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The Art of the Lunch Break

Lunch. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU HEAR THAT WORD?

Depending on your situation you might not think anything at all. Lunch? You say to yourself. You skip right on over it and forget to eat. Or, you may think of something consumed while hunched over a desk. The quicker it goes down the better because you’ve got things to do. Or, maybe it’s your favorite hour of the day, and you truly relish in that mid-day break.

By definition the word lunch means

‘a meal eaten in the middle of the day, typically one that is lighter or less formal than an evening meal.’

With nearly 124 million Americans employed, where are the majority of us during the middle of the day?

Work!

That’s a lot of people consuming a meal on the clock every single day, which makes the work environment all the more important for this oh-so-precious meal.

Research shows that 1 in 5 people step away from their desks for a midday meal. 1 in 5! That’s a lot of people not taking what is likely a much-needed break from their stressful, challenging jobs. But, breaks are sacred. They are important. Studies show that even small breaks like walking can fuel creativity.

studies show that even small breaks like walking can fuel creativity.

Furthermore, lunch breaks can increase productivity, concentration, and social connections.

So, if we know the benefits, why aren’t more people doing it?

At WellSeek we believe in the power of a good, quality lunch break for optimum success at work. And, beyond that, utilizing the time to fill up on the right foods that make us feel like our best selves.

A common misconception is that it’s too hard to pack a lunch. People are either too busy or they think that bringing one will prohibit them from getting up and out. Then, time gets away from them and they end up running to the vending machine or the nearest fast food restaurant or corner deli where health isn’t necessarily the first thing on their minds. They are thinking about the most recent ‘fire drill,’ urgent email, or big presentation. Work is hard! And, we need to remember to treat our bodies right to support the toll those deadlines take on us.

So, how can we get the most out of our lunch breaks?

The WellSeek team got together for a lunch of our own at Cafe Gratitude in San Diego to discuss the matter.

 
 

Start With The Right Foods

First things first, integrate the right foods! We like to call them ‘work nourishing meals.’ Our resident dietitian, Sara Tindaro, suggests the following list of foods to get you started on ideas to add to your grocery list or keep in mind when dining out.

Veggies

Greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, etc. You get the idea, we love green! If it’s a vegetable, it’s on our list, especially the non-starchy kind. Here are some ideas to get you started: brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, and cucumber

Lean Proteins

Chicken or turkey, fish such as salmon, eggs, and yogurt

Vegetarian option: quinoa, legumes, nuts, and most plants have varying amounts of protein

Healthy Fats

Avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds, coconut, dark chocolate (yes, we know you’ll love this one)

Complex Carbs

Starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash

Whole grains such as quinoa, beans and legumes (also a good source of protein), brown rice, and fruit like bananas, apples, berries, oranges, and grapes. Whatever is in season!

Pack It Up

Next, packing is your friend. Often times it can take no longer than 5 minutes to throw together a work nourishing meal, especially if you can utilize last night’s leftovers. All you need is a simple container to take with you on your commute. Here are a few meal ideas Sara recommends to get you started:

Make a Bowl

Leftover protein from the night before, such as salmon on top of chopped cabbage, bell peppers, any other vegetable, and quinoa. Lightly dress with an extra virgin olive oil-based vinaigrette.

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Throw Together a Salad

Lentils, walnuts, chopped sweet potato, romaine, avocado, tomatoes, and red onion. Top it with a dollop of hummus and some micro greens, and drizzle with a mix of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Meal in a Jar

Try a deconstructed sushi roll with brown rice, nori, shredded carrots cucumber sticks, avocado, pickled ginger, and wasabi paste dressed with a rice vinegar or soy sauce based dressing.

 
 

Back to Basics

When all else fails, a good ‘ol PB&J on whole grain bread with sliced carrots and cucumbers on the side will do the trick! Try a nut butter other than peanut butter, like almond or sunflower butter. And, smashing berries then spreading on bread in place of traditional jelly makes for a healthier twist.

Grab A Buddy

We are all about building a community here at WellSeek, and we think it’s a great approach to take with your lunch break too. Grab a friend or colleague and take your meal outside! Soak in some Vitamin D, breathe in the fresh air, and have a non-work related conversation. If the weather doesn’t permit, head to the break room or a community table and chit chat there. Studies show that adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers. That puts dining out with friends in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

Be Mindful

A key to maximizing the lunch hour is to take your time. So often we rush through our food and don’t even taste it. We owe it to ourselves to stop and enjoy a meal. Research reveals that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tends to make people eat more at that meal. So, slow down. Chew your food. If there is no possible way you can step away from your desk, at least turn off work mode for 10-15 minutes and read an article you’ve bookmarked or your current book.

At our most recent lunch at Cafe Gratitude we participated in their ‘question of the day,’ which is meant to inspire meaningful and reflective conversations amongst their guests. Ours was, ‘What is your greatest success?’ We went around the table to share our individual perspectives, and each of us was most proud of following our dreams and our hearts’ truest passions.

But, we also discussed that

those personal successes did not happen over night. They were a gradual process

The same rule applies for the art of the lunch break. Start small. Integrate one step and one change at a time. Before you know it, your lunches will be one of the greatest successes of your day.

Happy lunching!

 
 

Full on Happiness

when i look at my life exactly 1 year ago

i can't help but be overwhelmed with how different things were.

It was likely 90 degrees, 100% humidity, and I was en route to my office on Broadway in the heart of Manhattan. I had squeezed in a morning workout at Equinox in the Flatiron, and was looking down at my iPhone frantically checking my zillion emails while crossing the busy, taxi-filled streets and bumping into people with my heavy bags filled with my gym clothes, laptop, green smoothie, and gosh knows what else. Even that sentence was exhausting to read, am I right? So, you probably get it.

These were my mornings… stressful, chaotic, and uncomfortable.

Might I add that this is coming from a girl who insists on forcing herself to look for the positive at all times. So, I’d make a point, amidst the crowds, to notice the unique architecture of the buildings and the charming shops on University Avenue bustling with the young energy of NYU students. I was living out a lifelong dream. These were what I called my ‘Felicity moments.’ Purple flags waving in the breeze.

I’d get into work around 9:30am, although the anxiety around my job started upon waking up. In New York, work never stops. It wasn’t uncommon to get emails throughout the night. I found myself working well into the wee hours of the early morning to meet deadlines or ‘overachieve,’ and also meet unrealistic standards I’d set for myself to measure up to colleagues, or just the generally high bar that’s inherently set in that city.

work was non-stop and i felt a constant sense of stress and never being good enough.It didn’t matter how much I talked myself off the ledge, it was an unhealthy environment for me, period.

The physical environment included an amazing office space. Amazing doesn’t do it justice. This open space exposed brick loft, decorated with a boutique and edgy sense of style down to the very last detail including the bar cart, was pristine. I was lucky. And I mean that with every cell of my being. However, it started to occur to me, that my successes and contributions at work weren’t personally gratifying. The positives did not outweigh the negative effects of the lifestyle. And, sitting all day hunched over a computer screen while full of tension didn’t help the situation.

The stress wore on me, and like it works with most coping mechanisms, I used things like food for comfort and sacrificed many parts of my own health for my job, thinking that it was the right thing to do.

All of these details are just to simply paint the picture that it doesn’t matter how good things appear to be on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And, it doesn’t matter what you do, or where you work, or what industry you’re in, or where you live, these are likely natural feelings that come along with any corporate environment. We all want to do the best that we can at our jobs. We want to meet the expectations of ourselves, our peers, our managers and the company as a whole.

we don't want to fail.

So we push ourselves to the max and often times sacrifice our health

I have since moved across the country to a small beach community where there are no incessant horns or sirens, and no taxi cabs in sight. Instead you hear things like birds chirping, dogs barking, and occasionally the neighbor waxing his surfboard. I’ve been able to take ample time to reflect on my New York City experience, and one thing that usually comes to mind is this: we need help. We can’t always do it alone. And, with most of us being employed by great companies both big and small, it’s important that those companies understand the needs of their employees.

Health benefits have the reputation of being a confusing, frustrating beast so we as employees write them off and utilize them only if absolutely necessary.

And, that’s no one’s fault. It’s unfortunately the reality and complexity of our healthcare system in the U.S. Thankfully, we seem to be taking strides to better it. Slowly but surely. All the while, there are new companies forming everyday that are attempting to bring health and wellness services to corporations that are fresh and innovative, waiting to challenge traditional benefits’ status quo. I believe the world is waking up to this epidemic of stress, and lack of self-care, whether it be through eating,  exercise, sleep, or mental and emotional well-being.

for me, nutrition is the key.

And, I suspect that I’m not alone in that. After all, food sustains us and is an essential daily need. With nearly 2/3 of America being overweight, there is clearly a problem at hand. People are abusing food in ways that are likely affecting their overall happiness and quite frankly, their satisfaction with life. I am a firm believer that our jobs should never contribute to our weight management issues. And from personal experience, I know this is something that can be difficult.

food should be our fuel, not our escape.

Putting our health first and nourishing our bodies with the right foods can have a huge impact not only on our performance at work, but our overall mental state, and more importantly help us avoid any potential future chronic illnesses. Often times we may need the guidance of health professionals to truly live our best, healthiest lives to become the highest functioning employees that we can be. That’s why I believe it’s in the best interest of companies to offer services that help their employees manage key components of their everyday well-being. Only then can they begin to contribute to the organization from a place of confidence, clarity, and creativity.

I’ve since made it my mission to both work with a company whose goal is to better connect the right nutrition advice to as many people as possible, and to personally help people myself.

For more information on Gina visit: www.fullonhappiness.com

 

*Please note that the thoughts and opinions put forth in this blog piece are in no way, shape or form a reflection of the lack of care and support I received from any of my former employers. I’ve worked for amazing organizations with incredibly supportive and generous employee benefits and I am forever grateful for everything they brought to my life. The decision to change my lifestyle had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with them.

 

­It Takes a Community

 

 

As the saying goes, the best diet is the one you will follow.

That means guiding people along a path they want to be on so they have the best shot at positively impacting their health.  For WellSeek, we understand continuous inspiration is key to keeping people on the right track. And that takes a collective effort from experts who are already working hard to inspire others in leading healthier lives. 

While there are many qualified nutrition experts out there, the ones who have undergone a nationally-recognized education and credentialing process are registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs).  

WellSeek is creating ways to intertwine the conversations RDNs are having with one another with those of your own, so you can define the path you want to be on. With the help of our lead RDN, Sara Tindaro, we are working together in building a community passionate and curious about nutrition.

 
 
 
 

What brought you to your journey to nutrition and in becoming an RDN?

After graduating from UC Davis in economics, I pursued a career in finance that left me feeling empty inside.  And what did I fill that emptiness with? You guessed it: food. 

I was not only unhappy in my day-to-day work, but I soon found out that the foods I was choosing to eat left me feeling even worse. I soon became insatiable (no pun intended) for more and more information on the types of foods that are truly nourishing. Soon I realized I could turn this passion into a career by pursuing what was missing in my former career:  helping people in a field I loved.

 

What is your philosophy in guiding others in their nutrition?

Nutrition has a profound impact on one’s health, but it’s only part of the puzzle. Although finding the foods that help nourish an individual is critical, the other aspects of one’s life are all connected to a person’s nutritional status. I strive to connect nutrition to the bigger picture of whole body health, a goal that I share with WellSeek.

 

How are RDNs different from other nutrition experts out there?

The terms ‘dietitian’ and ‘nutritionist’ are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings!

An RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) has completed rigorous academic coursework and professional work in order to become credentialed. All RDNs have also passed a national exam and are required to complete a certain number of hours in professional education programs in order to remain an RDN. To give you some perspective, I took over a year of pre-requisite science classes at a community college in order to apply for an MS program in nutrition. Then I underwent three years of schooling that included about 1200 hours of supervised work. Finally, I spent the summer after I graduated to study for the RDN exam.  The point is that with an RDN, you know you are receiving information from people who have completed the same requirements to be credentialed. 

 
 

 

How do you want others to view nutrition and its broader impact on maintaining good health? 

Nutrition should be both simple and pleasurable. I understand that this task is not an easy one, especially in a society where we are overwhelmed with a constant stream of conflicting nutrition news. It's especially hard for those who want long-term solutions to their problems, not just a quick fix.  It makes you want to just throw your hands up in the air and have that cupcake (or five) after all. WellSeek really wants to solve that piece of the puzzle by providing tools that help people take charge of their nutrition and become an advocate for their own health.

How do you see WellSeek in the current nutrition landscape? 

You know you are receiving sound nutrition information from credentialed experts when you use WellSeek. And if someone needs more individual guidance, they can be matched with and have an opportunity to check out which RDNs they want to work with. 

But what really sets WellSeek apart are the resources provided to allow everyone to be in the driver’s seat of their own nutrition plan. People will be armed with the tools needed to verify the nutrition information received, dive deeper into the reasoning behind recommendations, and even question it if necessary.

This is a crucial part of the process to really allow people to turn information into true knowledge where those ‘light bulb’ moments happen and real change can occur.

 

Posted 3.11.2015

Our Guide

 

takes an incredible amount of time, patience, and help from good people who share the same goals.

Luckily, we have been working closely with a team of folks and advisers who share WellSeek’s mission to reshape the way we make better choices in nutrition for our everyday health.

Which is why we would like to introduce one of our advisers, 

Cynthia Benjamin.

Cynthia brings her deep expertise in healthcare IT, strategic product design, and business development to her role at WellSeek. Her expertise has been helping WellSeek navigate the healthcare technology landscape.

"Nutrition information has long been an area of mixed messages, 

with trends and fads getting more visibility than clinically proven data, and highly-marketed products getting more attention than what actually works for specifics goals and health conditions.”
“It’s exciting to be a part of something that wants to help people understand the vast amount of information that exists about health and wellness, and use it to make better choices in their lives."
 
 
 
 

Cynthia Benjamin has over a decade of experience working in the life science and technology industries, including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Proctor & Gamble, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, IBM and Federal Express. Cynthia received an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds an M.S. and B.S. in Product Design Engineering from Stanford University.

Currently:

Director of Design and Innovation @ Thrive Foundation

Lecturer @ Stanford University

Previous roles include:

Innovation Director & Strategy Principal @ IMS Health

Strategy Consulting Engagement Manager @ Strategic Decisions Group

Design Engineer @ IDEO

 

 

Posted 2.23.2015

A Year Ago Today, I Started.

 

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

– Karen Lamb

A few months ago, I was backing up files on my laptop.

Something caught my eye: A folder containing my statement of purpose when I applied for grad school in 2003 -- I was 21 at the time, about to wrap up college, and trying to figure out where I was heading next.

Just for fun, I opened it up to see what kind of wide-eyed hopes and dreams I set out to accomplish. Despite having written it myself, I was pleasantly surprised. In it, I had written my goals for what I wanted to achieve as a PhD student, and these goals were not far removed from what I still love to do:

…using biological information to create computer models that better understand the human body, and apply it towards the development of potential therapeutic options.

Up until 18 months ago, I was doing just that. I was working as an R&D informatics scientist at a biotech company. I was analyzing a lot of biological data on metabolic processes and nutrients that impact the human body. And I was trying to turn that information into something beneficial for developing singular therapeutic products that may service a market need.

I thought I was where I wanted to be.

Here I was, learning all these interesting facts about metabolism and nutrients within our own bodies. But if those facts didn’t immediately translate into a profitable therapeutic market, it wasn’t worth pursuing. And that’s fine, I get it…companies need to make money and any learned insight must bring profitable value to their core business.

But there was something that always bothered me about that logic.  Couldn’t information in itself be valuable to someone if it was properly distilled it into something more basic and fundamental to use?

But that’s silly to think about, of course. “Really, Monica, stop taking yourself so seriously, who would care?”

Yet I couldn’t quite shake that feeling. After all, eating is an essential part of what we do as human beings…there had to be something more to it.

And when it comes to knowing what to eat, wouldn't information, if better understood, be just as valuable and effective as a 'therapeutic product' to someone in their health?

And so began the long hours and cups of coffee into the night while the kids were asleep, as I sat in front of my laptop trying to figure out how to get started. My attempt at keeping my husband busy was to encourage him to head out in the evenings, “Go have fun with the boys, someone has to stay in with the kids.” (Appreciate you putting up with me, babe!)

Birthdays, at their core, are a celebration for a completion of another year, and a fresh start for something new. Today reminds me of what brought me to where I’m at, because it is WellSeek’s first birthday.

I'm proud to say, a year ago today, I started.

 

Posted 2.17.2015 

­It's Good Having Company

 

When I first started WellSeek, I was alone.  And yes, it was damn scary.

It was like walking on an undefined path through a thick fog, with an unclear view of what was ahead or around me.  

As it so happens, we aren’t always alone.  Others may be on a similar path in parallel to you.  You just may not see them. But eventually, when the timing is right, you cross paths.

And with that, my co-founder Jason Amy joined me.  

It’s not as scary when you’re not alone.

 
 

I've known Monica for almost 10 years,

without having met her for most of it.  It was entirely through her husband, while he and I worked together as software engineers at the same company.

Through the years, her husband and I would often talk at our lunch breaks; sometimes, Monica would come up. We basically communicated to each other through her husband without actually meeting in person for almost a decade!

One day, she reached out to me because she wanted to understand the mindset of someone who was trying out different nutrition trends and fads.

From there, things quickly snowballed as we realized we had so many common goals. 

It was when Monica told me about what she wanted to achieve with WellSeek that a light bulb went off.


I’ve always had my personal quests to improve my physique and health, and I had my active lifestyle down.  But I was still in the dark about the nutrition component and found the subject very daunting. It was truly a mystery that led me down paths of blind supplementation, aimless research and overall confusion.

Given all the conflicting advice out there,

I always believed that nutrition information needed to be provided in a way that is better than it currently is.

When Monica told me about her simple perspective in how she asked questions to find answers around nutrition, it felt like that ‘missing link’ to what I already knew.  I couldn't wait to see it in action.

When she asked me to come on board, I knew I was ready to quit my full-time corporate job and help build it together.


My curiosity for nutrition and health doesn’t start with WellSeek...it stems from a very young age.

My parents had a healthy lifestyle. My mom made almost everything from scratch and she taught exercise classes, and my dad worked out and was very active as well. We had a garden, fruit trees and animals (chickens, pigs, etc.), so I understood ‘where food came from,’ and the impact it had on my body. It was no surprise that as I got older I built upon these for my own foundation.

My biggest fear has always been being sick, bedridden and saying “I wish I took better care of myself”. 

It’s why I’ve continued to search for answers on how to gracefully age. It boiled down to exercise and nutrition, which led to my personal motto being that as long as I tried my best to live healthy, at least I wouldn’t have any regrets. Everyone should be given that opportunity.

We want WellSeek to help people see their nutrition, as I did, in a new light.

 

 

Posted 2.6.2015

­Q&A with the Founder

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Where does this whole WellSeek thing begin with you? What made you want to do what you’re doing now?

Everyone’s curious about how to define health and what it means to have a good quality of life. For me,  it was triggered 20 years ago when my mom went into cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma following a hospital procedure.  We were lucky she woke up, but for years, doctors didn’t provide my family with straight answers to what happened or a diagnosis to manage her treatment.  

It was a frustrating and confusing experience, and after that, I couldn’t stop wondering about what mechanisms sustained life.

 

Where did you go from there? And how does it tie into what you’re doing with WellSeek?

I wanted that foundational understanding of how everything works and fits together, so I ended up at UCSD to study bioengineering. I was fortunate early on to stumble across a lab that was doing some pretty cutting-edge science in systems biology and metabolic engineering. I came in as the undergrad assistant trying to find ways to efficiently wash glassware,  then somehow ended up building large-scale computer models of metabolism.  This was where I first started understanding the molecular basis of how our genes, the parts they encode for, and nutrients all interact to create energy and perform essential cellular functions.  Life! From then on, I knew I was hooked.

What I learned about the relationship of complex systems is pretty much what WellSeek is based on. It’s fascinating stuff, to know that all of these things are going on in your body at any given time of your life.  We can’t see it, yet it’s what makes us feel what we feel and defines our well-being.

 

What do you consider WellSeek to be in relation to the larger health community?

Having been in the biotech industry for a few years, I saw the way science needed to be painstakingly pored over, tested, and retested for validity. This adds so many years to deliver a single medical product into the healthcare system, but as it should! If you’re putting something into your body, shouldn’t you know what and why it happens?

But I took a step back. I noticed the immense amount of nutrition and metabolic information already amassed and began to wonder if this data simply needs to be understood to have a widespread impact on health and wellness. How can we effectively provide a solution to dissect complex science and communicate it to those not familiar with it? How do we make it digestible so people can start taking immediate action and, in essence, ‘engineer’ their nutrition towards better health?

 

What will WellSeek do to benefit the people’s nutrition?

We are all familiar with the preconceived notions of the nutrition industry, it’s difficult to know who to trust and who isn’t selling ‘snake oil’. This really emphasizes why we need some unifying way to remove the subjectivity, and provide a tool where people can see how nutrition advice, whether a superfood, supplement, or meal plan, fits their health needs.  It’s your body, and you should ultimately be your own expert.  That is what I envision for WellSeek, to empower people with the knowledge and peace of mind that they are doing their best to eat healthy on their own terms.

 

You are a newbie entrepreneur. What have you taken away from the experience so far?

Having the opportunity to build something out of nothing has been amazing.  I love getting my hands dirty in every component: the science, technology, business development, legal documents, marketing...or just being a team cheerleader.  It is also, without a doubt, one of the most challenging things I've done.  But what I love the most is that the possibilities are endless in who I can approach with WellSeek. If someone says they're not interested, you pick yourself up, figure out why they said no, and try again.  

Building a company is like an endless series of tunnels to navigate through.  As long as you keep showing up and trying your best, you have to trust that light will be there at the end. And when you’ve reached it, don’t stagnate because there are more tunnels awaiting!

Above all, patience is key to this whole process.  I have to be mentally forgiving with my mistakes and remember that I’m meant to be imperfectly human. Dreams aren’t built overnight.

Posted 10.22.2014