There are thousands of people working every day to revolutionize the way people think about health, fitness, and happiness, and every year we recognize those making the biggest impacts (for both good and not-so-good reasons). Last year the focus seemed to be on changing American’s diets (and the never-ending attempt to reduce our consumption of sugar and processed foods), building a strong booty, and reducing stress so we can be happier and more productive.
When trying to determine the most powerful innovators in this space, we looked at several quantifiable factors for each candidate: social reach, research they’ve contributed to, professional certifications and degrees they’ve attained, trends they’ve set, products they’ve created, and media coverage, among a few other things. (You can check out the details on our metrics below the list.) After many discussions (and way too much math), here are the 100 people we determined to be the most influential figures in fitness, health, and happiness this year. While we may not always agree with everyone’s approach, we can always respect any effort to help make healthy living a little bit easier.
Curious who’s making their second (or third) appearance? Click here to check out last year’s list.
1. Michelle Obama
The First Lady of Healthy Eating
Mobama is one
hot healthy mama. An amazing role model to kids and adults alike, the First Lady has been encouraging healthier habits since taking office with her husband in 2009. But more attention-grabbing than the White House Kitchen Garden, her toned biceps, and Let’s Move, the childhood-obesity fighting program she started, is how she’s captured our hearts on the likes of Vine and Saturday Night Live. Her six-second “Turnip for What?” video went viral quicker than Kim K’s attempt to break the Internet, and let’s not forget her stunning cameo with Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell where she reminded us all that exercise is super healthy, not “ew.” We don’t see her stepping off the stage anytime soon—and we’re pretty happy about it.
2. Mehmet Oz, M.D.
While thought of by many as one of the most trusted doctors in America, Mehmet Oz, M.D., has been under the knife this year. But we’re not talking heart surgery—something Oz actually performs on the side—but instead by the media and Congress, who accused Oz of preaching inaccurate, unsupported health advice not once but several times throughout his career. And unfortunately for him, it turns out only 46 percent (out of 479 recommendations) were accurate. OUCH. Shortcomings aside, Oz continues to be a (mostly) positive presence in the health space, with millions of fans, an Emmy-Award winning show, bestselling books, and The Good Life, his new magazine, to boot.
3. Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Chips are to salsa what Deepak Chopra, M.D., is to meditation—you can’t have one without thinking of the other! Since stepping into the health limelight, Chopra has published several books, created his own meditation app, and even launched a 21-Day Meditation Experience with Oprah, which was offered in Spanish in 2014, its second year. Though the holistic wellness advocate’s approach is questioned by many, there’s no doubt he’s on to something: Stress reduction and mindfulness does the body (and soul) good. Whether a believer or not, his website has loads of information about alternative medicine, and considering he was the chief of staff at a respected hospital in Boston, we’d say his ideas are worth exploring.
4. Jillian Michaels
The Biggest Fitness Winner
Best known for her starring role as a no-nonsense trainer on The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels has been publically encouraging—albeit, somewhat aggressively—healthy habits for ages. This year, however, Michaels is stepping away from the program and showing us her nicer side. Withonline personal training, several workout DVDs, and a popular weekly health podcast, she’s proving to be unstoppable in the fitness space. Another reason to admire her: She spreads a healthy message about love and sexuality, notably saying, “As long as you fall in love… it’s like organic food. I only eat healthy food, and I only want healthy love!” Well said.
5. Vani Hari
The Food Babe
The past 12 months have been a banner year for Vani Hari, a food activist and blogger better known as The Food Babe. Hari and her Food Babe Army convinced the biggest American beer makers to list the beverage’s ingredients on every can and got Subway to remove an ingredient from its bread that was also found in yoga mats. She even has a book, The Food Babe Way, that’ll hit shelves in February. But her rise to fame isn’t without backlash from members of the scientific community who say her claims about harmful chemicals—like the one found in Subway bread—are based on bunk science. These polar opposite opinions have led Hari to be called both the most powerful food activist and the Jenny McCarthy of food in the last year.
6. Tara Stiles
The Rule-Breaking Yogi
Vanity Fair called Tara Stiles “the coolest yoga instructor ever.” And many would tend to agree. After all, Deepak Chopra and Jane Fonda are both known to be followers of Strala Yoga, Stiles’s signature no-nonsense approach to the practice. Instead of focusing on the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga, Stiles is all about the physical. But don’t think she’s going to be that yoga teacher who is constantly readjusting your form. Her Make Your Own Rules Diet, which came out in November 2014, explains her approach to eating and exercise as one that needs to be tailor-fit to every individual. Instead of looking at the bendiest person in your yoga class, Stiles says we should be looking inward to determine what’s best for our bodies.
7. Mark Bittman
Flexitarian Food Advocate
The New York Times lead food columnist has proved once again that he’s an indispensable culinary resource. Last year Bittman wowed with two cookbooks: How to Cook Everything Fast, a collection of recipes for everything from wonton soup to fruit crisp—all baked from scratch in around 30 minutes—and The VB6 Cookbook, filled with vegan and flexitarian meals to help readers follow his « vegan before 6 p.m. » diet. When he’s not cooking, he’s been writing columns aboutprogressive food politics and solutions forsustainable agriculture, among other topics.
8. Gary Taubes
If you haven’t heard of the Nutrition Science Initiative yet, chances are you will in the next few years. Author and New York Times best-seller Gary Taubes—well known for his book Good Calories, Bad Calories and the controversial article “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” in the New York Times Magazine—co-founded the nonprofit to secure resources to help fund independent research into nagging nutritional questions that are still unanswered. Not all of the scientists involved agree with Taubes’ stance that sugar—not fat—is the enemy, and Taubes seems OK if his theories are disproven. We’re eager to see the results of the studies underway.
9. Sanjay Gupta, M.D.
Doctor of the High-est Honors
CNN’s chief medical correspondent, neurosurgeon, medical marijuana supporter, Emmy Award winner, and so much more, Sanjay Gupta, M.D., has long been a trusted source and familiar face in the medical space. The man many turned to during the Ebola scare even runs Health Matters, a branch of Everyday Health where he shares advice and answers questions on everything from Angie’s chickenpox to eating disorders. But perhaps his biggest moment in the spotlight was in 2009, when he was offered the position of Surgeon General of the United States, which he humbly declined. His medical prowess seems to run in the family too: Gupta’s brother Suneel is the CEO ofRise, an app that connects users to live dieticians.
10. Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss first entered the spotlight back in 2007 when he published the game-changing bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week. In the years since, he followed up with two more productivity-boosting books focused on health and fitness, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. And while the lifestyle guru didn’t publish any new books in 2014, he kept fans entertained with his weeklypodcast, The Tim Ferris Show, where he chatted with Margaret Cho about the slow-carb diet and chef Andrew Zimmern for quick cooking tips. The show was even named one of the best of 2014 by iTunes.
11. Dave Asprey
The Bulletproof Exec
This was the year of bulletproof coffee—a concoction that mixes a cup of joe with two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and two tablespoons of coconut oil—and that’s all thanks to Dave Asprey. The veteran Silicon Valley investor says he has spent more than $300,000 hacking his own biology to find ways to boost his metabolism (and his focus) without counting calories or taking up outrageous exercise programs. The bulletproof diet, which organizes foods from toxic to (wait for it…) bulletproof, distills his years of research into simple-to-follow guidelines. And while Asprey has plenty of people singing his praises, the scientific community has been lukewarm about his coffee and diet, awaiting more evidence.
12. Marion Nestle, Ph.D.,M.P.H.
The Food Politician
Not to be confused with the popular chocolate brand, Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., is actually all about healthy eating. The molecular biologist, NYU and Cornell University professor, journalist, andfood politics expert (and blogger) has been both studying and teaching nutrition for years. She’s also written several popular books on pet and human nutrition, and gives frequent lectures about her studies. Follow her Twitter feed to stay in-the-know about all things food.
13. Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan knows a thing or two about food: He’s published nine books about healthy eating, food philosophy, and the evolution of the things we eat. The New York Times Magazine contributoris also quite the activist, constantly challenging people to think differently about the food we consume and how that impacts our economy and environment. When not busy writing thought-provokers like his most famous work, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Seems he’s well-versed in food and writing—which makes us that much more inclined to digest his awesome works (and thoughts).
14. Joy Bauer, R.D.
Joy Bauer’s recipes are proof that eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland or restrictive—something we’ve always believed too. And take it from the nutritionist for the New York City Ballet to dish on diets that do a body good. The TODAY show nutrition expert also cohosts the “Joy Fit Club,” an inspiring weekly weight-loss segment. In addition to screen time, last year Bauer launched Nourish Snacks, a subscription service that delivers healthy, portion-controlled packs of nut mixes, granola, and more. Bauer, a registered dietitian, has published several nutrition books (and contributed toWeightless, a weight-loss story published last year), contributes to many healthy publications, and seems to constantly stay motivated and positive despite her crazy-busy schedule.
15. Andrew Weil, M.D.
Many doctors encourage eating a diet primarily of whole foods, but Andrew Weil, M.D., took that notion a step further by opening True Food Kitchenin 2008, a restaurant that sticks closely to the principles of his anti-inflammatory diet. Ten restaurant openings later, we think it’s safe to say Weil’s theory that a wholesome diet and lifestyle impact one’s health more than we think is likely at least somewhat accurate. The integrated medicine man and purveyor of Weil Lifestyle has also published hundreds of scientific articles, written upwards of 13 books, and is director at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, where he continues to teach and endorse a holistic approach to wellness.
16. Wayne Dyer, Ph.D.
Father of Motivation
Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., can see clearly now, and he wants to help others see their lives and purpose more clearly too. The self-help author and motivational speaker has been in the health space for years, with several best-selling books (like Your Erroneous Zones), a popular 2012 PBS program, and a packed speaking schedule, to name just a few of his professional achievements. Though many are quick to criticize Dyer due to his “new age” ideas and religious assertions (he’s know forencouraging readers to emulate Jesus Christ), we love his approach to positive thinking and maximizing one’s potential.
17. Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow cares so much about health that she named her daughter after one our favorite fruits: Apple. While that may not exactly be true, she is known for being one of the most dedicated health starlets around. A Tracy Anderson workoutdevotee and creator of Goop—the attention-grabbing (and sometimes extravagant) healthy-living blog—Paltrow is no stranger to the kitchen and detox cleanses. While we love that the Oscar winner is popularizing healthy dishes like salmon with sriracha and lime, her approach can sometimes seem unrealistic and restrictive. Can’t say we fully agree with Martha, though.