Strength isn’t a matter of using brute force or gritting your teeth. Rather, as these five women reveal, it’s a matter of following your passion and working hard to overcome challenges. They generally eat clean, natural diets, avoiding gluten or other problem triggers as appropriate, and tailoring food, exercise, and supplement regimens to their personal needs. And, they’re all enhancing the lives of others while taking care of themselves, a combination that continues to build strength and happiness.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND
"Joyful exercise not only works out your physical body but also contributes significantly to your mental well-being."
“I believe that we’re all born with an inherent ability to create health and wellness,” says Laurie Steelsmith, ND (drsteelsmith.com), a leading naturopathic doctor and author of Growing Younger Every Day and other books. And she’s dedicated to helping patients unleash that ability. “I love to see the huge transformations naturopathic medicine can bring to people’s lives,” she says. “It is deeply fulfilling.” But a health condition once threatened her ability to function.
While in naturopathic medical school, Steelsmith was diagnosed with borderline lupus, a potentially crippling autoimmune disorder. “As my condition worsened, I was faced with the frightening prospect of losing the use of my hands,” she recalls. But instead of giving up, she focused on finding the root cause.
Months of working with naturopathic physicians revealed underlying food allergies and leaky-gut syndrome, and treating these left her symptom-free. “I knew then that I had found my life’s work, and that this unique form of medicine could dramatically change people’s everyday lives and relieve suffering in ways that the mainstream allopathic, Western medical model could not.”
- Healthy food: Green drinks
- Physical activity: Open-water swimming in the ocean in big waves while listening to my favorite music
- Way to unwind: Iyengar yoga
Top Healthy Habits
- Exercise, exercise, and more exercise
- A centering meditation first thing every morning
- Eating a healthy and varied diet
- Finding ways to laugh at bad situations
“Everyone is unique,” says Steelsmith, “so the supplements I take are specific to my particular needs and not necessarily recommended for everyone.” They include reishi mushroom, zinc, vitamin D, chaste tree berry, and fiber.
"It’s very important that as women, we educate ourselves about what nutrients we may need to adjust at different periods in our lives."
Nearly 30 years ago, Joy Stephenson-Laws founded a law firm that specializes in healthcare, and she continues to be its managing partner. Over the years, she says, “I saw firsthand how the lack of credible and easy-to-understand health information negatively affected lives, and I was determined to do something about it.”
She became a health advocate, founding two nonprofit organizations, The Bili Project (thebiliproject.org) to fight bile duct cancer, and Proactive Health Labs (phlabs.org) to educate people about health and provide nutritional testing. She’s also the coauthor of Minerals—The Forgotten Nutrient.
Along the way, a personal health challenge helped fuel her mission. In her early 40s, her doctor predicted that even with a healthy diet and exercise, she would inevitably need medications to control menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and water retention.
Not ready to accept such a fate, Stephenson-Laws dove into research and found that nutritional testing was vital. For example, she learned that her body couldn’t absorb vitamin C well from food and most supplements, but liposomal vitamin C solved the problem and improved her energy, mood, sleep, and resistance to colds. And the doctor’s prediction never came true. “Being nutritionally balanced and performing some type of physical activity allowed me to skip the symptoms,” she says.
- Healthy food: Avocado
- Physical activity: Playing golf and walking the course
- Way to unwind: Listening to music and playing with her four German Shepherds
Top Healthy Habits
- Avoiding processed foods and soda
- Getting enough exercise to maintain healthy muscle and keep body fat below 26 percent
- Periodically testing nutrients and keeping them balanced
- Drinking alkaline water
Based on nutritional test results: liposomal vitamin C, vitamin D, B complex, and magnesium.
Did You Know?
Only men were allowed to enlist in Civil War armies, but several hundred women joined the fight, disguised as men.
"Find something that you’re passionate about and commit the time to do it."
A nutritional therapist with specialized training in homeopathy and digestive health, Lara Facteau not only runs Palo Alto Nutrition (paloaltonutrition.com), but is also the mother of two and stepmother of five. How does she make it all work? “It starts with prioritizing, proper planning, communication, and being well organized,” she says. “My aim is to balance family, clients, and time for myself.”
On her journey to success, Facteau has reinvented both her personal and professional lives. After being a traditional wife and mother, she went through a divorce, went back to school, and started a nutrition practice. “The transition from an independent, college-educated woman who chose to take a pause in life and stay at home to raise children, and to then re-enter the workforce, was incredibly difficult,” she says. But she found the strength to follow her passion and overcome adversity.
“Simply put, I enjoy helping people,” she says. Starting a new business was no easy feat but, she says, “The rewards have been tenfold.” And, she even found the time to remarry.
- Healthy food: Raw cheese, raw nuts, raw dairy, avocado, dark chocolate, red wine
- Physical activity: Tennis
- Way to unwind: Sitting on the couch with her husband while enjoying a glass of pinot noir and reflecting on their day and many blessings
Top Healthy Habits
- Quarterly cleansing
- Working out at least 3 days a week
- Centering her routine around her priorities
- Spending time with friends and family
- Finding humor in all aspects of life
Occasional prebiotics, probiotics, and a blend of omega-3, -6, and -9 fats.
"Just because it’s ‘green’ doesn’t mean it’s not glamorous."
“I try to stay clean and natural, internally and externally, as much as humanly possible, because our body is our vehicle,” says skincare guru Adina Diaz (naturalfeelingspa.com), whose passion is enhancing natural beauty and wellbeing for her clients with organic skin treatments. “What we put on our body and in our body is all connected,” she says. “It’s all fuel for our skin, for our energy, and for our mental health.” Products with “fragrance,” for example, can cause headaches and other nasty side effects, whereas organic makeup and skincare ingredients can nourish and enhance health.
To stay on top of her game, Diaz has learned not to let her work life take over her whole life. “You’re no good to anybody if you burn out,” she says. Putting aside time to pamper yourself, with a mask or bath with Epsom salts, or getting a massage or mani-pedi, is an important part of maintaining balance.
Diaz grew up with fresh herbs and food from a garden, in a family that took a holistic approach. Her grandmother would use fresh aloe to treat a rash, and as a child, she learned about caring for the environment. Now, working with organic ingredients, she says, “It’s all circled back to my heritage.”
- Healthy food: Unsalted blue corn chips with guacamole
- Skincare ingredient: Hyaluronic acid
- Physical activity: Yoga and hiking
- Way to unwind: Having a good dinner and relaxing with friends
Top Healthy Habits
- Drinking homemade green smoothies to maintain energy at work
- Yoga 4–5 times a week
- Tracking monthly cycles and adjusting food to stay balanced
Echinacea, goldenseal, or vitamin C when exposed to people who are sick, such as clients with a cold.
Did You Know?
In Victorian England, a leading military surgeon and war hero, Dr. James Barry, was really Margaret Bulkley in disguise, because medical schools barred women when she enrolled in 1812. Dr. Barry’s true identity remained a secret until after her death at the age of 70.
Prudence Hall, MD
"Women are light, we’re hope, we’re compassion."
An integrative physician for nearly 35 years and a pioneer in natural, bioidentical hormone therapy, Prudence Hall, MD (thehallcenter.com), has some very simple advice: “Live your life to the fullest—make your life matter, it’s precious—and if something doesn’t work, don’t whine but work hard to fix it.”
After helping many patients overcome their health challenges, Hall ran into a big one of her own: how to reach and help more people than she can see in her practice. “The misery I see is profound,” she says. Embarking on an expanded mission of enhancing not just the physical health of others, but bringing more enlightenment and love to the world, she wrote a book, Radiant Again & Forever, and began lecturing extensively.
On a personal level, Hall realized that it’s vital to understand what brings you joy and to do those things, and began surrounding herself with like-minded people, from spiritual leaders to workout buddies. And, she keeps her hormones balanced to youthful levels. For women of child-bearing age, she emphasizes, “Don’t take birth control pills; they
disrupt hormone balance profoundly.”
- Healthy food: Brussels sprouts
- Physical activity: Yoga and weight training
- Way to unwind: Sitting in a massage chair in front of a fire and listening to ethereal music
Top Healthy Habits
- Spending close to an hour daily on physical exercise and meditation
- Intermittent fasting on four days of the week
- Doing things that are emotionally nourishing
Customized bioidentical hormones, vitamins C and D, melatonin and magnesium at night, and customized nutritional formulas as needed.