The Wellness space continues to change with innovations, its players, and new findings. With so many offerings out there, you want to enjoy what you've been using and doing but it's also nice to check out what is the upcoming trend. We took some time to talk with mindbodygreen's Founder and CEO Jason Wachob about how he came into the space, his company and their Annual Wellness Trend Report 2017 (as seen recently on Dr. Oz). Following this interview, we talked with some of the people and brands that he highlighted to share with you as we head into 2017 with this new knowledge.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Can you tell us about your background and what led you to creating MindBodyGreen?
JASON WACHOB: I am 42, I played basketball at Columbia a long time ago and became an equities trader. This was the 90’s, there were no startups. I always joke that people did one of these three things when you graduated, if you had really good grades and wanted to help people, you became a doctor or you went to law school and if you were looking to increase your wealth, you went to Wall Street – which is what I did. I quickly found that money did not buy happiness as 9/11 happened – I was a block away when it happened. I left and became an entrepreneur. I worked at a few startups that didn’t work and I found myself flying 150K miles domestically in one year.
An old basketball injury compounded with stress (I’m 6’7” in a coach seat) - I had 2 discs pressing on my sciatic nerve – my right leg was like a lightening rod with excruciating pain. I went to the doctor and he said that I needed back surgery and I got a second opinion and he said the same thing. Then as an afterthought he said, “maybe yoga could help.” I started doing yoga and saw things differently by changing my sleep, environment, and nutrition. It was a big part of it and I was completely healed and never had to do surgery. I was like “holy cow” there are so many people that have things wrong and are looking to heal, lose weight, and change. There are so many ways to do this from spiritual, nutritionally, and physically – it’s all connected. So I decided to launch the site, MindBodyGreen – one word in ’09.
AM: What can readers who are first time visitors expect to get when they come to your site?
JW: I think that they will find something good for them wherever they are at in their life. I talk about those pillars: mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and environmental. Wherever you are, no matter your age, fit, whatever is going on – you will find something that resonates and inspires you to live your best life and to provide you with the content and inspiration to do so.
AM: What led you to creating the Wellness Trend Report? How many years has this been out, how do you go about finding the data and ultimately choosing what is on this list?
JW: I think we have been doing it for 5 or 6 years! It just started to become apparent that we would see things before they happened and it is a blend of art and science – looking at the data of what is trending and what people are reading combined with all the entrepreneurs that come through our office. We sometimes get the first look 6 months to a year before they come out and we have 10M readers and 5K contributors that are tapped into what is going on. This tells us what’s going to happen before it happens.
AM: Of the items that you were able to uncover, what are some of the standout trends for 2017 that stuck out to you?
JW: I think on one hand, it’s sort of interesting that sobriety is a trend and that the other one is alcohol is as well.
AM: We were struck by that too!
JW: It’s super interesting, on one hand people are not drinking and on the other hand there is this liquor which a lot of people in terms of health benefits think it’s bad. But this plant based liquor which is gluten free and has a spiritual element to it – which allows it to trend the other way. To me, it’s very interesting
AM: I liked in reading your report, that you included Daybreaker, which I have attended a few this year as I am also the Fashion Editor of DJ Mag. The first time that I went, I didn’t know what it was and couldn’t believe that attendees get up to attend a 7am party which includes dancing, yoga, etc and there is no alcohol there – it’s a wellness party – this is definitely in the trend for sobriety.
JW: Yup! It speaks to this idea that there isn’t a one size fits all for people. For some people sobriety works and for others it doesn’t.
AM: Do you feel that these trends are more apt to be seen in cities like here in NYC, LA, and Miami or that they do roll out to other cities that aren’t on the coasts?
JW: I think it tends to start on the coast, but what I have seen lately is that things are picking up in the middle of the country pretty fast. Like Atlanta is one of our fastest growing cities in terms of our audience. So I think that things start here but because wellness is seeping into the mainstream in a really big way – we talk about this in trend 11, you have some pretty big brands like Target, IHG (hotel group), and Whole Foods. The fact that you have some pretty big brands making this accessible in terms of price point, they are changing the landscape where 15 years ago this would have been exclusive to LA, San Francisco, Boulder, NYC. Things that start here but they spread pretty fast.
AM: What are the trends that you felt would be on this list but didn’t make it or do you feel that everything did make it?
JW: I think that everything we thought would be on here did make it on here. We look at a lot of stuff and we felt really good about everything that was on here.
AM: Who are some of your favorite contributors on your site in general and how do you go about selecting them?
JW: You know, I think it’s like picking your favorite child, we have so many – we have feature contributors. Anyone can be a contributor. If you’re a celebrity, a doctor or a wellness enthusiast – it’s very much so a democracy. It comes down to whether you’re sharing something that’s quality content. We don’t publish everything that we receive and we turn down way more then what we publish. To me, I don’t necessarily have any favorites as I love a number of our celebrities, doctors and enthusiasts. We love all of them but they all have unique perspectives which are equally important.
AM: What trends that are on the list are you looking to adopt into your routine now?
JW: Good question! Well, the women only spaces would not be for me as they wouldn’t allow me in. The personalized nutrition one is something that I want to try out for sure. That is interesting to me and purports my belief that there is no one size fits all aspect to wellness or to life in general. To have this amazing new science to validate that is something that I am going to test this year. Nutrition is very exciting and it really shows the future of this movement that merges east and west as there is real science saying this is why you need to eat Brussel Sprouts or on the flipside that it could be terrible for you.
AM: This is also true. In the last year alone, we have learned that there are a number of workouts, and foods that you thought were good for you and you find out that they’re not. There are so many interesting trends that are highlighted for 2017 that MBG has pointed out which you can see in the full Annual Wellness Trends Report.
We went through the Annual Wellness Trend Report and reached out to a few movers in these categories to find out more about what they are doing and why we should be aware of it.
MINDBODYGREEN ANNUAL WELLNESS TREND REPORT 2017
1. Personalized Nutrition
2. The Age of Fashion Minimalism
3. The Sobriety Movement
4. Wellness Is More Than Yoga & Meditation: It's A Sensory Experience
5. Ugly Greens Take The Spotlight As Restaurateurs & Brands Take Steps To Fight Food Waste
6. Mezcal Moves To The Top Of The Cocktail Menu
7. Communal Gathering And Women-Only Social Spaces Are The New Wave In Wellness
8. See Ya, Acai: Medicinal Mushrooms Are The New Superfood Staple
9. Infrared Saunas Are The Trendy New Spa Treatment
10. Affordable, Accessible Wellness Is Starting To Go Mainstream
11. The Ketogenic Diet Becomes The Diet Everyone's Talking About
AM: mbg listed Mezcal in its Annual Wellness Trend Report as a cocktail that is moving to the top of the cocktail menu. Tell us how you decided to embark on this particular business and what is your background in this space which ultimately created GEM&BOLT?
GEM&BOLT: We (Elliott and Adrina, co-founders) are both artists that grew up together in a bohemian outpost in the mountains of Virginia. For many years, we collaborated together as artists which eventually took form as a speakeasy in the Bay Area, which we called GEM&BOLT. We served mezcal infused with various superherbs which people loved! When we started serving mezcal with Damiana, we were amazed by the dynamic of the two together. It had perfect synergy. Our growing interest in Mezcal led us to Oaxaca to explore the origin of Mezcal and it's surrounding culture. Everything about Oaxaca stole our hearts immediately. Within two months, we closed down our California project and re-located the GEM&BOLT speakeasy to Oaxaca where we began hosting similar music and arts events. Little by little, we immersed ourselves in the world of mezcal. One day we chanced upon the origin myth of mezcal, which speaks of a lightning bolt striking the heart (gem) of the agave, roasting & fermenting it's sugars into what became known as mezcal. The serendipity prompted us to embark on a brand of our own. The whole process and growth has been very organic.
AM: How is Gem & Bolt differentiated from other alcohol offerings in the beverage space?
GB: GEM&BOLT mezcal is distilled with Damiana, a lovely herb that brings a subtle botanical element to the mezcal. Damiana is mythically believed to elevate and enhance... People call it a heart-opener.
AM: What are the benefits of Mezcal and why did you focus on this as opposed to tequila?
GB: There was never a question in my mind between mezcal and tequila as we walked down this path. Mezcal called us for it's spiritedness, it's honesty as a product. It's hand-made, with patience, integrity and intention. From the first sip to waking up the next day, you feel the cleanness of mezcal in every respect.
AM: Why is Mezcal slated to trend for 2017 in the area of wellness?
GB: By nature, as an artesanal product, mezcal is very clean and free of additives. In the same way people seek clean, high-quality food, there's a growing interest in high-quality small-batch craft spirits. For me, it goes hand-in-hand with the slow-food, farm-to-table movement. People want to know where their products come from and the story behind them.
AM: Womens-only spaces are a trend highlighted in the Annual Wellness Report. Can you tell us about your backgrounds and what led you to entering this space?
MELISSA WONG: When Sandra and I met, we were introduced because we both had our own organizations for women. She ran GIRL PARTY events, focusing on a range of topics like body + sex positivity, entrepreneurship, skill building workshops and I ran Up Speak, a peer mentorship groups for women. We met at the beginning of this year and after learning that we both believed in the power of in person gatherings, we decided to embark on a one month pop up. Eventually that month snowballed into a year-long lease after a space presented itself and we realized we wanted to grow a community beyond a months time. We each have a background in hospitality and events and had similar office based experience in tech and advertising, so we were easily able to speak the same language and get on the same page for this project.
AM: What is New Women Space?
MW: New Women Space is a project cultivation and community event space, placing the ambitions of women of all experiences at its center. We believe that through conscious event design and warm hospitality that we can help create a supportive space for women to connect with each other and grow their projects. We operate from the standpoint that women have not had equal access to resources like space, mentorship, and encouragement. We aim to help create a positive environment for women to realize all they are capable of.
AM: What are the benefits of being a member of NWS and why would one be in this space as opposed to other options of this nature?
MW: We don't currently offer membership at New Women Space. We wanted our programming to be accessible and inviting and didn't want to create any sort of in-group feeling at the space. We hope that women would be attracted to New Women Space based on our diverse programming, our approachability, attention to intersectionality, and opportunities to interact with other women in an intimate setting that feels more like a home away from home where you can instantly get comfortable and feel at ease.
AM: What community and interests does NWS serve and will you expand?
MW: We serve women who wish to learn and connect with other women, who believe that through collective conversation and action that we can create a more welcoming and empowering reality. We offer programming that will nourish your head, heart and spirit - from professional development to wellness classes, accountability programs that help women make progress in their work to carefree nights like our all women's comedy night.
We don't have any plans for expanding to an additional space just yet. We want to ensure that we grow with intention and thought and tend to the space and community we are seeing evolve everyday.
AM: What requirements are involved to be a member at NWS and what amenities and services do you provide?
MW: We don't have any requirements to host an event at New Women Space. We entertain all kinds of ideas and ensure that each woman who submits an idea for a workshop or event receives support and attention to see how best we can accommodate them in the space.
Our ground floor is bright and open and steadily growing a plant collection. Our basement floor is cozy and intimate, ideal for hosting wellness classes or performance based events. We have seen time and time again how the energy and ideas of the women that come through our doors fill up the space and make it come alive without the need for any fancy amenities.
AM: Why is this a community slated to trend for 2017?
MW: We didn't open New Women Space because we foresaw a trend or wanted to jump on any bandwagon. Yet, since we opened a few months ago we've already been included in several articles that address a growing number of spaces dedicated to women. It is clear that there are other women in the NYC area and across the country who have made supporting women their mission.
We heard from many women after the election results that they were so grateful that we existed. I think it's an important time for women to feel that someone is looking out for them, carving out safe space for them, and trying to create opportunities for them. We're honored to be a part of any movement that aims to do just that.
AM: We're always looking to up our game when it comes to our beauty treatments and are intrigued about your backgrounds and how you came to embark on this particular spa treatment which is in this year's Annual Wellness Trend Report in MBG?
HIGHERDOSE: Lauren and Katie met almost two years ago through a mutual friend. Lauren had just left a startup called Aloha and was inspired to bring infrared to health/fitness based on what she learned from doctors/health experts while working there. Part of her job was to seek out health trends, but no product on the market made her feel the way the infrared sauna did. Once she researched the benefits of infrared for an article she was writing. She knew it was going to be the next big thing in the space.
Katie had recently left an executive role at Tough Mudder and was consulting for a detox center. Lauren told Katie her idea, so Katie tried the infrared sauna, and was immediately "hooked" and gung-ho to launch the company with Lauren. Their backgrounds are very complimentary (Lauren as a nutritionist/health coach; Katie as a financier/entrepreneur), so they make a great team.
The girls started off by installing infrared heating systems in yoga studios (which was Lauren's original vision). Along the way, they were convinced New York needed a spa dedicated to infrared saunas since 1) they're in love with the product, 2) New Yorkers are so stressed and need to chill, and 3) because these types of places are doing well on the West Coast.
AM: What is and the purpose behind HigherDOSE?
HD: HigherDOSE is a lifestyle brand that aims to change the way people think about health & wellness. Instead of focusing on achieving a certain or mile time, we focus on ways to get high naturally (especially through infrared and other next level therapies). In fact, DOSE stands for Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins, which are your four main happy chemicals. We promote a lifestyle centered around healthy ways to up your DOSE. We believe this captures the zeitgeist of our generation, as millennials are investing more in their own personal happiness vs. short lived highs of the past....
AM: What are the benefits of this treatment as opposed to a traditional sauna?
HD: Infrared heat is very gentle. The experience is similar to lying in the sun on a warm day and feeling the heat radiate to the core of your body. Unlike traditional (hot rock or steam) saunas--which operate at well in excess of 200°F--infrared heat has the benefit of being effective at a more comfortable operating temperature of 100°-150°F.
Traditional saunas heat the air vs. the body directly which can make the experience unbearably hot and difficult to breathe. Because infrared heat penetrates human tissue vs. simply heating the surface of the skin, infrared saunas are seven times more effective than traditional saunas at detoxifying the body. By raising the body's core temperature, infrared saunas can produce a sweat composed of 20% toxins vs. only 3% toxins with a traditional sauna.
AM: Do the four colors of lights provide specific benefits to those who use this service?
HD: There are actually many colours in our chromotherapy and each colour works on mood, chakara's and different alignments within the body. LED light's are super powerful and are used to grow healthy cells in plants and does the same for humans.
In a nutshell - Red is energizing, Blue is calming, Yellow is awakening, Orange is galvanizing, Green is healing and promotes creativity and Violet promotes spirituality.
AM: What role does music play in this treatment?
HD: We love music! Who doesn't really? The reason is listening to music, and even the anticipation of listening to music, releases dopamine in your brain (the pleasure/reward happy chemical which is also released through food and sex). Our saunas are equipped with soundsystems so clients can play their favorite music and get the dopamine flowing (which is what our brand is all about). We also make sure to play cool, vibe-y, burning man style DJ sets in our lounge to get you feeling good before and after the treatment.
AM: Why is this considered a natural high?
HD: Because it's designed to up your DOSE! You release DOSE in every session, for example - Music and knowing you're doing something good for yourself releases Dopamine, enjoying the sauna with a friend, lover, or colleague releases Oxytocin.... even if you go alone and take the time to appreciate your body (or even admire your sauna selfies), this also releases Oxytocin. Infrared itself releases Serotonin and downs cortisol, because infrared also increases your heart rate to the space of a light jog, Endorphins are released.
So it's pretty much the perfect natural high, which explains why the hashtag #addictedtoDOSE is so popular with our clients.
AM: Why is this a service that is slated to trend for 2017?
HD: We feel our offering spans many major trends, ncluding: reinventing the sauna/spa experience; rise of meditation and focus on mental health; athletes focus on recovery; Millennial's are looking for experience instead of product; and people want to feel good which equals looking good!
AM: What is your background and how did this lead you to creating DayTwo?
LIHI SEGAL: I have an extensive background in business positions at various start up companies. Over the years, I’ve been the CFO and COO of companies specializing in communications, semiconductors, and healthcare.
After I first became involved in healthcare (at a company called dbMotion, which specialized in information exchange and analytics, and was later sold to Allscripts), I knew there was no going back and it became difficult to consider taking a position in a company that isn’t involved in this area. Working in healthcare ignited a feeling of purpose in me that I haven’t felt in previous positions - we were touching people’s health, helping prevent disease, and improving their lives.
I later joined up with Yuval Ofek (former CEO of dbMotion) and Marius Nacht (founder of cybersecurity firm Checkpoint, among many other ventures) to found DayTwo. This came about after we were all fascinated by new gut microbiome research conducted at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and its potential to improve people’s health and prevent disease. With our background in various tech companies, we hold a strong belief that using big data is the new way of developing effective healthcare solutions, and this ties in nicely with the Weizmann Institute research.
AM: What is DayTwo?
LS: DayTwo is the world's first provider of health improvement and disease prevention solutions based on Gut Microbiome research. Its first product, based on groundbreaking research led by Prof. Eran Segal and Dr. Eran Elinav from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and exclusively licensed to DayTwo, is a personalized nutrition platform. It aims to normalize blood sugar levels and reduce risk for metabolic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, leveraging the world's largest and most detailed microbiome database. DayTwo's product pipeline includes additional microbiome-based diagnostic and therapeutic solutions.
AM: What is the gut microbiome?
LS: The gut microbiome is the collection of all microbes that exist in each person’s digestive tract and help us digest food. In our gut alone we have around 100 trillion microbes, similar to the number of cells that we have in our entire body! Each person’s microbiome is unique to, and influences the way, our body reacts to different foods. Unlike human genetics, we can change and manipulate our microbiome over time.
Microbiome research revealed that gut microbiome also affects our energy levels and our immune system. Recent research even showed that dieting may affect the microbiome in such a way that might lead to rapid weight gain once normal eating habits resume.
Since our gut microbiome is tied to so many different aspects of our health and well-being, it is extremely important to base our nutrition on our own unique microbiome composition.
AM: What are the benefits of using this and how does it enhance your lifestyle?
LS: People have been struggling to come up with a definitive answer to the question “what is the best diet for humans?” For many years, dietary trends have come and gone, and still, there is no clear answer.
The groundbreaking scientific research at the core of DayTwo’s personalized nutrition algorithm shows that we have been asking the wrong question. The right question is “what is the best diet for ME?”.
By basing our personalized nutrition recommendations on individual gut microbiome, as well as an extensive review of each customer's lifestyle and health, we are able to provide a plan that aims to normalize blood sugar levels.
DayTwo is not a diet, but a lifestyle and
wellness product. Maintaining healthy and normalized blood sugar levels can lead to better weight management, higher and more consistent energy levels, and, most importantly, can help reduce the risk of symptoms and diseases related to high blood sugar, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
We encourage keeping a healthy and active lifestyle to go along with clean and balanced eating, based on our personalized nutrition recommendations.
AM: Why is this a service that is slated to trend for 2017 as you were included in this year's Wellness Trend Report?
LS: With genome-based personalized medicine being a hot topic of conversation, and new revelations on how our microbiome affects multiple aspects of our well-being published often, our product is at the forefront of these health trends.
Personalized nutrition that is specifically tailored to individual gut microbiome and meant to help balance blood sugar levels also addresses some of the most worrying health concerns of the past few decades, namely the rise of obesity to epidemic levels, and the growing number of individuals classified as either diabetic or prediabetic.
It is our strong belief that the path to a better, healthier life starts with better nutrition, and we are certain that in 2017 and beyond, more and more people will look to a tailored solution to improve their overall wellness.
Read more from the Dec Issue.