In September of 2019, Jan Garcia came across Wondr Health (formerly known as Naturally Slim) and, because it was part of her employee benefits, she decided to give it a try.
“I saw it as an employee perk,” Garcia laughs.
As someone who had tried popular diets and meal replacements, Garcia says this program was unique in that it didn’t feel like a traditional weight loss program — it was centered around overall wellness and wellbeing and that was what helped her find success.
“It’s a holistic process, where it’s not just about losing the pounds, but it’s also about making sure you take care of yourself,” Garcia says.
On his life’s mission to determine and identify solutions that will improve the health of large populations, motivational speaker and Chief Inspiration Officer for Wondr Health, Todd Whitthorne, says this is the main reason why many achieve overall improved health with Wondr, and that those who go through the program build the skills they need to navigate obesogenic environments.
“The problem is we live in a very challenging environment, and, it is an environment we created — it is not anything other than the fact that it’s just tough to be healthy,” Whitthorne says.
Whitthorne, who has spent over 20 years working in health communications, says that combating obesity can in turn avert preventable diseases.
In the U.S., 42.4% of adults are overweight, according to the CDC, meaning that they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30.
“Who has the most skin in the game, besides the individual, is the employer, I believe, or the organization that that individual is a part of, because right or wrong in our country, the majority of Americans receive their health coverage through their employer,” Whitthorne says. “And so, as a result, the employer pays a great deal of the cost of healthcare for most — not all — but for most individuals.”
According to the CDC, only 46% of U.S. worksites offer some type of health program for employees. Additionally, of that 46%, only 29% offer physical activity and 17% offer obesity and weight management.
While everyone is responsible for their own health, employers also have an incurred risk since it’s the employer that bears the majority of the cost of health insurance. Whitthorne adds it was this realization that caused a light-bulb moment: a program that could create or incorporate solutions to help companies create healthier people — an eminently scalable solution.
“Then everybody wins, the employee wins, the employer wins. The families of the employees win. It’s pretty simple, healthier people consume less healthcare,” Whitthorne says.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, medical spending, per person, for overweight individuals was an additional $1,429 (42% higher) than someone of normal weight. Moreover, unseen costs include direct costs (radiology, surgery, labs, drug therapy, etc.) and indirect costs (having to take more days off, higher insurance premiums, etc.).
Enter Wondr Health, a digital behavioral change program that teaches weight management skills. With a team of doctors and clinicians, these professionals teach the behavioral science behind eating the foods one loves while still losing weight and improving one’s overall physical and mental wellbeing.
In addition, Whitthorne adds that health is much more than managing one’s weight, blood pressure, triglycerides, etc. — it’s also about quality sleep, stress management, resiliency, and physical activity which then translates to improvements in both physical and emotional wellbeing.
For Garcia, a medical research coordinator, this was one of the primary reasons she found success — because it taught her the skills she needed to form new habits.
“Habits are the key components of creating a new lifestyle or changing their lifestyle, and that program, the way it is set up, I think it allows you to absorb information but also practice it,” Garcia says. “If I had done it differently, I don’t think I would have been able to have sustainable changes.”
What Garcia specifically likes about the program is how easily accessible it is — all through an app on her phone.
“I think that that should be part of the benefits package for other companies. Especially during these times, there should be a focus on the employee’s wellness and wellbeing,” Garcia says. “Oftentimes, losing weight can be one of the ways that people can feel happier and better overall. If an employee feels good, I think they’ll be able to perform better at work.”
During her lunch breaks, she would watch the informational videos and learn about building new habits. In the end, Wondr helped Garcia more than just shedding some pounds.
“Just becoming aware of my habits, that was kind of a big eye-opening for me. Understanding my hunger levels, really diving into having awareness of my eating habits [and] my choices, but also understanding ‘What are my vital needs?’” Garcia says.
In addition to getting better sleep and experiencing increased energy, Garcia says she lost 30 pounds overall.
According to Wondr’s website, success is measured by not only weight loss but other life improvements like better sleep, increased energy, gained confidence and overall improved quality of life.
“After this program, it really enhanced my life in so many ways. I’ve incorporated new hobbies. I cook more, I cook differently. I also exercise,” Garcia says. “It started with focusing on myself, but then I’m translating that to helping others in the community, and I think that is really amazing.”