Danielle DeBoe Harper Danielle DeBoe Harper
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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?”

Turshen nods.

“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!”

Every weekday morning, DeBoe Harper wakes up at 4:30 a.m. She pads down a flight of stairs from her bedroom to her kitchen, where she grabs a bunch of organic celery from her refrigerator, and washes them off. She chops the stalks on a cutting board then dumps them — leaves and all — into her Vitamix, along with a few ounces of alkaline water. When the blades turn the celery frothy, she shuts the blender off, and puts a cheesecloth-like bag over the top of the blender lid to separate out the pulp. Then she chugs the juice as quickly as she can.

“The primary reason I take celery juice seriously and consume it on a daily basis is for its liver detoxifying properties,” she explains. “In this day and age, we are inundated with toxins in our bodies. So anything I can personally do to help detoxify my liver and unburden my lymphatic system, I am now finding it imperative to do so.”

Next, she unrolls her yoga mat by the front door, straps her iPhone to a tripod and angles it toward her mat. She’s recording her Beachbody workout, a set from the subscription-based streaming platform that offers fitness, nutrition and wellness programs. Usually, she does one that involves lots of pushups, weight-lifting and resistance loops. Later, she uploads the video to Instagram with an inspiring message.

Though you wouldn’t know it by looking at her — or her Instagram filled with soft lighting and happy pictures of her and her architect husband Wes Harper trouncing around the city with their adorable daughter Penny —  DeBoe Harper’s days did not always start like this.

Two-and-a-half years ago, she was feeling a little like Turshen. A few weeks shy of her 40th birthday, she was 25 pounds overweight, depressed and without direction. It was a far cry from who she’d been for decades.

DeBoe Harper had built a career based on believing in her instincts. It’s what gave her the confidence when at 20 years old she dropped out of Kent State University, where she had been studying photography, and moved to Los Angeles. 

“I knew I just needed to get out there, and the doors would open and my path would just illuminate itself,” she says.

Her life just sort of unfurled in front of her. She found work as a production assistant on projects as eclectic as a Japanese soft drink commercial starring Tiger Woods and a music video starring Andy Dick, thanks to relationships she built by cold-calling managers whose names she found in the back of Hollywood Reporter, offering at first to work for free. That high-stakes confidence followed DeBoe Harper when an impending writers strike in 2001 dried up her production work in LA, leading her to a job at a nearby furniture store.

During downtime, she started rearranging the furniture and artwork, using only her instinct. The store owners loved her choices and told their clients about her aesthetic. At 21, she had wealthy stay-at-home moms calling to get advice on things like floor plans and furniture selections. It paved the way for a career advising others on taste.

Fueled by the design work, she also felt a pull to move back home. In 2003, the owner of Cottonwood, a chic furniture store in Chagrin Falls, hired DeBoe Harper and two other women as its visual merchandisers to establish the store’s total aesthetic.

“I was 23 and they were putting half a million dollars in [our] hands to make choices for what to sell and how to display it,” she says.

She went on buying trips to North Carolina, New York and Las Vegas choosing things that felt good to her, that she thought would fill a hole in the market. But she reached a certain point where working for others in the retail space no longer felt meaningful.

“I felt like I had hit a ceiling,” she says. “I no longer felt challenged.”

After a friend suggested opening her own store in 2007, she launched Room Service, an eclectic, whimsical boutique in the Gordon Square Arts District that stocked items such as vintage furniture and record players turned into frames. The store was successful, in part, because it was an extension of her interests and personality. While others might hem and haw over a picture frame, she could swoop in confidently and tell you not only why you should buy it, but where it should go on the wall — and when you got home, you realized she was right.

“She just had a really good aesthetic,” says Gwen Carpenter, a frequent shopper at Room Service. Carpenter loved DeBoe Harper’s style so much that when DeBoe Harper decided to try a brief stint as a wedding planner in 2013, Carpenter was one of her first clients. In fact, DeBoe Harper has always followed her gut — even when things turned out differently than she had originally anticipated.

“I have a natural rhythm to a lot of my career,” she says. “It’s always been an organic evolving thing.”

In June 2011, DeBoe Harper attempted to revive downtown Cleveland’s retail scene by opening Dredger’s Union, a 6,000-square-foot home goods and clothing store — but it closed 14 months later when investors unexpectedly pulled the plug on the business.

“I felt terrible about it for a year,” she says.

For DeBoe Harper, depression sets in when she doesn’t feel passionate about her work and when she feels like she does not have control over her professional and personal life. When she decided to sell Room Service in 2013, she started working full-time as an interior design consultant. Consulting was something she had fallen into because clients were requesting it — but it wasn’t satisfying.

“All I was doing was spending my days shopping online, trying to make living rooms around the community prettier,” she says.

When DeBoe Harper became a mom in 2015, she was 38 years old and not feeling in control of her body. She spent much of her life wanting to become a mom — and had endured two miscarriages — before Penny was born. But now that her daughter was 2 and moving around quickly, DeBoe Harper found that she couldn’t keep up.

“I was just completely devoid of energy,” she says.

It was affecting her time with Penny, whose playroom was on the second floor. DeBoe Harper didn’t want to go there often because she got winded on the steps. Then, when she was on the floor playing dolls or games, DeBoe Harper found herself wishing she was laying down or sitting in a chair instead.

“I had always pictured being this fun mom,” she says. “Instead, I was finding myself basically calling Daddy to take over.”

On Easter 2017, DeBoe Harper sat mindlessly, miserably eating chocolates while Penny played in her mother-in-law’s yard.

“I wanted to just go and cry,” she says. “I just felt so lost, and so far away from my goals.”

In that moment, she decided things had to change.

She started her own fitness and wellness account on Instagram, which at the time she dubbed @well_designed_life, after months of paying close attention to her cousins’ own wellness journeys on social media. The name was a nod to both her design background and her new commitment to a regimented fitness routine. She posted about her progress on a regular basis and started a private Instagram motivational messaging group, called a pod, for others going through a wellness journey. The group had about 20 women in it. Every day, the women logged their workouts and talked about their progress.

“Because I created the pod, it intensified my own accountability,” says DeBoe Harper.

There were setbacks in the beginning. Though DeBoe Harper had pledged to complete 10,000 steps a day, at first she could only manage 4,500. But what she learned from her cousin and other fitness experts that she followed was the importance of self-compassion.

“So instead of being negative with myself for not being able to do 10,000 steps, I decided to change my focus and say, ‘You go girl for tracking your steps every day,’ ” she says.

The positive self-talk worked. Her goal of 4,500 steps soon became 6,000, which eventually increased to 10,000.

“And then I got to thinking, Well, I could get to 10,000 steps faster if I went for a run,” she says. So her morning walks became morning jogs. But then she felt she could push even harder, so she decided to try out a 21-day Beachbody challenge, which involves a lot of pushups and weighted lunges.

“It was the most rigorous workout I had ever done,” says DeBoe Harper. Some days, she could barely make it through 10 minutes. 

But she kept pushing. DeBoe Harper started her fitness routine in April 2017. By July, she had lost 20 pounds, but her interest in health was no longer just about weight loss.

“Wellness is really like an onion,” she says. “There’s all these layers to unpeel.”

Are you ready to begin again? What do you need to melt off? Negative self-talk? Body fat? Inches? Stress? Limiting beliefs?

Transformation is a choice — choose you.

This post appeared on DeBoe Harper’s Instagram feed in June. The words are juxtaposed next to a before-and-after photo of herself. In the first cutaway from April 2017, she is wearing a black sports bra and carrying 20 extra pounds, standing with a slumped, dejected posture. In the second, taken in spring 2019, she is standing confidently, her hair pulled back, her abs looking like they were carved with a chisel.

When DeBoe Harper sees those images, side-by-side, she feels pride in her journey — and also a little worried about what those excess pounds around her middle might have done to her health. But mostly she just feels accomplished and happy.

“I remember how I felt, and how daunting the stairs in my home were, as the woman on the left,” she says. “I know the powerful mindset shift that had to occur for that transformation to take place.”

To DeBoe Harper, though, true wellness is not just about the pounds lost.

“For me, the transformation physically is a metaphor more for the transformation overall,” she says.

Wellness, DeBoe Harper has come to believe, is the integration of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. And you know whether or not you’re well by the way you feel. Wellness is not just physical energy. When you’re well, you feel vibrant, she says. It’s about the amount of joyfulness and hopefulness and optimism you also experience.

But she didn’t start out with that realization.

“Initially it was like, How do I lose those 25 pounds? And then the game changes to physical strength, like, Let’s get some abs!” says DeBoe Harper. “Then you start thinking, I should really clean up my diet more, so maybe I should learn how to do more cooking with vegetables.”

As DeBoe Harper ventured further into her journey, she started reading more. About how things like exercise and spirituality and sleep affect your mood and performance. About how the health of your gut can also affect the health of your brain. About how inflammation, stomach problems and bloating — things she often felt — might really be caused by “leaky gut syndrome.”

Believed to happen when intestinal damage allows bacteria and toxins to permeate through the gut wall and into the bloodstream, leaky gut syndrome is a diagnosis not yet recognized by the medical community but it’s gaining traction in wellness circles. Bethenny Frankel from The Real Housewives of New York City announced she was diagnosed with it in March, and DeBoe Harper has made a point to focus on gut health through the trials and tribulations of her fitness journey.

The more she learned, the more frustrated she became that she’d never been told any of this before — not by doctors or any of her health teachers.

“Optimal health is right under our noses and we didn’t know,” she says.

For the sake of others’ health, DeBoe Harper wanted to share the knowledge she gleaned through her own research and experiences, and she wanted to help people take ownership over their bodies.

By the time she turned toward a career in wellness, she had already acquired a hefty following from her design ideas and fitness inspirations. Her newsletter alone had 3,500 subscribers. Since she became an official Beachbody coach in January 2018, she’s had about 150 people go through her Beachbody challenges. Four months later, she became an official consultant for Beautycounter, a company offering toxin-free makeup and a skincare line to clients. From these side hustles, she’s brought in anywhere from $800 to $2,000 a month, proof, she says, that wellness consulting could be its own career.

Then, in December 2018, she enrolled in online classes that touched on more than 100 dietary theories at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching School, which bills itself as the world’s largest nutrition school in the world.

After graduating in July, she took on a brand new name, “TipTop,” and plans to change her Instagram handle to @youretiptop. She will continue to offer an array of services, from one-on-one health coaching to an online wellness class where she takes clients on a self-guided tour of all the aspects of wellness, covering topics such as nutrition and the gut, self-care, mental health, toxins, spirituality and fitness. 

She’s already acquired a handful of clients, including Turshen and another mom in her 30s, Karen Gall, who wanted to learn more about nutrition after participating in one of DeBoe Harper’s Beachbody coaching circles.

“Sometimes when I’m scrolling through Instagram, all I see are these beautiful food postings and I think this person doesn’t seem like a relatable person,” says Gall. “But [DeBoe Harper] posts real moments on her posts about the struggles of being a mom.”

Knowing she’s not a medical professional also gives Gall ease.

“When I go to the doctor, I might eliminate something or add a detail that might make myself sound healthier,” she says. “She’s like me. We live in the same city. We’re both moms. It’s like I’m talking to a friend. I know I can tell her anything and I won’t be judged for it.”

With all the info floating through social media, and friends talking about their own diets, sometimes one thing contradicts another and it’s hard to see the path forward in your wellness journey. DeBoe Harper has taken on the responsibility of untangling the experience.

“I think a lot of people just feel lost and overwhelmed,” she says.

Of course, the problem is there is a very thin line between cutting-edge health ideas and fads. Some dietitians and doctors are worried about misinformation seeping into the mainstream. Take the celery-juicing trend DeBoe Harper starts her days with.

“Like most of the physicians and dietitians I work with, the trend frustrates me,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian in Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness & Preventive Medicine department. Our liver already detoxes for us and the enthusiasm behind celery juicing has not caught up to the data. “That’s one of the main purposes the liver was put in the body. It doesn’t need assistance.”

But DeBoe Harper doesn’t see drinking celery juice as controversial.

“For me [celery juice] feels refreshing,” she says. “It feels like summertime in a glass.”

And she doesn’t see what she’s doing as passing on false information. She insists that the detoxification aspects of celery juice have been shown numerous times. Teachers in her nutrition school taught about it, she says. She’s also an avid follower of Anthony William, who started the global celery movement and wrote a book on the subject called Medical Medium Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide. Although William is not a doctor and claims he gets his information on healing from a spirit who provides him “advanced medical information on illnesses,” he’s got big-name followers such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Pharrell Williams.

“While I’m a proponent for myself, and talk about the benefits of [celery juice] on my channel, I don’t say everyone should do it,” she says. “I believe you need to decide for yourself if it’s right for you. All I’m out there doing is testing and learning myself.”

True to her word, in a never-ending quest to feel her best self,
DeBoe Harper is continually testing and experimenting with different health tweaks.

Recently, in an effort to help determine what foods might be causing her stomach flare-ups, she started an elimination diet. For three weeks, she took a break from dairy, corn, soy, legumes, citrus fruits, red meat, shellfish, grains and alcohol. The experiment had been going well — until she realized one morning, as she was eating her dairy-free coconut yogurt, that it had corn flour in it. Which meant she had to start all over on her corn elimination. The same sort of thing happened again with her elimination of nightshades, the type of vegetable that includes foods such as tomatoes and eggplants.

“I was putting pepper on everything, but I didn’t know pepper as a seasoning should be eliminated as well,” she says, sighing.

On that Friday afternoon in June, DeBoe Harper ends her workday by turning on one of her cousin’s Beachbody yoga videos. Wearing a black Nike athletic shirt and purple Outdoor Voices leggings that accentuate her toned calves, DeBoe Harper stands on her left foot, her right knee pressed into her chest. On the screen, her cousin coos.

“I want you to realize life is all about balance — not just in this workout, but at home,” her cousin says. “In your daily life. In your kitchen. When you’re figuring out how to fit it all into your busy schedule — find the balance.”

DeBoe Harper wobbles for a second, then straightens herself out.

Later, she heads to day care to pick up her daughter. Their relationship has improved so much since DeBoe Harper started focusing on her wellness.

Together, they go on walks, swim and bake. Penny has even taken to mimicking DeBoe Harper’s workout routines and requests certain workouts. DeBoe Harper finally feels as if she’s a better mom by being able to be fully present in her daughter’s life and activities. She’s more patient overall, with less anxiety and more positive energy.

“It’s so easy to stick to these new healthy routines because I feel like a different person,” she says. “It used to be that I was skewed toward pessimism and exhaustion and confusion whereas now, if anything, I’m skewed toward clarity, motivation, inspiration and vibrancy.” 

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