Emily Van Raay is a farm girl at core.
She was born and raised on a working farm in Southwestern Ontario, where she learned firsthand about food production and health.
When, at 16 years old, she was scouted and began traveling the world as a model for clients from Dior to L’Oreal, it became more challenging to find time to commune with nature and nurture her balanced diet but she always did her best. Her interest in health only grew: She went on to study to be a certified Health Coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and became a Reiki practitioner.
Looking to buck the stigma about the poor diet habits of models and noticing an uptick in health awareness in her industry, in 2015, she launched Models For Wellness—a blog that focuses on models leading positive lifestyles.
Here, Van Raay talks about how her early experiences on the farm paved the way for her healthy relationships with food:
Live The Process: How did your childhood, spent on a farm, shape your approach to health and wellness?
Emily Van Raay: Growing up, I thought that everyone had a similar experience and closeness with the outdoors. It’s still a little shocking when people tell me that they've never met anyone who grew up on a farm, and even more so when they say they've never even been to one! That’s crazy. I wouldn't say nature plays a big part in my life; it's more essential than that: It's my home!
I think every child has a closeness with nature in some respect. What I really appreciated was having my eyes opened to animal production, as my parents’ farm had cows, piggies, sheep and chickens, as well as veggies—all for consumption. My approach to health was very much shaped by knowing that food is much more than something on a plate; it's life! Seeing food as more than something that tastes good or bad—seeing food as a community that involves give and take—is a big part of what I believe in.
LTP: When at your busiest as a model, how do you manage self-care?
EVR: To be honest, it’s pretty tough. Finding quality food is always the most frustrating. I often find myself running around, hunting down fresh veggies in airports. Ninety percent of the time, I don't end up finding a single fresh thing from a selection of fifteen plus restaurants in any given airport. It's the same almost everywhere else; it's hard work finding good food in America!
Aside from that, I keep myself hydrated and prepare in advance when I can. It doesn't always happen, but it’s a noticeably better trip when it does! If I'm feeling dumpy, I'll run to the nearest pressed juicer and have a shot of chlorella (or any algae containing shot) because the B-12 boost wakes up all my groggy bits. I'll grab a juice to wash it down and one for later, and that usually sets me straight.
I love hot yoga whenever I'm feeling the "it's been a while" exercise nudge. Every city has hot yoga and juice bars now, so you can’t really get stuck anymore. Amen!
LTP: When and how did you launch Models for Wellness?
EVR: I launched Models for Wellness about a year ago now. It’s a blog, where models who are health advocates, or are educated in health, act as role models for those outside of the industry who are looking for a peek into how we stay healthy, glowing and fit.
I wanted to create a place where people who wanted to know how models “look the way they look” could find all of that information. More importantly, I wanted it to come from a place of self-love and health, rather then self-depreciation and poor lifestyle, which seems to be the model stigma.
When it comes to fellow models, I've seen everything: I've seen the full-spectrum from healthy plant-based diets and yoga to bulimia, but nothing has ever been representative of what is truly out there. A lot of models were looking for answers: what to eat, what not to eat. It was always only both extremes.
Models are really just like all the other girls (and guys!) out there who are being told they aren't good looking enough, too big, too small etc. What I saw highlighted was a small group of individuals with some serious issues, and these were the people who everyone was looking at! I wondered about the rest of the model population: How did they feel about themselves and were they following the stigmatized regime of the past generations of models?
I saw a natural shift happening within the industry towards healthy eating and exercise and a positive lifestyle, and I wanted to highlight the individuals who were leading the way in hopes of curing what seemed like a widespread epidemic of (mostly) women hating the way they look.
LTP: What are your personal wellness rituals?
EVR: Currently, I’m obsessed with oral health. I can’t get enough of flossing and oil pulling and taking care of my gums. My mood, posture and tension in my face all improve when I've done a thorough cleanse once a day. I couldn’t tell you why, but I’m obsessed!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
EVR: Happiness to me is being able to go to sleep each night without a thing on your mind.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
EVR: To me, living the process is like skydiving. You know you're starting with two feet on the ground, and you know you're ending with two feet on the ground. The fall in between is going to kick your ass, but you may as well scream with joy instead of fear. Smile more, make more jokes, expect nothing. I think that’s the best way to live through the process!