Nikki Ostrower, founder and lead nutritionist at Nao Wellness in NY shares her extraordinary journey and transformation from eating disorder to creating a wellness center for healing others. Nikki’s approach was to offer an experience where one can feel at home supported and nourished. Nikki is dedicated to researching and gathering the top authentic experts in wellness to guarantee profound healing for the NAO community. I am so grateful to provide Breathwork workshops at NAO where I witness deep healing in an environment curated with genuine love.
Getting Close with Nikki Ostrower, Founder of Nao Wellness
The NAO experience
What is your role at Nao Wellness?
I am the founder, CEO and lead nutritionist.
Can you share with us your background story and how your passion for nutrition emerged?
My story and struggle with food addiction began at a very young age, when my parents’ divorce and the pressures of fitting in led me to seek solace in food. By nine years old, I developed an acute preoccupation with my body. Soon after, both a doctor and family member commented on my weight, and preoccupation turned to obsession. I dabbled in everything from extreme diets to pills and laxatives, eventually discovering binging and purging. I hid it for years, trapped by its vicious cycle throughout high school and college. I convinced myself that once I got out into “the real world,” I’d finally stop and just eat healthy. But life just got more complicated. As my disease progressed, so did the negative effects on my body. I suffered terrible migraines, acid reflux, major constipation, and of course, depression. Simple daily tasks seemed impossible. I finally realized I was out of control and needed help.
In 2005, I completed a 30-day stay at the Rosewood treatment center in Arizona and took a year off from work to focus on healing. With lots of guidance and hand holding, I transformed my relationship to food. It was at that time I decided to go back to school to study nutrition at the Academy of Healing Nutrition. I threw myself into the process and fell in love with what it really meant to be healthy. Grateful for the support that changed my life, I set out to empower others to change theirs. That’s how my journey as a nutritionist began.
How long have you been in practice?
Since 2008. Time flies!
What inspired the launch of Nao?
I wanted to work intimately with clients and knew the best way to do that was by starting my own business. I always knew NAO would grow beyond a nutrition practice and I wanted a place I could go to take care of myself that felt warm and welcoming. For years, I reluctantly stomached NYC spas and wellness spaces that triggered feelings of judgment and insecurity. I also craved the convenience and cost-effectiveness of having all my favorite wellness modalities in one space. Knowing I wasn’t alone in those desires only fueled my passion further. I had to bring this dream to life—so, I did!
What are some of lessons turned into blessings on your path that you can share with us?
As much as you want to be in control, you can’t. It won’t be perfect. Something will go wrong. Unpredictable things will happen. But if you know that going in, you can dance with it instead of freaking out. You have to learn to just adjust course and keep moving forward. I learn new things every day. Mostly to let go, trust, and accept support from those around me because if I want the business to continue growing, I can’t do it all myself—at least not in a healthy way
What was the driving force with turning your vision/your dream into a reality?
I had a very clear vision for a beautifully serene space where people could come to get expert guidance, build community, and get well. Once I decide on something, I go for it. I got a ton of help from other my husband and family, and my friends, and my incredible network of fellow entrepreneurs. Having the help of mentors was critical. I don’t think I could’ve done it without them. It’s all still unfolding, so I’m not even sure what it will look like a year from now, but I’m excited to find out!
What services does Nao Wellness provide?
We offer nutritional counseling, food intolerance testing, infrared sauna, reiki energy healing, and holistic chiropractic care. We also host regular wellness events with therapeutic experts from a range of modalities.
What are the ethos that NAO rests on and how did you go about creating your dream team?
Client experience and service is everything to me. I want everyone who walks in that door to feel taken care of. Everything we do is about healing and love, so there’s no pretentiousness here. After experiencing the stuffiness of so many spas over the years, I was adamant about creating a vibe that’s warm and welcoming.
I’m really thorough and particular about who I hire and I’ve been really lucky to cultivate the team of amazing people I have now. It’s more than a clock-in, clock-out job here. We’re making a difference in people’s day-to-day lives and it’s critical that every staff member embodies the NAO philosophy, not just on the surface but as part of their own lives. So, I’ve attracted amazing human beings who are truly passionate and committed. I like to think I’ve created an environment of generosity by being generous with my team. We’re in constant communication to ensure we’re all aligned. Our dynamic just works because they care about the work they’re doing and they know I care about their well-being just as I do for clients.
What type of interactive events does NAO host and who are you most interested in collaborating with?
We host events led by wellness experts regularly. They range from mind-body meditations and your Breathwork groups to talks about the latest leading therapeutic modalities. I’m always looking to bring the best and most cutting-edge information and services to the NAO tribe. I’m actually heading out to Los Angeles this summer to explore the latest wellness trends, since the West Coast seems to have their finger on the pulse.
How do you balance being the most amazing mama as well as giving your love and soul to your business ?
Being a mom really is the hardest job there is—and it’s also the most rewarding. I’d be lying if I said hustling through a full day of clients on an hour or two of sleep is fun, but I’ve experienced a new side of myself that I’m very proud of. Growing my business and raising Emma are both wildly demanding, but I’ve learned to stretch myself in new ways in both cases, and most importantly, to ask for help. It’s hard because I like to be in control all the time, but I’m learning to let go more and Emma has helped me do that. I don’t want to miss this precious time with her, so I make time to turn off so I can be fully present. Whether you’re nurturing a business or a family (or as in my case, both), it really does take a village. I’m so lucky to have amazing teams at work and at home. Self-care has been my savior. It’s become a non-negotiable that I build into my routine the same way I schedule Emma’s activities. Otherwise, I’d be lost. It may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve learned that if you take care of yourself first, everything else falls into place.
What does a day off in your life look like?
As a business owner, it’s hard to ever fully turn off, but you have to force yourself to do it or risk serious burnout. Saturdays are my day to just be with my family. My daughter, Emma gets us up super early. My husband Matt makes breakfast, and if I can, I’ll squeeze in a run with our dog, Kirby on the west side highway. We try and get outside as much as possible when the weather is warm. We’ll take Emma to the park or meet some friends and their kids for lunch. Sometimes we’ll head out of the city for a quieter reprieve down the shore or somewhere suburban. Nature is the best medicine for the chaos of the city.
Self-care, quality time with my husband and daughter, laughs with friends. It’s so easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel, so I’m really working on carving out more ME time so I can actually enjoy it all.