As a marketing professional whose career was skyrocketing in her mid-twenties, Busy Happy Healthy’s founder, Amina AlTai, seemingly had it all: The titles, the accomplishments, the “success.” But underneath her high-achieving professional persona existed someone who was utterly struggling, health-wise. Not only were her chronic health issues debilitating, they were infringing on her all-important happiness. So after years of (taxing) success, Amina decided to take a step back and embark on the most important to-do of her entire life: Wellness.
Busy Happy Health is the manifestation of Amina’s belief that busy, ambitious people of all stripes do not need to sacrifice their health and, consequently, their happiness in the pursuit of “success.” Ahead, we conduct a much-overdo interview to talk to Amina about her wellness journey and health philosophy, her favorite snacks, and her surprising spirit animal. Read on.
MEET BUSY HAPPY HEALTHY
Hey! Who are you?
Serious but silly middle child. Type A minus. Lover of all things natural and healthy. Peacekeeper and perfection-hater. Super curious, well accessorized and a good time.
How does the mission of BHH pertain to your own life story?
I once believed that what I did was who I was. I believed it so strongly that I almost worked myself into the ground. I started my first company at 22, wrote my first book at 25 and became a director that same year. On paper, I was very successful, but I felt terrible. I developed two autoimmune diseases and was having memory troubles by the age of 26. I was so deprived of proper nutrition that I nearly went bald (no joke). That was enough for me. We often put ourselves and our needs last in service of others; thinking that taking care of ourselves is somehow selfish. But something about that is counterintuitive; because if we want to live our best, most inspired lives we need to feel our best. Right?
As it turns out, our greatest challenges are our greatest gifts. My struggles with weight and disease were my body telling me something about my lifestyle and who I was meant to be. I searched high and low to find the right help. After visiting seven different doctors who looked at me like I was crazy, I finally found one who was willing to partner with me. After a long recovery, I realized there was a major knowledge gap. No one was teaching us how to take care of the most important assets we’ll ever possess: Our bodies. So, I went in search of certifications and schools that could help me use my story for the highest good.
I knew right away that I could be of service to corporate America. Everyone is working so hard and there’s no time or proper information to support our well-being. And changes have to start at the top. A healthy work culture is pervasive and it needs be a c-level decision to invest in people and working well.
How did you discover / uncover your passion for wellness?
There are several reasons. To begin, both of my parents are in allopathic medicine. They wanted me to be a doctor but I didn’t like the hospital environment. It always felt so sterile and absent of real healing vibes. But I’d always been interested in wellness and preventative medicine. I used to read their medical books (and freak out over any weird skin ailments!), along with Shape and Fitness magazines starting at the age of ten.
From there, I’d say nutrition was my lead-in. I struggled with weight during my adolescence and woke up one day and decided the baggage was too much to bear. So, I taught myself how to eat healthy and exercise (thanks, Shape! Seriously!) and I lost 60 pounds in one year. Now I’ve been the same weight most of my adult life; family members would always come to me for meal plans. So while most girls were going on their first dates I was reading about Gary Null and Dr. Andrew Weil. #MegaNerd
Eventually, I started reading more about the mind-body connection. The Dalai Lama piqued my interest in meditation when I read his books at seventeen. But, like most of us, I lost myself a bit in my early twenties and had to go really far wrong in order to come back to my wellness roots.
What is training with you like?
It depends, as every dynamic is different depending on whom I’m coaching and what we’re working on. (But if you come to my spin class you’ll likely get a fun but no mercy – or bitching! – work out.)
With that said, if you’re engaging me for nutrition coaching there’s lots of “hand holding,” but I’m no pushover. If you want to change your body and your mind, you’ve got to work for it. On the other hand, I am known for mailing my clients surprise healthy snack packages and cards. I always try to think what I’d want out of a coach—someone who is going to get me results and leave me better than they found me and have a bit of fun along the way. I look forward to working with my clients and I want them to feel the same way.
WELLNESS AND YOU
In your opinion "wellness" means...
I believe everything is balance. It’s healthy relationships, managed stress, good eats, sound sleep, workouts, a job you love, play time etc. If just one area of your life is off, it can wreak havoc on everything else.
Your favorite wellness foods are...
Kombucha, seeds (they’re so great for women!), all the berries #CantGetEnough, wild fish, and what lady doesn’t love dark chocolate?
Your favorite workout is...
I love spinning and biking. I’ve had a bike since I could speak. Seriously. At the age of three I dragged my mom into a store and told her I’d be her “best friend” (#manipulative) if she got me a red, shiny bike. Needless to say, she caved and I’ve loved riding ever since. Indoors or outdoors, I get the same sense of freedom. I love it so much. It doesn’t always feel like a full body workout so I’ll do my own spin boot camps at home where I’m hopping on and off the bike to do abs, arms, etc.
Your go-to snack is...
Blackberries. I try hard to rotate my snacks but berries are so great! I put them in a little Tupperware and tote them around with me wherever I go. Also, I recently wrote a post on my fave travel snacks you can see here. And, finally, I’m very into Santosha chocolate right now, not necessarily as a snack. A square or two for dessert is heaven.
Your favorite self-care activity is...
I LOVE working out. Nothing helps my stress or my brain more. But one of my 2017 goals is to “do less and be more” so nowadays if I have an extra fifteen minutes I don’t bang out another blog post or do some squats, instead I just straight up sprawl out on the ground. Nothing feels more grounding than laying face down on the floor. (I hope my chiropractor doesn’t read this, he’ll kill me.)
Your favorite healthy restaurant is...
Ahhh, so many!! I love Dirt Candy for a special occasion, Candle 79 because it’s where I had one of my first dates with my hubs, Peacefood for being so convenient and consistently good, Jivamukti for an awesome Buddha bowl, Bliss Café for killer veggie bowls and Modern Love for awesome vegan comfort food. Can we also chat about desserts? Because Erin McKenna’s Bakery is EVERYTHING! I also used to love One Lucky Duck. RIP.
Your not-so-healthy but still-kinda-healthy treat is...
I had to put myself in a nut butter time out. And I see this with a lot of healthy ladies… it’s good fats, right, so what’s the big deal? But when we eat it by the bucket load (I’m looking at YOU!) it becomes a tad unhealthy. At the height of my love for it, I was making nut buttercups and they’re actually too good to put in words. You can see the recipe here.
LET'S GET RANDOM
Zodiac sign? The best sign of all, Scorpio!
Favorite place on earth? Wales. I’m half Welsh and nothing feeds my soul more than the Welsh countryside. Sheep for days.
Desert island movie, book, and song? Movie: Wizard of Oz, Book: Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl because I’ll likely need a good laugh. Songs are so hard. If you know me, you know that I sing at least a dozen different songs to myself at any given time. So I guess I’d be my own iPod.
Spirit animal? Betty White.