It’s Friday afternoon and Danielle DeBoe Harper sits in a high-backed, cream-colored chair in her Shaker Heights living room, armed with a pen, a notebook and a glass of Pellegrino, listening intently to her client Kait Turshen talk about her health goals.
The toned muscles in DeBoe Harper’s forearms ripple as she scribbles down notes. Her face is clear, bright and dewy, her cheeks rosy and resplendent — the results, she says, of reducing the number of toxins she consumes. When she looks up at Turshen, she smiles warmly, and begins today’s session by asking, “What good stuff is going on in your life right now?”
The phrasing is intentional. DeBoe Harper likes to start conversations with positives in order to create what she calls “new neural pathways” that help to rewire her clients’ minds toward positive thinking.
Turshen works out regularly and eats a clean, mostly plant-based diet. But lately, she hasn’t been feeling her best. The sales and marketing professional moved from New York City to Ohio City last year and she’s moving again in a week to Shaker Heights. She brightens visibly when talking about her upcoming move — but admits that it’s been stressful packing. The 36-year-old mom is fatigued and also frustrated about the five extra pounds she’s been carrying around since her daughter’s birth — though she’s trying hard not to be, because she believes in self-compassion. Turshen says she just wants to feel better.
“In stressful situations, I will sometimes emotionally eat,” she says.
For example, instead of going straight home the other night after a photography class and having blueberries, she swung by Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream instead.
“In the moment, it was what I felt like I needed,” she says.
DeBoe Harper tucks a lock of her perfectly curled light brown hair behind an ear, and looks empathetically at Turshen.
“In the moment, was there any internal conversation with yourself?” DeBoe Harper asks. “And if so, how did that go?”
“There were many internal conversations,” she says. “At one point, I was even like, Should I text Danielle?!”
Many in Cleveland know DeBoe Harper as the founder of the Ohio City retail store Room Service as well as Made in the 216, a popular vendor event for local artists, but she’s reshaped her professional path forward. After undergoing a health and wellness transformation that helped unlock a new level of joy, DeBoe Harper realized that her next true purpose was to help others along their own health and wellness journey. She recently became a health and wellness coach, advocating for clean beauty and spreading messages of wellness on social media.
“To me, wellness is really about understanding how our bodies were designed to function and what foods and activities and ways of thinking are most in line with your body’s natural rhythms,” she says.
DeBoe Harper is very much on-trend. The concept of wellness is having a moment in America. No person or industry has a copyright on the term. As she points out, “wellness” encompasses many things.
“Wellness is about how you feel,” she says. “It’s when you feel good and happy and vibrant.”
Wellness is spirituality. Wellness is eating healthy and feeling your best self. It’s red wine and meditation and girls’ nights out. Wellness is definitely not dieting — there’s a reason Weight Watchers rebranded themselves as WW, and added the tagline “Wellness that Works.” Most of all, wellness is about taking back the wheel on our health while navigating through a world that feels like its spinning out of control.
“I will fully admit that I have always had an interest in being in control of my destiny and of my life, and I do think that being in control of my health and well-being is in line with my desire to control,” says DeBoe Harper. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. No one is going to be able to work out for me, or meditate for me, or change my thought patterns. Only I can do that.”
That message of self-empowerment appeals to people such as Turshen, who is just one of more than 1,200 people following DeBoe Harper’s health and wellness journey on Instagram.
Though they are still early on in their client-coach relationship, DeBoe Harper knows there are layers of things left to unpack — about Turshen’s former fertility issues and about all the foods she couldn’t eat in her 20s because of allergies, for instance. But Deboe Harper’s hunch is that Turshen’s energy blocks and struggle to lose weight are not really about a scoop of ice cream. There’s something else standing in the way of her success.
Over the next 11 sessions, DeBoe Harper is going to help her figure out what that is. Then, she will help guide Turshen toward lifestyle adjustments she believes will make her overall life and health better. But to get to that place, Turshen is going to need to understand her own self a little better.
DeBoe Harper decides to test the waters a bit.
“What do you think is holding you back?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” Turshen says. “Help me!”