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Take control of your health
Your current health is the result of your genetics, your diet, your fitness routines, all your health habits, and all of your experiences. Research has shown that about three quarters of your health is based on lifestyle. In other words, it’s more under your control than you might think. Good health is all about good habits and practices.
The 2019 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers is all about the leaders who are creating a path for better health in Canada. Some are researchers who cross the frontier to medical breakthroughs and best practises of all descriptions. Some are the athletes and adventurers who inspire us to be our own best selves. Some are nutritionists, diet experts and brilliant chefs. Some run organizations whose mission is to create a healthier world. Some are social pioneers. Some are communicators who spread the word.
The 2019 OptiMYz Top 100 Health Influencers are listed alphabetically. They represent the five brand pillars of OptiMYz Magazine: health, fitness, nutrition, life/adventure and mental wellbeing. Together, they are examples of what’s needed to improve the health of women and families in Canada.
Important Note on Nominee Selection: We research nominees throughout the year based on reader surveys and feedback. We do NOT charge any fees to be listed or promoted by Optimyz. Selection is made by our editorial team independently.
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Dr. Jill Andrew
Dr. Jill Andrew, PhD, is an award-winning community advocate, educator, writer, and speaker on issues of body image, body-based discrimination, anti-bullying, race, women and girls’ empowerment, media representation and fashion equity among others. Andrew is advocating for the end of size and appearance-based discrimination through amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC). Andrew’s philanthropic work supports feminist, LGBTQ2, eating disorders and racialized communities. She was also recently elected an ONDP MPP, and is the Culture Critic, Official Opposition.
Sara L. Austin
Sara L. Austin is founder 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. She was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame, and has twice been named as a Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada.
As president and CEO for CARE Canada, Gillian Barth has served in senior positions in sectors including water, sanitation and hygiene; environment; monitoring and evaluation, corporate resource and business development, global human resources and knowledge management and senior external relations and representation. CARE Canada serves families in the poorest communities of the world. As a global champion for women’s health and a volunteer for non-governmental boards, she has lived, worked, and travelled to over 60 countries. Barth received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for her tireless work with CARE.
Abbey Bates is a Canadian yogini residing in Vancouver. Trained in both Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, she practices a mixture of both. She took her first teacher training in India and now practices almost daily. Her athletic and artistic photos and videos are a big hit on Instagram.
Leslie Beck’s nutrition advice can be found in the pages of her best-selling books and her weekly column in The Globe & Mail. She’s also a regular guest on CBC Radio and Montreal’s CJAD800. Beck runs a busy private practice in downtown Toronto where she offers clients expert diet advice, personalized meal plans and ongoing coaching.
Dr. Brett Belchetz
Dr. Brett Belchetz, a practicing emergency room physician, is a founder of Maple, a telemedicine firm that provides online access to physicians. Maple in Ontario has grown to serve all of Canada on a 24/7 basis, with a physician network of over 250 providers. Maple has treated over 40,000 patients, with an average wait time of less than two minutes. Belchetz has also been a management consultant with McKinsey and Company.
Linda and Dale Bolton
Linda and Dale are the co-founders of Natural Calm Canada, and their non-profit organization, Organics 4 Orphans, which works in developing countries to teach sustainable organic gardening, nutrition, natural medicine, and income generation. Dale has worked in the non-profit arena for over 40 years with a focus on helping to end poverty. After a trip to Africa, they discovered that there were 40 million orphans. Linda was given the Canadian distribution rights for Natural Calm, which ranks #1 out of 7500 natural health supplements in the USA.
Dr. Amy Bombay
Dr. Amy Bombay is Ojibway and an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University who explores the relationships between historical trauma, contemporary stressor exposure, and wellbeing among Indigenous peoples in Canada in her research. She and her colleagues have assessed the pathways by which Indian Residential School trauma is transmitted across generations. Their work was cited several times in a landmark Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision in 2016 that ruled that the Federal government discriminates against Indigenous children by providing inequitable child welfare services.
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.
A competitive obstacle course race athlete and Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Melissa Boufounos helps obstacle course race athletes recover faster and perform better so they can improve their race times. Before hanging up her skates with Post-Concussion Syndrome, Boufounos was a competitive hockey player. She has competed in over 50 races, including the 2016 and 2018 OCR World Championships.
Founder of Nova Yoga in St. John’s, NL, Melanie Caines is building an island yoga empire. A finalist for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and regional finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she leads retreats from Costa Rica to Italy. With DVDs, an online membership site, retreats, and a yoga studio, Caines is putting Newfoundland on the yoga map.
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.
Known for his national bestselling book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, Timothy Caulfield explores the spread of misinformation about health. His light-hearted science-based TV show on health crazes, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death has aired in over 60 countries and is currently streaming on Netflix. As a researcher and a speaker, he discusses legal, policy, and ethical issues in biomedical research.
Stacy Chesnutt has raced in Ironman races, marathons and half-marathons in Kenya, Dublin, London, Prague, Spain, and North America. 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 20,000 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
Dr. Imogen Coe was the founding dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University. A leader in research into cancer chemotherapeutics, Coe is internationally recognized as a Canadian thought leader in the area of equity, diversity and inclusion of the role of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Eldon and Agnes Dahl
Raised in a family that emphasized natural health, Eldon Dahl, DNM, founded the nutraceutical company Life Choice in 1986 (disclosure: Life Choice occasionally advertises with us). He is a firm advocate for sourcing only USP pharmaceutical grade ingredients and has successfully taken on Health Canada to introduce new products to Canada. Eldon was named “Canadian leader” by Natural Health Products Canada in 2013. Eldon’s wife, Agnes is a passionate advocate of the natural health industry and as the CFO for Life Choice her energy is directed to help support the healing of people.
Nutritionist and TV personality, Julie Daniluk is the bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation, and Slimming Meals That Heal. Her latest book Hot Detox was on the Canadian Bestseller’s list for 11 weeks in 2017. Daniluk has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show. She is going into her eighth season as a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show.
Canadian broadcaster Marilyn Denis hosts The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV and co-hosts CHUM 104.5’s Roger & Marilyn with Jamar. Her talk show gives viewers advice on a wide range of health issues. Committed to making a difference and supporting many Canadian charities, Denis was one of the first members of the SickKids Constellation, a premier group of stars who support the efforts of the SickKids Foundation, and is an on-going ambassador for SickKids Get Better Gifts. Marilyn also lends her support to annual initiatives for CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish, Bell Let’s Talk, and Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto. She has also participated in the Canadian broadcast of the Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) telecast.
After the death of her grandmother left her feeling lost, Farah Dhukai found new inspiration and confidence by posting her makeup tutorial videos on YouTube. Now, with over six million Instagram followers, over four million followers on Facebook, and over two million YouTube subscribers, Dhukai shares natural beauty tips and makeup tutorials. She also created her own skincare line, Farsáli.
Founder of www.Traveltowellness.com and co-founder and president of the Wellness Tourism Association, Anne Dimon travels the world experiencing and writing about wellness resorts, retreats and geographic wellness destinations. Her website was one of the first online resources for wellness travel. She is also frequently asked to speak on industry panels.
Author and registered holistic nutritionist Andrea Donsky educates the public on living an organic and non-GMO lifestyle. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of naturallysavvy.com, 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.
From bedridden to the bestselling author of Find Your Inner Goddess, Jennifer Ettinger merged her passions of pink, lifestyle, and health and fitness into a multi-platform brand encompassing, studio, TV, radio and social media. A sought after public speaker, Ettinger also offers education on fitness, lifestyle, health and wellness with engagements at high profile events speaking on holistic leadership. Ettinger was also profiled by “Healthy is Hot,” an online health community founded by Etalk’s Chloe Wilde and was a nominee for the WEGO health awards. Ettinger is also a brand ambassador for several brands including New Balance Canada, Vitamix, Gaiam Canada, and more.
Raised in a home overlooking the Rocky Mountains, Andrea Ference blogs at @vagabondhearts. After graduating from university, she decided to become a committed adventurer drawn to the wild places of the world, especially mountain regions. With a large following through her blog and social media platforms, she inspires other to enjoy the great outdoors and all it has to offer.
An author and international speaker, 3-time Olympian Karen Furneaux is also a two-time World Champion and a CEO. Her business, I Promise Performance Inc., (ipromiseperformance.com) works with organizations and youth to power up their inner winner! Her Strong Beauty book and online P.O.W.E.R. program encourages people to be active and develop positive, life-long healthful habits. She is one of the Top 15 most successful athletes of all time in Nova Scotia.
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.
Lisa Greenbaum holds E-RYT 500 and YACEP. A certified yoga therapist, she won the 2018 Delegates Choice, Canadian Presenter of the Year at the World Fitness expo. A Senior Master Trainer for YogaFit with over 750 hours of YTT education, she is an avid writer and traveller.
Louise Green is an athlete, trainer and body positive advocate. 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. 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. Women of Influence has also named her as one of the “Top Five Women in Canada Boldly Changing the World for Women and Girls.” Green has been consulting with brands to improve their image and appeal to the plus-size market.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau uses her position as the Prime Minister’s wife to highlight issues of women’s empowerment, mental health, and self-esteem. She is the official spokesperson for The Shield of Athena, which helps women and children dealing with domestic violence, and the national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” initiative. 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.
Triona Harrop & Eli McEachern
Dave “Eli” McEachern, Olympic Gold Medallist and 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.
A nutrition science student at Ryerson University, Katie Heggtveit founded “Bootcamps for Change,” to facilitate fitness classes for youth in homeless shelters in Canada. A boot camp instructor with Canfitpro, she runs workshops at shelters across Toronto. Bootcamps for Change taps into the resources of other of wellness professionals. She has also partnered with bloggers, brands, gym owners, and trainers to fundraise—and is also starting a scholarship to provide fitness certification scholarships to homeless youth.
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. In the summer of 2018, Henderson became the first Canadian in 45 years to win the Canadian Women’s Open.
As the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Strategic Policy Branch at Health Canada, Abby Hoffman advises on health care policy issues. She was the Director General of Sport Canada, a Federalagency. As a middle-distance runner, she participated in four Olympic Games and won gold medals at both the Pan Am and Commonwealth Games. She has been at the forefront of the battle for the rights of women in sport and the rights of athletes for representation on athletic decision-making bodies. The first Canadian woman elected to the Executive Committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee, she is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Comic Jessica Holmes is on a mission to help her audience laugh their stresses away. A certified wellness coach and author of the book Depression the Comedy, she draws on her own experiences of dealing with post-partum depression and “regular, garden-variety depression,” finding work-life balance and reigniting passion with humour.
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.
Cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes is the only Olympic athlete to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter games. The national spokesperson for the Bell “Let’s Talk” mental health initiative, she draws on her experience with depression to promote mental health and combat the stigma of mental illness. She is 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.
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 and owner of 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.
Dr. David Jenkins
Dr. David Jenkins is credited with developing the glycemic index to explain how dietary carbohydrate impacts blood sugar. He researches the potential of a plant-based diet to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. His studies on cholesterol-lowering foods have been recognized as an effective dietary alternative to drug therapy (statins). He works with the food industry to develop products with specific health attributes.
Sonia Jhas is an award-winning health and fitness expert. An MBA, Jhas is a certified personal trainer, nutrition specialist, and media expert having been featured in some of Canada’s leading media outlets including Cityline, CP24, Breakfast Television, Huffington Post, Global Morning, National Post and CHCH. Jhas is also a champion for mental health awareness and is an ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
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.
Saul Katz is on a disruptive mission in the food industry addressing both obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Katz is promoting a consumer shift to consider the blood sugar impact, as well as nutrition and taste, when selecting a food or beverage. Katz established SoLo GI Nutrition to make available innovative, low-glycemic alternative foods, to help society move from low-carb to slow-carb.
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 has a following of over three million followers on Instagram. Among her notable works is her photo essay on menstruation, described as a piece of visual poetry meant to challenge societal menstrual taboos.
Dr. Charu Kaushic
Dr. Charu Kaushic holds an Applied Research Chair Award from Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Her research examines interactions between HIV-1 and HSV-2, and the interactions between sex hormones, microbiome and immunity in the female reproductive tract. She has special interest in public education, especially on women’s reproductive health issues and has collaborated with community research organizations. She gives public talks on HIV and women’s health topics, and has also collaborated with community research organizations, such as Women’s Health in Women’s Hands in Toronto.
Debbie King is a multi-sport athlete with inspiring track and field goals. At age 43, she’s on a mission to medal at the 2020 World Masters Athletics Championships. Under the tagline “Supafitmama,” she produces content that connects active women with resources across sport, fitness and wellness. In 2018, she added Fast & Female Ambassador to her resume, to help promote participation of girls in sport. She promotes broader ethno-cultural representation of women’s health and fitness.
Dr. Sara Kirk
Dr. Sara Kirk researches how individual behaviour is influenced by factors such as income, education and societal norms—and whether our environment helps or hinders us in making healthy choices. Her multi-million-dollar research program, Applied Research Collaborations for Health, explores how to create supportive environments for chronic disease prevention. Kirk also informed an award-winning mobile app, encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption. She helped launch the Recipe for Health and Learning project, aimed at improving youth health by changing school policies, families and communities.
Known as the “Queen of Green,” Annalea Krebs is an entrepreneur on a mission to bring natural products into the mainstream. She launched ethicalDeal, North America’s first “green groupon,” a business she says that “profits with purpose.” 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 over a million followers.
With over 25 years of international experience, Nathalie Lacombe was the vice-president of Canfitpro, which has over 300 pro trainers and 25,000 members. Bilingual, she is a fitness instructor, personal training specialist, program director specialist, certified coach practitioner, registered yoga teacher and fitness industry business consultant who continues to teach to keep her on the front lines.
Nichelle and Dave Laus
A love of health and fitness lead Nichelle Laus to leave her 15-year career as a police officer. Along with her husband, fitness and glamour photographer Dave Laus, she co-owns Optimum Training Centre in Toronto. She is a certified fitness celebrity trainer, transformation specialist, mom of four, and fitness expert. Together, the couple promotes an ideal of women who are fit, strong and confident.
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.
Creator of a The Bikini Body Method, an online program to help women gain confidence through fitness, Sally Leung has been promoting healthy and sustainable ways to stay fit in multiple outlets, including her own fitness show Get Fit, Get Strong with Sally Leung. Now, she is getting ready to share her love of wellness in a new venture—coming soon.
Plant-based blogger and recipe developer Angela Liddon has been bringing healthy and delicious recipes to her readers through www.Ohsheglows.com for 10 years. The blog features over 600 recipes and receives over a million visitors each month. Her recipes are beloved by vegans and omnivores alike. Liddon is also the award-winning author behind The New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling cookbooks The Oh She Glows Cookbook and Oh She Glows Every Day.
Dr. Joanne Liu
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. Liu was also included in TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People list in 2015.
Passionate about natural health, Helen Long is president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), a group of 1000+ businesses bringing natural health and organic products to you. Long’s persistence in advocating with the government has increased awareness to the industry and helps to ensure products remain innovative and available. Currently overseeing a new communications platform, Long and her team look forward to engaging even more people in 2019 as they work towards their vision.
Creator of the popular Hourglass workout, Lyzabeth Lopez is considered one of the top fitness models in Canada. 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.
At age 11, Rosie MacLennan began competing internationally in trampoline and was the Canadian Women’s Champion in 2005, 2009 and 2011. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she made history when she became the first trampolinist to ever win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. She also became the first Canadian athlete to successfully defend an Olympic title at the summer Games and the first Canadian woman to win two gold medals in an individual event at the summer Games. With a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, she is pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science.
Miranda Malisani is a Holistic Nutritionist, TV personality, and mother of two. Her ability to simplify health information has made her a renowned professional in the health and wellness field. Malisani is spokesperson and director of Health & Wellness at Nature’s Emporium. She also hosts a series called What’s in Your Cart featuring celebrities and what they eat.
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.
At the University of Tennessee, 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.
Dr. Julien Martel
Dr. Julien Martel is a physician at Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM). He is also a machine learning and artificial intelligence developer. He is the Chief Medical Officer at Dialogue Technologies, a virtual platform offering integrated health care services for employers. Their technology focusses on communication and combines AI integration to provide healthcare at the highest standards of quality and safety.
Joy McCarthy is a certified holistic nutritionist and founder of www.Joyoushealth.com, an award-winning blog focussed on healthy living. She is a two-time bestselling author of Joyous Health and Joyous Detox. A World Gourmand Cookbook Award recipient, Her third book, The Joyous Cookbook, comes out in 2019. A trusted nutrition expert, McCarthy has been featured in hundreds of publications both online and in print; and is a regular health expert on TV. McCarthy lives in Toronto with her husband Walker and their daughter Vienna. McCarthy loves social media and shares her passion for food as a way to channel positive energy into the lives of others.
Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod
For the last 30 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. In 2017, the pair received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for their years of dedication to helping Canadians.
Dr. Freda Miller
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.
Tracy Moore is the host of Cityline, Canada’s longest running lifestyle show, where she showcases fitness and healthy nutrition–among many topics. She has volunteered for causes like breast cancer and heart disease in women, non-violence and boosting the self-esteem of young girls. She also frequently hosts high-profile fundraisers like Grocery Foundation’s Night to Nurture and Children’s Aid Foundation Stand Up for Kids and has been honoured by the Black Business and Professional Association as a Woman of Honour.
With Kaillie Humphries, PEI-native Heather Moyse won gold in bobsleigh at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2014 at Sochi. 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.
David “Patch” Patchell-Evans & Maureen “Mo” Hagan
A Canadian rowing champion, David (Patch) Patchell-Evans is an international speaker and advocate for health and fitness. He created GoodLife Fitness, the fourth largest fitness company in the world, and established Canfitpro, Canada’s largest fitness education organization. Patchell-Evans is the past chairman of the board of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association and winner of Canada’s Most Admired CEOs award. He received the Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour for his dedication to Autism Research. Working with Patch, Maureen (Mo) Hagan is vice president of program innovation for GoodLife Fitness and Canfitpro. She is a global fitness ambassador and an award-winning fitness professional; best-selling author; member of the Board of Directors for Prescription to Get Active; Board Member of the Women In Fitness Association (WIFA); and a Reebok sponsored athlete.
Jessica “Dr. Jess” O’Reilly
Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is an award-winning authority on sex and relationships. Her podcast Sex with Dr. Jess, webinars, and retreats receive rave reviews and she inspires audiences across the globe to create happier more fulfilling relationships via her practical, entertaining, and educational programs.
CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and 2018 Sports Executive of the Year by Sports Media Canada, Karen O’Neill was CEO of Field Hockey Canada, COO of the Rick Hansen Foundation and CEO of the Commonwealth Games Canada. She is a member of the Sports Matters Group and a board member of the True Sport Foundation.
Saman Munir (@sfm_fitness on Instagram) 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 a brand ambassador for Under Armour and UFC Gym Mississauga. Boxing and busting stereotypes are her passions.
Martha Paynter chairs Women’s Wellness Within, a non-profit organization that provides support, advocacy and education for criminalized women who are pregnant or parenting young children. Paynter is a doctoral candidate in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University and her research examines reproductive justice issues. She also works as Clinical Instructor for nursing students and a postpartum nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Nova Scotia.
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.
Dr. Amy Porath
Dr. Amy Porath specializes on the health effects of cannabis use among youth, who are at greater risk of experiencing harm than adults because adolescence is a time of rapid brain development. She advocates education in schools, resources for parents and families, community interventions, as well as mass media. As an internationally recognized subject-matter expert, her expertise is sought out by the Government of Canada, parliamentary committees, and the World Health Organization.
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.
Dr. Nekessa Remy
Dr. Nekessa Remy is an award-winning chiropractor and registered medical acupuncturist. She is the current owner of Mississauga’s The Chiropractic Office and Health Associates, an injury management clinic focussed on sports-related injuries and women’s health issues. She also runs a practice at Integra Health Centre in downtown Toronto, where she works among other leaders in the health care field.
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 five Paralympics medals, and set two World Records and a Paralympic Record.
Carmel Rodriguez took the experiences she had to overcome like anxiety and depression through movement and created the YG12 Series (You’ve Got 12 Minutes). The program consists of a no excuses 12 minutes a day from beginner to intermediate and includes things like handstands and fancy footwork jump rope training.
Former elite runner Silvia Ruegger was National Director of Running & Reading Clubs for 15 years. At age 23, she finished eighth in the 1984 Olympic marathon. She won the Houston Marathon, setting a Canadian record. Directing a children’s program in a poor neighbourhood, she witnessed loss of hope in the lives of those she served. Joining former CFL all-star Brian Warren, who had founded Start2Finish to distribute school supplies to children in financial need, she co-founded the nationwide Running & Reading Clubs which combine fitness, literacy and mentorship.
As a registered holistic nutritionist, health coach, fitness instructor and mother of three, Andrea Saliba educates many on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, exercise, and developing a positive mindset. She created a six-week group coaching program that that runs three times a year. This program includes a balanced nutrition plan, goal setting, motivational coaching, and group support.
Allison Sandmeyer-Graves is the CEO of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity. Sandmeyer-Graves works with leaders from across Canada in sport, government, media, and beyond, all with the aim of creating an equitable and inclusive sport and physical activity system that empowers women and girls within and through sport.
An anti-doping and fair play advocate, three-time Olympian Beckie Scott is Canada’s most successful cross-country skier. 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.
Heather Shantora is the CEO of PT Health, a national physiotherapy company, and InnoCare, a health technology company with a proprietary suite of software and services. She participated in Women’s Forum Canada 2018, a discussion among global CEO’s focussed on gender equality in the workplace. She also received a Top 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Award from the Business Link Media Group.
Dr. Marla Shapiro
A breast cancer survivor, Dr. Marla 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.
Abbey Sharp is a registered dietitian, and the creator of the popular food blog and YouTube channel Abbey’s Kitchen. She appears regularly on TV, including The Marilyn Denis Show and The Morning Show, and regularly contributes to digital and online wellness publications. Sharp’s core philosophy is that a pleasurable relationship with food, your body, and yourself is the fundamental secret to good health.
Dr. Yaping Shou
Dr. Yaping Shou’s industry experience spans clinical development and translational medicine, with a focus in oncology. She held positions at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline. An MD and PhD, she is Chief Medical Officer for Trillium Therapeutics Inc., Shou conducted postdoctoral studies at the National Cancer Institute. Trillium is a clinical stage immuno-oncology company developing innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer.
Dr. Peter Singer
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 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.
Dr. Raj Singh
In addition to being founder of Vitality Dentistry, Dr. Raj Singh was the first user and trainer of CEREC 3D Cad-Cam digital technology in North America. He performs both surgical and restorative phases of implant dentistry, including computer-guided implant placement. Singh and his team were among the first in the world trained to use computer-guided dental implant technology. Vitality was renovated to incorporate one of the first on-site Digital Laboratories.
Kasia Sitarz is a health and wellness coach and owner of two businesses: The Clinic Health and Wellness and True Mentality Inc. Sitarz has over 15 years of experience in fitness and has developed a program, through the physical and mental struggles of being a top level fitness competitor, to create balance in mindset, exercise and nutrition for her clients. Sitarz is also a speaker, published author, and a sports/boot camp coach.
Tricia Smith is president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee. A lawyer, 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.”
Sherry Torkos has been practicing pharmacy for over 25 years with an integrative philosophy—educating patients on the role of nutrition, lifestyle and supplements for better health. As a leading health expert, Torkos is frequently interviewed by TV and radio stations across North America. She has written several books including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Saving Women’s Hearts, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.
Lauren Toyota is the creator of Hot for Food, one of North America’s most watched vegan channels on YouTube. She is also the author of best-selling cookbook Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face. A former MuchMusic VJ and MTV Canada host, Toyota’s channel and blog attract a wide and engaged audience of young people curious about how to make vegan food fast and fun.
Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe
Lorna R. Vanderhaeghe has been researching and writing on nutritional medicine for over 35 years. With degrees in biochemistry and nutrition, she is the author of 13 books including A Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormones and Beautiful Skin Begins Within. Vanderhaeghe was named one of Profit Magazine’s Top 100 female entrepreneurs in 2011, 2012 and 2013—and was also awarded the CHFA’s Hall of Fame Award in 2009 for her life’s work of educating Canadians. She developed her own line of smart nutrients for women which was acquired by Jamieson Laboratories Inc. in 2014.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
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.
With many certifications including trauma-informed yoga instructor, mindfulness practitioner, life coach and mental health first aid, Doris Ward develops workshops on mind-body wellness and body image and also leads yoga for chronic pain management classes. A member of the PEI RoadRunners Club, she races in fundraisers for non-profits. An animal lover, she is the creator of the Karma Personal Training program as a fundraiser for the PEI Humane Society. In 2018, she was named Canfitpro’s Personal Training Specialist of the year.
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.
Epicure CEO Amelia Warren Is the daughter of Sylvie Rochette, who founded Epicure to provide whole foods, herbs and spices as well as cookware to help people make healthy meals. The company has 15,000 consultants across Canada who host people in their homes and help them learn about “clean eating.” Epicure was also one of the first direct-sales companies to join the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit group. A Forty Under 40 winner, she is a member of YPO.
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 Eastern philosophy, specializing in Indo-Tibetan teachings.
Jana Webb discovered yoga as a method to recover from an injury. She learned quickly that traditional yoga did not adhere to her tight, athletic body—so she created Joga, a hybrid of the breathing and relaxation of yoga with the biomechanics of sport movement. After 15 years, 450 health practitioners have become Joga certified and Joga is deemed the governing body of yoga in sport. Her clients include professional sports teams, Red Bull and the WWE.
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 focusses on education as well as hockey. Named one of Sports Illustrated’s “Toughest Athletes in the World,” she completed her master’s degree for researching the connection between physical activity and the neurology of autistic youth.
Heather Wilson-Phillips is the owner of an online company called Fitness Empire, and Fierce N’ Fit Workouts, and the creator of the 30-day “Fierce N’ 30 Challenge.” She’s regularly featured on CTV’s Your Morning and The Marilyn Denis Show. Wilson-Phillips writes for fitness and wellness publications. She is also teaching her Friday night “Fierce N’ Fast” 30 Mins Fitness Sessions.
Bryce Wylde, a natural healthcare practitioner with a focus in functional medicine, is a clinic director and television host. As a charity runner and hiker, he helped 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
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 2019 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 goal of the research was to explore the many categories that help to improve the health and wellness of Canadians; and to find a selection of individuals whose values and initiatives support a healthier Canada. Final decisions on the candidates were made by the editors of OptiMYz.