Although it’s a lifeline for so many, what we often see pictured in the wellness category is more aspirational rather than practical and inclusive. Making a commitment to improving one’s health goes beyond a daily glass of celery juice and trendy workout class. Here, industry insiders share how their passion for health, mindfulness and fitness prompted them to promote a healthier lifestyle that is accessible to everyone.
“I remember getting asked to take a ‘fridge pic’ a few months ago for an article that would show people what those in the wellness industry eat. I was so nervous and embarrassed to share because I didn’t have ‘enough vegetables,’” says Eliza Ganesh, cofounder and CEO of Sunwink, a line of sparkling wellness tonics. “I contemplated going grocery shopping for more lettuce. How sad is that? I’m the founder of a wellness company and I felt intimidated by what I thought the wellness industry wanted me to look like.”
Facts and Figures
Recently Ganesh and her team conducted a national study and found that 62 percent of Americans say they are overwhelmed by the health and wellness industry. The study also found that 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Zers said they don’t feel the industry is inclusive or representative of “real” people. These numbers help identify a discrepancy in the wellness category—if achieving better health and feeling your best are things anyone can try to improve upon, then why does it sometimes feel so exclusive?
“Historically, fitness and wellness have not been the most accessible or inclusive, often presenting a disparity in diversity,” says Samia Gore, founder and CEO of Body Complete Rx, a plant-based supplement line. “After giving birth to my fourth child and finding it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, I began looking for plant-based supplements to jump-start a healthier lifestyle. Not only did I not find what I was looking for in the market, but I was also confronted with the lack of representation of African American women in the health and wellness space.”
“Unfortunately, the term ‘wellness’ is really coded language for ‘thinness’ in most spaces,” says Micki Krimmel, founder and CEO of size-inclusive activewear line SuperFit Hero. “As long as thinness is the goal, you’re excluding and marginalizing the majority of the population. For decades, studies have shown that diets don’t work and that striving for weight loss rarely imparts positive health benefits. We do know, however, that exercise and movement provide major health benefits, both physical and mental, regardless of weight. There is a growing movement of trainers, coaches, teachers, and wellness spaces that offer weight-neutral movement and wellness programs.”
For Ara Katz, cofounder and co-CEO of probiotic line Seed, accessibility goes beyond price and inclusive marketing campaigns. “For us, it is about education and the translation of science first,” she explains. “Access to truthful and foundational information can be so empowering and offers an important framework to help us make the most impactful choices for our health, which don’t have to be the most expensive, but can instead be the most informed.”
To be “well” means something different for everyone, so the only blueprint to follow is the one you create for yourself. “We all have the capacity for wellness within ourselves,” says Krimmel. “We all have the right to participate in our own personal wellness practice free of judgment or comparison.”
“We need to create safe spaces for people of every, size, shape, color, and background with beginner-friendly fitness and health education and products,” adds Gore. “Improving your well-being should also take into account mental and emotional health. Wellness is a whole body, mind and spirit approach.”
“The more we make workouts inclusive, the more people will feel comfortable joining,” says yoga instructor Tara Bradley Connell. “When everyone is getting the most out of class, it’s a win both mentally and physically for everyone.
I think wellness is different for everybody. For some people, it’s their skin-care routine. For me, as an athlete, it’s keeping my body healthy.—Paralympic triathlete Melissa Stockwell
Going for Gold
Two-time Paralympic triathlete, former Army officer and mother of two Melissa Stockwell is as optimistic and genuinely positive as they come. As the first female soldier to lose a limb in active combat while serving in Iraq, the athlete refuses to let that define her.
“For some reason, we go to bed at night and think about the negative things that happened throughout the day, what could have gone right, what didn’t go right, but I turn that around and think about all of the good things I have. After losing a leg, there were so many others that were worse off than I was. They had lost two, three, four limbs, they had brain injuries, they lost eyesight, and I truly consider myself one of the lucky ones because all I lost was one leg.
Losing a leg has led me into this life I never could have imagined of being an elite-level athlete, being married to an amazing husband, having two amazing children and being a mother to them—the best job in the world—and celebrating the role that we have as parents to raise our children to be good people. So just to have all that, I’m so thankful where my life has come.”
“I think wellness is different for everybody. For some people, it’s their skin-care routine at night. For others, wellness means keeping your body healthy. So, for me as an athlete, the majority of it is keeping my body healthy. I’m a very proud 41-year-old, but I am 41 and my body is aging, so I have to keep up with things like stretching, massage or sports medicine on any injuries I have and stay on top of those. But at the same time, when I see pictures, I do see my age, so I’ve been wanting to tackle that at the same time. Thankfully there are some products I’ve used, like the Olay Retinol ($29) for nighttime, so I’ve just been trying to stay on top of that. We all look at ourselves and we see the wrinkles, and while the wrinkles have given me a very good life so far and I’m very proud of them, I do want to kind of combat those as well.”
“A lot of [my wellness routine] is a mind-body connection for me. I would say for self-care, a lot of that is my mental thoughts, so thinking positively instead of negatively. If you think a negative thought, what are three positive thoughts that can overcome it? But it’s also feeling good when I wake up in the morning. I like using the Olay Whips Moisturizer ($30) to help me feel fresh throughout the day. It has SPF in it, so it’s protecting my skin while I’m training all day, and at night, it’s making sure I have that skin-care routine. So, it’s a mental thing, but you also want to feel good. You want to look in the mirror and feel good.”