We love hearing from inspiring women of different ages and backgrounds, and believe that exploring new perspectives is essential. Since the first time we learned about teen activist Haile Thomas’ joy and mission, we knew she was a voice to share. At 19 years old, Haile is the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s youngest graduate (age 16) and a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Before that, she founded her non-profit HAPPY (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth). With 10+ years of speaking, teaching, and media appearances Haile empowers others, shares about holistic nutrition and wellness, and encourages all of us to find our voice to make this world better. We chatted with Haile to learn more about her story and her new book Living Lively (out July 28th). Read on for a conversation that’s certain to make you smile.
MY: Can you tell us a bit about your path from becoming the youngest Certified Integrative Health Coach in America to writing your book?
Haile Thomas: Growing up in a Jamaican family living in the Sonoran Desert, I've always loved and been exposed to incredibly culturally-rich food. This, in itself, laid a foundation for my journey and interest in cooking and exploring new foods. But my journey to becoming a health coach and eventually, an author, began after my dad was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes. My family was able to completely reverse his condition without medication — just through improving our eating habits. This was the first time I saw a real-life example of the power of food (beyond flavor) and how it can heal or harm us. During the process of reversing his condition, I learned all about factory farming, reading food labels, the childhood obesity epidemic and the food inaccessibility so many experiences. I knew I had to share what I was learning with my peers.
From there, I was inspired to create my non-profit HAPPY. Through support from my family and community in addition to research and googling on what it takes to start a non-profit, I was able to bring my vision for HAPPY to life toward the end of 2012. Throughout my work with HAPPY and activism, I had encounters with quite a few adults who doubted and belittled the nutrition knowledge I had acquired on my own. So when I was presented with the incredible opportunity to become a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I had to enroll. It was the perfect way for me to strengthen my health advocacy and the education I was called to bring to my community. But through the program, I was immersed in a whole other side of wellness that is an invaluable piece of the work we do through HAPPY today. The emphasis on holistic wellness and the interconnectedness of our relationships, environment, mindset, physical activity, and food choices taught me the importance of nourishing all of those areas. To create true wellbeing, all elements need to be nurtured. With this knowledge, I recognized I had a tremendous opportunity to instill this messaging into my non-profit work. This enables us to help young people understand these concepts and the value of prioritizing their health as early as possible.
10 years into my activism, I've learned so much about myself, wellness, my local/global community, and the deeply rooted interconnectivity of our inner and outer worlds. As I finally started to grow into my true self and understand the value of my voice and unique perspective, the opportunity to write a book fell into my hands. I met my book agent in early 2018, and by fall that year, I was already pitching my book proposal. It was unbelievable to pitch to publishing houses that have published some of my favorite books of all time. The entire two-year process of creating a meaningful body of work from an idea to a physical book has been surreal.
MY: What are you most excited about regarding the July 28th release of your book, Living Lively?
HT: While my book is a "cookbook," I'm most excited about the fact that it differentiates itself through a "7 Points of Power" manifesto. It’s a guide to purposeful body, mind, kitchen, and community empowerment to inspire the next generation of leaders to take care of their health and nurture their ability to make an impact and create a life they love. I feel it's a book my generation needs during these defining times. We have to see ourselves as capable of being our own leaders in the elements that impact and shape our lives. I'm really proud that Living Lively provides positive encouragement and actionable steps to actively work towards our best selves. Everything in the book stems from real-life experiences, observations, and lessons learned. Plus, 80 wholesome and delicious recipes to support our journeys and fuel our bodies in targeted and functional ways.
MY: Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with other young women leaders in your book?
HT: Over the years, I've been so lucky to meet and become friends with passionate, confident, and free-spirited young women who are innovators and creators of all sorts. Because this book is about both personal and community empowerment, I thought it would be beautiful to highlight the inspiring and uplifting stories of young female leaders. Each of the women featured have deeply impacted me and millions of others by tapping into their personal points of power to create a life they love. Getting to interview and have a full-on photo shoot with some of my best friends for my book was an incredible experience. I just love that all of their wonderful energy, brilliance, and passion is reflected in their pages in the book.
MY: What opportunities have been most impactful or interesting during your professional speaking career?
HT: I'm so grateful that I've been able to travel the world and speak to people of all ages throughout my speaking career so far. Through this experience, I've been most impacted by seeing just how connected we all are. No matter who we are or where we come from, there is always a way to relate to one another — whether that's through health, heritage, or our passions and dreams. There is something beautiful and powerful in that connection, and it can allow us to feel more comfortable in embracing our vulnerability and humanity in order to create change.
MY: What advice do you have for readers who want to find and use their voice as leaders?
HT: If you want to find your voice, I think the first step is recognizing that it is already there. All that we dream of becoming is already within us, waiting to be nurtured. In my experience, the best way to nurture our voices and self-expression starts with:
When I finally came to this point, it eliminated feelings of competition or jealousy. I now recognize the importance of my “why” and acting from a place of clear intention. I know that if I lead with that, the opportunities and connections that come my way are meant to. Having this mindset has unlocked so much freedom in the work that I do. When I'm tapped into intention and leading from there, everything falls into place.
MY: What advice do you have surrounding social media use?
HT: I think the key is looking at our purpose of being on social media and the experience we have when doing so. Beyond entertainment, when we use social media without mindfulness, we're just unconsciously soaking in the expectations of others, what is perceived as admirable, or defined as successful. If we haven't already established for ourselves what those things are, we can absorb that online culture and interact with the world based on that. Creating a foundation of intentional social media usage is what has made me less susceptible to feeling inadequate or comparing myself to others. And through that mindful usage, I came to understand that we can't blame social media for everything. If I look at a post and it triggers feelings of insecurity, it's up to me to figure out why I'm feeling insecure and how I can engage in either different content or an activity/daily ritual that strengthens my confidence. We have to ask ourselves how we can shape our relationship with social media in a way that is authentic and nourishing. That could mean following new people, limiting our time on social apps, or taking the time to discover other activities we can engage in instead of scrolling or posting.
MY: What things can people do every day to improve the world?
HT: These are my top 3:
MY: Our mission is to Celebrate Every Day, how do you celebrate every day?
HT: I celebrate every day by practicing gratitude and acknowledging that there is no moment too big or too small to celebrate. Even what may seem like the tiniest moments of growth or joy are actually quite incredible if we expand our perception of what's worth celebrating. And even challenges that make way for essential breakthroughs deserve a celebration!
We’re sure you’re feeling inspired by Haile’s wisdom, so for more, read Living Lively (July 28 release), and stay up to date with her on social media @hailethomas and online at hailevthomas.com. To support Haile further, check out her organization, thehappyorg.org, which is redefining youth education and empowerment through intersectional wellness initiatives.