In early 2007 Habib and I were approached by someone with one of the most interesting backgrounds we had ever come across. This gentleman had started and taken public a well known tech company in Silicon Valley.
After that he helped finance, build and take public a health insurance company. He later helped sell it for billions of dollars. On top of that, he had been an early investor in Whole Foods. All sorts of other interests as well. I think he almost completed a PhD in nuclear physics. Something crazy like that. Obviously there are very few people on the planet with that set of experiences.
And this gentleman had taken a strong interest in the work we were doing with PEERtrainer, and in particular was drawn to the preventive health aspects of the site. In his role in the health insurance company he was able to get very strong insight into the structural problems of the industry. The single biggest problem he saw was on the preventive side. When he saw what we were doing with PEERtrainer, he realized that in his eyes we were a preventive health company.
Of course we never set out to do that. We had started the site after I put together a virtual weight loss support group via email with friends after my first pregnancy. It worked really well, and we built the core PEERtrainer site from that experience.
Literally two years after launching, we had one of our users on the cover of People Magazine. Not just a little picture on the side, the whole cover. This user even went on Good Morning America to tell their story. (Which crashed our servers for an entire morning after I failed to impress upon Habib how many people actually watch that show). And that was around the time we met this person.
This gentleman saw what we were doing with the groups and teams and the community, and saw so much potential, so much more that we could do. His insight helped to trigger a deep exploration of what was possible to really help people in ways that they were not. (And why you will see us continually evolve what we bring to you).
One of the single biggest issues he saw was on the nutrition side, and he basically felt that the standard diet advice that people were getting was really wrong, and hurting people on many levels. "Killing people" was the actual phrase he used.
He introduced us to many interesting people, and gave us an insight into the key challenges of health care, which set us on the path to many of the things are now doing with these email programs, our coaching program, even our tone. We even met Vera Wang through this person at one event! ("Oh, hi Vera, nice to meet you.")
One of those many people was Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who at the time had written a book called "Eat To Live." Joel is good friends with Dr. Oz, who had helped promote his book early on. And Joel was working with two other gentleman on a new company to find ways of getting his ideas into the mainstream. We hit it off and began to bounce ideas off each other, and started a dialogue and partnership that continues today.
What is interesting to note is that during this time, Joel was a heretic in the medical community, in spite of the support of people like Dr. Oz. I think I have told this story before where the Chief Medical Officer of this health insurance company was in such utter disbelief about what Dr. Fuhrman was saying that he thought he had faked his medical credentials. The mainstream medical community was very resistant to anything other than drugs for treating illness. And this was only two years ago.
So this small team started the process, a real uphill battle to get into the mainstream. Their big vision was to move beyond the "diet book" thing, and develop software that gave people a roadmap to their own personal health. Something that in essence would serve as the ultimate motivation. Here is how Dr. Fuhrman described the software in a recent email to us. (he was very particular/insistent we got the language precise)
"The software evaluates a person's dietary insufficiencies and other disease-risk
factors, so a person's long-term health outcomes can be predicted and they
can be effectively motivated to make the necessary changes, to avoid those
risks and more effectively lose weight."
(In other words it motivates the crap out of you and then tells you what you need to eat to get your stuff together.)
So for the last couple years Joel's company (Eat Right America) has been working all sorts of potential deals. Talking to different parts of government, big corporations, political figures. They also started talking to Whole Foods, who took a strong interest.
More than anyone else.
We have no idea what the exact discussions sounded like, but yesterday morning, we got an email from them saying they had just signed a major deal where WF would be selling this product in all of their stores nationwide, as well as Dr. Fuhrman's books and DVDs and most interestingly, featuring Joel's food scoring system in the stores right on the shelves.
We are particularly pleased because we had started to alert people to this product in August of this year, and we have been seeing how people have responded to it. When Whole Foods comes along and gives this immense validation, we are psyched because we do get emails to the effect of "who on earth is this guy??"
Whole Foods is a store that our family relies on. We are not customers, so much as raving fans. The people at our local store know our kids names. (They are patient when we complain about stuff.)
It is so cool to see this connection, and so great to see this process where people start with an idea, and work and work to a successful completion. Later this month we are going to a nearby Whole Foods and watch the Eat Right America team train the local store on the "why" behind this product. We will take our Flip camera along and hopefully get some video shot that we can share with you.
We don't have a relationship with Whole Foods at all at a company level btw. But we think it is important to note the role that Whole Foods is playing to help change the diet and nutrition narrative. I hope this story provides some perspective on that.
And it is good business for them as well, because the net result of Dr. Fuhrman's work is that people end up buying more of the kind of stuff that Whole Food sells.
As part of our partnership with Joel and his team at Eat Right America, we have put together a package where you get this new program (plus all his other books and DVD's and guides) on a trial basis. We have been doing this since August, with great feedback. When you sign up for the trial you can do the software program right now, via a web browser. If you are looking to get a sense of the damage you might have done over the years, definitely check this out.
The main benefit we are seeing is that this product and package really gets people going in a way they were not before. The "Nutrition Prescription" as it is called is working incredibly well in conjunction with all the other things we are doing and offer on PEERtrainer. Our motto is "keep an open mind" so that you allow yourself to discover what is going to work for you. You will discover it...