Meet Holly Owens, our new SBS model…and so much more. Not only does she spend tons of time in front of the camera, but she’s also made wellness her main mission—for herself and her readers—through her Instagram health page, Wellthy Belly.
Originally from Long Beach and raised in Boulder City, NV, Owens was always super active, running track, dancing, cheerleading and playing tennis (all the things!). At 18, though, an agent told Owens to “tone it up,” and a body image issue reared its head. While Owens was challenged to face this problem, she says on the flipside, it fortunately also forced her to learn how to cook, research food and experiment with recipes.
Later, living in LA, health food trends were in her sphere. But even so, three years ago, Owens says her health plummeted. The serious dive drove her to embark on her own personal wellness journey, learning all about thyroid health, helpful and healthy diets and workouts that worked for her—not to mention learning how to honor herself and her body despite a modeling industry that can sometimes make that hard. She shares her findings, recipes, musings and tips on her personal, sincere WTB, and now she’s offering even more here. Read on!
SBS: How did you start modeling?
Holly Owens: When I was 14, my mom’s co-worker entered her daughter in this small modeling competition in LA. My mom asked if I had any interest in doing it since I always got stopped at the mall by modeling scouts. I said, why not?! I had never even thought about modeling or models in general. A woman came up to me after I did my little runway walk, and the rest is history. She’s still my manager now 12 years later. My first real job was JCPenny, and I was so nervous. I got on set and realized I had no clue how to pose. The whole team and other models helped me out, which was so nice of them to do.
SBS: What inspired you to start Wellthy Belly, your wellness Instagram page? What personal health issues have you faced?
HO: I grew up eating the standard American diet. But now, I’m basically eating all real foods and not much in the way of processed foods. That’s a drastic change from what I grew up with.
Three years ago I switched to a different brand of birth control, started dating my boyfriend, and at the same time, I was planning my move to NYC for a year. Safe to say I really put myself through an emotional rollercoaster. About four months after all of that, things hit the fan. I had new, random food intolerances, I’d bloat after almost anything, had serious brain fog and lost my period. After a year of feeling that way I finally realized that all of those symptoms most likely weren’t normal. I first went to a gastroenterologist. He quickly diagnosed me with IBS, prescribed me an antibiotic and sent me on my way. After that I went to a functional doctor in LA. He diagnosed me with leaky gut, food intolerances and severe nutrient deficiencies. He put me on a new supplement routine and new diet. I felt better within a few days but things were still not right. I decided to go off birth control since I was reading horror stories about what it does to your body: I lost my period for three years, and it took eight months off the pill to get it back.
Six months ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease [a hypothyroid issue], and now I’m working with a new integrative doctor who suggested I look into mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), as well as experiment with a low histamine diet. It’s only been a few days, but I’m already feeling somewhat better at least in the bloating department!
I started Wellthy Belly in September after I realized my health journey wasn’t really resonating with the followers I had on my personal account. I wanted a new, safe space to be able to express everything I was going through. I also had lots of friends wanting recipes and telling me to start a wellness account since I have so many tips for things. It’s been so fun!
SBS: What changes have you made in your own wellness routine that have helped you along the way?
HO: Ultimately, I’ve started to care less what people think. Before my health issues I was always so self-conscious about clients on shoots talking about my body. Now I’m like: You know what, I can’t really do much about it. So take me or leave me. Of course I still have body image issues, but I’m working on focusing less on my body and more about what’s inside and the energy I’m putting out.
Changing my diet was key for my health issues. One diet or way of eating doesn’t fit everyone, so that’s why it’s so important to really experiment and keep a food journal. We’re not all the same, so going 100% vegan or paleo might not work for some. I pick and choose different foods from each to see what works best with my body. Our bodies are constantly changing, so it’s likely something that worked in the past may not work anymore when you’ve healed yourself a little more.
SBS: What aspects about modeling are healthy for you, and which are not? How do you handle each, as well as the travel and demands?
HO: Unfortunately, most of what modeling is about isn’t healthy for me personally. There’s definitely been a shift in what’s accepted and more body diversity, which is so amazing. The traveling part is definitely the hardest for me; I travel with most of my food. Flying to a different time zone for one or two days really screws up your system, and making sure you’re ‘on’ and ready at your shoot for 10 hours really wears you down. Often the only time I get alone time is if I go to the bathroom so I can take a moment to check in with myself. My days off I really make sure to get in as much self-care as I can so I’m energized for the next trip or shoot.
SBS: How do you think Instagram can be used responsibly? What's your overall take on social media?
HO: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I have two accounts: my modeling one and my wellness one. Until I started my wellness account, I really was starting to hate Instagram. It’s taken over in the modeling industry, and I’m constantly losing jobs to girls with more followers, which still is hard to wrap my head around.
My wellness account is really where the magic happens! I’m connecting with so many amazing, likeminded people everyday. Putting out tips, recipes and things I’m thinking about really gives me joy. And having people message me telling me I’ve changed their life is still insane to me. So yes, I believe Instagram can be used healthfully if following the right people who align with your life. It’s a great platform to learn more about health and wellness surprisingly!
SBS: What is your wellness routine day to day?
HO: I start my day with a cold-water splash to my face, apply a serum, then do a quick Gua Sha [natural, alternative skin therapy of scraping] session to help de-puff and wake my face up. The Gua Sha tool is by far my favorite right now. I’m also using Tata Harper, Naturopathica and Siam Seas products.
Then I make my celery juice, wait 20 minutes and then grab a quick piece of fruit before I hit the gym. If it’s Wednesday and I’m not working, I normally go to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, come home, make lunch, take my dog for a walk and then maybe do an hour or two of Mindbodygreen.com’s functional nutrition program. Then around 5:30, I start to get dinner ready. I like to try and eat by 6:30 so I don’t go to sleep with a full stomach. I end the day watching a show with my boyfriend or reading.
SBS: What's your favorite type of exercise? Do you cross-train? What do you include?
HO: I love all types! I’m constantly switching it up: I do a mix of yoga, Pilates, spin, boxing with my trainer, Barry’s Bootcamp, plus solo stuff at the gym.
SBS: What advice would you give to an aspiring model?
HO: Stay true to who you are, surround yourself with loyal, grounded people and don’t party before a shoot! Take each shoot you get seriously, be thankful for every day and every shoot. And…save your money!
SBS: What do you wish your younger self had known about wellness?
HO: I wish someone had taught me to pay attention to the ingredients list on packaged items. I didn’t learn about calories until I was 19, and it was totally confusing to me to understand that a box of cookies had 10 servings. Now I don’t count calories. I just focus on eating real, whole foods.
Also start your skincare regime now. It’s never too early, and you will thank yourself when you’re older. Also I wish I knew to make the transition to non-toxic products sooner.
SBS: What are your favorite tips about nutrition?
HO: Celery juice! This is seriously incredible and works like magic. I really feel it has helped improved my thyroid function, along with foods and supplements. If you’re confused about what to eat, just turn to what Mother Nature created. Real, whole foods are always the answer.
Holly’s Cali Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Plant Food + Wine
Splurge Restaurant: Anywhere with gluten-free/vegan pizza
Fun Activity: Inviting girlfriends over to cook or taking weekend trips to Palm Springs/Joshua Tree
Calming Activity: Taking my puppy Georgie to the park or getting a Gua Sha facial
Yoga Studio: YogaWorks
Fitness Studio: Lagree Fitness or Platefit
Books: Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, and Thyroid Healing and Anthony William
Online Resource: Medical Medium, Well and Good
The best, zaniest part of being Holly: My dance moves: I love making weird shapes and dancing like a total idiot.
Holly’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind. You never know what someone else is going through.
Check out Holly's Instagram: