Edie Horstman’s health journey contains orthorexia and PCOS—both of which she was able to overcome or put into remission as she tells Ben Grynol in this episode. Look for multiple new shows per week on A Whole New Level, where we have in-depth conversations about metabolic health and how the Levels startup team builds a wellness movement from the ground up in the health and wellness tech industry.
Edie Horstman (00:06):
So much of the root of why I started Wellness with Edie because I was seeing online, “In order to be healthy, you need to take X, Y, Z supplements and you need to add all of these special adaptogens and powders to your smoothie in order to be healthy.” At the root of it, it’s so much simpler than that, but the problem is that diet culture sells, diets sell, and people jump on that bandwagon because they’re promised you’ll lose 10 pounds and you will feel so much more vibrant and energized. And maybe you do, but did you actually learn certain habits and behaviors that are practical and sustainable moving forward?
Ben Grynol (00:51):
I’m Ben Grynol, part of the early startup team here at Levels. We’re building tech that helps people to understand their metabolic health, and this is your front row seat to everything we do. This is a whole new level.
Ben Grynol (01:06):
Edie Horstman grew up in the Bay Area. And for college, she ended up going out to Denver. She headed to Colorado, and that’s where she ended up meeting her husband. Initially, she worked in tech, but eventually she got into health and wellness and spent more time learning about things like nutrition. That led her to become an integrative nutritional health coach and consultant. Right now she specializes in hormone health, postpartum, and even things like infant nutrition. Well, Edie is a member and had her first experience with Levels about four months ago. She came across Levels in a podcast from our good friend Kelly LeVeque, where she was talking about how she uses a CGM and some of the benefits that she’s found to see how food affects her health.
Ben Grynol (02:00):
So Edie and I sat down and we discussed her journey across health and wellness. In 2017, she was diagnosed with PCOS, and eventually it went into remission. She now has a young toddler and she was able to get pregnant, which is such a wonderful story. Well, Edie had an interesting path with her relationship to food. Growing up it was very balanced, but in college, she began getting deeper into blogs, especially health and wellness ones, and she began cutting out some of the specific foods. This led her down a path of orthorexia, or an unhealthy focus on being healthy, the food that she surrounded herself with and the way that she exercised. She since then found a balance, so she’s found a way through things like Levels, through things like her own nutritional practice to find a way to be very balanced in the food and exercise that she exposes herself to.
Ben Grynol (02:53):
When working with clients, she now has anecdotes of the way that Levels has made an impact in her life, and she helps to create the conditions for different people to learn from the knowledge that she has been able to glean insights from. Anyway, no need to wait, here’s a conversation with Edie.
Ben Grynol (03:14):
Let’s rewind, let’s take it all the way back. This is what we know so far. You are living in Denver now. You’re born and raised in the Bay Area, and you have been a nutritional health coach, now that’s what you do. You started this experience or went down this path with CGM and started to unlock… It’s interesting because it often happens with people who are surrounded in health and wellness or work in health and wellness where it’s almost like, “How could I not have known this before? It’s all this new information coming in.” So why don’t we rewind all the way back to where you’re from, what life was like before getting into health and wellness, and what the catalyst was for to start exploring that, and we’ll take it forward into your Levels journey.
Edie Horstman (04:00):
Edie Horstman (04:54):
In terms of playing sports, I loved to play sports, but it was never about molding my body into a particular shape or burning calories or anything like that. It was all about being active and learning good sportsmanship and being with friends and socializing and all of that. So just like my relationship with food was very normal growing up, so was my relationship with exercise. Fast forward to college, I found healthy living blogs, which I’ll put that in the air quotes because a lot of these blogs that I found circa 2008, 2009 were talking about eating low carb and cutting out certain macronutrients and watching your fat intake. I read all of that and pretty much believed it in a very black and white mindset.
Edie Horstman (05:39):
Simultaneously, I went through a breakup and essentially turned to food and exercise as my coping mechanisms. By definition, I was very orthorexic. I essentially cut out a lot of food groups. I was very careful about the food that I was putting in my body, and I was also over exercising. So I lost body weight very quickly. I, at the time, was on birth control. It’s very interesting to go back and think about all of these different factors and lifestyle habits because I pretty much was lighting the fuel for the blood sugar imbalance fire in many ways without realizing that that’s what I was doing. I eventually recovered from my eating disorder, found a much more balanced approach to nutrition and exercise. I met my husband who has always had a very normal relationship with food and helped me really get over that hump of eating a very clean lifestyle to actually being able to eat pasta and pizza and have dessert and not feel guilt about it.
Edie Horstman (06:43):
Right around this time, though, that I had recovered, we got married and I went off of birth control. I didn’t have a menstrual cycle for over two years. I went to the doctor, and very long story short, I was diagnosed with PCOS, which we know is a reproductive disorder, but it’s also in many ways a manifestation of an underlying metabolic issue. I didn’t know it at the time. I was just starting to dip my toes in the water in terms of holistic health and nutrition and integrative nutrition, but I didn’t understand fully what my PCOS diagnosis meant. I now know that it’s super common and that you need to balance your blood sugar. There’s so many different lifestyle things that you can do to help alleviate some of your PCOS symptoms. Or actually in my case, I was able to fully put it into remission.
Edie Horstman (07:35):
So it was just this perfect storm of different experiences and my PCOS diagnosis that all came to a head. I was working in tech at the time, this was in my early 20s, and I realized I was very burned out, wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. All of my free time was spent trying to understand female hormones and how to holistically heal from PCOS. And in many ways, that was a catalyst for me to go back to school. So I went back to school. I graduated from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition, became an integrated nutrition health coach, and ended up leaving my tech job. I thought I was going to get into corporate wellness, keep my stable salary, my health benefits, but I ended up taking the leap, started Wellness with Edie and have truly never looked back.
Edie Horstman (08:23):
Now my road to entrepreneurship hasn’t been linear, by any means. It’s had a lot of twists and turns, but at this point, I feel so aligned in terms of the work that I’m doing. I am health coaching. I write wellness content. I partner with brands to create content. And the premise of all of that is to teach women how to balance their hormones and how to understand their blood sugar, because for me, it’s been an absolute game changer. Like I said, I was able to put my PCOS into remission, and I truly credit understanding my blood sugar to that. And obviously, wearing a continuous glucose monitor has just taken that to the next level.
Ben Grynol (09:01):
So much interesting stuff to dig into and really appreciate you being open about everything. If you are open to talking about it, I think it would be immensely helpful for many people, myself included, to learn more about orthorexia. Reading your article, that was the first time that I had heard that term. And so, understanding more about it, I thought, “Wow, that is very interesting.” The reason I say it is is that we are very conscious from a tech perspective, and you know can appreciate this, having worked in tech where tools can be used to do what you desire with them. So you can create really bad and unhealthy behavior patterns. Let’s make up an example. You have some game that draws people in and they’re spending 20 hours a day on this game.
Ben Grynol (09:54):
I mean, it’s really good interaction design as far as you’ve figured out a way to get people to do the thing, but it’s really bad because you’re creating unhealthy relationship with this thing that you’ve done. And so, we’re very conscious when we’re creating the product to say, “How do we create and surface healthy insights? How do we not turn this into a product that makes people feel… ” I only bring this up because it comes up in a lot of the feedback sessions we do where people feel almost a sense of sometimes being afraid of food. Their relationship with food changes where they think like, “Oh my gosh, I ate… ” It doesn’t matter because everyone’s going to have a different response to everything, but for me personally, “I ate a sweet potato. Oh my gosh, I could never eat this thing again.” And it’s like that is not the message we want to send. We want to send the message of, if you eat this thing, this is what happens in your body. It’s entirely okay to do things. You just have to understand how to balance it and what to pair with.
Ben Grynol (10:49):
And so, if you’re open to talking more about it, I think there’s a lot of learnings and a lot of insight that people could take away as far as how they can start to think about their relationship with food and know that… When you met your husband, it sounds like that was a really interesting catalyst for change, to think differently, that everything is okay within moderation. So if you’re open to it, would love to dig into it.
Edie Horstman (11:14):
Yeah, absolutely. You bring up such an interesting point and something that has really taken me years to navigate. I don’t think any of us go from having an unhealthy relationship with food to just overnight having a healthy relationship with food. I think it’s, quite frankly, something that I will always be working on for the rest of my life. In so many ways, the experience that I had in terms of undereating and overexercising and cutting out certain food groups and reading everything that I read online as this very black and white theory dogmatic has in so many ways actually given me perspective to come out on the other side. It was like I swung the pendulum so far in one direction.
Edie Horstman (11:55):
Looking back, I wasn’t sleeping well. I had no energy. I was irritable, I was moody. My hair was falling out. I mean, there were so many physical symptoms that clearly what I was doing, even though I thought it was healthy, was so unhealthy. With orthorexia and with understanding that certain foods will spike our blood sugar more than others, it’s so important to remember that A, we are all bio individuals, so what’s going to cause you to spike isn’t necessarily what’s going to cause me to spike. But I also shouldn’t be so concerned when my blood sugar does spike because that is actually our body telling us, “Yes, you have energy. Now you can go use it.”
Edie Horstman (12:36):
It’s also just been really important for me to remember where I was, what my mindset was a decade ago, realize how far I’ve come, and understand that I don’t have to let diet culture really impact the food choices that I’m making. When it comes to wearing a CGM, more than anything, it’s just empowered me. Again, I think because I had such an unhealthy relationship with food, now when I see my numbers spike a little bit, whether I’m eating sushi or a sweet potato or whatever it is, I know that I can do a couple things to balance my blood sugar and it’s not the end of the world, by any means. Life is too short. We need to be able to enjoy the spontaneous ice cream cone, go out for sushi, and socialize because food is, yes, it’s 100% functional, it’s fuel, it’s medicine, but it’s also spontaneity and it’s culture and it’s fun. If we neglect all of those things and we only focus on the functional part of it, we’re missing out on such an important part of food.
Edie Horstman (13:45):
So again, I just think that having an orthorexic background has given me really the empowerment to eat foods and see my blood sugar spike a little bit and not be so concerned about it because I’ve actually healed my relationship with food. And I would rather have a healed relationship with food and see blood sugar spikes than be undernourishing myself, if that makes sense.
Ben Grynol (14:10):
Mm-hmm. Orthorexia, we didn’t define it. Again, the reason I bring it up is I’m not going to assume everyone knows this, I had no idea before, the term and the understanding of it, but it is the unhealthy relationship with healthy food, exercise. If you want to go into that, it’s more-
Edie Horstman (14:30):
Ben Grynol (14:30):
… along the lines of avoiding things that don’t fall into the mental model. I guess that’s also the thing too, is everyone’s mental model, it can get narrower and narrower where a morsal of broccoli is like my goal post is that, versus some people might have wider goal posts. And that’s totally different than having this view that you have now, which is around balance.
Edie Horstman (14:58):
I think with orthorexia, the definition is a bit broad. For those that do end up taking a more orthorexic approach to their food, it will look different. An example of this is, let’s say for example, we know that inflammatory oils like canola oil and soybean oil, these are not nourishing oils like avocado oil and coconut oil and olive oil, for example. So possibly someone with an orthorexic mindset would see anything with canola oil or soybean oil and avoid it completely. Let’s say that they are starving, they haven’t had anything to eat for five or six hours, and the only option is a granola bar with sugar and inflammatory oils. An orthorexic mindset would say, “Well, I’m not going to eat that because the ingredients are not clean enough for my standards.” But a more nourishing approach would be, “Well, my body needs fuel, this is the only option. I’m going to eat it and move on with my day.”
Edie Horstman (15:57):
That’s been the transition or the progress that I’ve seen in my mind. I help encourage a lot of my clients too because I often find that diet culture is really sneaky, and oftentimes it really manifests in these orthorexic tendencies. I just try and encourage and empower my clients to understand micronutrients and macronutrients and ingredients that are more nourishing than others. But it’s not to say that you can’t ever eat the croissant or have a granola bar that does have some inflammatory oils in it because you’re going to be just fine.
Ben Grynol (16:31):
And it’s confusing. It’s overwhelming and confusing.
Edie Horstman (16:37):
Ben Grynol (16:37):
Literally one minute you look and you might be on… Let’s say you’re searching the internet, assume the information is relatively factual and relatively credible, assume it’s from a source like that, and you look at it and it says one thing, and then let’s say there is an influence or someone else that you trust, and you might be on some digital platform like Instagram, and there’s some reel, and you’re looking at it and it’s saying the complete opposite thing of what you just read. And so in your mind, you’re holding these two opposing views of, “I’m stuck. My feet are in the mud, I’m not sure what I have to do.” And so, it is very overwhelming and it’s hard to start to understand when people start to think about avoiding certain food. Sure, there are certain foods that objectively, and I use the example all the time, I don’t think there’s a person in the world that will say, “Yeah, eating Twinkies all day is good for you.” It’s just there’s some foods that are objectively terrible and you should avoid, and avoid them with consistency.
Ben Grynol (17:39):
But there are other foods when people start to feel stuck of like, “Well, what about this?” You brought up seed oils. Like, “Sure, there are certain things, but how stuck do you feel?” It’s more a matter of what do you buy? What do you expose yourself to? What do you have within your reach? And how do you start to create the conditions around you to eat a more balanced diet based on certain things. Good fats, good protein, good fiber, clean, non-refined carbohydrates, these are all things that are going to make people have a more balanced lifestyle and start to get back to things like balancing their glucose levels.
Edie Horstman (18:18):
And ultimately, the hope is that when you start to navigate away from mostly eating processed foods, a lot of added sugar, possibly artificial colors, industrial seed oils, and you move more towards whole unprocessed foods, fermented foods, quality protein, healthy fats, fairly quickly you’ll likely notice a difference in your body, in your energy, your sleep possibly, your joint pain and your inflammation. And that’s what we want to chase. Overall, we want to feel good in our bodies. We want quality rest. We want to have the energy to chase our children and to perform well at work. There can be a pretty significant difference when you transition away from some of those less nourishing foods to more nourishing foods that balanced your blood sugar because you actually notice a difference in your body and you’re like, “Oh, I feel better. This is amazing. I want to eat more like this.” Not to say that every once in a while I might have a, I don’t know, Twix bar, whatever it is, but for the most part, what I’m fueling up on are ingredients that are satiating me and giving me energy and, of course, bouncing blood sugar too.
Ben Grynol (19:27):
You were exposed to everything health and wellness related from your work day to day with clients. It sounds like one day you came across our good friend, Kelly LeVeque.
Edie Horstman (19:38):
Ben Grynol (19:39):
She was on a podcast, I believe, but walk us into that. How did you hear about Levels, and what was, I guess, that light bulb moment where you thought, “I should try this thing out.”?
Edie Horstman (19:50):
Yeah, so it was Kelly LeVeque. I believe I heard her talking about Levels on a podcast. This was a couple years ago, so this was when you still needed to get on the waitlist. So I signed up, and over the course of the couple of years following that, I started doing a lot more research. I got pregnant. Luckily I didn’t have gestational diabetes, but balancing my blood sugar became really important, just understanding the correlation between insulin resistance and PCOS. And so, it was like everything in my orbit was blood sugar related. And like I said, when I heard Kelly talking about it, I was like, “Okay, let’s sign up for their waitlist and see what happens.”
Edie Horstman (20:30):
And then about six months ago, I wrote an article on my website about blood sugar and about CGMs and mentioned Levels. And in April, I put on my first CGM. So I’ve been wearing one on and off for about four months now, and it’s been remarkable. I think I learned actually the most amount just even in one month of wearing it. But even to this day, I don’t have mine on at the moment, but I could tell you that after this call, if I were to check my blood sugar, it would probably be slightly elevated because I know that stress and the adrenaline rush of having exciting conversations and passion-filled conversations does tend to make my blood sugar rise. But I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to wear a CGM and see how certain foods, but really also lifestyle too, impacts my blood sugar. I notice that if I don’t get a quality night sleep, if I’m getting less than about seven hours of sleep, I could be eating the exact same diet as the day prior and my blood sugar response is going to be different.
Edie Horstman (21:32):
So that’s where I’m at now. I’ve been wearing my CGM, like I said, on and off for about four months. Having the data has been incredibly empowering. I’ve also noticed that when I get sick, my blood sugar, my insulin resistance tends… my insulin sensitivity, I should say is… My glucose is not as sensitive, in other words, so when I get sick, as my body’s trying to fight off some illness, some inflammation in my body, my blood sugar is chronically raised for a couple of days or a week long. And so, instead of being frustrated by that, I can actually connect the dots, say, “Oh, well, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.” or “Oh, I’m sick right now, and that’s what’s causing my blood sugar to rise.”
Edie Horstman (22:16):
I even notice a difference with my menstrual cycle too. Like I said, it’s been super empowering. It’s also helped guide my health coaching clients as well. I don’t think there’s a health coaching client at this point that I don’t talk to them about my CGM and encourage them to try it out even just for a month, because like I said, I learned so much just in one month of wearing Levels. It’s just been amazing.
Ben Grynol (22:42):
What was it like… so the box shows up at your door. I ask because it’s such a new experience for so many people. There are all of these touchpoints that can naturally create friction for people. What is this thing? How does it work? We hold these questions in our head naturally because most people who would be outside of the Type I and Type II community have not used a CGM before. And so, then you think about it, and you’re going to take this applicator and it’s got a needle in it. Is this a needle in my arm? Is it a fulfillment? How does this work? Do I take it off every night? All these things. So what was your experience when that box showed up at your door and you started thinking through you’re about to apply it and then you get the first insight?
Edie Horstman (23:33):
So full transparency, I think it stayed in the box for maybe a week. I think one of my clients told me that she kept it in the box for over two weeks before she put it on because she was nervous, apprehensive, who knows? But yeah, I think mine stayed in the box for about a week and I was like, “All right, it’s time, I need to put this on my arm.” I was very nervous it was going to be painful. I think my whole body was tensing up as I was putting it on my arm. And then it barely felt like anything. I was like, “Oh, okay.” It just looks much more intimidating. For anyone listening who isn’t wearing a CGM, who possibly has theirs in a box at their house and is nervous it’s going to hurt, I guarantee you, it does not. But it does look intimidating.
Edie Horstman (24:17):
When I got that first insight, I’ll never forget. The day that I put it on, my husband and I and our toddler went to one of our favorite bakeries in Denver. I put it on in the afternoon while my son was napping, and then our favorite bakery closes at 4:00 PM here in Denver, so we went to go grab some iced teas and we split a cookie. I was very curious to see what was going to happen with my blood sugar. But once we ate the cookie, we actually ended up walking to a local park, so it’s not like I ate the cookie and sat there. But I was so pleasantly surprised when I checked my blood sugar an hour later that it pretty much was completely stable. That was such an aha moment for me and a defining moment for me because of my past and because I have had a very dogmatic approach to food, I ultimately saw that as an indicator that I can enjoy dessert, I can have a cookie, I can have a slice of pie with friends at night and not be so worried about what it’s going to do to my blood sugar.
Edie Horstman (25:27):
Again, it was such an… I don’t know, maybe serendipitous or maybe it was a coincidence that I happened to just put it on a day that we went out to get cookies and I was able to see exactly what happened to my blood sugar. It ultimately just gave me the reassurance that, “Oh, my body knows how to handle this, especially if we’re going for a bit of a walk at our local park after and got some movement.” Ever since then, I’ve just essentially become very curious to see what certain foods do to my blood sugar. I will tell you, nine out of 10 times, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how my body’s been able to handle what I’m eating.
Ben Grynol (26:08):
Yeah, it’s so funny because the opposite is feeling defeated, like you’re always behind. We’ve heard this. Again, this is why we’re working to make sure we’re surfacing insights that allow people the now what. They see the so what, the data comes up, but the now what, how do you fix it? And so, it feels defeating if all you’re being told is everything you eat is causing a spike of some kind. But when you can have that revelation of that first touchpoint being, “Hey, it’s okay.” And then because of your background, you’re able to understand that, well, there’s physical movement involved and there are all of these things that help to contribute. But that becomes a bit of an unlock to say, “I can make things work. I just have to make sure that I understand all the implications.”
Ben Grynol (27:01):
So curious if there were any ahas, any real surprises where you thought, “That’s something I ate regularly,” and you might have had a reaction that was maybe much more significant than you thought it would be. I only ask because I think everyone that you talked to said, “I had no idea that thing that I ate every day was doing that to me. You connect the dots and you go, “But that’s why I was head nodding at the keyboard every afternoon at 2:00 PM.”
Edie Horstman (27:28):
Exactly. For me, a couple of things. I think that another aha moment for me was having a cooked and then cooled sweet potato. For my body, when I eat a cooked and cooled sweet potato, I actually have more of a glucose spike than if I just have a freshly baked sweet potato, which I know is the opposite for some people. So now it’s not that I’m not going to eat a leftover sweet potato, but for the most part, if I am having leftover roasted vegetables, I aim for cauliflower and broccoli and zucchini and summer squash, more non-starchy vegetables. Again, it’s not to say that I don’t ever eat sweet potatoes because I love sweet potatoes, but for the most part, I’m eating them when they’re freshly baked.
Edie Horstman (28:18):
A couple other positive aha moments for me: realizing that if I get under about 20 grams of protein per meal, that, A, doesn’t satiate me as much, and B, does cause more of a blood sugar spike. So I typically will have eggs for lunch. It’s easy, and I know that my body handles it well, it gives me the energy, but I, in the past couple of months, realized that that actually wasn’t, and I didn’t know this until I started wearing my continuous glucose monitor, that my blood sugar was spiking a little bit after that lunch. I would typically eat it with either sourdough bread or I would have a sprouted grain bread. Once I started adding in a couple slices of deli turkey, eating the exact same type of bread was actually causing less of a spike. So it made me realize that, “Oh, if I increase my protein, I can absolutely enjoy some refined carbohydrates with my lunch and not notice a spike.” If I go out for a 10-minute walk after eating lunch, I essentially have very little spike at all if I’m having eggs and toast and avocado for lunch.
Edie Horstman (29:30):
Another really interesting insight for me has been the order in which I eat my food. For example, if we’re having pasta for dinner and I start with pasta and then I eat a leafy green salad, and maybe we’re having some grilled chicken on the side, I have more of an elevated spike in my glucose than if I actually eat the greens and the fiber and the protein before the pasta. I think, for me, overall, there are certain aha moments that I’ve had that are very much in alignment with other people and then certain things that are very bio-individual to me, which makes sense. I know a lot of people are scared of, this is going to sound outrageous for some people listening, but there are people out there who are scared of eating bananas because they think that they have too much sugar in them. Now, again, everyone is going to have a different response to bananas. For me, in my mind, I thought, “Well, I should only eat maybe half a banana at a time,” because of course, I saw that on Instagram somewhere, what have you.
Edie Horstman (30:31):
I’ve actually noticed that if I throw a full banana into a smoothie and there’s plenty of seeds and healthy fats and protein and greens, and then maybe I go for a 10 to 15-minute walk after breakfast, again, my blood sugar stays very stable. I wouldn’t know any of these things without wearing a continuous glucose monitor. And now I just want to shout these things from the rooftop because I just find it so fascinating.
Ben Grynol (30:55):
It sounds like you pass a lot of this information along to your clients as well. And so, how has it been as far as being able to provide, although anecdotal because of by end of the duality, but anecdotal examples of, “When I did this, this was the outcome,” being able to relate that to clients. What’s the reception been? Because I’d imagine that people will come from all different backgrounds and understanding. Some people might have a healthy foundation of knowledge coming in. Other people might have nothing, and they say, “Just tell me what to do.” But it’s hard to get people to start to change the behavior. And so, how has it been as far as being able to provide those personal anecdotes and does it allow people to think through things on a more relatable level?
Edie Horstman (31:45):
Absolutely. I’m very mindful to meet my clients where they’re at when I’m giving them any type of information or education. If I have a client who I know is currently working through an eating disorder or has a past of disordered eating, I’m much more mindful of the way that I’m communicating blood sugar. I probably wouldn’t tell that person if I know that they are actively working on their eating disorder, I wouldn’t tell them, “A banana’s probably going to spike your blood sugar. I would recommend only eating a portion of it at a time.” Just like using that as an example. I’m just very careful in the way that I word it.
Edie Horstman (32:26):
For someone like that, we start with the foundation. I explain blood sugar. I explain how to build a balanced plate, talk about carbs and fat and protein and fiber. For a client of mine who has more knowledge, has a greater understanding, has a better foundation of blood sugar, I can talk to that woman and explain, “Hey, when I ate this, this is what happened to my body. I’m not saying that that’s what’s going to happen to your body, but just so that you understand, if you pair that banana with a handful of walnuts or with a hard boiled egg, you’ll likely have less of a blood sugar response.” It’s also an opportunity for me to then encourage her to try a continuous glucose monitor for a month. But again, for the woman who is currently struggling through orthorexia, has an eating disorder, maybe she’s not the ideal person to be wearing a continuous glucose monitor right now. It’s not to say that she can’t in the future, but that conversation is a bit different than what I’m having with a client who doesn’t have those current circumstances, if that makes sense.
Ben Grynol (33:30):
Yeah. I would imagine it’s adapting to each individual situation and scenario and saying, “How can you best support them,” knowing that you’re continuing to work down a path of creating this foundation over time as far as having the right knowledge, the right understanding, and the right tools at their disposable, tools being whether they’re actual tools or the choices that they make. But it’s really about long-term behavior change as opposed to short-term, if you want to call it, gamification. It’s relatively easy with the right incentives in place to get humans to do certain things. To make some odd example, for $10 million, you have to eat only this thing for a week, it’s like most people will do it. They’re just going to do it. But that doesn’t actually enable the long-term behavior.
Ben Grynol (34:21):
So it’s like giving these arbitrary challenges, that’s not helping anyone. Especially with extrinsic motivators, people will find a way to game them and they’ll do them, especially if the window is short enough, then they’re going to do that. But that’s not what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to create long-term behavior change the right foundation so people can have a lens on healthspan and lifespan, not just, “Hey, I need to get healthy for this short period of time.”
Edie Horstman (34:48):
Exactly. And that speaks so much to my brand as a whole and just my mission, is that I want wellness and health and wellbeing to be practical, and I want it to be sustainable. Working with me for three months, I’m not going to put you on a specific diet, and that’s what you need to adhere to for the rest of your life. Because it’s restrictive. It can cause deprivation. It can cause binge-eating, yoyo dieting, all of those things. And so, what Levels is doing, and what you were just explaining, again, is so much of the root of why I started Wellness with Edie because I was seeing online, “In order to be healthy, you need to take X, Y, Z supplements and you need to add all of these special adaptogens and powders to your smoothie in order to be healthy.” At the root of it, it’s so much simpler than that. But the problem is that diet culture sells, diets sell. People jump on that bandwagon because they’re promised, “You’ll lose 10 pounds and you will feel so much more vibrant and energized.” And maybe you do, but did you actually learn certain habits and behaviors that are practical and sustainable moving forward?
Edie Horstman (36:06):
That’s the missing piece. And that’s where blood sugar comes in, because you can empower people to understand how to build a balanced plate and how to create habits in a lifestyle that help keep your glucose steady, not just for right now, but also for your longevity. Again, it just speaks to so much of why I started Wellness with Edie. I am so proud to wear a continuous glucose monitor because it just so aligns with what I’m trying to do, what my messaging is as well for the women that I work with and the community that I’ve created on social media.
Ben Grynol (36:45):
So if you’re thinking about any changes that we can make to the product, to the experience, to anything, but being able to support members from all different backgrounds, what are some things that come to mind if you start thinking about whether it’s making different products, making the current product more accessible, having more human interaction? What are some of the things that come to mind as far as the way that you would think about changing or evolving what we do with Levels?
Edie Horstman (37:16):
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the first thing that comes to mind is, when you initially open up the app, being able to select what your current understanding of blood sugar is. I do believe that there is a prompt like that currently, but really helping guide customers on the path that is best suited for their current understanding of blood sugar. Because you can take it from a fairly high level perspective, but you could also get very nitty-gritty for those that have studied medicine and live and breathe blood sugar. And that’s the beauty of Levels, is you can attract quite a broad spectrum of people. And it’s a beautiful thing that I don’t have to have diabetes in order to wear it. I think one of the goals of Levels that I would assume is make this accessible for everyone, whether or not you’re prediabetic or diabetic.
Edie Horstman (38:16):
But I do think that having different channels, if you will, for people who have, again, a moderate understanding of blood sugar and then those that have a more complex understanding of it, to make it more accessible. I would also love to see definitely more human interaction. I mean, even having this podcast is such a great supplement to the app as well. I find that your newsletter is so informative, the blog posts are incredibly informative. There’s such a wealth of information. But if I was brand new to blood sugar and had really no idea about it and just stumbled upon it or maybe my doctor told me, “Hey, based off of your A1C, you’re prediabetic.” I do a Google search, I find Levels, it’s like, boom, there’s so much information to delve through. So giving people just an opportunity to take it at the pace that they need to so that they can understand the foundation and then progress on, if that makes sense.
Ben Grynol (39:20):
Yeah, there’s a lot of work to do. One of the things that we have to work on, which I’m curious to hear more about your perspective, is the… we’ll call it the box at the door. Why don’t we air quote box at the door or box on the table, where it sits there for a week or some end number of days or months in some cases. What was the reason that you personally let it sit there, and then even people whom you know that have used it, they’re reasoning for letting it sit there? Because if we make a product, assume we make a product and we have all these great partners like Kelly and Tim Ferris.
Edie Horstman (39:57):
Ben Grynol (39:58):
… Tim Ferris, Andrew Huberman, all these great people that are helping to bring more awareness, but the box goes to the door, it sits on the table, then like that doesn’t matter, it’s not actually helping people. It’s not about getting people to buy, it’s about getting people to make meaningful change. So I’d love to hear more about the idea of it sitting on the table and what some of the feelings were around maybe not wanting to put it on. Was it the fear of the new experience? Was it the idea that it’s like, “Oh, this is going to be high friction and take me more than five minutes?”
Edie Horstman (40:30):
It was certainly in part the high friction. I knew I needed to download two apps, and I wasn’t entirely sure how they were going to sync together. Plus, if you get any new… I don’t know what an example of this would be. I’m looking at my AirPod case, but that requires Bluetooth and syncing. We get any new device, and it’s like that friction of, “Well, I need to set it up.” We can think about a million other things that we could be doing with our time. And then we go off and we choose those things, and the box sits there. So I think in part, it was the friction.
Edie Horstman (41:02):
I think the other thing for me too specifically was I didn’t know at the time anyone else in my immediate circle who was wearing a continuous glucose monitor. I knew about Kelly wearing it, for example. I think that for me because she is such a role model and someone who has paved such a path in the blood sugar space for women, but it almost felt, I don’t want to say inaccessible, but you feel that way sometimes with celebrities or pseudo celebrities, if you will. I think because I didn’t know anyone in my, like I said, immediate circle wearing it, it felt a bit intimidating. And that in part is why I have the conversation with my clients, I share about it on social media, because I want to show, “Hey, I’m a mom. I recovered from PCOS. I live a relatively active and normal lifestyle, and I’m wearing a continuous glucose monitor,” to make it more relatable. I think that in part, again, it was the friction, but I also felt a little bit nervous because I didn’t know anyone in my immediate circle wearing one.
Ben Grynol (42:18):
At first, it feels like, especially when we had the waitlist, you are an insider to this thing that it’s gated and it’s hard to get access to. And so, we laugh and we still do call it Levels in the wild, but when different team members will be in different cities, whether it’s Denver or Bend Oregon, but you say, Levels in the wild, you see somebody’s wearing the performance cover over the CGM, and it still makes everybody’s ears and eyes perk up and say, “Wow.”
Edie Horstman (42:49):
It’s funny you say that because we were in the Bay Area visiting my family a couple months ago, and there was a woman walking down my parents’ street, and she was wearing a Levels glucose monitor. We were walking towards each other, and she had her AirPods in as well. I noticed that she was wearing it, and so I had this moment of, “I should say something to her.” So of course, I started walking in her direction, and I was like, “Oh, I wear the Levels continuous glucose monitor too.” It was so amazing to have that first moment of Levels in the wild. And now my husband, he works in Downtown Denver and spends quite a bit of time downtown walking around, and he said he’s starting to notice people wearing it as well. And I love that. I love that there’s this growing community of people of the awareness so that hopefully that alleviates some of that friction around, “Well, I don’t know anyone else wearing this. I see celebrities wearing it and top tier your doctors talking about it and wearing it, but that doesn’t feel totally relatable for my life.” But if you just see the average person wearing it, it gives you that much more encouragement, I think.
Ben Grynol (43:57):
Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s such a cool touchpoint, the idea of the nod. Certain things have the nod. Anyone who owns a Tesla gives the wave.
Edie Horstman (44:08):
Ben Grynol (44:09):
If you’re into Jeep Wranglers, gives the wave. I’m using car analogies, but very much we always use this quote internally from Seth Golden and he says, “People like us do things like this.” And you find the others, you find people that you can have this common connection with, and it gives you a starting point to say, “Hey, you care about this thing and so do I.” It’s such an interesting thing that a small visual cue can open up the opportunity to have these conversations. And next thing you know, you’re talking with someone for 20 minutes.
Edie Horstman (44:42):
Ben Grynol (44:43):
It’s very cool.
Edie Horstman (44:44):
It is, and it’s such a ripple effect too. Everything worth changing someone’s life starts as a small seed. It starts as one person realizing, “This could be a game changer.” And then you have to convince a circle of people around you, and then those people convince other people, and then all of a sudden, it’s this global phenomenal. But that doesn’t happen overnight. And to have that ripple effect, see that domino effect of people wearing it and now having that conversation, nodding, whatever it is, it’s super empowering. It makes me so excited too because it’s changed my life and it’s changing my clients’ lives. I hope it’s also changing the small community of followers that I have on social media and on my newsletter, just to empower people. I ultimately just want people to feel better in their bodies, feel more energized, better sleep, more stable mood, better sex drive, I mean all of these things that we all want. And in so many ways it all comes back to blood sugar. I just want to be able to teach people that.