The Rise of the Online Self-Care Guru

Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey. These are some of the internationally acclaimed experts people have turned to for many years for guidance on how to be their best selves. They remain relevant today. But with the influence of the Internet, we’re also seeing the rise of physical, emotional, health, and fitness ‘experts’.

Partner this with a booming global self-care trend, and we’ve got a flood of health-focused content coming at us from all directions. In fact, the editors at wellandgood.com (2017) say that Google searches for “self-care” were 25% higher at the end of 2017 than a year before.

What does this mean for us, as consumers? And who can we really trust with our well-being?

The rise of the health expert

YouTube, Instagram, and fast data speeds give easy access to insight, tools, and services from people all over the world – some, at minimal cost. Now, this is great when you’re tapping into a genuine expert’s YouTube channel, but there is a downside: most of the people sharing content online believe they’re an expert in something. Are their contributions always a) true, b) the whole truth, or c) safe for everyone? It can be hard to tell.

Victoria Sands, a writer at BuzzFeed (2017), also suggests that online sharing can be psychologically dangerous. As YouTube vloggers often record videos in private spaces, like bedrooms and bathrooms, women, in particular, begin to ‘bond’ with and trust the people on their screens. These influencers develop loyal, faceless and often ‘blind’ followings.

Sands (2017) warns that some YouTube ‘gurus’ use personal challenges, like chronic stress and depression, to gain traction. They offer solutions like candles to treat stress or hair care products to lift the spirit. But because many influencers earn money through brand deals, collaborations, product placement, in-video advertisements, and affiliate links, the ethics (of profiting off the very serious global mental health epidemic) becomes a bit blurry.

Popular self-care gurus

For the above reasons, it’s important to look at every side of the coin, reference reputable medical sites, or check with your trusted medical professional before you put your emotional and physical well-being in the hands of an online personality.

Know, also, that there are many authentic, educated, and funny bloggers, vloggers, authors, and podcasters out there; offering a balanced, informed approach to self-care.

Some of the most popular and widely followed personalities, both locally and internationally, include:

1. Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is many things: an author, entrepreneur, angel investor, business advisor, fitness guru, and TV and podcast personality. Visit his blog and podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, and you’ll find hundreds of interviews with household names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx, covering topics from exercise routines and personal development, to business, acting, and metaphysics.

2. Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle is a knowledgeable, experienced, and highly qualified researcher and health expert from the US. She’s the author of six prize-winning books that cover food labels, food safety, and how the food industry influences health, calories, fizzy drinks, and even pet food. In her blog, Food Politics, she examines scientific and socioeconomic influences on food choice, obesity, and food safety.

3. Caleb Marshall

Caleb Marshall’s cardio fitness dancing videos are a fun and energetic way to get into shape. By dancing along to some of the hottest new songs, The Fitness Marshall will get you moving. Check out his YouTube channel to keep up-to-date with Caleb’s ‘cardio concerts’.

4. Sindiswe Van Zyl

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl (aka ‘Dr Sindi’) is a South African medical doctor, specialising in primary health care and HIV. Through her presence on Twitter and Facebook, she shares insight and answers questions about HIV and health. She’s been featured in multiple magazines, is a regular radio and TV guest, and serves as the HIV columnist for Bona magazine and www.health24.com. Visit her website here: http://drsindi.co.za/

5. Cara-Lisa

Cara-Lisa Sham is another local personality known for her online presence, Caralishious. She believes in building health the no-nonsense way: naturally. On her Facebook page, you’ll find healthy recipes, inspiring messages, and fitness videos. As an expert in her field, Cara-Lisa’s services include wellness coaching, personalised wellness plans, and delicious vegan ice-cream sold online. Check out her website for more: www.caralishious.com

A few pinches of salt

Whatever you do, and especially when it comes to your wellbeing, take everything you find online with a healthy pinch of salt, and always do your own research, just in case. And remember – always check in with your healthcare professional. They know best!


The Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA) aims to promote self-care and to enable consumers to responsibly and appropriately self-medicate and self-treat primary ailments where possible. As such, SMASA represents companies involved in the provision, distribution and sale of healthcare products. SMASA also engages actively in legislative, regulatory and policy development.

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You'll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.