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The Wellness Questionnaire with Leah Garcia, founder and CEO of Nulastin

Discover how this entrepreneur uses physical pursuits to challenge herself and stay inspired.

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For Leah Garcia, working hard has always been second nature. After years of competing as a professional mountain biker, she transitioned to covering the sport for ESPN working as a sideline reporter and commentator. Garcia eventually began covering other extreme sports, such as rodeo and bull riding. At the same time, she launched Naturally Caffeinated, a Boulder-based company providing fitness consulting and motivational speaking. Today, Garcia is founder and CEO of Nulastin, an elastin-replenishment skin and hair company offering a restorative line of high-performance personal care products direct to consumer. Here, she shares what she has learned about dealing with stress.

What does wellness mean to you?

It means harmony inside and out. The body tells us immediately when we’ve lost this balance. 

What are your favorite things to do to maintain your personal wellbeing?

To maintain my personal wellness, I make sure to stay physically active. I’ve noticed that keeping my fitness levels up not only boosts my confidence but also enhances my overall outlook on life. When I challenge my body, I feel more productive, energized, and inspired.  I rely heavily on humor to stay positive and keep things in perspective. Naturally, there are times when this glass-half-full approach isn’t appropriate, and I’m sensitive to that reality. However, if you followed me around for a day, you’d be chuckling at how much I can entertain myself with quirky, fun-spirited observations.

Is there a specific fitness activity that you love and why?

Growing up on a ranch, I rode horses every day for as long as I can remember, not for fitness, but for passion. It took a different saddle for me to fall in love with a fitness activity, and mountain biking became my calling. I pursued a professional career in mountain bike racing, achieving numerous national and international championship titles. My competition days are long gone, but you will find me riding trails every chance I get.

What is your favorite healthy food, and do you have a favorite way of preparing it?

My favorite food is whatever my husband prepares for me. He’s the cook in our family, and I’m lucky enough to be spoiled by his delicious meals. If I find myself flying solo, my go-to favorite is a fresh salad made with live, organic lettuce; tomatoes; cucumbers; and a lean protein source, all topped off with cold-pressed organic olive oil. I enjoy the crunch of nuts, crackers, or chips with my salad, because it makes me feel satiated. I stopped using seed oils like canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, soy, rice bran, and grapeseed years ago. Avoiding these highly processed and refined oils takes a lot of label reading, but it’s worth it for the benefits to my health. The good news is that brands are starting to listen, and it’s becoming easier to find healthier options like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and butter products on the shelves.

What is your favorite healthy beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and do you have any insider tips for preparing it?

Red wine is my absolute favorite beverage. No preparation necessary—except learning how to uncork a bottle with panache. Big, bold, earthy styles are my preference. With my Spanish heritage, I feel like wine is in my DNA. Riojas wines never disappoint. However recently, I’ve been head over heels in love with the French Mourvèdre wine from Provence. Fun fact, the polyphenols and tannins in wine are beneficial to elastogenesis—and being the founder and CEO of an elastin brand, this beverage choice aligns perfectly.

What is your greatest wellness achievement?

Resilience is my greatest wellness achievement. I’ve never had a headache or a bloody nose. Despite getting bucked off horses and crashing on mountain bikes, for most of my life, I had never broken a bone. That unfortunately changed when I was the passenger on a motorcycle (helmet-less) in 1999, and the driver blew out of a turn and crashed head-on into a motorhome going 65 mph. I broke a few bones and suffered deep cuts and trauma. Despite this being an accident story, it was and remains my greatest wellness achievement, because I survived! My body was so fit that I bounced off the vehicle, flew about 30 feet in the air, did a forward somersault and landed on my feet. Granted, this may sound like a tall tale, but it was real and pivotal, and extraordinary. One does a lot of soul-searching after a near-death experience. Perhaps divine intervention or the “Lucky You” jeans I was wearing played a part in my being here today?

What person in wellness do you most admire and why?

My celebrity soft spot is Jennifer Lopez. She embodies wellness and continues to evolve. I was crazy impressed when she competed in a triathlon years ago after having her twins. Mostly, I find her centeredness and grace awe-inspiring.

What is the best piece of wellness advice you have ever received and from whom?

One of the best pieces of wellness advice I’ve ever received was from a highly accomplished mountain bike coach who also happened to be a professional dancer and a spiritually enlightened individual. His advice to me was simple yet profound: give yourself permission to have bad days and embrace them when they come. It’s the bad days that make us really appreciate the good ones.

What do you think is the most exciting wellness innovation you have recently discovered?

As someone who has flown more than a million miles and spent a fair amount of time on airplanes, I am impressed with how airlines are prioritizing the wellness and comfort of travelers. The industry is taking initiatives to improve cabin lighting, air quality, noise control, and offering lie-flat beds, meditation systems, and healthier meal options. I find it encouraging that Singapore Airlines is offering guided stretching exercises, and airports are incorporating yoga and meditation rooms, which is a significant improvement from the “smoking rooms” of the past.

What is your idea of balanced healthy happiness?

Surround yourself with what’s positive and separate yourself from what’s not.

What do you think is the most overused word or words in wellness?

I’ve noticed that people tend to use negatively charged words more often than positive affirmations in the wellness space. If you repeatedly tell yourself that you are tired, sore, cranky, fat, or stressed, you are more likely to manifest those feelings.

Do you have a secret health or wellness tip you would like to share?

Be kind to yourself and stop comparing yourself to others.

What is your favorite place for a healthy vacation or escape?

During my travels, I had the privilege of visiting Monaco and Dubai, both of which are incredibly opulent destinations. It felt as though I was a movie star while visiting these places. In Dubai, I stayed at the award-winning luxury resort, Burj Al Arab Jumeriah, which was an incredible experience. My focus during travel is usually on health and wellness, and I look for places where I can relax, dress up or dress down, soak up the sun, and get pampered. I always book a spa treatment in advance and commit to the full experience, regardless of the cost.

My husband and I sail, so we bare boat annually in locations like the Caribbean, Australia, Turkey, and Baja. One of my favorite travel destinations that truly touched my soul was Cape Town, South Africa. I was deeply moved by the Apartheid Museum, Robben Island, Table Mountain, and the amazing people. The Botanical Gardens and Kirstenbosch left me in awe, and I even cried, as it was so beautiful.

Is there a particular wellness company or brand that truly impresses you with their efforts and why?

Gaia is a perfect example of a wellness brand that deserves praise. They have not wavered in their mission and continue to deliver tools and apps that serve the greater good. Sure, it’s commercialized, but it’s on point and very well executed.

What is your favorite self-care routine?

Date night with myself! Ditching the phone and being antisocial is my favorite self-care routine. My routine involves a mini-spa experience, steam shower, face care, nails, and toes. I top it off with a meal. In a perfect world, I order out! And I watch a movie in bed while drinking a glass of wine. It’s so delicious. I do this, too, when I’m traveling and alone in a hotel room. I usually talk out loud to myself and acknowledge that I’m having a date night. This solitude is much needed, since most of the time, I am interacting with other people, and I need a mental break.

What is your go-to for de-stressing?

The harmful effects of stress can create a vicious cycle. I experienced this firsthand when I was 28 and suffered from Bell’s Palsy, which was caused by stress. Ironically, a doctor failed to identify stress as the root cause. It was explained to me that diagnosing me with a stress disorder could cause more stress, so they tested me for Lyme disease and several other possible causes. But I knew better. I understood that I was carrying too much worry, which was causing my stress. My current philosophy for reducing stress is living with no regrets.

What aspect of your wellbeing do you struggle with the most, or would most like to improve?

These days, I struggle with work-life balance. I’m focused on scaling my business and have found that I am sacrificing my holistic health, which includes mind-body work and spending time with friends.

What wellness-related books or authors do you recommend, and why?

There are so many wellness-related books that are worthy of mention. I used to belong to a positivity book club and have read many of the classics. The lone book that remains on my shelf, not in storage is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream, “It’s true; life really is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legend.”

How do you celebrate small victories?

I am very good at self-congratulation. I’m not afraid to tell myself that I did a good job. This acknowledgment is personal, and I’m not one to do a big end-zone dance. Sure, I may do a little happy dance! Mostly, I celebrate small victories by honoring them and internalizing the moment.

What brings you joy?

Love. Seeing love, feeling love, being surrounded by love brings me joy.

About The Author
Heather-Mikesell-author-1

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, jetsetter.com, outside.com, and wellandgood.com, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.