Rona Berg, the former editorial director of Organic Spa Media and bestselling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes, has long had her finger on the pulse of the wellness industry. She previously served as editorial director of Elle and deputy style editor for The New York Times Magazine. Berg has also contributed to a host of national consumer publications over the years, including Vogue, Self, Health, and more. Passionate about clean beauty, she has established herself as an authority on the topic with her knowledge of healthy and sustainable ingredients. Here, Berg shares her thoughts on wellness and how she takes what she has learned reporting on the industry and uses it to enhance her own wellbeing.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness is a deep ocean, and it comes in waves. Sometimes wellness is a subtle feeling of wellbeing, other times it can just about knock you over. When mind, body, and spirit are healthy; when you feel energetic, optimistic, and inspired; when you have a capacity for joy and intellectual and artistic creativity, that’s wellness. I am juggling several fascinating new projects right now, so at the moment, for me, wellness is work.
What are your favorite things to do to maintain wellbeing?
My grandmother was an incredibly patient, loving, grounded human being, and I learned a lot from her. She taught me to slow down and appreciate the moment, along with the tools to do it: working with my hands. I love to make things with textiles. I have a collection of scraps from vintage Japanese kimonos that I am turning into rugs and quilts. It also makes me happy to do research, write, connect with new people, and go for adventures in the great outdoors.
Is there a specific fitness activity you love and why?
Hiking, horseback riding, yoga, walking more than 10,000 steps around the neighborhood every day, because these activities clear my mind and open me up to exploration, inside and out. I’m happy to see our cultural obsession with physical fitness beginning to shift and open up to include mental wellness, too. A smart person once told me, “A fit body is nothing without a healthy mind.”
What is your favorite healthy food, and do you have a favorite way of preparing it?
I am a foodie, former New York Times food and beauty editor, and a cook, so there are many–too many! I do enjoy a good red wine, and I love to dine al fresco. I also love to write about wellness travel from a culinary angle, and I get a kick out of talking to and profiling chefs, especially ones who source locally and sustainably from farmers and foragers. It’s meaningful to me when a talented chef can create a true sense of place with his or her cuisine.
Recently, I covered the chef at Green O in Montana, who drew culinary inspiration from the surrounding forest; the Michelin-star chef at Tschuggen Grand in Switzerland, who created a multicourse vegan menu inspired by the mountains; and many more.
What is your favorite healthy beverage, and do you have any insider tips for preparing it?
I do love coffee, and I grind my organic coffee beans every morning. There is a cafe in my neighborhood that adds a homemade lavender syrup to their coffee, which is divine.
I make an incredibly refreshing fresh-squeezed lemonade with honey and rosemary. I also enjoy miso soup–for breakfast. Having traveled extensively throughout Asia, I love traditional Asian breakfasts, and miso soup is a favorite treat.
I keep organic miso paste in the fridge and shrimp or veggie dumplings in the freezer. I boil the dumplings, along with diced tofu, spinach and sliced mushrooms, then strain and put in a bowl with a spoonful of miso. I boil water in the electric kettle, pour it over the miso, stir and sprinkle with chopped scallions. Yum!
What is your greatest wellness achievement?
Honestly, I am not one to toot my own horn. But I have been fortunate to travel the world throughout my entire career as a writer and editor, with a big platform that enables me to spread the gospel of wellness wherever I go and share wellness wisdom that may help others.
What person in wellness do you admire, and why?
Deborah Szekeley, who I consider the godmother of the modern wellness movement, because she is a pioneer and stayed true to the core vision of wellness that she and her late husband created at Rancho la Puerta 80-plus years ago.
What is the best piece of wellness advice you have received, and from whom?
Back to my grandmother, who lived a very long and happy life. She taught me: Be patient. Be positive. Go with the flow. Be flexible. Be thoughtful. Always be smart. And be kind. What you give is what you get.
What do you think is the most overused word or words in wellness?
Balance. Everyone talks about striving to always be in balance, but what’s wrong with being a bit out of whack sometimes? As long as you have the tools to bring yourself back, and don’t go too far over the edge. We can’t expect everything to be all good, all the time. That’s unrealistic–and it’s boring. Challenging ourselves and taking risks makes us stronger.
Do you have a secret health or wellness tip you’d like to share?
Over 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And that doesn’t include those with mental health issues stemming from isolation, loneliness, or upheaval from the pandemic. I recommend writing in a journal. I’m a writer, so I’m biased, but it really does help us process our feelings when we write them down. Another tip is to move: take a walk, dance, jump up and down, work out, move your body every day. Exercise reduces stress and it helps clear your head.
What is your favorite place for a healthy vacation or escape?
There is nothing more stimulating and engaging than travel. I love to explore Asia, but obviously haven’t been there in a while. I was in South Africa and Switzerland recently, which I really enjoyed. I love the mountains and recently spent time in the Sud Tyrol, the Dolomites, Innsbruck, and Vienna. It was glorious. Truth be told, the most recent place I’ve been to is usually my favorite.
What is your go-to for de-stressing?
I love steam and saunas and hot and cold plunges, when I’m traveling. Recently, I had an opportunity to jump into an icy lake in Switzerland with a group of fellow journalists, then take a sauna, which was an incredibly relaxing and joyous experience. But I don’t always have easy access to those types of things. What I can always do is sit down in a comfortable chair, close my eyes, and take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, 10 or more times. I try to think of something to make myself smile. And it always helps to talk through stress with friends and family.
What wellness-related books or authors do you recommend, and why?
I am an avid reader, but I don’t gravitate toward wellness books–I’d rather live it than read about it. Besides, to me, reading anything is an act of wellness.
What brings you joy?
Experiencing new things, going to new places, meeting new people, and always coming home to family and friends.