For a long time, Stephanie Rapp epitomized the idea of "work hard, play hard.” Looking back, she realized, though, sometimes this was helpful, but often, not so much. Now, she knows how important it is to find balance, an individual approach and holistic wellness, and she’s not only taken on that perspective herself, she’s also helping her clients do the same through her blossoming, well-rounded company, Embody Wellness Co.
Growing up in a small town in New Hampshire, her approach was less intense: Her healthy childhood included lots of time outdoors, crafting and baking with her mom, and even going to farmer's markets to craft big, locally-sourced dinners: a wonderful version of "too much" indeed.
But, after college at University of Pennsylvania, she started work at Goldman Sachs, where she stayed for eight years in different roles. And that's where the intensity really set in. She started noticing the best aspects of her were being pushed down by the go-go-go culture.
So to reinvigorate her passion, she went to The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, with no goal other than having something outside of her work for herself.
There, she met Christine Beal Dunst, and the two co-worked and coached each other through their studies. At every turn, they seemed aligned, and so eventually, Rapp decided to pull the trigger on a better life—for herself and her future clients. Together, the two founded Embody Wellness Co, a concierge wellness service where Rapp and her colleagues work hand-in-hand with clients to reach specific goals, clearing through clutter and conflicting advice, a need she felt was unmet.
And, as she's helping clients, she's also been able to rehabilitate her own approach to wellness. After struggling with fertility, overall wellness and being underweight, Rapp has found more meaning in balance, a gentle approach and holistic eating.
Once the team started working with clients, word-of-mouth ushered in a slew of business, and now Embody is helping newcomers in NYC and around the country to get healthy with measured, thoughtful programs, specifically tailored to each person's unique needs. Read on for more!
SBS: Outside of personalized programs, what other services does Embody offer?
Stephanie Rapp: We also act as consultants for other wellness companies, and we do all sorts of things, from strategy, business planning, menu changes, fundraising and social media to getting clear on what the vision is, how to grow the business, space design or finding a designer.
It's our new passion because it combines both of our backgrounds in business and consulting. We work with brands and companies we feel have the potential to help so many people embody wellness. We've worked with acupuncturists and other healers, as well as other chains. Because we're so start-up-y in this realm, we do so many things for clients who are also start-ups. It's fun and exciting to watch others grow.
Additionally, our other new business line is going into corporations to give talks, curate wellness programs or re-do pantries and cafeterias.
SBS: With so many fad diets, trends and websites out there, how can we cut through nutritional clutter?
SR: One main principle of ours is individuality. Each body is different: What works for you might not work for me or your boyfriend. Different foods serve us or don't. So at Embody, we work hard to find what best suits you and your lifestyle.
It's also so important to consider what phase you're in: Are you breastfeeding? Are you a man trying to lose 50 pounds?
Also, at the core of all healthy and well lifestyles is eating more whole, real foods. Then, increase the quality of those foods. Buy wild, grass-fed, pasture-raised and local as often as possible. If you have access to farmer's markets or a good grocery store, buy as close to home as possible. That gives you the highest nutrient density possible. There are less harmful GMOs and pesticides, and you're eating animals that our bodies know how to ingest and assimilate, versus soy- and grain-fed animals. That's a whole different type of protein or fat that our bodies don't know what to do with.
SBS: How can someone tell if a diet/program is working well or not?
SR: That really depends where the client's starting point is. It could be far beyond weight loss: It could be to get rid of a rash, get pregnant or cook at home more.
But, let's say your goal is weight loss. So you can measure success a few ways: First, you obviously will check on if you're losing weight depending on your starting weight. One or two pounds a week is a healthy goal. Then, ask: Are you satisfied? Or, are you hungry? Are you moody and lethargic? Are you sleeping well? Do you have congestion? Do you feel aggravated?
If so, it's not working. It does take a few weeks to calibrate, especially because a lot of people are addicted to sugar. So it might suck for the first 10 days. You have to resolve your systems. And if you are coming from one extreme place, you might have a period of discomfort. But after doing something for a few weeks, you should start feeling better. You should feel satisfied and content, and food should be delicious. This isn't a three-week thing you're sucking up. It should be a way to change habits.
You need to listen to your body to find out what works for you in the long-term. At Embody, we're trying to encourage and create new patterns and habits that can last. That way, whatever might come, you're constantly living in your body and best self.
SBS: The keto diet is so hot right now. How does it work, and what are your thoughts on it?
SR: A true keto diet means 90 percent of your calories (not 90 percent of the food you eat…of calories!) come from fat. Six or seven percent then come from protein, and the remainder is from carbs, which is the equivalent of a small or medium apple a day. That's a very small portion.
Your body switches from using glucose as a source of energy into using stored fat as the source of energy, and it has to switch over, like a car going from gas to electric. That takes several weeks to make that switch, because you have stores of energy that your body will use first. Once you switch into ketosis, you are in an efficient fat-burning mode. So if you're looking for a lot of rapid weight loss or are trying to lose a lot of excess body fat, it is helpful. Some people also report bursts of energy and mental clarity.
But it takes a lot of time to go into ketosis and so little to come out: If you eat one piece of birthday cake, you've switched out. You also can't eat too much protein, because the protein is converted into glucose, and it will make you switch out too. So it's very specific and extreme.
If you have MS or Parkinson's, there are studies that show it has a great effect, and then, yes: I'd say try keto! And perhaps if you have a lot of weight to lose or to kick-start weight loss, perhaps try it three months out of every year. That's fine, especially if you're a man.
But, if you're a woman without the above issues, I don't recommend keto. It can do a lot to your hormone balance, and remember, hormones are in charge of every single system, including body homeostasis and thyroid function. Every single cell in your body has a receptor for thyroid hormone, so to maintain the proper function, especially for women or women who want to get pregnant, I don't suggest it. It also puts a lot of stress and damage on organs, especially if you do it over a long period of time.
And remember, if you are doing keto, tell your doctor and make sure to do your blood work to monitor your health. Don't put weight loss ahead of longevity.
SBS: What are wellness trends you love and some you don't?
SR: I love the trend to eat more local and organic food, for both health and political reasons. I like the trend to eat more fruits and veggies through juices and smoothies, or through celery juice as advised by reading Medical Medium. If you take away anything he's [Anthony William's] saying, he's really just telling people to eat more fruit and veggies. I also love the fat-does-not-make-you-fat trend, and how people are adding in more healthy fats, like avocado oil, coconut oil and egg yolk.
On the other hand, I think we are too reliant on the big trend toward supplements, protein powders and synthetic versions of the real thing. Even if you make sure you are taking the highest quality supplement, you're still only absorbing about 30 to 40 percent of what's in the bottle. I do recommend D3, but this idea that you can supplement your way out of a bad diet isn't helpful. A supplement is exactly what it says: a supplement.
SBS: How has your own wellness routine changed?
SR: Before, I did everything to the extreme. I worked hard, went out hard and worked out hard. Whatever class I was in, I was doing whatever the teacher said and taking every challenge. I would take Flywheel and bootcamps and jog, too. I lived on what I thought were healthy foods, like Kashi GoLean.
But now, for example, I love studying Ayurveda, and that's all about listening to your body type. I learned that my body type is high energy, so I need to balance my natural state. So, I've added in yoga, Pilates and more rest days.
I also eat a lot more fat, a lot more cooked foods and just more real food. I would rather eat a whole-fat Greek yogurt, and I would never touch a Light and Fit. I buy good quality granolas, and very rarely do I buy a box of cereal or think to order an egg-white omelette.
I'd rather spend 40 dollars on grass-fed meat once a week rather than eat meat more often. A hamburger should not cost 99 cents. It takes a lot of money, land and time to make that in the right way.
Healthy Restaurant: Sun in Bloom
Splurge Restaurant: Gabriel Kreuther
Fun Activity: Trying new restaurants, going to shows, having friends over, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and exploring Brooklyn
Calming Activity: Reading or talking with a great friend
Fitness Studios: Exceed Physical Culture and Physique57
Yoga Studios: Kula Yoga and Lyons Den
Athletic wear: Sweaty Betty
Athletic Shoes: Asics
Online Resources: Food bloggers like Minimalist Baker, Chocolate Covered Katie and Deliciously Ella. I’m read Chris Kresser, Dr. Axe, Dr. Cabral, Dave Asprey, Dr. Amy Myers and the Environmental Working Group
Stephanie’s SBS Mantra: Be kind, definitely. I never regret acting with kindness, and there is very rarely a need to lead with the opposite. When I embody kindness, taking a moment for empathy and understanding, it usually leads me to a better outcome and overall happier disposition. I also try and model this behavior for my children, so they can become patient and compassionate humans!
The best, zaniest part of being Stephanie: Tomorrow is always a new day, a new chance with new opportunities and new surprises and challenges. I never know what’s in store. That’s unnerving and exciting.