Health is the new wealth as more and more people focus on what matters most. We polled Chicago’s top experts for an inside look at how they stay in top form.
“Wellness to me has everything to do with appreciating your surroundings and considering color as it relates to your well-being,” notes be HUE founder Kimberly Writt.
With more than a decade of experience in marketing and brand strategy for top interior, architecture and real estate clients, Kimberly Writt has serious business savvy—so it’s no surprise that she’s already making a major impact with her Chicago-based venture be HUE (behuewellness.com), which features a mix of wellness coaching, yoga and meditation. The twist? Everything is geared toward home and design professionals and enthusiasts (think Yoga Curated, a series of classes taught in interior design showrooms), combining two of Writt’s primary passions. “I truly believe happiness starts in the home, and since we’ve all been using our home in multifunctional ways, it’s about empowering clients to claim a space as their own to enable them to function at their highest frequency,” says the West Town resident, who received her wellness coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and also served as co-chair for the DIFFA/Chicago auxiliary board for two years. “I work with clients on how to leverage their surroundings to simplify their life and set up a space to practice self-care, flex one’s mind and body, or invite togetherness. It’s about heightening their awareness to form a deeper connection with themselves and others.” What wellness practices keep Writt at her peak? “I’ve been doing a 30-minute yoga/Pilates routine almost daily for years. It’s propless, so I can do it at home or traveling, and it always gets my mind and body right to start the day. Additionally, I like setting seasonal mantras to keep myself in check during that stage of life. My most recent has been ‘Take a beat,’ to remind myself to pause and reflect or literally to put on music and let the beat lead my next move.”
“Every time I teach yoga at Studio Three,” says Writt, “the energy of the students and team gives me new life. I truly love the practice and the people I work with”
Writt’s favorite new sip is Chicago-based Flora Hemp nonalcoholic spirits
Hay Chicago provides design inspo.
“Keep it simple,” Giselle Wasfie suggests to those just starting their wellness journey. “Start with one aspect of yourself or your life that you want to work on and improve, and focus on that.”
Since starting her private practice, REMIX Acupuncture + Integrative Health (remixlife.style), in the Loop in 2012, Eastern medicine pro Giselle Wasfie, LAc, DACM, has become an impactful player in the city’s wellness scene. From acupuncture and cupping to reiki, moxibustion and herbal remedies, Wasfie’s expertise is impressively varied, and her REMIX by Giselle Wasfie line of organic, essential oil-based beauty and aromatherapy products has been carried at Urban Outfitters and has become a go-to for in-the-know clientele. Notes Wasfie, who dabbled in magazine editing and music journalism before finding her true calling in Eastern medicine, “To me, wellness means balance. It’s not about rigidity, it’s about a routine that works to support you, uplift you and nourish you. It’s about flexibility and feeling grounded. It’s the yin yang, the give and take, what to hold on to, what to let go of. It’s really a verb that we strive toward, rather than a destination or ultimate state. We are always having to adjust and redefine and be changeable.” With alternative medicine becoming more and more popular, Wasfie’s profile is primed to jump even higher. “I think there’s more openness to trying Eastern medicine since the word of mouth has grown about its efficacy,” muses Wasfie, who cites hypnotherapy as a recent wellness discovery she is passionate about. “Much like how attitudes toward eating organic have become so popular, people are also seeking natural remedies for their mental, physical and spiritual health.”
Vegan favorite Uncooked is a go-to for Wasfie
“Acupuncture, as a regular practice, is truly transformative,” notes the REMIX founder.
“I love walking with my dog along the bicycle path when it’s warm, and going north toward the Waveland Clock Tower,” Wasfie notes of her place to find Zen. “There’s a giant opening there, and a little stone archway that feels medieval and opens up to the water like a mythic storybook portal.”
“Wellness, to me, is about relationship,” says Ben Schuff, “because being alive is all about relationship to countless variables,” from diet and inner physiology to emotions, beliefs and trauma. “The focus is working on any of these relationships.”
Designed around the concept of “holistic health and social well-being,” BIÂN (livebian.com) aims to answer Chicagoans’ needs along their entire wellness journey, offering everything from a fitness studio and nutrition services to a full medical concierge program, spa, Eastern medicine, blood analysis and more. Covering an expansive 25,000 square feet, the members-only club made a big splash when it made its muchanticipated debut in November 2020. One of the all-star team’s major players? Director of naturopathy and nutrition Ben Schuff, ND, LDN, CNS, who guides the facility’s efforts in providing focused dietary and medical guidance from a holistic, flexible perspective. “I think being trained as a naturopathic doctor provides a bridge between the miracles of modern medicine and the restorative or proactive aspects of medicine that are considered ‘natural’ or ‘alternative,’ notes Schuff. “I found that, although lifesaving medicine and the fundamentals of health seem opposite, and that there seems to be a choice that needs to made between the two, you start to realize that they are on the same spectrum, just further apart. Just because one side of the spectrum is overemphasized in our medical system doesn’t discount the value of the rest. I saw that we needed more professionals with this perspective and it changed my life.” Schuff’s favorite recent wellness discovery? “Working at BIÂN, I’ve been able to build in multiple sessions of yoga practice weekly with the best teachers Chicago has to offer. I’m enjoying it because it breaks up my days while presenting an opportunity to transition out of my head and get into my body.”
The sleek, spalike interior of health and social club BIÂN, designed by Studio K
“My wife and I support local CSAs (community supported agriculture), which put together produce boxes delivered to your home from Illinois and Wisconsin organic farms,” notes Schuff. “A CSA allows for direct financial support of the smaller local farms
It also allows us to truly eat seasonally, avoid certain chemicals sprayed on commercial produce, get creative in the kitchen and, of course, have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits every week.”
ELENA BOBY SHEVA
“Wellness, to me, is all-encompassing,” says Elena Bobysheva. “It’s not just about what we eat or whether we have a fitness routine, it’s also about how we speak to ourselves, what thoughts we give energy to, what media or books we consume, whether we are continuously developing ourselves personally or professionally, or whether we surround ourselves with quality people.”
Sometimes wellness is written in the stars—which is exactly where Elena Bobysheva found the inspiration for her new venture, The Astral Planner (astralplanner.com). Frustrated by her inability to find a high-end, sleek astrological planner that fit her monochromatic and minimal aesthetic, the accomplished fashion designer took matters into her own hands, spending more than a year developing a modern, elevated stationery and organization brand for creative professionals looking to get focused, inspired and organized with the cycles of the moon. “I use astrology as a tool for self-discovery and self-development,” notes Bobysheva. “Born out of my love for the cosmos, The Astral Planner encourages us to shift our perspective beyond life’s challenges to the stars. To me, looking at the stars each night is a symbolic way to want to know the unknowable and the desire to explore, discover and achieve the unreachable.” From tracking monthly intentions and affirmations to delving into the significance of moon phases, moon signs and zodiac seasons, Bobysheva has created a dynamic guide that helps readers “connect with their highest self” by navigating their life and career by the celestial patterns in the night sky. With the 2022 edition already in the works and set to incorporate even more content (including more advanced astrological info plus explorations of numerology, synchronicities, and Greek and Roman mythology), this wellness influencer is doubling down on the planner’s ability to truly guide multiple aspects of her readers’ lives—and her own. “Along with my daily schedule and priorities, I track all of my nutrition, fitness, water intake, etc., in The Astral Planner daily pages, which I specifically designed to build self-awareness around our behaviors, patterns and choices as an essential step toward self-actualization.”
The Astral Planner’s sleek, stylized look complements Bobysheva’s monochromatic and minimal aesthetic
The planner is ideal for those who find inspiration in the cycles of the moon
Meditation is key to Bobysheva’s wellness practice.
ELIZABETH O’ CONNOR COLE
“I believe that if there is an elixir of life, it’s exercise,” says Elizabeth O’Connor Cole, founder of SALVEO Lifestyle, “and its benefits are more powerful than any prescription drug. I move if I’m feeling down, having trouble sleeping, struggling with weight management or wanting to keep my mind sharp. Movement makes every aspect of my life better, physically and mentally. The best part is that it’s fun, free and accessible to anyone at any age.”
“Be consistent, not perfect.” “Reconnect with nature.” “Be of service.” The sentiments expressed in Elizabeth O’Connor Cole’s recently released book, Nurture and Thrive, may be simple, but taken together they express a powerful philosophy of wellness that has made this author, well-being educator and founder of SALVEO Lifestyle (salveolifestyle.com) a charismatic presence in the wellness world. “Wellness, to me, means being in tune with my body and paying attention to its cues,” notes O’Connor Cole, a Kellogg MBA whose wellness journey started at the age of 40 after stints as a fifth-grade teacher in Chicago’s underserved communities; a legislative lobbyist in Washington, D.C.; and the director of investor relations at the Chicago Tribune. “It means I am bursting with vitality, free from pain and don’t rely on medications to treat symptoms that can be healed through my six pillars of well-being (Hydrate, Nourish, Move, Sleep, Breathe and Love).” For this self-described “wellness explorer”—who has studied with Chinese medicine doctors, Buddhist monks and South American shamans as part of her journey—it all comes down to those six pillars, which she calls the foundation to achieving good health. What advice does O’Connor Cole have for someone just starting on the wellness path? “Start small—add the lemon to your morning water. Go for a morning walk with a friend. Charge your phone outside the bedroom to get better sleep. Incorporate healthy fats at every meal to nourish your body and brain and help you feel satiated longer (olive oil, nuts and seeds, and avocados should be your best friend).” Most of all, she adds, “There’s no magic pill. It takes daily practice, and the reward is not a number on the scale but instead living in vitality.”
“When eating out with friends, my go-to is the shrimp and asparagus at Le Colonial—I always feel good after eating there”
Hydration is a key element of O’Connor Cole’s wellness philosophy
“I love the Caldwell Lily Pond at Fullerton and Lake Shore; it is truly one of the city’s hidden gems. I could sit there for hours just in quiet meditation.”
Photography by: From top, photo: by Bailey Jones; courtesy of Studio Three; Courtesy fo Flora Hemp Spirits; courtesy of Hay Chicago; by Olivia Kohler/courtesy of Uncooked; by Stefanie Seskin CC by-SA 2.0; courtesy of Remix; by Kimberly Stratton; by Anthony Tahlier/courtesy of Biân; by Marisol Benitez/Unsplash; by Jodie Morgan/Unsplash; by Kirsten Miccoli/Prop styling by Elena Bobysheva; by Dieter Pelz/Unsplash; by Matteo DiIorio/Unsplash; by Richard Pontillo-Bobyshev; by Olivia Kohler; by Neil Burger; by Brittney Weng/Unsplash; by Ezra Boldizsar/Unsplash