Forward by David Holt
There are two big health trends in the modern world. On the negative side, our post-industrial society includes many forces that, left unopposed, are leading us to unhealthy lifestyles.
Throughout most of evolution human beings had to exercise to get through the day. Food could be hard to come by and if something tasted good, it was probably healthy. Nowadays, machines do a lot of the work and food providers design unhealthy products that tickle the pleasure centres of the brain. Digital technologies keep us indoors where we lose our connection to nature and its many health benefits. This all leads to stress, which compounds the other problems.
On the positive side, we have science, medicine, communication, education, entrepreneurship, new products and practices, fitness and sport, access to healthy food, travel, leisure and freedom of choice, not to mention the best of the old ways like healthy food, a sense of community and the wisdom of our elders.
In this, the inaugural OptiMYz Top 100 Influencers, we bring you 100 Canadians whose work is helping to make Canada a healthier, fitter and more balanced nation. Some are icons, others are behind the scenes change-makers. Together they represent many positive trends and are influencing millions of Canadians. Well done, Top 100!
Stay tuned for our February/March issue to find out who will make the list for our 2018 Top 100 health influencers in Canada.
One of Canada’s leading dietitians, Leslie Beck is a best-selling author with 12 healthy nutrition-based books under her belt. She has a weekly column in the Globe & Mail where she discusses nutrition with Canadian readers, and is a regular CTV news contributor.
Michael and Peter Bentley
Natural product creators
Michael Bentley and his father, retired Canfor CEO, Peter developed SierraSil, a nutritional supplement that heals stiff, sore joints. Their products, based on a mineral deposit in the Sierra Nevada mountains, have received extensive scientific testing.
Linda Bolton founded Natural Calm Canada, whose ionic magnesium product dramatically reduces migraine head-aches, insomnia and muscle pain. Linda and her husband Dale are the co-owners of Natural Calm Canada, now under the corporate brand of TOP Nutritionals, which shares profits with its non-profit organization, Organics 4 Orphans. O4O works with the extremely poor in developing countries, teaching organic gardening and natural medicine, and providing practical supports to build sustainability.
Triathlete, vegan performance nutrition formulator
A former Ironman triathlete as well as a two-time Ultra Marathon champion, Brendan Brazier is the best-selling author of the Thrive series and the formulator of VEGA’s plant-based nutrition products. A vegan competitor, Brazier demonstrates that a vegan diet doesn’t limit your fitness ambitions. He is currently working with socially responsible food tech companies to find ways to diminish environmental problems caused by food production.
Dr. Samantha Brennan & Dr. Tracy Isaacs
It’s important to stay humble and keep a critical eye. That’s what these academics are doing for health and fitness. Their blog Fit is a Feminist Issue asks women to consider the political impact of fitness and health as well as being an online community full of positive messaging.
Soccer player, role model
This up-and-coming star is a member of the Canadian National Soccer team who competed in the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015. She was awarded the Hyundai Best Young Player award and was shortlisted for the 2015 Ballon D’Or, which honours the World women’s player of the year.
Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer.
Founder of Nova Yoga in St. John’s, NL, Melanie Caines is building an island yoga empire. A Start Up Business of the Year Award winner and regional finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she leads retreats from Costa Rica to Italy. With DVDs, online videos, a Roger’s TV show and a yoga centre, Caines is putting Newfoundland on the yoga map.
In 2015, the 25-year-old Cree First Nations woman became the first First Nations woman to win Mrs. Universe. Personal loss led Callingbull to work with Stollery Children’s Hospital, Walk for the Cure, Run for the Lung and to mentor underprivileged Aboriginal youth. She is an ambassador for Nike N7, an organization committed to inspiring and enabling participation in sport for Native American and Aboriginal populations in North America.
Hockey player, broadcaster
This former ice hockey player has become a powerful media voice. Campbell-Pascall was the longest serving captain in Canadian hockey history and was the only captain, male or female, to lead Canada to two Olympic gold medals. In 2006 she became the first woman to do colour commentating on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, and was the first female to work on the NHL Network.
Photo courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet.
Dr. Michael Cohen
Chiropractor, acupuncturist and self-healing proponent, Dr. Cohen was inspired by the success of using a tennis ball to work out muscle tightness. He developed the Acuball, a specially designed “self-treatment massage ball” recommended by many health experts including Dr. Andrew Weil, which has helped thousands of people treat pain at home.
Social entrepreneur, public speaker, food, health, & nutrition Expert
When Cohen-Farnell’s first child attended daycare back in 2003, she noticed the poor quality of food catered to kids. This led her to create Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK) in 2004, a lunch & snack program delivering affordable, nutritious & delicious foods fresh from scratch to over 15,000 kids daily in childcare and schools in the GTA.
Nutritionist, TV show host, author
This Canadian nutritionist is an anti-inflammatory guru. After recovering from a life-threatening digestive infection, Daniluk wrote the bestselling book Meals that Heal Inflammation, which has helped over 100,000 people heal through gourmet cooking. She is a resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show.
Andre De Grasse
Becoming a household name in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Andre De Grasse brought in over 7.2 million Canadian viewers to see him take on Usain Bolt. At Rio, he became the first Canadian to win Olympic medals in all three sprint events. Today, De Grasse is working on his own charitable foundation and finishing his sociology degree.
Professor, gender equity expert
An international expert and advocate for gender equity in sport, Guylaine Demers was the chief organizer of Conversation 2015: Women and Sport, a conference dedicated to finding solutions to barriers facing women in Canadian organized sport. She was a key expert in the documentary Play Fair. A professor at the Department of Physical Education at Université Laval, Demers is also president of Égale Action, the Quebec association for the advancement of women and sport, and serves on the board of the Institut National du Sport du Québec.
Broadcaster, health advocate, philanthropist
Marilyn Denis is a broad-caster whose work has a strong health component. She hosts The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV and co-hosts 104.5 CHUM FM’s Roger & Marilyn, with Roger Ashby. Winner of many awards for broadcasting, she is an advocate for research for ovarian and breast cancer, supports the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and encourages organ donation. She is a member of the SickKids Constellation, donates to Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto and has lent her support in the Canadian broadcast portion of the Stand Up 2 Cancer telecast.
Photo courtesy of CTV.
Founder of TravelToWellness.com, Anne Dimon has carved out a unique space for herself where travel, health and journalism meet. She was one of the first online magazine resources for wellness travel and covers topics from staying healthy while in transit to how to plan a cycling trip in Poland. Dimon is changing the way we think about travel, making it an opportunity to experience the unique wellness options the world has to offer.
Photo by David Leyes.
Food innovator, entrepreneur
Mike Fata is CEO and co-founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods. After a lifestyle overhaul in which he lost 100lbs, Fata discovered hemp and the value of essential fatty acids and essential amino acids. He helped successfully advocate for the legalization of industrial hemp in Canada and founded the largest vertically integrated hemp food producer in the world. He partners with farmers directly and is an organic advocate.
Photo courtesy of Manitoba Hemp Harvest.
Dr. Reed Ferber
Running injuries expert
Dr. Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic, is a board certified athletic therapist with a PhD in sports medicine and gait biomechanics. The clinic, a world leader in 3D gait analysis, uses motion capture technology to analyze the mechanical patterns of how people walk and run to determine causes of injury and improve treatment. It is both a public resource and a research laboratory. On the faculty at the University of Calgary, he is also a population health investigator.
Photo by Jason Stang of Stang Photography.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff
Physician, obesity expert
An expert on obesity, Dr. Freedhoff founded Ottawa’s non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute, which focuses on evidence-based weight management, not just weight loss. Dr. Freedhoff has dedicated his career to treating obesity, obesity and nutrition policy advocacy and educating the public through his book The Diet Fix, articles and his award-winning blog weightymatters.ca.
Kayaker, trainer, healthy living advocate
Retired kayaker Karen Furneaux is a three-time Olympian, two-time World Champion and winner of 50 World Cup Medals. A specialist in sport psychology, she speaks on leadership and health, and covered kayaking for CBC at the Rio Olympics. She developed a corporate wellness company, I Promise Performance, Inc., and the Strong Beauty program, which encourages girls to be active and positive. Recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal, the Progress Women of Excellence Award for Health and Wellness and the Charles Yatzman Award for Sports Person of the Americas, she is member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.
Dr. Brian Goldman
Physician, radio host
Brian Goldman, MD hosts the award-winning radio show White Coat, Black Art, which delves into the inner workings of the health industry. Exploring topics such as physician burnout and systemic weaknesses, Dr. Goldman seeks to lay the groundwork of a patient-oriented, efficient and transparent healthcare system.
Photo by Christopher Wahl.
International lecturer and author of The Path to Phenomenal Health and The Bone-Building Solution, Sam Graci formulated Greens+ while working with at-risk youth in the 1970s. He had discovered that with healthier food and more physical activity, the teens he was working with improved their temperament, focus and general health. Today, Greens+ is an award-winning formulation.
Barbara Grantham is president and CEO of the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation. A senior executive in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors, she has held positions with the Vancouver Foundation, Streetohome Foundation, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association. She serves on the board of the YMCA and is a member of the national advisory council of Imagine Canada.
Yoga instructor, trauma and addiction specialist
Lisa Greenbaum is the director of YogaFit Canada and program development manager for YogaFit in Australia. YogaFit blends the ancient practice of yoga with modern fitness techniques. She is also involved in YogaFit for Warriors, a therapy program created by a US Air Force veteran and yoga expert that combines yoga and modern science to help those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other physical or emotional traumas.
Photo by Adnan Saciragic.
Ski racer, senator, health advocate
Nancy Greene is Canada’s most decorated ski racer, male or female, and an Olympic gold and silver medallist. Twice named Canadian Athlete of the Year, in 1999 she was voted Canada’s female athlete of the century. She served on the federal Task Force on Sport for Canadians and was named Olympic Ambassador for the Vancouver games. Her Nancy Greene Ski League has been an important entry-level race program for children. As a senator, her bill established National Health and Fitness Day. She believes that Canada is facing a crisis due to inactivity and poor food choices, especially among young people.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Advocate of women’s rights and health
An outspoken proponent of women’s rights, Sophie Grégoire uses her position as the Prime Minister’s wife to highlight issues of women’s empowerment, mental health, self-esteem and, on a more personal note, eating disorders. Grégoire is also well known for her passion for yoga which she shares with her children.
Hockey player, sports legend
Wayne Gretzky played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, retiring with 61 league records. Called “the greatest hockey player ever” by the NHL itself, he is the leading scorer in league history. Gretzky was known as a magician on the ice, inspiring millions of Canadians to embrace the country’s national sport, which is now a international phenomenon and played at a high level by many women and girls.
Maureen “Mo” Hagan
Fitness innovator, educator
Maureen “Mo” Hagan has taught fitness since 1983 and continues to develop new approaches. Working with David Patchell-Evans of GoodLife, she helped develop their group fitness programming and together they established the largest fitness education and certification organization in Canada—Canfitpro. She is an innovator, international award-winning instructor and author.
Athlete, advocate for people with disabilities
Rick Hansen, CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, is an advocate for people with disabilities around the world. As well as being a celebrated Paralympic athlete, Hansen is known as the “Man in Motion” for his two-year wheelchair trip around the world to prove the potential of people with disabilities. He is dedicated to removing barriers for people with disabilities.
Coming in first at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2016, Brooke Henderson made a name for herself as the first Canadian woman to win a golf major since 1968. She was a member of the Rio 2016 Canadian Olympic Team for the first time at age 18. A charity supporter, she fundraised for United Way as well as participated in the Kevin Haime’s Kids to the Course Golf Classic.
Fitness entrepreneur, model
Adrianne Ho is an entrepreneur, model and leader in fitness-fashion culture. Her brand and website Sweat the Style promotes positivity and healthy living for women and her sportswear brand Sweat Crew is a leader in sports fashion. Her edgy approach to leading a healthy lifestyle is evidenced by her 485k+ Instagram followers.
Photo courtesy of Sweat the Style.
Manon Hogue is CEO of Diagnostics Biochem Canada
(DBC), which develops diagnostic test kits used in hospitals, universities and research medical centres around the world. DBC’s kits use biochemical testing to diagnose diseases such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis. DBC has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing and most innovative manufacturing companies in Canada.
Comedian, author, mental health advocate
Opening for the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Jerry Seinfeld, Jessica Holmes is a top talent. But the comedienne has a serious side: A mission to promote health and wellness. In her comedy and in her work as a speaker, writer and emcee, she puts fitness, nutrition and mental wellbeing in the spotlight. Especially in her keynotes, she mixes humour with her message of the importance of de-stressing and laughter, drawing on her own experiences of dealing with post-partum depression, finding work-life balance and re-igniting passion. She recently received certification as a wellness coach from San Diego’s Life Purpose Institute. Her autobiographical book, I Love Your Laugh, was published in 2010. She’s currently working on a follow-up book about mental health.
Athlete, health advocate
Co-captain of the first Canadian women’s Olympic water polo team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Horn-Miller is one of the country’s most influential First Nations Olympic athletes. She is an advocate for indigenous health as well as indigenous youth involvement in sport and physical activity. Along with the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network, she created Working It Out Together, a documentary series following six Mohawks as they pursue a better health through fitness and healthy eating. She is also developing a national indigenous sport, fitness and wellness strategy for the Assembly of First Nations.
Complementary medicine educator
Todd Howard is founder and president of Pacific Rim College (PRC). A doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and registered acupuncturist, Howard spent years travelling the world learning about complementary medicine. The school is a government-accredited academic institution that offers a unique blend of integrative modalities from acupuncture to western herbal medicine. The school promotes sustainable, holistic health care practices while integrating indigenous and contemporary systems of healing.
Olympic medallist, mental health advocate
Clara Hughes is a cyclist and speed skater who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports—the only athlete to have done so. She draws on her experience with depression to promote mental health and combat the stigma of mental illness. A member of the Order of Manitoba and an Officer of the Order of Canada, she is involved with Right to Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization. She received the International Olympic Committee’s Sport and Community Trophy and was named one of the Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity by the Canadian Association for Advancement of Women and Sport.
Photo by Simon Baker.
Olympic medallist, speaker
With Heather Moyse, Calgary native Kaillie Humphries won gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2014 at Sochi. She was the first women to pilot a mixed-gender team in an international four-man bobsleigh competition and the first woman to drive an all-female team against men in a four-person World Cup bobsled race. Recipient of the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete, she is affiliated with the I’ve Been Bullied campaign; Right to Play, a sports program for underprivileged children and youth; and the Special Olympics. A professional speaker, she also speaks to students about the importance of exercise and “saying no to drugs.”
The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Huynh became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal in wrestling. She took home the bronze at the 2012 London Games and is an 11-time Canadian champion, a two-time Pan American champion, a Commonwealth champion and four-time world medallist. Huynh became an instrumental advocate for women’s wrestling when the IOC threatened to remove the sport from the Games. This past year, Huynh was named assistant Chef de Mission for the Rio Games.
Athlete, administrator, advocate for gender equality
Sue Hylland is Director of Sports Services at the University of Ottawa and former President and CEO of the Canada Games Council. She is a women’s basketball gold medallist and an advocate for gender equality in sport. At the University of Ottawa she lends her 30 years of experience in sports to the largest bilingual university in the world.
Photo by Andrea Campbell/University of Ottawa.
Sarah Jacobs Barrs
Sarah Jacobs Barrs is events director at Klick Inc. She specializes in large-scale fundraising events that help to raise millions of dollars for organizations such as SickKids and Mount Sinai Hospital.
Coach, educator, entrepreneur
As a coach, educator, speaker and entrepreneur specializing in personal branding, Stephanie Joanne is an example of the value of living a healthy lifestyle. She has worked extensively in the fitness industry and been a fitness expert on Cityline and CityNews, along with Breakfast Television. With a background in kinesiology, she has many certifications and is especially interested in the relationship between mental health and body image.
Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod
Canadian fitness icons, broadcasters
Known to many Canadians as the hosts of BodyBreak, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod inspired countless Canadians to “get fit and have fun.” Showcasing exercise moves and healthy eating tips during television breaks, they brought the importance of fitness to a new generation of Canadians. In 2013, Johnson and McLeod participated in the first season of Amazing Race Canada.
Courtesy of PurchasingB2B Magazine.
Based on the work of Dr. Larry Wong at the University of Alberta who developed an energy bar for the military, Saul Katz founded SoLo GI Nutrition. Solo bars are based on functional food research and developments in blood sugar management. With a lower glycemic response, they help to eliminate the “spike, crash and crave cycle” that comes with the addictive high glycemic foods that contribute to diabetes, obesity and lack of energy.
Dr. Ken Kinakin
Rehab specialist, speaker
Dr. Ken Kinakin is a sport medicine doctor, chiropractor, strength and conditioning specialist, and expert in injury rehabilitation. He founded Society of Weight-Training Injury Specialists (SWIS), a group that creates dialogue between doctors and trainers though education and certification programming. The goal is to transition clients back to a weight-training regimen with a trainer and without risk of re-injury. He lectures nationally and internationally on rehabilitation.
Nutrition, supplement expert
Brad King, an authority on nutrition, obesity, longevity and men’s health. He has written 12 books on health topics ranging from diet, nutrition and ageing including the international best-selling book Fat Wars. As a researcher, King has spent the last 15 years formulating award-winning natural health products for leading companies and his own Ultimate brand line.
Roger King got the idea to create Supplement King while attending university. As a student he began working out regularly but could not afford to buy sport supplements. Starting out delivering door to door, his brand now has 30 franchise locations in eight provinces. The company builds each store around the needs of the local fitness community.
Founder of the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance (CALA), Charlene Kopansky is an internationally recognized aquafitness expert. The low-impact modality offers a unique option for people with mobility issues such as arthritis, balance problems and joint pain. CALA develops and provides standards of aquafitness training and leadership as well as leading-edge programs such as aqua yoga and kickboxing. They also provide specialty post-rehabilitation certification.
Dr. Stan Kutcher
Expert in adolescent mental health
Dr. Stan Kutcher is an international expert in the area of adolescent mental health and a leader in mental health research, advocacy, training, policy and health services innovation. At Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine he has been Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and led the growth of the Life Sciences Development Association, the Brain Repair Centre and the International Health Office. He is also the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health at Dalhousie.
Nichelle & Dave Laus
Fitness and media entrepreneurs
Nichelle is a leading fitness expert and coach. Dave is the photographer who brings this world to life at their combined gym and studio. Together, they promote the ideal of women who are fit, strong and confident. You’ll see the Laus’ work all over the pages of magazines, including OptiMYz.
Fitness entrepreneur, trainer, educator
Marc Lebert is the inventor of the Lebert Equalizer, Buddy System and Stretch Strap, used by trainers, fitness clubs, gyms, schools and sports centres for building strength and flexibility and as rehabilitation aids. Owner of club Fitness NATION in Mississauga, he is a black belt in Taekwondo, a strength and conditioning coach, and teaches boxing. A writer, he also runs educational courses and motivational seminars around the world and makes regular TV appearances.
Photo by Melanie Webster Photography.
Natural products certifier
Jenise Lee created CertClean, a certification program that vets personal care products for potentially harmful ingredients such as carcinogens and chemicals that may damage hormonal, reproductive or neurological systems. With over 1,000 products already certified, CertClean is helping health-conscious Canadian consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy.
Author, cook, blogger, transformer
The vegan food blog ohsheglows.com began as a personal project. Liddon started blogging and writing recipes to build a fresh relationship with food while recovering from an eating disorder. Today she has over 1 million readers online and is a bestselling author for her The Oh She Glows Cookbook. She has helped shape the view that healthy food can be beautiful and scrumptious.
Photo by Sandy Nicholson.
Dr. Joanne Liu
International medical leader
Elected as the International President for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in 2013, Dr. Liu brings international health issues to the attention of the Canadian public. She launched a telemedicine program that allows for medical teams in the field to receive clinical information and connect with experts as needed, and personally worked in many conflict zones helping displaced refugees.
Photo courtesy of Médecins Sans Frontières.
Natural products industry leader
Helen Long heads the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), Canada’s largest trade organization dedicated to the natural health industry. Combined, the natural health product industry and the organic product industry contribute $7 billion to the Canadian economy. CHFA represents over 1,000 member businesses across Canada, including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of natural and organic products. Its advocacy role includes lobbying to ensure that natural health products (NHPs) continue to be regulated independently from drugs.
Holistic nutritionist, personal trainer
Creator of the popular Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez has been consistently recognized as one of the top fitness models in Canada. With almost 4.4 million followers, Lopez shares her decades of experience in personal training with fitness experts and novices every day though her social media channels as well as traditional media.
Fitness educator, trainer
Rod Macdonald, an international authority on health and wellness, is the vice president of Canfitpro, the largest provider of education in the Canadian fitness industry with 100,000 members. He is also a best-selling author, editor, cross-Canada cyclist, yogi, NLP Practitioner and Certified Coach Practitioner who has finished four Ironman competitions. He is a strong promoter of individual responsibility for fitness, health and wellbeing.
Physician, addiction treatment activist
Holocaust survivor Gabor Maté is a Hungarian-born physician who specializes in the treatment of addiction and ADHD. A pioneer in the connection between mind and body health and a writer, he ran a private practice in East Vancouver and was the medical coordinator at a palliative care unit. He has been staff physician at a resource centre for the people of Vancouver’s downtown area. A defender of physicians working at Insite, a legal, supervised, safe injection site, he has used the traditional Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca to treat addictions and led retreats for addiction treatment.
Food coach, educator, author
Wendy McCallum is a corporate wellness speaker, food coach and educator, blogger and author of The Real Food Solution, a healthy lifestyle and food program for busy parents; and Real Food for Real Families, a cookbook featuring simple kid-approved recipes. Her understanding of corporate clients is enhanced by 12 years in the practice of law.
Photo by Lyndsay Doyle Photography.
Holistic nutritionist, author, speaker
Bringing tasty recipes to the public eye, Joy McCarthy is the founder of Joyous Health, a healthy-eating brand and website. Her story begins with a hormone imbalance that couldn’t be cured with prescriptions, but could be, she discovered, with diet change. McCarthy now brings this knowledge to Canadians on national television programs and her books Joyous Health and Joyous Detox.
Photo by Christopher Bodnar
Dr. Saul Miller
Dr. Miller has worked with Olympic and professional athletes and teams from the NHL, NFL, CFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, PGA Tour, in Canada and the United States. His specialties in dealing effectively with pressure, stress and change have made him one of the top sports psychologists in North America.
Dr. Freda Miller
Researcher, stem cell pioneer
Dr. Freda Miller is a cell and molecular developmental neurobiologist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute and Professor at the University of Toronto. She discovered that stem cells could be harvested from human adult skin and used to grow nerve cells that could potentially help people with spinal cord injuries or Parkinson’s disease. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With 15 patents, she was a founder of Aegera Therapeutics Inc., a Canadian biotechnology company.
Aging adult advocate
Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), has been recognized as one of “the most innovative and influential minds” in the world on aging. The ICAA has been instrumental in building the active-aging industry: A network of over 9,000 organizations in 37 countries dedicated to the health and wellbeing of adults aged 50+. ICAA provides access to active lifestyles, improving quality of life for elders while decreasing the strain on the public health system.
Olympic medallist, speaker, philanthropist
With Kaillie Humphries, PEI-native Heather Moyse won gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2014 at Sochi. She represented Canada on the National Senior Women’s Rugby team and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. In the 2012 Pan-American Cycling Championships in Argentina she made track cycling her third national sport. As a professional speaker, she invites audiences to embrace challenges. Her charitable causes include Right to Play, the Boys and Girls Club and Special Olympics. She has received the inaugural Randy Starkman Olympian Humanitarian Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and the Order of PEI.
Basketball player, philanthropist
Steve Nash became one of the best basketball players of his generation, earning two NBA MVP titles. Listed as one of the 100 Most Influential people by Time, he is known for his humour and leadership. His many philanthropic efforts include the Steve Nash Foundation, a Canadian and US charity dedicated to assisting underserved children. He is also a passionate filmmaker who co-directed a documentary about Terry Fox.
National sport administrator
CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Karen O’Neill has a huge influence over how Canadians view sport. She was the CEO of Commonwealth Games Canada before moving on to becoming CEO of Field Hockey Canada and the COO of the Rick Hansen Foundation. She was the Canadian Chef de Mission for the Atlanta Paralympic Games in 1996 and is a founder of Sports Matters Group, which promotes physical activity and sport to the Canadian public.
Dr. Jess O’Reilly
Best known as “Dr. Jess”, this sex and relationship expert is an international speaker and author dedicated to helping make sex great and relationships strong. With a PhD in human sexuality and a degree in teaching, Dr. Jess brings her expertise to the world through her own brand of entertainment education. Through books, world-wide retreats and TV appearances, Dr. Jess teaches all ages about sex and relationships.
Photo by Marlen James Photography.
As a girl Penny Oleksiak was rejected at a Toronto swim club. She later went on to win six medals at the World Junior Swimming Championships only six weeks after an arm fracture. As a 16-year-old at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, she became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champion.
Celebrity trainer, nutritionist, author
With clients such as Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga, celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak is an international motivational speaker. He became a well-known health educator through appearances on television shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show, as well as through his best-selling fitness books and health articles.
David “Patch” Patchell-Evans
Fitness entrepreneur, advocate
A former national rowing champion, Patchell-Evans’s experience with injury and illness helped him to create GoodLife Fitness, the fourth largest fitness company in the world with over 365 clubs in Canada and over 1 million members. He also established a Canadian certification program for fitness trainers and instructors. Canadian Fitness Professionals, better known as Canfitpro, is a leading certification program. He is a speaker and advocate for overall health and fitness.
Photo courtesy of GoodLife Fitness.
Politician, health advocate
Before becoming the Minister of Health for Canada, the Honourable Jane Philpott led a career focusing on public and family health as well as HIV/AIDS advocacy. She practiced medicine in West Africa and created programs to help teach health workers in Ethiopia. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s department of family and community medicine and the founder of Give a Day to World AIDS.
Politician, Paralympian, lawyer
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough is Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. She won three medals for Canada in the 1988 and 1992 Paralympics and is also the chairperson of the Minister’s Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities. Qualtrough practiced human rights law at both federal and provincial levels and was named one of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Sport six times.
Photo courtesy of Canadian Heritage.
Nutritionist, entrepreneur, educator
A nutritionist focusing on Chinese Nutrition Therapy, Melissa Ramos and her company Sexy Food Therapy have helped Canadians feel sexier through food by focusing on digestion and hormones. She is a regular on CTV’s The Social and appeared in her own TEDx talk, the infamous “The Answer to Your Health is in Your Poop.”
Photo by Nikki Jumper.
Adam Ruppel & Ted McLeod
Event founders, race directors
Adam Ruppel and Ted McLeod had worked together on Rupple’s North American biking events when they came together in 2011 to create Mud Hero, the largest Canadian-owned mud obstacle race in the country. Mud Hero races have multiple levels of difficulty and medals for all finishers and had over 250,000 participants in the last year.
Dr. Marita Schauch
Naturopathic doctor, public speaker
Dr. Schauch is the author of Making Sense of Women’s Health and a regular guest on radio and TV shows, such as CKNW’s The Natural Health Show and Breakfast Television. She is an expert on women’s health, with articles covering hormone balance, sleep and menopause.
Photo by Karen McNeil Photography.
Dr. Steve Scherer
Dr. Steve Scherer has helped to identify the genetic causes of disease. His co-discovery of the frequent variations of DNA opened up a new way to study natural genetic variation, evolution and disease. His group has discovered many disease susceptibility genes, including genetic factors underlying autism. He collaborated with the team that generated the first genome sequence of an individual. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he serves on the Board of Trustees of Genome Canada and the Human Genome Organization, and holds a research chair at The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto.
Dr. Marla Shapiro
Medical contributor, menopause specialist, public speaker
Breast cancer survivor best known as the health and medical expert on Canada AM, Dr. Shapiro is one of Canada’s most trusted public advisors in personal health. She appears as the medical consultant for CTV’s National News and is the host of the national TV show Dr. Marla & Friends, where health topics are discussed with experts.
Soccer player, leader
Considered one of the best women’s soccer players of all time, Christine Sinclair is captain of the Canadian national team. Known for a quiet leadership style, she is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and 12-time recipient of the Canada Soccer Player of the Year award. She is second worldwide in all-time international goals scored. She won both the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Dr. Peter Singer
Physician, expert in health in the developing world
Dr. Peter Singer is Chief Medical Officer of Grand Challenges Canada, which works to remove critical barriers to health in the developing world. They tackle issues from early brain development to contaminated water. He is Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto, Director at the Sandra Rotman Centre at University Health Network and Foreign Secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he is UN Co-Chair of the Every Woman Every Child Innovation Working Group and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Dr. Samir Sinha
A leading advocate for the rapidly growing population of elders in Canada, Dr. Sinha’s goal is to keep the elderly out of hospital. One of the keys is keeping them active. Dr. Sinha is an international authority on geriatric care and was appointed by the Government of Ontario to lead Ontario’s Seniors Strategy overhaul. He has successfully implemented health care practices with his own patients that see them living independently at home for longer.
Entrepreneur, childhood activity advocate
Claudia Sjoberg is President of Atlantis Programs and Pedalheads, a series of camps and classes that teach kids to develop physical skills in swimming, biking and other activities. She has been able to bring her programs to over 200,000 kids in North America over the last 30 years.
His own health issues led Marc St.-Onge into the natural products category. He founded Ascenta Health Ltd., which makes omega-3 supplements and was sold to Nature’s Way Products. St-Onge retains ownership in Ascenta Skin, the company’s skincare brand. More recently he founded the Bend Skincare line of natural products. He is passionate about creating a sustainable economy.
Healthy workplace innovator
Louis Stack founded Fitterfirst, a company that supplies professional and personal products such as sit-stand desks and balance boards that help people recover from and prevent injury, maintain balance and fitness, and keep moving at work. The former athlete is an industry expert in physical rehabilitation. Developer of the “active office” concept, he was inspired by his own injuries and the discomfort of spending long hours spent sitting at a desk.
Photo by Marquess Kilian Beck Photography.
A former overweight smoker, John Stanton has run over 60 marathons, hundreds of road races and many triathlons. His 10:1 run/walk combination has helped a million people learn to run. His company Running Room has more than 120 stores in Canada and the United States. Author of 10 books on running, Stanton has received multiple awards for his contribution to health through fitness and promotion of cardiovascular health in Canadians. He is regularly featured in the media promoting the overall health benefits of running and walking.
Vegan restaurant founder, author
Ruth Tal founded the popular Fresh restaurant and juice bars, originally called “Juice for Life,” after being inspired by the juicing movement. She created a popular line of cold pressed juices and cleanses and authored several different books based on recipes used at her own restaurants in an effort to bring healthy and functional vegan foods into the mainstream.
CALM founder, Director of CAMCD
Owner of the oldest Toronto-based medical marijuana dispensary, Cannabis As Living Medicine (CALM), Neev Tapiero is a trailblazer in the Canadian medical marijuana industry. With the Canadian legalization of marijuana on the horizon, Tapiero created the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries to assist in developing safe guidelines for new dispensaries.
Celine Tarrant is the founder of Smart Girls Sweat in Toronto. This event series for professional women goes against the grain of a typical alcohol-fuelled mixer, providing a healthier alternative to cheese dip, high heels and cocktails. Known as “sweatworking” (working out and networking), delegates meet like-minded women, network and get inspired—in sweatpants.
Photo by Uttra Gautam.
Swimmer, broadcaster, activist
A medallist at two Summer Olympics, swimmer Mark Tewksbury is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He resigned as athlete representative with the International Olympic Committee after accusing it of corruption. A prominent advocate for gay rights, he acted as a director for the 2006 World Outgames in Montréal. A motivational speaker and television commentator, he is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation and member of Canada’s LGBT Human Rights Hall of Fame.
Author, holistic pharmacist
A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, practices holistic pharmacy, integrating conventional and complementary therapies. She has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a health expert she lectures, is interviewed on radio and TV, and has written books and booklets including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Saving Women’s Hearts, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.
Dr. Mark Tremblay
Director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research
(HALO), an organization created as a direct response to rising obesity-related deaths and disease, Dr. Tremblay has made many contributions to healthy and active living in Canada. A recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work, Dr. Tremblay is also a working group member for the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. His research includes childhood obesity, exercise physiology, sedentary physiology and health surveillance.
Conditioning specialist, entrepreneur
Having coached in the NHL for 11 years and worked with over 700 professional athletes including Mark Messier, Peter Twist is a world leader in sport conditioning and athlete development. Today, his company Twist Sport Conditioning offers sport conditioning specialist certifications all over the world. Twist is an international speaker on coaching and training.
Photo by Scott White, Shinobi Productions.
Helen Vanderburg is an industry leader, innovator and speaker. She is the creator of Fusion Fitness Training, which incorporates a mind-body approach to fitness. She won gold at the 1978 World Aquatics Championships in Berlin, received the Elaine Tanner Trophy and in 1979 was named Canadian Female Athlete of the Year. Vanderburg was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1983 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1985.
Photo by Red Dahlia Photography.
Researcher, motivator, formulator
Lorna Vanderhaeghe specializes in writing and educating about the merits of nutritional, natural treatments, with an emphasis on correcting hormone imbalances. Her Smart line of products is available across Canada. With an international audience and clientele, she has written books on immunity, menopause, healthy fats, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, hormones and sex, heart health and weight loss.
Photo by Erich Saide.
Raw food distributor
Founder of Raw Elements, Dawn Vickery created Canada’s largest B-to-B raw food distributor. A long-time health and fitness advocate, Vickery was an early adopter of the raw food movement with its “high vibrational” whole-food philosophy and she brought its associated products to Canada. Today Raw Elements is supplying Canadians with vetted, raw super-foods and natural health products.
A competitive multi-sport athlete, Jana Webb discovered yoga as a method of recovery after dealing with her own sports injury. Webb went on to become an Ishta certified yoga instructor, later creating Joga, a type of yoga for athletes that focuses on movement over stretching. Her clients include professional sports teams such as the Toronto Raptors as well as regular yoga enthusiasts.
Hockey player, Olympian, philanthropist, speaker
Named one of the best female hockey players ever, Hayley Wickenheiser is a five-time Olympic medalist. A member of the Order of Canada, she is involved with many Canadian charities including Right to Play, JumpStart and Ovarian Cancer Canada. A popular speaker on women’s empowerment, she also founded the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, which builds positive experiences for female hockey players of all levels.
Photo by Dave Holland.
Entrepreneur, nutraceutical industry pioneer
With industry experience going back to the 1970s Peter Wilkes is founder New Roots Herbal, a Canadian-owned, family-run, multinational natural health product company. With an in-house ISO-certified laboratory, the company has a rigorous production and review process.
Chip & Shannon Wilson
Founder and designer of Lululemon, Chip and Shannon built an empire out of a community. The vision of Lululemon was to create a welcoming environment for learning about healthy lifestyles while providing technically sound, beautiful sportswear. That vision cemented Canada in the fitness apparel scene. Both have since moved on to Kit and Ace, another technical clothing company founded by Shannon with their son J.J.
David “Avocado” Wolfe
Natural health figure
Wolfe’s unique approach to health and longevity draws from ancient healing traditions, nutrition and shamanic practices. A somewhat controversial character, with over eight million likes on Facebook alone, there is no question he is a super-food superstar.
Alternative medicine practitioner, educator
Bryce Wylde is a natural healthcare practitioner whose focus is functional medicine. An early advocate of alternative medicine, he is a clinic director, television host and guest on Canadian and US TV. As a philanthropist, he is a charity runner and hiker, helping to raise over a million dollars for organizations like Sick Kids Hospital. His books include The Antioxidant Prescription: How to Use the Power of Antioxidants to Prevent Disease and Stay Healthy for Life and Wylde On Health: Your Best Choices in the World of Natural Health.
Dr. Catherine Zahn
Mental health professional
President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Dr. Zahn is shaping the future of how mental illness is perceived and treated. A trained neurologist, Dr. Zahn advocates for the integration of psychiatry and neuro-science with an eye to bringing mental illness into the medical mainstream and creating opportunity for wide-spread access to care for the public.
Athletes, fitness experts, medical researchers, nutrition experts, performers, policy makers, therapists, yoga teachers and many more—you will find all these on the OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers. This list was compiled from many sources and reveals the amazing diversity of influences on our general health and wellness.
Sources include interviews with industry experts, nominations from readers, surveys of top Canadians produced by industry associations and the media, and our own personal contacts, experience and insights.
The primary goal of the research was to explore the many categories that help to improve the health and wellness of Canadians, with a selection of individuals who represent these categories.
To nominate individuals for consideration for next year’s list email us at the address: email@example.com