Despite their many differences, the members of this elite group are connected by a single passion: improving the long-term health and wellness of people in Canada.
Olympians and Paralympians, medical researchers, chefs and nutritionists, sport administrators, coaches and trainers, entrepreneurs, health care professionals, social media influencers, professional athletes, academics, speakers, leaders of for-profit and not-for profit organizations, adventurers, writers and broadcasters, advocates for fairness and women’s rights—and game changers and role models of all descriptions.
These are the 2018 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers. Listed alphabetically, they represent the five brand pillars of OptiMYz Magazine: health, fitness, nutrition, adventure and mental wellbeing. Put them together and you will see the direction of women’s health in Canada.
The key word is “direction.” No matter what they have achieved so far, they are impatient with the status quo and know the future can be better than the present. But it won’t just happen. The task will take vision, research, performance, advocacy, activism—and plain old persistence. But don’t worry, the Top 100 have these qualities in spades.
–David Holt, Editor-in-Chief
Educator, authority on body image
Jill Andrew, PhD (ABD) is a columnist, educator, equity advisor and media consultant on female body image and empowerment. She is founder of BITE ME!, the Toronto International Body Image Film & Arts Festival and the Curvy Catwalk Fashion Fundraiser; and co-founder of FatinTheCity.com, a plus-size fashion blog. She is also the co-founder of Body Confidence Canada, which advocates for the inclusion of size and appearance-based discrimination. Recipient of the Michele Landsberg Media Activism Award, she has started a petition aimed at getting discrimination based on size and physical appearance included in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Sara L. Austin
Children’s rights advocate, non-profit leader
Sara Austin is founder and president of Children First Canada, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and empowerment of Canada’s children and is currently the CEO of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. She is an expert in international human rights law who has led global advocacy campaigns, shaped public policy and launched philanthropic campaigns. In 2017, she was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.
Yogini, social media star
Abbey Bates is a Canadian yogini who lives in Dubai. Trained in both Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, she practices a mixture of both. She took her first teaching training in India and now practices almost daily. Her athletic and artistic photos and videos are a big hit on Instagram.
Leslie Beck’s nutritional advice can be found in the pages of her best-selling books and her weekly column in The Globe & Mail. Beck is also a weekly guest on TV News Channel’s Direct noon show and Montreal’s CJAD morning radio. With an interest in sports nutrition, she has acted as nutritionist to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors Basketball Club.
Dr. Brett Belchetz
Physician, digital pioneer
Dr. Brett Belchetz, a practicing emergency room physician, is a founder of Maple, a telemedicine firm that provides online access to physicians. Since launching Maple in Ontario in 2016, the service has grown to serve seven provinces on a 24/7 basis, with a physician network of over 100 providers. Maple has treated over 10,000 patients, with an average wait time of less than three minutes. Belchetz has an undergraduate degree in statistics and an MD. He has also been a management consultant with McKinsey and Company.
Michael & Peter Bentley
Natural product entrepreneurs
Michael Bentley and his father retired forest industry executive Peter Bentley are the developers behind SierraSil, a nutritional supplement that reduces inflammation of joints and muscles. The product is based on a mineral deposit found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Peter was founder of the VGH Foundation that has raised over half a billion dollars for medical research. Michael is also an active volunteer who leads seminars on natural health.
Dr. John Berardi
Health and nutrition expert, entrepreneur
Dr. John Berardi overcame a host of health issues to become a health and nutrition advisor to companies such as Apple, Equinox and Nike and work as a nutrition coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs and several Olympians. With a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Western University, he co-founded Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching and certification company. He competes as a sprinter in masters-level meets.
Gymnast, World medallist
Known for her positive outlook in one of the most demanding sports, at age 22 Ellie Black won silver at the 2017 artistic gymnastics world championships, becoming the first Canadian gymnast to win a World all-around medal. She represented Canada at the 2012 and 2016 summer Olympics. She is the 2014 Commonwealth Games beam champion and the 2015 Pan American Games all-around, beam and floor champion. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Black finished fifth in the individual all-around.
A former pastor and director of nursing, Linda Bolton acquired Canadian distribution rights for Natural Calm, a magnesium drink supplement for sleep issues. Linda and her husband Dale co-founded Natural Calm Canada, now under the corporate brand of TOP Nutritionals. The company shares profits with its non-profit organization, Organics 4 Orphans, which works in developing countries to teach people organic gardening and natural medicine.
Professional tennis player, fitness advocate
Canada’s best female tennis player, at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard became the first Canadian-born player representing Canada to reach the finals of a Grand Slam in singles. She also reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and French Open. As a junior, she won the 2012 Wimbledon girls’ title. Known for a grueling fitness routine as well as natural talent, she has high-profile endorsement deals.
Nutritionist, athlete, coach
Former obstacle course racer turned coach, Melissa Boufounos learned to skate the year she started walking. A hockey player, sports nutritionist and personal trainer, Boufounos coaches obstacle course racing athletes.
Triathlete, supplement formulator
Two-time Ultra Marathon champion and former Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier faced a decline in energy and athletic performance as he tried to live off a plant-based diet, so he created his own nutritional supplement. Co-founder of Vega and formulator of the company’s plant-based products, he is also the best-selling author of the Thrive series.
Yoga teacher, entrepreneur
Yoga teacher Melanie Caines is the owner of Nova Yoga. Trained at Vinyasa Yoga at Sonic Yoga in New York City, she also teaches sleep yoga, prenatal yoga and kids yoga. She is the host of The Nova Yoga Show on Rogers TV, teaches online and conducts international yoga retreats. Nominated for the 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards and the 2017 Canada Top 40 Under 40 Awards, she was a finalist for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Awards.
Actress, speaker, cultural ambassador
Ashley Callingbull is from the Enoch Cree Nation in the province of Alberta. A volunteer with community elders and youth, she is a model, actor, and First Nation’s activist who was the reigning Mrs. Universe 2015 and a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada in 2016. She is a spokesperson and model for the Nike N7 organization and has worked with the Stollery Children’s Hospital, Walk for the Cure and Run for the Lung.
Actress, health advocate
Kim Cattrall is an English-Canadian actress known for her intelligence and irreverent spirit. She played Samantha Jones in the iconic HBO romantic comedy series Sex and the City, for which she won a Golden Globe, and reprised the role in the two Sex and the City films. She has starred in everything from low-brow film comedies like Porky’s and Police Academy to extensive stage work including Shakespeare. Late in her career she struggled with insomnia, but has recovered. She co-wrote the book Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm.
Runner, event creator
Stacy Chesnutt has raced in Ironman races, marathons and half-marathons in Kenya, Dublin, London, Prague, Spain and North America. Born in Tennessee, she spent much of her adult life in New York City before moving to Nova Scotia. She started Sole Sisters Women’s Race Series in 2012, where 5,000 women and girls have participated in races from 2K to 21K. She also founded Girls Gone Gazelle Run, a not-for-profit run club that promotes running to build confidence.
Dr. Imogen Coe
Researcher, advocate for women in science
Dr. Imogen Coe, dean, Faculty of Science at Ryerson University, is a researcher and spokesperson for equity and inclusivity. A leader in research into cancer chemotherapeutics and advocate for the role of women in the sciences, she is in demand as a keynote speaker.
Nutritionist, TV host, author
After recovering from a life-threatening digestive infection, nutritionist Julie Daniluk wrote the bestselling book Meals that Heal Inflammation, which has helped over 100,000 people heal through gourmet cooking. The author hosted Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that tackled the battle between taste and nutrition. She has also been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and is a resident expert on the Marilyn Denis Show.
Broadcaster, health advocate, philanthropist
Canadian broadcaster Marilyn Denis hosts The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV and co-hosts CHUM FM’s Roger & Marilyn. Her talk show gives viewers advice on a wide range of health issues. An advocate for research on ovarian and breast cancer, she 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 supported the Canadian broadcast portion of the Stand Up 2 Cancer telecast.
Beauty vlogger, entrepreneur
After the death of her grandmother left her feeling lost, Farah Dhukai found new confidence by posting videos on YouTube. Now, with over five million Instagram followers and over one million YouTube subscribers, Dhukai shares natural beauty tips and makeup tutorials. She also created her own skincare line, Farsáli.
Health journalist, travel expert
Founder of TravelToWellness.com Anne Dimon travels the world covering topics from healthy shopping to the newest revolutionary spas for women. Her website was one of the first online magazine resources for wellness travel. She is the program director of wellness for the Travel & Adventure Show and co-founder of the new Wellness Tourism Association.
Author and registered holistic nutritionist Andrea Donsky educates the public on living an organic and non-GMO lifestyle. She founded Naturally Savvy Media Inc., a website dedicated to healthy living from a holistic approach. She is also the co-founder of The Healthy Shopper Inc, which developed an early coupon book for natural and organic products.
“I can’t help but realize that this is a step in the right direction for any girl with a dream of playing baseball. There’s a bigger picture out there.”
Baseball and softball player, role model
Pitcher Claire Eccles represented Canada at the 2016 Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea, including pitching a complete game as Canada finished in second place. She became the first female in Canada to play men’s baseball at the collegiate level when she made her debut pitching for the Victoria Harbourcats. She played outfield for the University of British Columbia softball team.
Health crusader, media personality
Jennifer Ettinger’s dedication to helping women stems from her own triumph over Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After being bedridden, she understands the mindset of women who are challenged with weight and health issues. She has merged her passions of lifestyle, health, style and fitness into a media company called “Fit Your Style.” She is the host of her own TV show and covers the red carpet on Insider, ET and Access Hollywood. She is an ACE certified personal trainer, certified health coach and author of Find Your Inner Goddess, embracing body shape confidence.
Kayaker, Olympian, healthy living advocate
Olympic kayaker Karen Furneaux is also a two-time World Champion and winner of 50 World Cup Medals. A specialist in sport psychology and leadership, she covered kayaking for CBC at the Rio Olympics. Her wellness company I Promise Performance Inc. consults with corporations and her Strong Beauty program encourages girls to be active and positive. She has been awarded 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 a member of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
Dr. Brian Goldman
Physician, radio host
Dr. Brian Goldman, emergency physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, hosts the award-winning radio show White Coat, Black Art, a CBC Radio program about the health industry. Goldman seeks to lay the groundwork of a more patient-oriented, efficient and transparent healthcare system. The physician’s TEDtalk, Doctors Make Mistakes. Can We Talk About That?, has been watched by nearly one million viewers. He also helped to launch the Discovery Health Channel and worked as a health reporter.
Leader in non-profit health care
As President and CEO of the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, Barbara Grantham champions the power of philanthropy to transform health care. Since joining the Foundation, she has brought attention to areas like acute mental health care and palliative ambulatory care. Last year, the foundation raised over $100 million for medical equipment and research. On the board of the YMCA, she is a member of the national advisory council of Imagine Canada, whose cause is Canada’s charities.
Trainer, educator, speaker
As a yoga instructor, certified yoga therapist, director of YogaFit Canada, trauma and addiction specialist, fitness instructor and speaker, Lisa Greenbaum aims to make yoga accessible to everyone. YogaFit blends the ancient practice of yoga and 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.
Athlete, trainer, writer, speaker
Louise Green is an athlete, trainer and body positive advocate. Also a speaker and writer, she founded Body Exchange, a fitness program dedicated to the plus-size community and her new online program Big Fit Girl: Unleashed. Her book Big Fit Girl promotes inclusive fitness culture and coaches readers on plus-size fitness—it has been sold internationally and has influenced women worldwide to get active. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post. She is the 2016 recipient of the Body Confidence Canada Award for health and wellness.
Ski racer, senator, health advocate
Olympic medallist Nancy Greene is Canada’s most decorated ski racer. 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 supports the Child Health Protection Act, which seeks to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children under the age of 17.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Advocate of women’s rights and health
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau uses her position as the Prime Minister’s wife to highlight issues of women’s empowerment, mental health and self-esteem. At the United Nations girls’ conference in Washington, Trudeau shared her story of her experience with an eating disorder and encouraged young women to believe in themselves. She is also a certified yoga instructor.
Maureen “Mo” Hagan
Fitness innovator, educator
Mo Hagan is the VP of Fitness Innovation and Development at GoodLife Fitness. Working with David Patchell-Evans, she helped develop their group fitness programming and together they established Canfitpro, the largest fitness education organization in Canada. Hagan is an award-winning instructor, author, member of the board of directors for Prescription to Get Active and a Reebok athlete.
Triona Harrop & Eli McEachern
Athletes, trainers, entrepreneurs
Dave “Eli” McEachern, Olympic Gold Medalist Olympic Hall of Famer in bobsled, formed Dynamic Fitness Inc. to train hockey players and other elite athletes. His wife Triona Harrop started PEI’s first Pilates centre within Dynamic Fitness. A new yoga program offered by the P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre and Dynamic Fitness will help ill or injured veterans and their families manage both emotional and physical pain.
At age 20, Brooke Henderson became the first Canadian woman to win a golf major since 1968. At age 18 she was a member of the Rio 2016 Canadian Olympic Team. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, becoming the second-youngest women’s major winner ever. She rose to second in the World Golf Rankings, the best ever by a Canadian. Henderson has fundraised for United Way and taken part in the Kevin Haime’s Kids to the Course Golf Classic.
A fitness entrepreneur, model and TV personality, Adrianne Ho created the brand and website Sweat the Style to promote healthy living for women. Her sportswear brand Sweat Crew is a leader in “athleisure” fashion. Ho is also a host on the series, Sweat the City, which explores fitness, fashion and food.
Comedian, mental health advocate
Comic Jessica Holmes is on a mission to help her audience laugh their stresses away. In her comedy and in her work as a speaker, writer and emcee, she puts fitness, nutrition and mental wellbeing in the spotlight. A certified wellness coach, she draws on her own experiences of dealing with post-partum depression, finding work-life balance and reigniting passion.
Athlete, health advocate
Waneek Horn-Miller is one of the country’s most influential First Nation Olympic athletes. Co-captain of the first Canadian Women’s Olympic water polo team at the Sydney Olympics, she is an advocate for Indigenous health and youth involvement in sport. With the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network, she created Working It Out Together, a documentary series. She is also developing a national indigenous wellness strategy for the Assembly of First Nations. She is director of community engagement for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Olympic medallist, mental health advocate
Cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes is the only Olympic athlete to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter games. She draws on her experience with depression to promote mental health and combat the stigma of mental illness. She is a member of the Order of Manitoba, an Officer of the Order of Canada and 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.
Natural health pioneer, entrepreneur
Matthew James is president and CEO of Purity Life Health Products. Founded in 1984, Purity Life is a leading distributor of natural health products. In 2017, James received the Canadian Health Food Association John Holtmann Leadership Award. He is also an active CrossFit enthusiast.
Nurse practitioner, entrepreneur
Nurse practitioner and owner of Concession Integrated Functional Medicine Clinic, Kristina Janicas uses bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help prevent disease and is completing a fellowship with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. She uses cognitive behaviour therapy to treat psychiatric disorders and chronic pain and has used exercise in the treatment of developmental disabilities. She has been a psychiatric nurse, an occupational health nurse for an acute care hospital and a clinical instructor
Personal trainer, wellness coach, educator
Sonia Jhas walked away from a corporate career to launch Get Fit with Sonia to inspire and educate women on health, fitness and wellbeing. With a large presence on social media, she is an international speaker. Besides individuals, her clients include corporate and community organizations. An ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association, she won the Notable award for best in sports and fitness and received the Game Changer award in health and wellness by Pink Attitude Evolution.
Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod
Canadian fitness icons, broadcasters
For the last 28 years, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have encouraged Canadians to “get fit and have fun.” As the hosts of BodyBreak, Johnson and McLeod showcase exercise and healthy eating during commercial breaks. In 2013, they participated in the first season of The Amazing Race Canada.Last year, the pair received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for their years of dedication to helping Canadians.
Dr. Joyce Johnson
Naturopathic doctor, manager
Naturopathic doctor Dr. Joyce Johnson has lectured to women’s health groups, athletes, pharmacists and other health professionals across Canada and has shared health tips on Global News, CityLine, The Marilyn Denis Show, Global National and CTV Morning Live. She juggles an active lifestyle, is a soccer coach and is the educational services manager in eastern Canada for Webber Naturals, a natural supplement company.
Author, dietician, health expert
Dietitian and holistic health expert Karlene Karst is the founder of Sea-licious, an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Karst has shared her health tips on Access Hollywood, CTV Morning Live and on her website sealicious.ca. She has also written several health-related books. Karst’s latest work, The Full Fat Solution is a guide to choosing healthy fats for the entire family.
Poet, role model
Rupi Kaur is a Canadian poet, writer and illustrator. Her self-published book of poetry and prose, Milk and Honey, deals with themes of violence, abuse, love, loss and feminism. It sold over a million copies and reached number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. Her second book was released in October, 2017. She is part of a new generation of “instapoets”—young poets publishing verse primarily on social media. She also has a following of over 1.6 million followers on Instagram.
Athlete, health communicator
Debbie King is a multi-sport athlete with Jamaican roots who is returning to her earlier love of track and field. At age 41, she is on a mission to become a sprint champion at the 2020 World Masters Athletics Championships. Under the tagline SUPAFITMAMA, she writes on parenting, beauty and sport. She connects active women with resources and brands across sport, fitness, wellness and lifestyle. In 2017, she was awarded the JamCan Athletics Female Track Athlete of the Year.
Known as the “Queen of Green,” Krebs is an entrepreneur on a mission to bring natural products into the mainstream. She launched Ethical Deal, North America’s first “green groupon.” At 30, she started Social Nature to inspire consumers to spread the word about the natural products they’ve tried on social media. She has a base of one million followers.
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Soccer player, Olympian, mental health advocate
Stephanie Labbé is a goalkeeper for the Canada women’s national soccer team and with the Washington Spirit of the NWSL. She won a bronze medal with Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She has been candid about her struggle with depression and recently took a medical leave.
Fitness specialist, industry leader
Recognized for her leadership and organizational skills, Nathalie Lacombe is vice-president of Canfitpro, which has over 300 pro trainers and 25,000 members. Bilingual, she is a fitness instructor specialist, personal training specialist, program director specialist, certified coach practitioner and registered yoga teacher who continues to teach to keep her on the front lines. She has an MSc from the Université de Montréal.
Nichelle and Dave Laus
Fitness and media entrepreneurs
A love of health and fitness lead Nichelle Laus to leave her career as a police officer. Along with her husband, photographer Dave Laus, she co-owns Optimum Training Centre. She is a certified fitness trainer, fitness model and kick boxing instructor. Together, the couple promotes an ideal of women who are fit, strong and confident.
CrossFit athlete, multi-sport athlete
CrossFit Games veteran Camille Leblanc-Bazinet is one of the sport’s most enduring athletes. In 2014, she earned the title of Fittest Woman on Earth and has finished in the top 10 in four Games appearances. A former gymnast with a degree in chemical engineering, she serves on the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff. She also qualified for the national championship for weightlifting. She has played soccer, volleyball, flag football, rugby and competed in distance running.
Trainer, fitness model
Creator of a The Bikini Body Method, an online program to help women gain confidence through fitness, Sally Leung spent years trying diet pills and starving herself to achieve what she felt was the ideal body. She began researching how she could get a lean and toned body without taking extreme measures. Now, she is the host of her own fitness show Get Fit, Get Strong with Sally Leung and hosts YouTube series The Skinny on Fitness, which promotes sustainable ways to stay fit and healthy.
Cook, author, blogger
Vegan food blogger Angela Liddon’s cookbook Oh She Glows is a New York Times bestseller and Taste Canada award winner. Her award-winning blog ohsheglows.com features over 500 healthy recipes. The blog began as a personal project to help Liddon build a fresh relationship with food while recovering from an eating disorder. It now has over one million readers.
Dr. Joanne Liu
International medical leader
Elected as the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in 2013, Dr. Joanne Liu brings international health issues to the attention of the Canadian public. With experience helping displaced refugees left without care in conflict zones, she launched a telemedicine program that allows for medical teams in the field to receive clinical information. She works as a full-time pediatric emergency physician in Montréal and at the health travel clinic of the Montréal University Health Centre.
Natural products industry leader
Helen Long is president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), Canada’s largest trade organization dedicated to the natural health industry. CHFA represents over 1,000 member businesses, including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of natural and organic products. Its advocacy role includes lobbying to ensure that natural health products continue to be regulated independently from drugs.
Personal trainer, nutritionist
Creator of the popular Hourglass workout, Lyzabeth Lopez is considered one of the top fitness models in Canada. With almost 4.4 million followers on Instagram and Facebook, Lopez shares her experience in personal training through her social media channels as well as traditional media. An early adopter of Facebook as a means of promotion, she runs an online training program as well as a gym franchise. Lopez was also listed as one of Forbes magazine’s Top 10 Fitness Influencers of 2017.
Life coach, educator, trainer
Rod Macdonald, an international authority on health and wellness, is CEO at Certified Coaches Federation. A speaker, coach and author, he has 30 years’ experience in the field of wellness and self-improvement. He co-wrote both Foundations of Professional Personal Training and the Healthy Eating & Weight Loss Coach Certification. The former vice president of Canfitpro, the largest provider of education in the Canadian fitness industry, he is a semi-retired Ironman competitor, cross-Canada cyclist, former competitive rower, 200-hour RYT yogi and coach.
Olympic athlete, role model
At age 11, Rosie MacLennan began competing internationally in trampoline and was the Canadian Women’s Champion in 2005, 2009 and 2011. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she earned Canada’s only gold medal. With a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, she is pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science.
Nutritionist, TV personality
As a resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, Miranda Malisani showcases health food products from homegrown producers. She is also the founder of Live Light Nutrition, a consulting organization that offers customized nutritional services and Eat it Forward, a health foods and lifestyle store that donates healthy foods to food banks.
Health promoter, TV and radio personality
Gillian Mandich is the host and producer of the TV show Gillian Mandich: Cooking Adventures, a co-host of the health podcast and TV show The Holistic Health Diary, a happiness expert on The Social, a yoga teacher and a two-time IronGirl. She is president of the Western Chapter of the Canadian Obesity Network and sits on the Advisory Board at Examine.com, which investigates the science behind nutrition and supplementation. She is completing her doctorate at Western University in health promotion.
Marathon runner, lawyer, advocate for women’s rights
On scholarship at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Lanni Marchant won titles in steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m and cross country. She then turned to road racing and set the Canadian record in women’s marathon. She competed in the marathon at the 2013 World Championships, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and in the 10,000 m at the 2015 Pan Am Games. A vocal advocate of gender equality in sports, she has been a critic of Athletics Canada’s policies toward women and girls. With law degrees from Canada and the US, she practices law in Toronto.
Nutritionist, author, speaker
Joy McCarthy is the founder of Joyous Health, a healthy-eating brand and blog. With a hormone imbalance that couldn’t be cured with pharmaceuticals, she made a major recovery through diet change. She is author of best-selling Joyous Health and Joyous Detox and consults with personal and corporate clients internationally. She co-created Eat Well Feel Well, an integrated nutrition and yoga six-week program.
Dr. Freda Miller
Medical researcher, advocate for women in science
Dr. Freda Miller is president of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience. A neurobiologist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute and professor at the University of Toronto, she discovered that stem cells could be used to grow nerve cells with the potential to 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. A founder of biotech firm Aegera Therapeutics Inc., she is an advocate for women in science and public policy.
Olympic medallist, speaker
With Kaillie Humphries, PEI-native Heather Moyse won gold in bobsleigh at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2014 at Sochi. She is now training for the 2018 Olympics with another partner as a way to help a new generation of athletes. She represented Canada on the Women’s Rugby team and was elected to the World Rugby Hall of Fame. She has also 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 Randy Starkman Olympian Humanitarian Award and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and is a member of the Order of PEI.
“My passion—and my business—since Sochi has been about empowering others, speaking with and encouraging people to recognize their fears, question their assumptions and challenge their self-limiting beliefs of what they can accomplish.”
Blogger, role model, athlete
Saman Munir inspires her more than half a million fans across the world through her hijabi fashion blogging and YouTube and Instagram workouts. The mother of three is an entrepreneur and a brand ambassador. Boxing and busting stereotypes are her passions.
CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Karen O’Neill was CEO of Field Hockey Canada and COO of the Rick Hansen Foundation before becoming the CEO of the Commonwealth Games Canada. 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. She is also a board member of True Sport, designed to give people the means to leverage the benefits of sport.
Jessica “Dr. Jess” O’Reilly
Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is an international authority on sex and relationships. The international speaker and author has a PhD in human sexuality and a degree in teaching and brings her expertise to the world through her own brand of entertainment and education, including books, worldwide retreats and TV appearances.
Celebrity trainer, nutritionist
With clients such as Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga, trainer Harley Pasternak is a health educator and motivational speaker. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show and has written best-selling fitness books and health articles. He speaks worldwide for Fortune 500 companies, health and fitness organizations and governments.
David “Patch” Patchell-Evans
Entrepreneur, fitness advocate
A Canadian rowing champion, Patch is an international speaker and advocate for health and fitness. His experience with injury and illness helped him create GoodLife Fitness, the fourth largest fitness company in the world. He also established Canfitpro, a leading certification program. Patch is the past chairman of the board of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. He is co-founder of The Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group at the University of Western Ontario, named after his daughter. He received the Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour. As a coach he led Western University’s women’s rowing team to several championships.
Minister of Health, advocate for fairness
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas-Taylor is an advocate for fairness and justice. She was the former Chair of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women and a member of the Coalition for Pay Equity. She has volunteered with the Coalition against Abuse in Relationships and the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Suicide Prevention Committee. As an RCMP Victim Services Coordinator, she provided crisis counseling and domestic violence intervention.
Politician, Paralympian, lawyer
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough is minister for public services and procurement. Legally blind, the former Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities won three medals for Canada in the 1988 and 1992 Paralympics. She is also the chairperson of the Minister’s Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities. She practiced human rights law at both federal and provincial levels and was named one of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Sport six times.
Nutritionist, wellness coach, author
Bestselling author and nutritional therapy practitioner Tosca Reno created the Eat Clean diet to help people transform their lifestyle and health. Inspired by her late husband British fitness expert and publisher Robert Kennedy, she has coached millions back to health through her practical lifestyle principles.
Swimmer, Paralympian medallist
Swimmer Aurélie Rivard competes in three disability classifications and has set three world records. She won medals at the 2012 London Paralympics and the 2013 World Championships. In 2014, Swimming Canada named Rivard “Female Para-Swimmer of the Year.” At the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, she became the most decorated female athlete of Parapan Am history. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, she won three Paralympics gold medals, a silver medal and set two World Records and a Paralympic Record.
Personal trainer, fitness model, lifestyle coach
Suffering from anxiety and depression, Carmel Rodriguez turned to movement as a way to heal. Her You’ve Got 12 workout series showcases 12-minute home workouts and post workout meal plans. The lifestyle coach shares health and fitness tips and does live Q&A’s with her online followers. She has filmed cross-training workouts in Italy and runs woman empowerment workshops and workouts.
The youngest dragon ever on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Michele Romanow has launched four successful tech companies while keeping up a healthy lifestyle through activities like running and skiing. She is also an independent director of Freshii, a chain of healthy fast food restaurants and co-founder of Buytopia.ca, Snap by Groupon and Clearbanc, an online financial service.
Olympic medallist, advocate for childhood fitness and literacy
Former elite runner Silvia Ruegger is National Director of Running & Reading Clubs. At age 23, she finished eighth in the 1984 Olympic marathon. She won the Houston Marathon, setting a Canadian record. Volunteering in a children’s program in a poor neighbourhood, she encountered poverty and hopelessness. Joining former CFL all-star Brian Warren, who had founded Start2Finish to help kids by combining physical activity and academics, she co-founded the first Running & Reading Club.
Nutritionist, health coach, fitness instructor
As a registered holistic nutritionist, health coach, fitness instructor and mother of three, Andrea Saliba, teaches clients how to stop counting calories and achieve a healthy lifestyle. As firm believer in the mind-body connection, she created a workshop for those with anxiety and chronic stress.
Allison Sandmeyer-Graves is CEO of the Canadian Association of the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity. With an MA in International Development Studies, she is an experienced non-profit leader. She spent a decade with Free the Children, a leading global youth empowerment organization. Her goal is to ensure that more women, girls and marginalized Canadians enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity.
Dr. Marita Schauch
Naturopathic doctor, speaker
Dr. Marita Schauch is the author of Making Sense of Women’s Health and a regular guest on radio and TV. She is an expert on women’s health, including hormone balance, sleep, menopause, chronic pain, stress management, hormone balancing detoxification and weight management.
Skier, Olympic medallist, anti-doping advocate
An anti-doping and fair play advocate, three-time Olympian Beckie Scott is Canada’s most successful cross-country skier. She won a gold medal in the 5km pursuit race at the Salt Lake Winter Games and a silver medal in the team sprint event at the Torino Winter Games, as well as 15 World Cup medals. Her pursuit of justice around her 2002 Olympic gold medal was considered a triumph for athletes’ rights and fair play. She served on the IOC Athletes’ Commission and is on the board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. A member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Executive Board, she was appointed chair of the Athlete Committee. She facilitates a wellness program for Aboriginal youth in Alberta.
Dr. Marla Shapiro
Medical contributor, menopause specialist, public speaker
A breast cancer survivor, Dr. Shapiro is a public advisor on personal health, appearing as the medical consultant for CTV and The Globe and Mail. She is an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and founding editor of ParentsCanada magazine. The author of Life in the Balance: My Journey with Breast Cancer, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.
Dietician, writer, food philosopher
Abbey Sharp is a culinary registered dietitian, media personality, food writer, blogger and YouTuber. The founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc., she received her BASc in nutrition and food and studied the sociology of food at the graduate level. She focuses on healthy recipes and creating a pleasurable relationship with food.
Dr. Peter Singer
Expert in health in the developing world
Dr. Peter Singer is Chief Medical Officer of Grand Challenges Canada, which works to remove barriers to health in the developing world. He is professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, director at the Sandra Rotman Centre at University Health Network and foreign secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Co-Chair of the UN’s Every Woman Every Child Innovation Working Group, he is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.
Personal trainer, fitness model
Kasia Sitarz became a personal trainer and competed in fitness competitions until back pain led to a loss of coordination. Advised to quit weight lifting and competing, she created a balance of mind, exercise and nutrition. Inspired by her own struggles, she founded True Mentality, a training and boot camp facility in Ontario. She is also the owner of her sports therapy clinic called The Clinic Health & Wellness.
Formerly an overweight smoker, John Stanton has run over 60 marathons and hundreds of road races and triathlons. His 10:1 run/walk combination has helped a million people learn to run. He founded the company Running Room, which has more than 120 stores in Canada and the United States. Author of 10 running books, Stanton has received awards for his contribution to promotion of cardiovascular health in Canadians.
Celine Tarrant is the founder of Smart Girls Sweat in Toronto. This “sweatworking” event series allows professional women to network and get inspired—in sweatpants. She is an avid runner, novice triathlete, foodie and world traveller. She also writes about careers, goal-setting and fitness. Her work has appeared in Newsweek and Forbes.
Swimmer, broadcaster, activist
A motivational speaker and television commentator, swimmer Mark Tewksbury was a medallist at two Summer Olympics. He is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. A prominent advocate for gay rights, he acted as a director for the 2006 World Outgames in Montréal. He is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation and member of the Q Hall of Fame Canada. He co-founded OATH (Olympic Advocates Together Honorably), an athlete-led movement for the spirit of ethical sport.
Holistic pharmacist, author
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author and certified fitness instructor. A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, she practices holistic pharmacy and integrates conventional and complementary therapies. She has won national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a health expert, she lectures, is interviewed in the media and has written books including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Saving Women’s Hearts and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.
Olympic administrator and medallist
Tricia Smith is president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee. A lawyer and businesswoman, she is a four-time Olympian in rowing, with a silver medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games and seven world championship medals. She is Vice President of the International Rowing Federation where she has played a strong role in anti-doping policies. A member of the Board of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, she is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. She was recognized by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Society as one of the “Most Influential Women in Sport.”
“My underlying goal is to support girls and women in exploring their strengths, defying expectations and enjoying whole healthy lives.”
Lorna Vanderhaeghe is a leading expert in women’s natural health with an emphasis on correcting hormone imbalances. With degrees in biochemistry and nutrition, she is the author of 11 books including A Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormones and A Smart Woman’s Guide to Weight Loss. Creator of the Smart line of products, she won the Canadian Health Food Association’s (CHFA) Hall of Fame Award.
Raw food distributor
Dawn Vickery founded Raw Elements, Canada’s largest business-to-business raw food distributor. A long-time health and fitness advocate, she was an early adopter of the raw food movement and its whole-food philosophy and brought its products to Canada. Raw Elements supplies Canadians with vetted, raw plant-based superfoods and natural health products.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Ice dancers, veteran athletes
Canada’s ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the 2010 Olympic champions, the 2014 Olympic silver medallists, three-time World champions and holder of many other international medals and world records. In 2009, they became the first ice dance team to receive a 10.0 for a program component score under the new judging system. They are the youngest pair ever to win an Olympic title. Skating together for 20 years, they are preparing for the next Olympics.
Personal trainer, body image advocate
Body image advocate Marci Warhaft is working to build children’s and adult’s self-esteem. After struggling with her own body image, she developed a workshop to break fitness and beauty myths and teach people of all ages about positive body image. Her adult workshop teaches parents, teachers and coaches how to spot potential signs of body image and eating disorders. A personal trainer and fitness instructor, she is the author of The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents.
Entrepreneur, supplement formulator
Jason Watkin is co-founder and chief formulator and CEO of Purica, a whole food, supplement and lifestyle company. The company’s products include supplements to aid in sleep, improve athletic performance and help with stress relief. The flagship product has been used by ballet dancers, arthritis sufferers, athletes, diabetics—and race horses. His background in Western sciences has been influenced by teachings of Eastern medicine and philosophy.
Fitness guru, entrepreneur
Jana Webb discovered yoga as a method to recover from a sports injury. She went on to become a yoga instructor and created Joga, yoga for athletes, which focuses on movement. Her clients include professional sports teams as well as regular yoga enthusiasts. After filming the reality TV show The Real Housewives of Toronto in 2016, she suffered from a near-fatal car accident. Her continuing recovery is based on her high level of health and fitness. Most recently she opened JOGA’s flagship JOGA House and partnered with Reebok.
Hockey player, Olympian, speaker
A speaker on women’s empowerment, five-time ice hockey Olympic medallist Hayley Wickenheiser was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission. She is a member of the Order of Canada and involved with charities including Right to Play, JumpStart and Ovarian Cancer Canada. She founded the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, which focuses on education as well as hockey. Named one of Sports Illustrated Toughest Athletes in the World, she completed her Master’s degree for researching the connection between physical activity and the neurology of autistic youth.
Chip & Shannon Wilson
Founder and designer of Lululemon, Chip and Shannon Wilson promoted healthy lifestyles while providing technical sportswear. After the sale of Lululemon, they founded Kit and Ace, another technical clothing company. They also founded the meditation blog whil.com and are the lead investors in “whil,” a digital health and wellness platform. They established the non-profit imagine1day to bring primary education to children in Ethiopia, and are leading sponsors of the annual Child Run that supports British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital.
Fitness expert, trainer, media personality
Former competitive sprinter Heather Wilson-Phillips is owner of the Fitness Empire & Fierce N’ Fit Workouts and creator of the 30-day “Fierce N’ 30 Challenge.” She has been featured on the CTV’s Your Morning and The Marilyn Denis Show. She writes on fitness and wellness and designs online workouts and meal plans. In 2017, she was named as one of Canada’s Top 100 black women to watch by the Canadian International Black Women Event.
Alternative medicine practitioner, educator
Bryce Wylde, a natural healthcare practitioner with a focus is functional medicine, is a clinic director and television host. As a charity runner and hiker, he helped to raise over $1 million for organizations like Sick Kids Hospital. His books include The Antioxidant Prescription and Wylde On Health. As associate medical director at P3 Health in Toronto and director of My Health Report, he blends science with traditional and ancient remedies. He is a partner in YouNutrients, which provides clients with genomic information and custom supplementation.
Dr. Catherine Zahn
Mental health professional
President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s leading mental health hospital and research centre on mental illness, neurologist Dr. Catherine Zahn integrates psychiatry and neuroscience and aims to bring mental illness and equitable care into the medical mainstream. A member of the Order of Canada, she received the Bryden Award for Outstanding Achievement and the University of Toronto Faculty of Health Policy Management and Evaluation Prize for Innovation.
The 2018 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers 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. Final decisions on the candidates were made by the editors of OptiMYz.
To nominate individuals for consideration for next year’s list email: firstname.lastname@example.org
—The editors of OptiMYz
Jill Andrew: Aisha Fairclough
Melissa Boufounos: Epic Action Imagery
Melanie Caines: Leo Lo Photography
Marilyn Denis: Courtesy of CTV
Anne Dimon: David Leyes
Claire Eccles: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds
Dr. Brian Goldman: Christopher Wahl
Lisa Greenbaum: Adnan Saciragic
Louise Green: Tarryn Rudolph
Adrianne Ho: Sweat The Style
Clara Hughes: Simon Baker
Sonia Jhas: Dave Laus
Karlene Karst: Janis Nicolay
Debbie King: Travis Rigby Photography
Sally Leung: Jessilynn Wong Photography
Dr. Joanne Liu: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières
Gillian Mandich: Liana Louzon
Lanni Marchant: Dave Laus
Saman Munir: @visual_lens
David “Patch” Patchell-Evans: GoodLife Fitness
Carla Qualtrough: Canadian Heritage/Patrimoine Canada
Michele Romanow: Dave Laus
Silvia Ruegger: Claus Andersen of Athletics Canada
Andrea Saliba: Anita Alberto Photography