC apartment (or enjoy running or spinning enough to invest in one), and she couldn’t find an app or streaming service that inspired her.
At the same time, she realized how integral mirrors could be to the fitness experience: They help people watch their form and can be inspiring when you see how hard you’re working. So, MIRROR was born.5
MIRROR is a nearly invisible, interactive home gym. It offers real-time instruction and feedback, surround sound, group settings and personalization—effectively bringing a studio class into your home.
“Wellness is treating your body as if it belonged to someone you love,” Putnam says. “If you use this idea as your North Star, you will treat your body with the respect it deserves. For me, this means modeling behavior that I am proud of for my two year old son!”
Rachel Hollis: Wellness Author and Podcaster
Ever heard someone say, “Girl, wash your face”? We thought so. The phrase picked up steam after Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Wash Your Face topped the New York Times Best Seller list after it was published in February 2018.
Since then, she’s written Girl, Stop Apologizing. Before that, she authored several cookbooks and a fiction trilogy. Hollis also runs lifestyle blog The Chic Site, Chic Media, and The Hollis Company. Basically, she’s a do-it-all kind of girl if we’ve ever seen one.
While Hollis is an incredible author, podcaster, and businesswoman, it’s the underlying message in all of her work that landed her a place on this list.
She’s unapologetically herself, and she encourages every woman to live that way. Without courage and authenticity, there is no real wellness.
Alison Désir: Founder of Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women
Another seriously inspiring woman changing the sport of running, Alison Désir is much more than an endurance athlete. She’s an activist, mental health counselor, and grassroots marketing mogul.
She founded Harlem Run as a way for local runners, walkers, and joggers in Harlem, Manhattan to find community in their sport.
Harlem Run organizes group workouts throughout the week for free.
Désir’s other passion project is Run 4 All Women, a charity-based running group that has raised more than $100,000 for women’s reproductive rights and $50,000 for Planned Parenthood, according to its website. Run 4 All Women encourages political awareness and voter participation, proof of which was seen in the #MidtermRun, a grassroots campaign to support progressive candidates in 2018.
Désir’s advice for entrepreneurs: “Dive in and figure it out in the process. If you wait until you have it all together, you will never get started. Surrounding yourself with people invested in you is also critical—very few great things in life are achieved alone.”
Joanne Encarnacion, Founder of GoFitJo
Joanne Encarnacion is one of those “no way she’s a mom” moms. But the best part is that she doesn’t make other moms feel that way. In fact, part of Jo’s brand is that she helps women redefine health and strengthen their relationships with themselves.
When Jo lost her 9-to-5 job at a startup in 2016, she dove into the Health Coach Training Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She anticipated that her new career would entail teaching others about fitness and nutrition. What she did not anticipate was how she would help women connect to themselves and experience personal development.
Now, Jo uses #WomanInProgress to shape her health coaching practice and in her personal life, because she realized that no woman is ever done growing or evolving.
Sometimes, the hardest part is accepting that, so the hashtag serves as a reminder and grounding practice.
“Wellness is consciously and intentionally choosing to give yourself the permission to live freely in your own body and in the relationships and experiences you surround yourself in,” Encarnacion says.
Courtney Nichols Gould: Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Smartypants Gummy Vitamins
Courtney Nichols Gould is a dedicated entrepreneur if there ever was one. Before SmartyPants Vitamins took off, Gould had nearly 20 employees working out of her home in Venice, California. A few years and lots of hard work later, SmartyPants HQ is in Marina del Ray and has more than 30 employees working toward the same vision: an all-in-one tasty vitamin with premium ingredients at a fair price.
What really stands out about SmartyPants is its focus on good health all over the world—not just in developed countries where consumers can afford monthly supplies of vitamins.
To that end, SmartyPants partnered with Vitamin Angels, a non-profit dedicated to reducing malnutrition in underdeveloped countries. According to its website, SmartyPants has donated 10.2 million one-for-one nutrient grants to Vitamin Angels.
Deborah Hanekamp: Author, Medicine Reader, and Founder of Mama Medicine
In a culture that puts so much emphasis on dieting and fitness fads, wellness influencers like Deborah Hanekamp can be a breath of fresh air.
While her practice may be a little atypical for some, communities in New York and beyond have come to love and rely on her meditative medicine readings and ritual bath prescriptions.6
Hanekamp was completely on her own and self-sufficient at 17, which inspired her to travel the world and study reiki, among other spiritual practices. Now, she runs a successful practice out of Space by Mama Medicine in SoHo, a bright and inspiring place where clients go to get their readings. She also makes some of her offerings available online.
“Wellness is stopping the obsession,” Hanekamp says, rather emphatically. “The second we try to get healthy, we can become very dogmatic about diets or routines and lose our sense of balance. The truth is that we are always changing and growing, and the things that brought us balance five years ago won’t necessarily bring us balance today.”
Amy Barnouw: Co-Founder and CEO of Planet Fuel Beverage Company
Not unlike many moms, Amy Barnouw wanted better for her children. She wanted healthy, organic juices for her three kids, but couldn’t find anything she was confident in—so she created the ideal beverage by herself.7
The difference with Planet Fuel is that it’s marketed at children and teens, rather than at adults like many organic or all-natural products often are.
The beverages come in sustainable pop-top aluminum cans with fun designs and flavors. Each flavor is made from all-organic, non-GMO ingredients and diluted with a splash of “crystal-clean” spring water to lower the sugar content.
Planet Fuel is also environmentally friendly: Every purchase gives back to the Planet Fuel Charitable Fund, which provides resources to conservation groups to protect wildlife and other natural resources. Barnouw’s overall mission is to inspire consumers to make purchases that are good for their body and good for the Earth.
Amanda Chantal Bacon: Author and Founder of Moon Juice
Another spiritual wellness warrior, Amanda Chantal Bacon, created Moon Juice in 2011 when she wanted a healing beverage that went beyond what was already on the market.8 The pressed juices, Moon Milks and other adaptogenic tonics and elixirs at Moon Juice are products of years of research on food allergies, hypothyroidism, and herbal medicine.
A bonafide self-healer, Bacon used Moon Juice products to bring her hormone levels back to normal and thus shift her personality, immunity, and mood for the better.
These women and many more are redefining what it means to be well. If there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that they want to inspire, motivate, and help people all over the world in their personal health journeys.