Over the last year, our own Contributing Writer Tia Shah, has been writing an amazing column about trailblazing girls throughout history. This new Incredible Girls column is in that vein, only this column is about contemporary girls under the age of 25 who are doing awe-inspiring and significant things in the world. Every Friday in 2019, we are going to post a column detailing the life of an Incredible Girl and why you should know about her. Read on for a glimpse into the life of Haile Thomas.
18-year-old Haile Thomas is a youth activist, a motivational speaker, the youngest certified Integrative Nutrition health coach in the United States and if that wasn’t enough on her resume, she is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit, HAPPY. The organization seeks to empower young people in underserved communities across the United States and around the world to make healthy lifestyle choices. I feel exhausted reading her CV and I am not that much older than her! Let’s dive into why Haile takes her spot on this Incredible Girl line up.
When Haile was eight years old, her dad was diagnosed with diabetes. Her family then decided to help manage and reverse his condition by trying to improve their diet and nutrition. Because of that formative time in her life, Haile then realized that her own personal goals would be to teach kids about nutrition and sustainable eating. In an interview with Brit + Co, she said that learning about the huge impact of nutrition at a young age was enlightening and shocking. “Throughout the whole process, I learned that food has the power to nourish your body or do the exact opposite,” she said. “It shined a huge light on how powerful food can be to either heal or hurt. I learned about other kids and young people who were diagnosed with these conditions.”
In elementary school, she wanted to find a way to talk to her peers about nutrition, without judging them for eating potato chips at lunch, and so on. She realized that throughout her healthy eating journey, she never felt belittled or judged for what she ate. So Haile decided to make a plan with her mom to find information on how to talk to young people about nutrition in a way that kids would be receptive to. They stumbled on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Haile got involved in their youth advisory board, and the rest was history!
Throughout her nutrition career, Haile said that she has come across critics and people who say that she is “fat-shaming children,” and so on. But she said that experiences like that have made her realize that not everyone is going to be supportive, even if she is trying to do a good thing. The criticism also spurred her to seek higher education in nutrition so that she could have some added gravitas to her CV and nutrition talks. In 2017, she graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as the youngest certified health coach through their program.
Other things that make her a pretty Incredible Girl, in my opinion — Haile has met Michelle Obama (more than once!!!), cooked for her, and was her guest at the 2013 State of the Union address. She has a podcast called Girl Empowered, where she said she is excited to share the stories of other amazing girls and women and help to lift others up.
In interviews with Brit + Co and Food & Wine, Haile gave some advice for girls and young women looking to make their mark on the world. She said confidence (and having a strong support group) is key, as well as being passionate about whatever it is that you are doing.
“It’s really all about being confident in a way that feels good to you and not believing the limiting thoughts and things that you may hear or even think yourself,” Haile said. “Know that those things come up when you’re afraid, and when you’re afraid to go for something, it just proves how important it is for you to do it.”
Her advice about confidence is spot on, and I think it is really helpful for young girls (and everyone!) to hear. “If you don’t doubt yourself, then you don’t really leave room for others to doubt you,” Haile said. “You have to be a firm believer in what you are trying to do and not waiver when there are naysayers or people who think you can’t get something done.”
Three cheers for Haile — she is an inspiration working to change the perception of nutrition and show that healthy food doesn’t have to mean unappetizing or boring. She is definitely an Incredible Girl.
Girl Museum Inc.