Tammy Stokes, the founder and CEO of Cafe West Express
We speak to Tammy Stokes, the founder and CEO of Cafe West Express, a healthy eating cafe, and West Coast Workout, a lifestyle fitness studio.
To say that Tammy Stokes is the modern wellness guru would be an understatement. The west-coast-born wellness lifestyle expert started her journey young – and in the right place for it. California was booming with fitness and wellness trends and Stokes jumped right in post-college, landing a job in Hollywood helping celebrity clients. Fast forward two decades, Stokes is the CEO and Founder of Cafe West Express and West Coast Workout. Besides these successful ventures, she is also the author of her book Live Your Healthiest Life, which shares her expertise on finding a healthy balance. We speak to Stokes on her top tips for success.
Q: Could you tell us about your journey to wellness and how you got into fitness and nutrition?
A: The groundwork was set for me during my childhood. My father and stepmother lived in Southern California and I spent a lot of time on the west coast. I fell in love with the lifestyle. It made me feel so good, even as a young girl, to eat healthy, exercise and be outdoors. I wanted to make a career of it. After I graduated from college, I moved to California where the wellness industry was booming. I got lucky – very lucky – and landed a job in Hollywood. I was hired and trained by a woman who specialized in transforming bodies for her celebrity clients. We worked with a team of professionals. We had trainers, nutritionists, chefs, skincare experts, massage therapists and yoga teachers. I watched the dramatic results the clients got from immersing themselves in what is now referred to as ‘self-care’. I loved my personal results too. I never felt better about my body. Several years later, I moved to Atlanta to buy a home and start a family. Since nothing like the businesses I loved in California existed in Atlanta, I took it as the perfect opportunity to start my own business. A few years after opening my fitness studio, West Coast Workout, I opened a healthy cafe, Cafe West Express. Both are located in the heart of a thriving Atlanta community. The journey continues to be a dream come true. I love transforming lives.
Q: Cafe West Express has been open since January 2015 – a huge milestone. What changes have you seen in consumer behaviors and adaptation to healthy lifestyles?
A: I truly believe as people weave healthier habits into their lifestyle, they find the desire to dive further into it because it changes the way they feel about themselves. When they feel good, they want more. It’s like a good drug that keeps delivering great results every time they write themselves another prescription for nutritious food, exercise, rest and self-care.
Q: Is there more demand from Americans for healthy eating?
A: The demand is growing, but unfortunately, it’s also growing for bars, gourmet ice cream and junk food trends like designer donuts. It’s obvious by our health care crisis and epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes, more Americans need to jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible.
Q: You are a wellness retreat host for Blackberry Farm. Could you tell us about your role and what it entails?
A: I host wellness retreats for many luxury resorts. I do a live version of my book, Live Your Healthiest Life that is very popular with resort guests. People choose a wellness vacation because they want to learn and explore new ideas. Live Your Healthiest Life lays the groundwork for living a healthy lifestyle at home. It provides a plan for guests to take with them when they return home. I usually teach a variety of fitness classes too.
Q: What are some new (and noteworthy) wellness trends?
A: Oh, here are some of my current favorite wellness trends:
- Virtual workouts – This has been a great way to expand my business and capture more clients I wasn’t able to serve before.
- Food as medicine – It’s as old as Hippocrates, but seems to be a new trend. People are thinking of food as a way to enhance their immune health. What a great idea because it certainly does!
- Booze alternatives like kombucha
- Mood enhancing adaptogens like CBD and herbs
- Mental health awareness
- Clean makeup and skincare
- Cooking at home – This one is good for everyone. Most restaurant food is high in sodium, fat and sugar.
Q: What are some skills you’ve learned as a guest media personality on local and national media?
A: I think the most important thing is to be prepared. Have a plan of what you really want to say and stay on topic. One more thing – stay in your lane of expertise. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up. Be honest and authentic.
Q: How do you balance work and personal life?
A: I work a lot, but I love my work. I also spend so much time in public and when I get home, I really keep it low-key. I have a routine of wind-down rituals I practice as soon as I walk in the door. By the time I get to bedtime, it’s magical. I sleep like a baby.
Q: What are your top 5 recommendations at Cafe West Express?
A: 1) Emperor’s Broth – it’s like a bone broth, but it’s plant-based. It’s made with medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic herbs. It also happens to be delicious. It has been my savior during the pandemic. The broth supports immune health and works as an anti-inflammatory.
2) Any of our vegan soups. We have seven; one for every day of the week. They are all nutrient-dense and serve a different purpose depending on what you want to accomplish. Of course, you could be like me and enjoy a variety each day.
3) The LA Burger – unlike other plant-based burgers on the market, this one is made with real food, no soy and no fillers. I like mine dripping with extra chipotle sauce.
4) Avocado Toast – need I say more.
5) Strawberry Beet Smoothie – It tastes like a strawberry milkshake.
Q: What are some ‘wellness myths’ you’ve debunked?
A: A common wellness myth is when people say you need a machine to get fit. I believe that actually, the less equipment you use, the more fit you’ll be. It will help your body look more balanced and authentic too. Another myth is that health comes in a supplement form, but nothing beats real food. Some may also say that sleep is for the old. But that’s also not true, sleep is necessary for recovery, balanced hormones and good health. Lastly, the myth that you can’t make a good living in the fitness industry which is also untrue. I have put my kids through college, bought my dream home and paid cash for my new car. You can too!