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Women In Wellness: Rebecca Parekh and Sarrah Hallock On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Move a little every day. If you can’t squeeze in a workout in, take a walking meeting, stretch off the side of the couch while you are watching TV, take a walk after dinner. Just move.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Parekh and Sarrah Hallock.

Rebecca Parekh is the Co-Founder and CEO of THE WELL, a New York City based wellness provider pioneering a new way to care for your health. Before transitioning to the health and wellness sector, Parekh spent 10 years at Deutsche Bank Securities, focused primarily on structured credit, covering hedge funds and private equity firms as Head of the US Private Institutional Client Group and Head of Cross Product Sales. She is on the Board of Directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation and was previously the COO for Deepak Chopra Radical Well-Being.

Sarrah Hallock is the Co-Founder and COO of THE WELL. Prior to founding THE WELL, she was the Brand Director for vitaminwater, where she oversaw triple digit growth from the brand’s inception through to the sale to The Coca Cola Company. Hallock was also former VP of Marketing and investor for bai, an enhanced water beverage that was sold to Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and WTRMLN WTR before earning health coaching certifications from Duke Integrative Medicine and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Rebecca Parekh: I’ve always been interested in wellness. In fact, I took my first yoga class in utero — my mom was the teacher! But before dedicating myself to the health and wellness industry professionally, I spent a decade in finance working at Deutsche Bank Securities where I was Head of Cross Product Sales and Head of the US Private Institutional Client Group.

I later became COO of Deepak Chopra Radical Well-Being, which was a big step toward my ultimate professional goal — CoFounding THE WELL, where I serve as CoFounder and CEO. I envisioned a better way for people to care for themselves — with an integrated, personalized approach. Nobody was tackling the flaws in our fragmented healthcare system quite this way, so I decided to take it on.

I’m also deeply interested in the intersection of food and health, which is what inspired me to become an advisor to the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Entrepreneurship Program. In addition, I serve on the Board of Directors for Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation along with several non-profit organizations, including Breakout Foundation and LIFE Camp.

Sarrah Hallock: My own personal health struggles with Hashimoto’s Disease are what started me on my wellness journey about 15 years ago. I experienced first-hand how finding the root-cause of symptoms and treating them holistically is critical to healing. That foundational truth is at the core of what we do at THE WELL, where I am CoFounder and COO.

Prior to starting THE WELL, I spent the bulk of my career in branding and marketing. I’ve served as Brand Director for Vitaminwater, overseeing triple-digit growth and the multibillion-dollar sale to The Coca Cola Company. I’ve held VP of Marketing positions for both bai, an enhanced water beverage, and WTRMLN WTR. I’ve also advised and invested in many other consumer brands. Eventually I left my career in marketing to earn health coaching certifications from Duke Integrative Medicine and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Rebecca Parekh: In 2011 I took a trip to Tanzania with Jane Goodall and her organization JGI. I studied Biological Anthropology and was deeply inspired by Jane and her life’s work. As one of the world’s most dedicated conservationists, it was fascinating to see how she approached protecting chimpanzees and their natural worlds. She identified the drivers behind deforestation and poaching — two of the largest threats to chimpanzees — and started problem solving creatively and holistically. For example, JGI set up family planning clinics to help Tanzanians manage how many mouths they were desperate to feed since chimps were sometimes being killed for bushmeat.

Chimps are also valuable on the exotic animal trade market, so JGI developed coffee farms to provide good-paying jobs and eliminate the need to resort to this terrible trade. They planted quick growing forests where trees could be used for building homes and firewood, thereby preserving the slow growth canopy and its nutrient dense leaves which chimps relied on for both nourishment and habitat. Jane looked at systemic issues, addressed them head on and worked to provide alternatives. Seeing that really shaped my approach to problem solving and inspired me to look at the root cause of systemic issues to find sustainable solutions.”

Sarrah Hallock: It’s going to sound strange, but getting sick is the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to get serious — and curious — about my own health, and that in turn changed the trajectory of my career. It motivated me to become a certified health coach and planted the seed for creating an integrated wellness experience.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Rebecca Parekh: I wish I had followed the adage: ‘Start before you’re ready.’ I wouldn’t say it was a mistake, per se, but I do sometimes regret not starting THE WELL in 2010, when I first had the idea. That said, I try to grow from so-called missed opportunities. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I trust that things are unfolding as they are meant to. Still, next time, I’d start sooner!

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Sarrah Hallock: One of the most frustrating parts of traditional healthcare is how often those institutions and their practitioners dismiss patients’ concerns or suffering because they don’t see a textbook etiology of a problem. This happens to women most often. What we’re doing at THE WELL is modeling a better system and creating awareness and community for people who might otherwise be ignored. We practice functional medicine, which again, looks at the root cause of a problem and treats the whole person, taking into consideration things such as diet, stress level, gut health and more.Research has proven the effectiveness of this approach, but mainstream institutions have been tragically slow to adopt it.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Sarrah Hallock:

1). Drink water as soon as soon as you wake up to flush out toxins and rehydrate your cells. (Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis.)

2). Get exposure to natural light (or use a light-therapy box) soon after rising to trigger your brain to release chemicals that regulate sleep cycles.

3). Prioritize getting enough sleep at the expense of almost everything else — Netflix, social media, work, socializing, sex. Well, maybe not sex.

4). Move a little every day. If you can’t squeeze in a workout in, take a walking meeting, stretch off the side of the couch while you are watching TV, take a walk after dinner. Just move.

5.) Nourish your gut. The health of your microbiome impacts so many aspects of health — immunity, mood, skin health, weight management and more. Eat probiotic foods that nourish your gut and steer clear of ones that harm it, like sugar.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Rebecca Parekh: I think we should be covering the wider array of wellness (nutrition, emotional trauma, soil health, etc) from grade school curriculums to medical school training. We need to start the education process much younger and include science-backed techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation. In his book Mindful Nation, former presidential candidate Tim Ryan talks about how we ask kids to pay attention but don’t teach them how. Managing stress and emotions, learning how to nourish our bodies and care for our community, these are life skills that we should be talking about in all forums at all ages. When you look at what’s happening in our country — a skyrocketing mental health crises and widespread chronic illness — we can’t afford for wellness to be fringe. The need is too urgent and dire.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Sarrah Hallock:

1). Everyone has an opinion about what you should do — and that can take you down a lot of different paths. Find your trusted advisors and tune out the noise.

2). Your business plan is a roadmap, but many of your early assumptions may not hold true and that’s alright. Pivoting is part of the process.

3). Focus is everything. There is no shortage of good ideas, but you have to stay maniacally focused on your mission in order to bring it to life.

4). Ask for what you want. In general, people don’t hand out opportunities — you need to go after them with some gusto.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Rebecca Parekh: I can’t pick one because many of them are inter-connected. For example, I am mostly a plant-based eater. We know that factory farming is damaging to the environment because of the amount of methane gas it generates, which is contributing to the climate crisis. A warmer world, in turn, spurs droughts, pests and makes it difficult to grow certain crops. We can’t sustain life the way we’re going, so we need to re-evaluate the entire system. That’s my general thesis in life — we have to care about the whole, not just certain parts.

Sarrah Hallock: One of the most pressing, universal issues is the mental health crisis. The pandemic has taken a toll on just about everyone, everywhere — our team is no exception. So on a company level, we were very thoughtful and intentional with our re-opening process to ensure that everyone felt safe and supported. We produce editorial and social content that focuses on mental health issues and how to ameliorate them in a 360-degree way. Mental health challenges are at an epidemic level and we need to treat them with every tool we have access to, without an ounce of judgment.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Instagram: @rebeccaparekh, @sarrahhallock, @thewell

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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