My decision to take on a wellness project stemmed, in part, from information overwhelm.
There was also The Great Face Rash of 2015, but that’s another part of the story…
What led me to take a step back, rip up the drawing board, and find a new approach was a feeling of getting lost in the minutiae of wellness.
There were so many listicles in my inbox, and organic chia seed fruit popsicles on the shelf. My wallet was bleeding green on green elixirs and herbal supplements. And at the end of the day, none of these things left me feeling all that “well.”
So instead of poring over studies on how eating more turmeric might prevent cancer, or articles on why biking for twenty minutes every day could lengthen my lifespan, I began this new year-long health odyssey by tracking down experts on all sides of the wellness space—yogis, health coaches, aestheticians, nutritionists, chefs, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists, etc.—and asked them all the same question:
If you could tell someone to make just one lifestyle change that would have a profound effect on their general wellbeing, what would it be?
The process of collecting these answers involved a lot of anxiety-ridden cold emails, a high percentage of which went straight into the grey internet abyss. But I was also floored by how many of my idols-from-afar wrote back with a nugget of wisdom.
The answers I got to my One Big Question (referred to in my book as the OBQ) were just what I was looking for. No one talked about superfoods or Soul Cycle, dry brushing or oil pulling. They cut through the bullshit and focused on the big picture—the common-sense building blocks that we often forget about in favor of the latest fad.
These responses became the backbone of my year-long curriculum, but in practice, my experiments took on a life of their own. When I started to put together the narrative, and laying the bricks for the book itself, I couldn’t find a graceful way to weave the OBQ answers throughout that didn’t feel forced or contrived.
The book very quickly became what my editor called a “behemoth” and as she pushed me to cut almost 100 pages, many of the OBQ responses ended up on the cutting room floor, along with a few off-color jokes and an aside about the sleep strategy of erotic bedtime stories.
Needless to say, this post has been years in the making, and I’m so excited to finally share all the wisdom that I gathered from experts that I look up to, admire, and in some cases, am lucky enough to now call my friends.
If you’re looking to cut through all the health noise, start here.
From one healthy hedonist, to another,
“Mood follows action. There are no shortage of life hacks, self-help books, so-called “revolutionary” diet and weight loss plans. Nonetheless, our prosperous culture has never been more sick, overweight and professionally disillusioned. Why? Shortcuts to success, happiness and the perfect body ensure page views. But the under-appreciated truth is that change is hard. Rather than deny this obvious reality, let’s embrace this notion as a first step in transformation. Change is about action. And consistently taking the uncomfortable new action despite how you feel has been instrumental in my own personal transformation.”
–Rich Roll, podcast host and best-selling author of Finding Ultra
“Just start cooking. If you want to avoid the onslaught of processed foods, cooking is the most powerful thing you can do. The trick of course is to take it back to basics. Make sure the recipe is simple, shop and eat locally and seasonally to save money and look after the environment, and be prepared. Cook up big batches of nutritious and healthy meals on a Sunday to save time and hassle during the week.”
–Sarah Wilson, Journalist, author of New York Times bestseller I Quit Sugar and Director of IQuitSugar.com
“Believe in yourself. It’s one thing to set intention, but you have to actually put that intention into action through your belief system combined with discipline, effort, love, and balance.”
–Kathryn Budig, yoga teacher and author of Aim True
“Cut out processed food and other junk. It’s so frustrating to go into the grocery store and have all the healthy food hidden on the bottom shelf. Our world would be such a better world if we didn’t have to fight our whole lives to feel good.”
–Barbara Lynch, Chef and Restauranteur
“Let yourself get a little dirty. We spend so much time super sanitizing ourselves, and we’re only now beginning to realize the importance of the microbiome – those trillions of bacteria that call our bodies home. Washing and scrubbing multiple times a day disrupts the delicate ecosystem of microbes on our bodies that’s essential for good health. A quick rinse with water most days is all you need, with a mild soap just in the nooks and crannies if you’re really grubby. Your microbes will thank you!”
–Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE, Integrative gastroenterologist & best-selling author of The Microbiome Solution
“Remember that nobody’s perfect. It’s just not possible to be absolutely perfect at everything all the time. Give yourself room to experiment, try new things, and maybe even fail. Some of your greatest “mistakes” can lead to your most awesome successes.”
–Jessica Murnane, host of the One Part Podcast and author of the One Part Plant Cookbook
“Just breathe. Do a basic breathing exercise every day. It’s so important to connect to your core self and quiet all the other noise you’re putting out into the universe.”
— Robin Berzin, MD, CEO and founder of Parsley Health
“Change your attitude. The most important aspect of health and success is attitude, specifically happiness and faith. Small changes here will resonate throughout your being and your world. Start by shifting one comment or one attitude a day, or just acknowledging how lucky you truly are to be alive. The rest will take care of itself.”
“Make something. Whenever I’m grumpy or feeling depressed or uninspired, I’ve learned that the best way out of it is to create. That could mean baking a cake or making a collage or hand-writing a letter to a faraway friend or repotting some plants or plunking out some notes on a piano. I’ve found that nothing gets me out of my head and away from my stress like forcing myself to create something, even (or especially!) if it’s just for myself.”
–Ann Friedman, Fem-Forward Journalist and co-founder of the Call Your Girlfriend Podcast
“Replace the mantra “no pain, no gain” with “work smarter, not harder” when exercising. One simple and highly effective way to do this is to modify postures so you feel really good while you exercise and even better afterwards.”
–Sadie Lincoln, Founder of Barre3
“Have fun, make it decadent, eat often, cook with abandon, and create new traditions to carry us into the future. We are all born to be the alchemist.
–Amanda Chantal Bacon, owner of Moon Juice and author of The Moon Juice Cookbook
“Forgive yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat someone you love deeply. Don’t get down on yourself for “slip ups,” and instead believe (because it’s true!) that those little things you might view as mistakes mean nothing in the long run, and they are part of the awesome ebb and flow of this crazy cool life we lead.”
–Jordan Younger, founder of The Balanced Blonde & author of Breaking Vegan
“Simplify. The more you simplify your life, the better you feel and for sure the less money you will spend. I just wish we didn’t think the answer to our wellness was in all these products—both our skincare and our food–that have so many awful and unnecessary ingredients. It’s the equivalent of cluttering your home. Having all these things in our cabinets just distracts us from how we really feel.”
“Develop self-compassion. Shame and self-criticism don’t usually result in lasting positive change. More often they push people into sneaking around and reaching for unhealthful coping mechanisms to help soothe a broken ego. Self-respect and compassion, on the other hand, are much more sustainable fuel for making healthful choices in the long run.”
–Isabel Foxen Duke, Creator of Stop Fighting Food
“Establish a network of accountability partners. Your true friends will not only support you and uplift you no matter WHAT you choose to do, but they might just hop on the same bandwagon. That way, you can knock out some goals together!”
–Caroline Burckle, US Olympic Bronze Medalist and Wellness Success Coach
“Learn to love housecleaning and clutter clearing. There are a thousand and one benefits to simple things like scrubbing your shower with a natural cleaner, washing the windows, recycling old papers, embracing dusting… Many that include: more creativity and confidence, more peace of mind, less allergy symptoms, more exercise… And in the world of Feng Shui, more money and love and power, too! All of this just from learning to love cleaning up in a big way.”
–Dana Claudat, Feng Shui Master, designer & creator of The Tao of Dana
“Spend 10 percent of your day on yourself. We spend so much time renting out mental space to other people’s problems. If you don’t dedicate time to yourself, you will never be fully nourished. Think of it as taking your soul vitamins. They may come in many different shapes and sizes, but it’s important that you commit to taking your daily dose.”
–Dr. Heidi Lovie, DACM, Lovie Acupuncture and Healing
“Detox your mind. After 10 years of chronic illness, exhausting Western medicine then Functional medicine, I realized that the final answers to my healing were inside of me the whole time, however I never allowed myself to get quiet and present to listen. I was always looking outside of myself for the cure. As soon as I gave myself space to breathe and meditate and just ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. That’s when everything in my life fell into place and I started to truly heal.”
“Exercise, preferably daily, is the biggest game changer. It makes me feel great and have the ability to think clearly. I’m always shocked at how much better I feel when I am exercising consistently. And, it makes my skin look it’s best. And, it’s pretty much free.
–Kerrilynn Pamer, co-founder CAP Beauty
“Meditate. It allows you to connect with your mind and spirit in a way that’s lacking in a lot of people. It’s just not the way we were brought up.”
–Juliet Maris, Integrated Bodyworker
“Throw away your scale. People give so much power to that number. And it becomes too easy to base your daily happiness and sense of wellbeing on it versus how you’re really feeling. There are very few medical conditions that you’ll discover based solely on the number on that scale. You’re distracting yourself from where your real health problem areas are.”
“Drink more water. It’s the most important tool and cheapest way to feel great (and look great!). It purifies our liver, flushes out toxins, hydrates the skin, and lubricates our joints. Add some lemon or lime for alkalinity.”
–Arielle Haspel, cooking show host and founder of Be Well With Arielle
“Perfect the first sixty minutes of your day. That first sixty minutes sets the intention for your entire day, and it is often spent honoring other people’s needs and demands. (Cell phone and email first-thing in bed, anyone?)”
–Amber Rae, Artivist and creator of Wonder Over Worry
“Build a relationship with your body. You have to be the one that takes the mystery out of that relationship by just rolling up your sleeves and getting observant about what’s going on. If you can give yourself that gift of knowing what your body is trying to tell you, you will save years of your life from being on a health recovery journey, to just moving constantly forward into creating and thriving and enjoying.”
“Be gentle. Whether that means how you wash your skin, talk to yourself, or even incorporate new healthy foods into your life. Our bodies want nothing more than to be in balance. Help guide them back to balance by letting go of the harsh, unnatural ingredients, the vigorous exfoliating or obsessively pushing yourself through the next extreme workout craze.”
–Jessa Blades, Natural Beauty/Wellness Expert, Makeup Artist and founder of Blades Natural Beauty
“Exercise so early that you forget you’ve done it. Real lasting habits are formed though mindless repetition.”
–Leandra Rouse, founder of Le’ola Wellness
“Drink 12oz of water when you wake up. It’s amazing how many people are chronically dehydrated, and many forget to drink water throughout the day. By making it the first thing you do, it will not only jumpstart your way to hydration, but will also get you in a routine of drinking water for the day.”
–Kathyrn Moos, founder of VROU Water
“Get together with friends! Research shows that social isolation is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, and worse than being obese or not exercising. People think time spent with friends is a luxury, so they prioritize it behind family, exercise, errands…. But seeing pals has been proven to have meaningful benefits to your mental, emotional and physical self — even to make you live longer. What better excuse to plan a ladies night? Doctor’s orders.”
–Rachel Bertsche, Journalist and Best-Selling Author of MWF Seeking BFF
“Eat fiber. Our gut bacteria thrive on dietary fiber and if you feed them the plant material they love, the rewards to your health will be immense. About 90% of the cells that make up our body are bacteria. The types of food we eat should reflect that.”
–Justin and Erica Sonnenberg, Microbiota scientists and authors of The Good Gut
“Nourish yourself. Whether it be for beauty, food or spirit — the path to vibrant, healthy living is about choosing nourishment from one moment to the next. Cultivating kindness towards yourself, and awareness about the impact of your choices, will spark profound shifts that are far more sustainable than jumping from one health craze to another.”
–Kristen Arnett, Eco Makeup Artist & Founder of Green Beauty Team