By Suzanne Hunt, MPH, CWP
It’s no secret the wellness industry is growing at a rapid pace. Can you remember the last time you logged onto social media, glanced at a magazine, or went shopping (online or in a mall) and didn’t see some type of health and wellness ad? Whether it’s for a new health supplement, access to better wellness-related services, or ‘getting ready for bathing suit season (cue the eye roll),’ there seems to be an increased push in marketing about pursuing holistic wellness throughout the world.
Though “wellness” itself is a broad term, it can be highly complex for each of us. Oftentimes our personal wellness and how we care for ourselves can be cultural, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and even dependent upon our surrounding community. Wellness is a journey for each of us, and ironically, so is the wellness industry. I won’t bore you with the history of how we have transitioned in the past few decades to get to where we are now, with a shift to focus on holistic wellness (finally!). Although I am biased because I work in the industry, I do think it’s important to understand the wide range of professionals in the field that are shaping the way we take care of ourselves both now and in the future.
The great thing about the wellness industry is that it doesn’t necessarily always require a straight and narrow path to become a professional in the field. It does however take time, knowledge, passion, and being willing to take chances in order to help others. On the flip side, the challenge with the wellness industry is that it often gets confused with bad marketing schemes and ‘fluffy’ work. I’ll admit, I have a tendency to walk around with a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I have worked with a lot of wonderful people who think what I do in higher education is simply ‘fluff’. I work to build and maintain collaborative partnerships to influence a culture of wellness on college campuses. Let me assure you—this requires a lot of time, data, and developing intentional initiatives that will empower people to change behaviors and make healthy choices. “Fluff”? I don’t think so! I can bet that many people in the industry have been mislabeled in similar ways as well. For example, as a Certified Health Coach and Weight Loss Management Specialist, I work with a lot of wonderful fitness professionals. Unfortunately, they often get perceived as people who just work out all the time. Again, this is not the case! It takes proper training, practice, passing difficult certification exams, and continuous learning about the wellness industry, as well as being on top of new evidence-based training methods.
Even though I had a pretty typical rise into the wellness industry by pursuing my Master of Public Health, many people bring outside scopes and experiences into the field, which positively influence the rapid changes we have seen in the industry in the last few decades. From workplace wellness to teachers and scientists who focus on research, to doctors, mental health providers, and more, the industry proves the benefits of holistic wellness by providing professionals in a field that help us connect and make sense of our personal health.
Below, you’ll see a variety of professionals with varying backgrounds and experiences who all contribute to the wellness industry in unique ways. Think you knew what the wellness industry encompassed? You might want to think again.
Peter Rives: Assistant Director of Wellbeing, Alcohol & Substance Abuse Prevention
Starting with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Peter completed four years of doctoral study in Social Psychology. From there he worked in community-based public mental health, substance use, and intellectual/developmental disabilities services. Over the course of his career, Peter became an expert and consultant in integrated healthcare and Motivational Interviewing (MI), which is utilized in health and wellness coaching, among many other wellness fields of work. Recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders” by the Business Journal in 2013, he now leads wellness and prevention efforts around alcohol and substance abuse prevention to reduce high-risk behaviors and empower healthier lifestyles for students in higher education.
Jillian Neil: Psychologist, Outreach Coordinator
Jillian has a unique background with starting out with an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Psychology. After graduation, she completed her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and Human Development to teach special education in the area. It is during this experience that she realized her true interest was working from a psychology perspective—which led her to apply for and complete a Clinical Development Psychology doctoral degree. After a few moves around the country to complete her internship and postdoctoral experiences, she now works as a Clinical Psychologist and Outreach Coordinator in higher education. While she continues to make an individual impact in one-on-one sessions, she also works extensively with campus partners to develop and implement initiatives, programs, and awareness campaigns around mental health, resilience, bystander intervention, and more; which further impacts the campus community at large.
John Lyon: BS, MA
Completed his undergraduate degree in Neuroscience, while playing football at Harvard University. Throughout this experience, John knew that health and wellness was an imperative factor both academically and physically. Upon graduating from Harvard, John began to work to combine both his interests and academic pursuits into a reality, by assisting in the study and development of nutritional supplements. After several years, he felt led to pursue his other passion: spirituality. While in the process of finishing up his Master of Arts in Religious Studies, John continued to pursue his passion for health and wellness, helping others as a Certified Personal Trainer while working as a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Wellbeing. After graduation, he plans to continue to empower others through a combination of wellness and spirituality as a pastor.
Romy Antoine: CEO, One Stop Wellness
With a background in biology and exercise science, Romy started as a personal trainer and nutritionist who witnessed his clients in corporate jobs struggle with work-life balance. This experience led him to make a transition to be in the employee engagement industry, where Romy builds technology to improve workplace happiness and incentivize behavior change for holistic wellbeing as the CEO of One Stop Wellness. His innovative work has led to many accomplishments, including being the inaugural Young Wellness Professional Award winner from the National Wellness Institute in 2018.