The Story of
And how we’re making wellness viral
Way back, in the beginning … The idea of LoneStart Wellness came
about as a result of some very powerful events—watching family members’
health decline, the avoidable death of a good friend, seeing so much
confusing and conflicting information about health, and a car breakdown in
the middle of absolutely nowhere (don’t ask).
It was a dark and stormy night… wait… wrong story…
“It’s impossible” said Pride. “It’s risky” said
Experience. “It’s pointless” said Reason. “Give it a
try” whispered the Heart. ~ Anonymous
Jay and I took our education, (his an
M.A. in social psychology from
Tulane University and mine, an M.S.
in allied health from Tulane), our
professional experience, and our
lifelong interest in good health, and
turned our focus toward wellness.
This is us …
We are the two LoneStart Wellness
co-founders… Melinda West Seifert
(me) and Steven J. (Jay) Seifert.
(yes we’re married—to each other)
We had some savings (total
amount shown here) and a plan.
We spent the first year
developing materials for our new
The year: 2005. We had twin daughters in college, lots of expenses.
But, we had an idea for a new business … and, we had conviction.
We also had a number of people ask if we were crazy.
At the time, Atkins was all the rage.
Three cheeseburgers a day and steak wrapped in bacon for
dinner? Excuse me?
That can’t be right. That’s not good.
When Katrina struck New
Orleans, my video producer
brother, Glen West, and
family, stayed with us in Austin
for about 4 weeks. He produced
our first wellness introductory
video to go along with the
original (each hand punched
and bound, produced entirely
in-house, literally) workbook.
(We’ve come a long way since those early days.)
Using what we know about human attitude and behavior, we
experimented on our visiting family members.
We had the crazy thought that
despite what everyone else
was saying, all of us really
already had everything we
needed to live healthier lives.
This isn’t really Jay, but
actually, his hair looks just like
Jay finally lost his extra 10 “Christmas Cookie”
pounds. (Did you know just 3 Christmas cookies
a day can add 1.5 pounds in a week?)
My sister lost the 60 pounds she’d gained with
the births of her two daughters…
My then 80 year-old mother lost 10 pounds
(just by doing one simple thing) …
My 47 year-old brother lost 18 pounds and was able to get off of
his statin medications …
And, I discovered I could make time for and actually enjoy walking.
And, how did this experiment work out?
The “BIG” is what makes LoneStart different from other wellness programs.
LoneStart Wellness is based on established principles of social neuroscience
and behavioral economics, and what we know about team-building and small
Whoa! We were on to something big!
Our operating premise became “that personally-relevant
messaging and realistic expectations would result in
positive, sustainable lifestyle changes.”
And, for an organization, that means healthier, happier,
more engaged and more productive employees.
We sat down with our Family Practice doc (one of the good guys in medicine)
to tell him what we were up to. He was so excited he volunteered his patients
most at risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other preventable
chronic illnesses for our “beta-tests.”
Based on our beta test successes, we then took our program to the Texas
Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH).
TORCH operates in about 150 rural Texas
communities that have a higher than average
incidence of preventable chronic illness, few
resources and are under-served by traditional
This presented both a challenge and an
“What one does is what counts, not what one had the
intention of doing.” ~ Pablo Picasso
In 2006 we began signing-up TORCH members and other hospitals.
Real Results with Real People!
Christina Benavides, Administrative Assistant at Otto Kaiser
Memorial Hospital, worked alongside with her father, a
Pharmacy Tech / Supervisor in his mid-fifties. Together they
were part of the LoneStart Wellness Initiative at Otto Kaiser.
Christina says she saw her father’s lifestyle totally change
before her eyes. During the 63-day LoneStart Challenge, he
lost 17 pounds and 2.4 BMI points.
“He is my inspiration, yet again,” says Christina.
We have lots of great stories like this one.
“What impresses me most is the fact that six years after we completed our
LoneStartNow Team Esteem Challenge, our healthier behaviors are still
evident. A new culture has taken hold here that is reflected in my hospital
kitchen, my bottom line, and in the lives of my employees and their
families.. LoneStart Wellness has never been more timely or more
important. It is the best investment I’ve ever made as a hospital
~ Raz Cook, FACHE, Administrator, ETMC Fairfield
And, Here’s a Real Testimonial
And, we have lots more of these too!
We became endorsed business partners for TORCH Management Services
We became business partners of the National Cooperative
of Health Networks (NCHN)
We were selected by Texas AHEC East to
provide wellness content for their 111
county healthy community initiative.
*Dr. Dee Edington’s findings in his 2006 study Association of Healthcare Costs with Per Unit Body Mass Index
Increase. This study is broadly recognized as the industry standard, and using a population of nearly 36,000
employees, it showed that an individual’s body mass index (BMI) is highly correlated with medical and
pharmaceutical claims costs. Even a slight decrease in an employee’s BMI of just one point is associated with a
$202.30 decrease in medical and pharmaceutical claims costs over one year.
Here are some sample results from early
Initiatives, 2006 -2008
At the time the average cost per participant was $50*
Those dreaded “Obstacles.”
But, along the way … we hit a few bumps.
The challenge was … how to get past them.
“Gee Rocky, maybe you can’t get there from here.”
~ Bullwinkle J. Moose
Credit cards were maxed-out.
Savings, life insurance and
retirement were cashed-in.
Money was borrowed
from family and friends—
just to keep things going.
This part was (is) NOT fun.
Who knew it would be so hard to
So, what’s the big deal about WELLNESS?
Why would we risk EVERYTHING to provide
something a lot of people don’t even want (even
when they need it most)?
What keeps us going?
Today chronic diseases are responsible for more than half of all deaths in
the world and are projected to account for two-thirds of all deaths globally
in the next 25 years, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) proposes that
organizations have a clear interest in investing in wellness initiatives for
four major reasons:
Chronic disease drives healthcare costs.
Productivity losses associated with chronic disease are even greater than
the medical costs themselves.
Workplace wellness efforts can positively impact human capital
Sustainability is threatened by the epidemic of chronic disease.
This… is what keeps
Researchers have recently concluded that an average population-wide
weight loss of 8 to 11 pounds (about 1.3 BMI points) could reduce diabetes
mortality by half, and chronic heart disease mortality by a third. (British
(This is BIG)
We know this is possible. We’ve
been proving it for 8 years!
This is what REALLY keeps us going
Still More Obstacles …
We’ve learned to treat setbacks as guides, not brakes.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your
attitude about the problem.” ~ Jack Sparrow
In addition to being severely under-funded (mostly non-funded) we found
that in order to address wellness, we had to actually define it.
That’s not as easy as it might seem.
Wellness is like poetry.
Think of wellness as you would think of poetry.
While we can all probably recite a poem of some
kind, can we all define “poetry?” Probably not.
This is how wellness is like poetry.
They’re both abstract concepts.
Wellness is more, much more, and more
complicated than the absence of being ill.
It’s a state of being, a state
of mind, a state of
change, and it is very much
And, even more than a Return on Investment, they will see a Return on
Quality of Life (QOL). This leads to other significant changes within the
And, one of the greatest obstacles was convincing
employers that wellness really does matter, that they
can see a return on their investment, and that
preventable chronic illness is a problem that must be
More on that to come …
We had to overcome what we call “wellness fatigue” and convince
employers that LoneStart Wellness is not the same-old, same-old, tired and
failed wellness program that only focuses on “diet and exercise.”
Our behavioral strategy helps participants create lifestyle changes that
Wellness has to be moved from a “back burner” issue to an
We knew what started as a good idea was turning into a great thing. Our
behavioral strategy was getting results.
But, we also knew that to create a sustainable
behavior change wellness model we needed a
better business model.
Some additional obstacles actually came from
unexpected insights …
We’ve learned that we’re in more than the “wellness”
business. We are in the “engagement” business.
“ The world’s top-performing organizations
understand that employee engagement is a
force that drives performance outcomes. In
the best organizations, engagement is more
than a human resources initiative—it is a
strategic foundation for the way they do
Engagement is the current business hot button.
We learned wellness is viral. But, …
What in the World is Viral Wellness?™
In any given social group, including
the workplace, we know that
behavior is contagious.
We say we all can—and must—help spread a new
Do You Know . . . ?
“Your chances of becoming obese
increase by 57 percent if one of your
friends is obese, 40 percent if it’s a
sibling, and 37 percent if your spouse is
obese.” __Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, and
James Fowler, PhD, published in New England Journal of
So, behavior is contagious …
But, look at the flip side.
You are influenced by those in your
social network—but you also influence
others. And, you can do so
You can also look for opportunities to
nudge those around you into more
positive and healthier
behaviors, understanding that you will
move in that direction as well.
However, there’s a big difference between a
“Nudge” and a “Shove.”
You can’t mandate a change of heart
and you can’t drag people kicking
and screaming into wellness …
But, you can provide them with the toolkit needed to mindfully moderate
lifestyle behavior choices.
We’re really good at this part.
(Unfortunately, most employers don’t understand the
More things we’ve learned … and want to share …
People want to be well—but, they must
be intrinsically motivated to make
lasting changes in lifestyle behaviors
(this pretty much rules out carrots and
We’re really good at this part too.
It’s easy to get fit people to participate in a wellness initiative. The challenge is
to craft a message that will engage the 20 percent of any population who are
most at risk for preventable chronic illness. These individuals account for as
much as 80 percent of an organization’s healthcare costs and are the least-likely
to participate in traditional wellness offerings.
And, guess where things are headed?
LoneStart’s Team Esteem Challenge creates short-cycle, team-
building opportunities that improve communication and build trust
and cooperation. A “Me Problem” becomes a “We Opportunity”
when employer and employees join together in a common and
mutually beneficial cause—creating a new culture of well-being
within their organization.
Before you can get in shape from
the neck down, you have to first get
in shape from the neck up. (It’s a
“retrain your brain” kind of thing.)
Simply put …
This is not as easy as it might sound.
Most wellness programs underperform
because they fail to motivate and
sustain behavior change.
Employees have to believe the wellness initiative is being
done “FOR” them, not “TO” them. And they
absolutely, positively have to believe in their hearts two
This is worth it. I can do this.
And, because we focus on the nuts and bolts, we
don’t have to charge that much to do what we do.
After 8 years “in the trenches” we saw a lot of money spent on
traditional diet and exercise programs designed with lots of bells and
whistles. But, they’re expensive, a burden to administer, and they lack
the nuts and bolts necessary to change behavior.
Think of us as the Nuts
and Bolts guys.
(We may be inexpensive, but we’re not cheap.)
We’ve come a long way, but, we’re not
there yet …
“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” ~ Jonathan Swift
We have an Advisory Board. (They’re a bunch of good eggs.)
Kinnie Parker, MPH, CHES
Linda Jones, MSPH
Jay (co-founder & Honcho)
Me (I snuck myself in)
Who is this guy?
Our Accountant, Frank
We’ve added a client portal to our website.
We’ve expanded our program to a 12-month Initiative, with
wellness modules, e-presentations—and more!
We’re getting better at “selling” the benefits
of wellness with a more targeted message …
But we’re still struggling to find a way to reach
a wider audience. If we can make a difference
in rural Texas, we know can make a greater
difference through employers everywhere.
And, fortunately (or unfortunately), the need
for what we offer is rapidly expanding.
We offer a well-conceived, clearly-defined behavioral strategy
that engages both employer and employees in a
shared, positive, transparent and non-punitive initiative, one that
delivers multiple benefits beyond cost savings, including
improved morale, communication, engagement, and productivity.
This is our USP
… by reframing the entire “wellness conversation” so it is
non-judgmental, positive rather than negative, focuses on
processes rather than outcomes, and carefully manages
expectations. We create an environment that fosters well-
being, so healthier behaviors can be
learned, adopted, shared and sustained.
And, this is how we
If you’ve made it this far, thanks. And, if you want to
find out more, here’s our contact info:
Or, just give us a call: 512.894.3440
P.O. Box 1188, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620
This may be the end of the presentation, but we’re just getting started.