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From the Wall at the Palm to Plant-Based—How a Former Frat Boy Learned to Live Well

As is the way with most worthwhile journeys, Jason Wachob’s emergence as a health and wellness entrepreneur wasn’t exactly a straight line. Wachob, a college basketball player at Columbia, and self-described “happy-go-lucky, heavy-drinking frat boy and successful trader,” found himself on the wall of The Palm Restaurant—an honor designated only to the most faithful of patrons—and then found himself broke, injured, and depressed. After a chronic lower back injury left him unable to walk more than a block (and his under-capitalized start-up was crashing along with the markets in 2009), he decided to take up yoga when a back surgeon mentioned in passing that it might help. More scared of going under the knife than trying a little yoga in the privacy of his apartment, the 6’7″ Wachob started practicing a few restorative poses at home every morning—and in airports before taking off. Within six months, the pain had vanished—no surgery required—and Wachob found himself addicted to the promise of a more healthful existence.

This story, and many others, are detailed in Wachob’s new book, Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Résumé, which is an easy and great read for anyone who is a reticent convert to living a little better (specifically guys who resist kale). Touching on everything from food and nutrition to fitness, it also details how Wachob built mindbodygreen, which is one of the biggest online players in the health and wellness space. (Fun fact: He works with his wife, Colleen.) We asked him to take us through his daily routine—and give up his favorite spots around the country for eating well on the road.

Morning

7am-ish

I have an alarm clock but rarely use it. I wake up around 7am and the first thing I do is repeatedly say the words, “thank you,” silently. I’m a big believer in having a gratitude practice—it’s something my mother instilled in me at a young age.

7:01am

Brushing my teeth wakes me up just enough to get ready for the ritual of meditating for 20 minutes before I start my day. I just sit up straight in bed and zen out.

7:22am

Next is breakfast which is usually a protein smoothie I call “Almond Chocolate Thunder.” It’s comprised of Califia Farms almond milk, almond butter, Xymogen GHI chocolate protein powder, and frozen blackberries. It’s delicious. I also take a probiotic from Prescript Assist. And coffee. Lots of coffee. I absolutely LOVE coffee. Right now I’m loving Brooklyn Roasting Company, which is right down the block from where we live and work in Dumbo, Brooklyn. It’s organic, local, and delicious. And I love it black. Every once in a while I’ll go nuts and make it Bulletproof style and throw in some grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and put in a blender.

7:32am

I read the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. I quickly check work email and the mindbodygreen homepage along with traffic and revenue from our online video classes.

8:44am

I walk to work with my wife, which is just a three-block commute.

Personal-Care Products

Getting Dressed

Work

9am

I work with my wife, Colleen, at mindbodygreen which is amazing and fulfilling as we are both so passionate about wellness. But it can be challenging. Wellness is our life and many of the contributors and class instructors at mindbodygreen are some of our closest friends. Work and play are “one” for us, which is great. But it also means that we sometimes have a hard time turning work “off.” We’ve had to work at that. It’s a good problem to have.

Something I’m focused on at the moment at work is culture and communication. We have 33 employees and even though we have our values up on the wall, culture is more than just writing down what you want it to be. It’s how you interact with others, it’s how you execute on a daily basis. It’s also setting up your work environment to reflect your values. We recently moved into a new 10,000-square-foot office and I worked with Dana Claudat, an incredible feng shui designer to create an environment that was a true reflection of who we are. We call our office look, “Bohemian Brooklyn Sanctuary.” We have a fridge full of gluten-free beer. We have a meditation room, where I escape to every afternoon for another meditation session. We have art from people in our community. We also have a huge “GRATTITUDE” mural (yes, that’s two T’s—gratitude is an attitude) that’s made of eco-friendly wallpaper from my friend, the artist Peter Tunney. I am a huge believer in having a gratitude practice, it’s something I talk a lot about in my book, Wellth. And I love that we have that huge reminder in our office.

12pm

For lunch, I’ll drop by Atrium, which is around the corner and get a cooked kale salad with shaved apples, walnuts, onions, and sliced avocadoes. Or, I’ll go to Dos Toros Taqueria, which just opened in downtown Brooklyn. It’s a 10-minute walk each way so I get some extra steps! I always get a bowl with black beans, chicken, peppers, medium salsa, and double guacamole. I love, love, love guacamole.

1pm

On my desk, I have my own book Wellth, Zero to One by Peter Thiel, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and Everything I Know About Business I Learned From The Grateful Dead by Barry Barnes. I used to be a huge Deadhead (I’ve seen more than 30 shows) and even wrote my personal essay to get into Columbia about the Grateful Dead and how I admired the band and the community they had built (although playing basketball probably helped with my application!). As an entrepreneur, I think they were brilliant. They built such a loyal and incredible community along with a sustainable and purpose-driven business.

1:30pm

Whenever I’m stuck at work, I’ll head to Brooklyn Bridge Park which is just around the corner. The park is beautiful and just a 15-minute walk can help clear my head and get the clarity that I often need when making a difficult decision.

2pm

At 2pm, I’ll sneak away into our meditation room, set my iPhone meditation timer for 20 minutes, and get my om on again.

I also believe in finding a mind/body practice that works for you—something that’s sustainable and a lifestyle. For me, that consists of meditating daily, doing yoga for 15 minutes every Saturday and Sunday, and hitting the gym every Monday night for 20 minutes or so. I’ve found that this routine works best for me right now, and it’s better to do less but be consistent, rather than do more and have no consistency. As Tim Ferriss said in his great book, The 4-Hour Body, “The decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.” So find something that you will follow!

I’ve tried pretty much every holistic treatment out there over the years and the one that I swear by is shiatsu. I now see Sam Berlind every two weeks for shiatsu—he’s got the best hands in the business.

7pm

Once or twice a week, I’ll sneak in a quick 20-minute weight workout. I use free weights and just do one set per body part until failure.

7:30pm

My wife Colleen is a great cook so if I’m lucky she’ll make a yummy dinner. I eat pretty clean. I’m about 80% plant-based, but will also eat fish and meat. I always try to eat wild fish, and antibiotic-free and grass-fed red meat. I try to avoid gluten and sugar, but I’m a big believer in balance so I do enjoy a good doughnut every once in awhile—especially on the weekends. We eat out a lot, too—specifically at the spots below.

Brooklyn

  • Gran Elecrica

    Gran Electrica

    5 Front St., Dumbo | 718.852.2700

    Since I love guacamole, you might have guessed that I love Mexican food. My wife and I are here a lot for date nights and date brunches. They have amazing seasonal vegetable tacos (right now it’s Brussels sprouts) and killer margaritas. But my absolute favorite thing they have is their chilaquiles. They are absolutely delicious.

  • Vinegar Hill House

    Vinegar Hill House

    72 Hudson Ave., Vinegar Hill | 718.522.1018

    The food here is locally sourced and they always have amazing veggie sides. It’s also the most uniquely decorated restaurant I’ve ever been in! After all, there’s a pipe organ.

  • Roberta's

    Roberta’s

    261 Moore St., Bushwick | 718.417.1118

    I don’t really do pizza that often but when I do I make the trek to Bushwick. It’s such a unique dining experience —cafeteria tables, shipping containers, a garden, woodfire oven, and hipsters galore. It’s well worth the wait.

  • Sweetgreen

    Sweetgreen

    162 N. 4th St., Williamsburg | 347.987.3863

    Their salads are amazing.

  • Depanneur

    Depanneur

    242 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 347.227.8424

    This is my favorite mini-café/grocery store—they have a lot of local purveyors and a great selection of fine and raw vegan chocolate.

  • Sweatshop

    Sweatshop

    232 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg | 718.559.9978

    Also in Williamsburg, this is an amazing café with killer avocado toast—it’s part of the larger Australian healthy food invasion.

  • Emily

    Emily

    919 Fulton St., Clinton Hill | 347.844.9588

    I don’t eat much red meat anymore, but when I do, this spot in Clinton Hill has the best grass-fed burger I’ve ever had (this is coming from a guy who used to eat so much steak that my face was immortalized on the wall of The Palm steakhouse).

  • Doughnut Plant

    Doughnut Plant

    245 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights

    Every once in awhile we all need a doughnut. And Doughnut Plant has best doughnuts in the world. They also don’t have eggs and they only use natural ingredients. You haven’t lived until you’ve had their Blackout or Tres Leches cake-based doughnuts, and their location in Prospect Heights is the best.

  • Wilma Jean

    Wilma Jean

    345 Smith St., Carroll Gardens | 718.422.0444

    Sometimes on winter weekends we feel like Southern comfort food and that will always happen at Wilma Jean in Carroll Gardens. They have a great collard greens dish and fried pickles. They can also fry in gluten-free flour, which is awesome!

Manhattan

  • Bluestone Lane & Two Hands

    Bluestone Lane

    55 Greenwich Ave., West Village | 646.368.1988; plus other locations

    The rest of the Australian healthy restaurant invasion takes place across the river in Manhattan and is lead by Bluestone Lane, which has amazing breakfast bowls.

  • Two Hands

    Two Hands

    164 Mott St., Nolita | 251 Church St., Tribeca

    Two Hands is part of the same Australian revolution—they have the best gluten-free banana bread known to man.

  • 00+Co

    00+Co

    65 Second Ave., East Village | 212.777.1608

    The best plant-based pizza is happening at this new spot from Matthew Kenney in the East Village. It’s the perfect crossover restaurant for vegans to bring carnivorous friends.

  • Blackseed Bagels

    Black Seed Bagels

    176 First Ave., East Village | 646.484.5718

    Speaking of gluten, I don’t really do that much gluten. But when I do, I go with the best and will head to Black Seed Bagels in the East Village.

  • Bubby's

    Bubby’s

    120 Hudson St., Tribeca | 212.219.0666

    I also love Bubby’s for good ole organic and locally sourced comfort food. Their Brussels sprouts are amazing.

  • El Rey

    El Rey

    100 Stanton St., Lower East Side | 212.260.3950

    This spot on the Lower East Side has my favorite kale salad in the world.

  • Hu Kitchen

    Hu Kitchen

    1536 Third Ave., Upper East Side | 212.335.2105; 78 5th Ave., Union Square | 212.510.8919

    Whenever I’m meeting for business in Manhattan I’ll meet at Hu Kitchen. There’s lots of seating and they have an incredibly diverse menu of gluten-free to-go food there.

11pm

I wind down at night by turning off all devices and either lighting a candle or some incense. We also keep the bedroom temperature at 65 degrees, and create a complete blackout, which we treat as a sanctuary—no TV, only pictures of family.

Perfect Day Itineraries

Because Jason travels all the time, we asked him for his favorite (generally) healthy spots around the country.

Los Angeles

I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles as the wellness scene is booming.

  • Dinosaur Coffee

    Dinosaur Coffee

    4334 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake

    This spot in Silver Lake is a must, especially when meeting with our musician friends who seem to all live over there.

  • Moon Juice

    Moon Juice

    507 Rose Ave., Venice | 310.399.2929; 2839 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 213.908.5407

    I’m a fan of anything and everything here when it comes to a morning juice. Amanda Chantal Bacon is a dear friend and we love everything she does.

  • Modo Yoga

    Modo Yoga

    340 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park | 323-938-5000

    We go to this spot on La Brea to break a sweat.

  • Sqirl

    Sqirl

    720 N. Virgil Ave., Silver Lake | 323.284.8147

    They have hands-down my favorite breakfast in the world, where they have made savory breakfast “a thing” and amazing jam “a thing.”

  • Manhattan Beach Strand

    Manhattan Beach Strand

    Walking on the Manhattan Beach Strand with views from Palos Verdes to the Palisades.

  • Forage LA

    Forage LA

    3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.663.6885

    The salmon bowls at this spot in Silver Lake are great.

  • Nelson's

    Nelson’s

    100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes | 310.265.2836

    Located at the Terranea Hotel in Palos Verdes, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset over dinner.

  • Gracias Madre

    Gracias Madre

    8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood | 323.978.2170

    They can turn any Mexican food lover into a vegan. It’s amazing.

  • Palos Verdes

    Palos Verdes

    We stay with my wife’s family in Palos Verdes, where there are wild peacocks roaming and views almost as stunning as Big Sur.

  • True Food Kitchen

    True Food Kitchen

    860 S. Sepulveda, El Segundo | 310.469.7725

    When it’s time to head back to LAX, I’ll grab my last meal here in El Segundo. The have a great kale salad.

San Francisco

San Francisco is the city where I met my wife and we lived there for a year together so it has a sweet spot in my heart. I love the blend of old school counterculture combined with the start-up scene, and nature—all at your fingertips.

  • Cavallo Point

    Cavallo Point

    601 Murray Circle, Sausalito | 415.339.4700

    My wife and I love to stay at Cavallo Point, which is right over the Golden Gate Bridge. The hotel is situated in a National Park and our friend, Mike Freed, who is one of the owners is extremely passionate about sustainability. They have the most amazing organic sheets. If I am able to fit in a holistic treatment at the Healing Arts Center, it’s a treat. Throw in their Michelin-starred restaurant with a menu that focuses on local and organic ingredients and you’re in heaven!

  • Lyons Street Stairs

    Lyons Street Steps

    When I go over the bridge to SF, I love to walk the Lyons Street stairs, which has stunning views of the Bay.

  • Plow

    Plow

    1299 18th St., Potrero Hill | 415.821.7569

    The gluten-free pancakes here are a must.

  • International Orange

    International Orange

    2044 Fillmore St., Pacific Heights | 415.563.5000

    I first learned about chakras at this studio on Fillmore Street. They have amazing holistic treatments, and a great curation of products to buy, too.

  • Little Gem

    Little Gem

    400 Grove St., Hayes Valley | 415.914.0501

    This spot in Hayes Valley has amazing bowls.

  • Belcampo Meat Co.

    Belcampo Meat Co.

    1998 Polk St., Russian Hill | 415.660.5573

    There are some great grass-fed burger options in San Francisco: Belcampo is phenomenal.

  • Roam Burger

    Roam Burger

    1923 Fillmore St., Lower Pacific Heights | 415.800.7801; plus other locations

    This is another go-to for a grass-fed burger. Located on Fillmore Street, it’s the perfect option for a great quick bite.

  • Heath Ceramics

    Heath Ceramics

    400 Gate 5 Rd., Sausalito| 415.332.3732; plus other locations

    We fell in love with Heath Ceramics when they only had a small studio in Sausalito, registered there when we got married, and every time we go back we are inspired by their gorgeous color hues.

  • Ferry Building

    Ferry Building

    I love walking around the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero, which has stunning views of the Bay Bridge.

  • La Taqueria

    La Taqueria

    2889 Mission St., Mission | 415.285.7117

    For dinner, I love keeping it casual and La Taqueria is still my favorite place for tacos.

  • Bi-Rite Creamery

    Bi-Rite Creamery

    3692 18th St., Mission | 415.626.5600

    After dinner, I always get some organic ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, and sit in Dolores Park to eat it.

Miami

Living in NYC has us escaping to Miami at least a few times every winter.

  • 1 Hotel

    1 Hotel

    2341 Collins Ave., South Beach | 305.604.1000

    I love the new 1 Hotel from Barry Sternlicht. He’s got one of the best Miami restaurants in there—the new Beachcraft from Tom Colicchio—as well as Aspen’s Spring Cafe for juice and treats, AND a Spartan gym!

  • Jean George's Market at EDITION

    Jean George’s Market at EDITION

    2901 Collins Ave., South Beach | 786.257.4588

    The salmon caesar salad at Jean George’s Market at EDITION is one of my all-time favorites.

  • Taquiza

    Taquiza

    1506 Collins Ave., South Beach | 305.748.6099

    They might have the best tortilla chips with guacomole in the world here. They hand-make the chips. They’re mind-blowing.

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