A Darin(g) Journey: How Darin Olien is Paving the Way to Wellness

Courtesy of Darin Olien

Wellness expert Darin Olien is sharing his learnings from the setbacks that have slingshot him to health and well-being.

Long before he went Down to Earth with Zac Efron, Darin Olien was on a wellness journey that he says began the moment he came into the Earth. Born two months premature, the wellness expert, television and podcast host, and best-selling author spent his childhood overcoming health issues and physical insecurities.

Darin completed his first cleanse at the young age of 13 years old. By the age of 16, he realized that he could workout and develop his body to surmount the physical shortcomings he felt he had. By focusing on his own physiology and well-being, Darin went from a small preemie to a strong college athlete, playing American Football no less. While a severe back injury put an abrupt end to his football career, it catapulted him into a profession focused on wellness, nutrition, and kinesiology.

He recounts, sharing, “My body was broken, in a sense. That set off a curiosity about this incredible, mysterious, miraculous thing that we get to have—and that’s the body.” Darin continues emphasizing, “We have infinitely more control over the expression of our genetics.” Because when it comes to nature and nurture, the way we nurture for or, on the other hand, neglect our own health and the health of all that’s around us can overcome whatever nature has provided.

Courtesy of Darin Olien

On the Hunt

Back in the ‘90s, at a time when wellness wasn’t the buzzword that it is today, Darin’s wellness career took off as he came straight out of college. Focused on nutrition, he began formulating healthy food products.

Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, Darin had an inherent interest in farmers and foragers. He followed this interest and his passion for nutrition and botanicals, not realizing that it would take him all over the world, even stepping into our own shores. It was decades ago, exploring the Philippines, when he discovered the benefits of coconut water and coconut sugar.

He says, “I started formulating products and being very fascinated with botanicals and innocently traveling the world.” He continues sharing, “I had to go and meet the people that some of these exotic and nutritional products are coming from. That set my course on this idea of a superfood hunter.”

Considered as especially nutrient dense, superfoods like chia seeds and baru nuts, which Darin is helping make more easily accessible through the Barùkas brand, are said to be particularly beneficial to one’s health. With the desire to impart these superfoods and the natural sources that have long served as the nutritional life force for indigenous communities across continents, Darin wrote SuperLife. Within the pages of the New York Times best seller, Darin discusses the principles of quality nutrition, hydration, detoxification, oxygenation, and alkalization, which he believes will maximize our bodies’ potential.

Initially only motivated by self-interest, Darin’s study of nutrition developed into a dedication, not only to personal health but also to the health of our planet. “Goals are so limited because we have so little understanding of ourselves but if you set a goal and you’re inspired by it and you go for it, then it opens up other doors that you couldn’t possibly open unless you went for it,” he muses. Little did he know that one of those other doors would open to homes across the globe.

Courtesy of Darin Olien

Getting Down to Earth with Zac Efron

Intrigued by his wellness philosophies, Zac Efron reached out to Darin through their common friend, the endurance athlete Rich Roll. It was over a casual lunch, with Darin and the Hollywood actor sharing their mutual passion for health and adventure, that the seed of an idea for their hit Netflix series sprung.

“I had written down this kind of skeleton model of a show that I wanted to do but I wasn’t even pitching it to Zac. I was just answering his questions,” Darin recounts. “Serendipitously, he reached back out to me after our first meeting and said, ‘I have this show but it’s a different kind of show.’” Darin, Zac, and their producers brought their ideas together and then took them across different countries.

More than a travel show, Down to Earth with Zac Efron is all about uplifting audiences by celebrating our magnificent planet and the remarkable individuals living throughout its different corners. From hydroelectric power in Iceland to the blue zone of Sardinia, the miraculous waters of Lourdes to superfoods in Lima, from sustainable communes in Costa Rica to coral reef restoration in the Great Barrier Reef, the show combines entertainment with inspiring solutions.

“We need to entertain people, especially more than ever today, but at the same time, we need to do meaningful things, right?” While viewers were at home as the show premiered in 2020, Darin and Zac wanted people from all walks of life to be able to turn on their televisions and be entertained by meaningful subject matters and provocative information that they can choose to adopt in their lives or not. 

Darin expounds on this saying, “The show really holds a vision of ‘Let’s enjoy this incredible planet. Let’s bring people into these worlds that maybe they wouldn’t be able to see. Then let’s highlight some great people doing inspired things that regardless of what your view is, is just good for the world.’”

Two days after our conversation, the second season of their show went on to win its second Daytime Emmy Award. “It’s been beyond a show. It’s extremely meaningful. I’m forever grateful to Zac for walking me into this ability to share something I’m absolutely committed to.”

Courtesy of Darin Olien

Inconveniently Fatal

The latest expedition in Darin’s wellness journey is the launch of his sophomore book, Fatal Conveniences. Recounting his early days scouring the world, Darin shares how during that time, his own father was back in the US, suddenly suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity disorder. The illness was triggered by exposure to chemicals and toxins found in everyday products.

Darin and his family had no choice but to educate themselves on various harmful chemicals that we’re all unwittingly exposed to through the multitude of products we use and come into contact with every single day. Perfumes, lotions, makeup, clothing, food containers, paint, carpets – so many of the things that are part of our daily habits and lifestyle may contain substances that can cause short- and long-term harm.

Since his father’s diagnosis, Darin has been taking steps to detox his environment as best he can. “As I continued on this health world, I realized that this was such a growing problem. Sixty to eighty thousand toxins are emitted in our environment every year. Most of that is unregulated and untested.” He continues emphasizing, “On average, women get exposed to about 126 harmful chemicals every day.”

Darin has compiled three decades worth of learnings and practices into his new book. The reality is, the things that seem to make every day living more convenient and the things that enhance today’s modern lifestyles may actually be harmful to us in the long run.

Darin confides that putting pen to paper a second time around was no easy feat. He admits, “It was incredibly difficult to put all this information together but I really just want people to become aware so that they can make these small choices that really add up to be a lot more beneficial to them over time.”

Broken down into categories including personal care products, food and beverages, electromagnetic radiation, clothing, and household products, Fatal Conveniences is meant to wake readers up to the daily things that we’re doing so that we can all make better choices. Because, as Darin says, “There’s always a better choice.”

While the world of wellness can be overwhelming for anyone venturing into it for the first time, Darin asserts that holistic wellness is a journey and not an all or nothing situation. “Life and wellness are a journey. You don’t just show up and everything’s perfect, you’re eating perfectly, you’re wearing everything that’s non-toxic. No, it’s a journey all the time.” He continues, “We live in this environment. Toxins are in the water, they’re in the air. But the most important thing is to minimize them.”

Darin has written the book as a resource guide. He instructs, “Open the book, learn something, implement it, and then keep going.”

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