The Future of Integrative Health Education and Tips for Building Culture
The Future of Integrative Health Education and Tips for Building Culture

"We just don't take the time to have a deliberate plan of what you want to manifest. I think that little shift will make such a huge difference in somebody's life." 

- Lynda Cloud

Elizabeth, a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, welcomes Lynda Cloud, the CEO of IIN, the world's premier nutrition and health coaching school with a global impact. With nearly three decades of experience in education and online learning, Lynda shares her incredible journey to spearheading IIN's transformation into the leading integrative health education and certification platform, and more behind the driving force behind IIN's mission-driven corporate culture. She and Elizabeth both share more about the own transformations they went through from IIN and a glimpse into the ever-evolving landscape of health coaching and a glimpse into a future of boundless possibilities for health and wellness. Lynda also discusses how IIN's flagship health coaching program has evolved to bring a diverse community together, creating a profound impact on lives across the globe.

 

  • PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Lynda Cloud, CEO of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world's most respected nutrition and health coaching school with the largest global presence and health coaching and my alma mater. IIN’s mission is to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process create a ripple effect that transforms the world. Lynda brings nearly 30 years of experience in education and the online learning industry. She previously served as CEO at EqualEd, a global startup focused on expanding and equalizing access to online learning tools and emerging in developed markets. In this episode, we talk about IIN’s evolution from the world's largest health coaching school to the world's leading integrative health education and certification platform in partnership with Deepak Chopra. We talk about how she thinks about corporate culture as a mission-driven company, how health coaching is evolving, and what their future looks like, what's next in health and wellness and so much more. Keep listening to learn all about Lynda and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. If you haven't had the chance to try our grain-free granolas yet, head on over to Walmart to now find them in the gluten-free, Healthy Living aisle and select Walmart locations. Our grain-free granolas have crunchy clusters of nets, super fruit seeds, and creamy nut butter, all baked with organic coconut oil and sweetened with coconut sugar. They are gluten-free, paleo, and keto certified. Use the link in the notes section to find purely Elizabeth products at a Walmart store near you.
    Lynda, welcome to the podcast. It is such a pleasure to chat with you today. And as I'm sitting here thinking about it, I just get the Goosebumps of all of the incredible ways that Integrative Nutrition has had an impact on my life, and just excited for this conversation to hear where you're headed with Integrative Nutrition over the next couple of years, your background and how you as the CEO of such a mindful company live your life. So, welcome.

    Lynda Cloud 02:29
    Thank you so much. And right back at you, Elizabeth. We talk about you often. You are one of our graduate success stories your grit, your vision, your passion, your alignment between your beliefs, and the suite of national products you built global products is just absolutely amazing. So I'm excited to be here.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:51
    Thank you so much. Well, before we get into where things are headed and what your experience is, I'd love to start first with your background before joining IIN, what you were doing, and how that led along your path and journey.

    Lynda Cloud 03:04
    When I think back on where I am and my journey, probably the one thing that I've done is always followed my passion. I've always followed my passion. So the better part of my career was spending 25 years in online learning, publishing, and running publishing houses globally. And I knew I had a passion for helping make the world a better place. So, I was a teacher in my early years and then grew up learning the education market and what to do in that space. So, loved it. I was at a couple of different companies, operating those. And what I found though, as I was a mom with two small children, trying to juggle all that and taking red eyes and commuting my passion, which had always been health and wellness, fell by the wayside. When you're in the middle of it and the thick of it, you have so many balls in the air, you don't prioritize yourself. At about that time, I was feeling burned out and having all sorts of gut issues, GERD, couldn't sleep, and insomnia. I serendipitously intersected with IIN and I had this beautiful awakening that for the first time in my life, my passion and my vocation would be aligned and I felt that from day one when I met the team. I went into the offices and spent a full day with them trying to get to know the team and the brand. I went in with my corporate lens. It was such a funny story and I saw these bowls of avocados all over the school and I was like, “Well that gotta. Go we gotta cut that.” We still have big bowls of avocados because you very quickly get to understand the eye on the brand and how deeply it is in the roots of everybody that works there. I transformed myself by working with the school. So my background is in running companies and helping mission-aligned companies do good and pay forward. So I feel fortunate to have taken the reins from Joshua Rosenthal, who's the founder as you know. He founded the school 30 years ago in his kitchen in New York City and was an incredible visionary who coined the term and the category of health coaching. So I feel honored that he trusted me as a steward of his brand.

    Elizabeth Stein 05:43
    That's incredible. It is so amazing to think what his vision was in 1992 when it officially launched. I think back to the program that I did, which was in 2007. And even then, just how ahead of its time it was. So to think back even further is just amazing. So when you said you serendipitously came into IIN, was that as you were looking at it personally? Or if you want to share any of that piece of it?

    Lynda Cloud 06:15
    Now I was working with a recruiter at the time, because I realized that I had to get off the treadmill I was on. It was just for my well-being. And he said, “I want to introduce you to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.” And at first, I was used to large education publishing houses. And I was like, I don't know if that's my jam. Then I started reading about it, I started going through the course, and just fell in love with it. Fell in love with everything about it.

    Elizabeth Stein 06:44
    So it was exactly what you needed personally to start feeling better in your life.

    Lynda Cloud 06:52
    And Joshua was the first one to say he’s taken the business as far as he could and he had the vision of how do we scale this even further. And I knew that that's a lot of the work I have done in other verticals. So, how do I take this brand? How do I build on the wonderful foundation that he introduced? And how do we even have a broader, bigger impact on the world?

    Elizabeth Stein 07:16
    I'm so curious, as you talked about the more corporate lens that you came in. What was it like for you initially joining both personally and professionally?

    Lynda Cloud 07:31
    Yeah. Personally, I had to have pretty sharp elbows and I grew up in a very male-dominated, corporate environment. For most of my career, I was usually the only female sitting at the table in the boardroom. We could do a whole podcast on that. But what I came to IIN with that intensity, and that energy, because that's all I knew for 25 years. And I realized I just need to slow down a little bit. I need to listen more, I need to trust more. And I need to bring what works in a corporate environment from a structure or governance and some of those practices into this family feeling of an environment. But do it in a way that we're going to maintain the secret sauce of that culture. There's good and bad and there's tug and pull on that for sure, every step of the way. But I think we were at a point where we've got a good blend of folks who are trained health coaches, 85% of the staff are trained health coaches, we open up all the programs to any of our team that are interested in pursuing additional certification or credentialing. So with that and that mentality, and that mindset as you know too well, comes a very gentler, kinder culture and a place to work. It's been good, it's been an adjustment. But I think for the better for me personally. And professionally, I feel like I've been able to help move the organization from being a health coaching school to a broader health and wellness, educational platform, expanding our remit and most recently with the Chopra partnership.

    Elizabeth Stein 09:20
    Well, I'd love to dig a little bit more into the culture and what that looks like as I think about culture at Purely Elizabeth, along with IIN. As I came out of the program, and initially set up what the vision for this brand was going to be, everything that IIN taught me, here are all the things that I want. And for us, our number one core value is health and happiness, which is straight out of Joshua's teaching and just realizing that most of your waking days are spent at work. So how do you create an environment where people want to be there and where you're happy? And that was a real wake-up call. I think calling that out is something that we all might realize, but you don't necessarily think that, yeah, you're with people at work more than you are with anyone else in your life, and maybe not so much. Now, we're in hybrid for some people still, but we'd love to hear a little bit about what that culture looks like for you. And any tips as a mission-driven company, or lessons that you guys have learned, especially as you've integrated to maybe 2.0, or the next generation? And for us, too, as we're looking at the future and bringing on more people into the company?

    Lynda Cloud 10:35
    Yeah, what I always find one of the most motivational aspects of our culture is always maintaining a focus on our students. When you're a for-profit company and you're mission-driven, there's a natural inherent tension that's going to exist there. Because you're asking people to work long hours, and that in some ways, feels counterintuitive to the mission of being your happiest, healthiest self. So I think what we try to do, and I would say the whole leadership team is focusing on asking people to give their best and do their best and try and raise their hand if they're needing help or create a balance there. But when you are working through the days, one of the things we do at our town halls and started to do is just spotlight our students. Success stories whether it's you or whether it is somebody who has been able to use the curriculum to reverse a chronic disease. When you have that motivation driving the work you do, I think that mission is what most people do. And that keeps them going as hard as they do. One of the things we're doing now is blending the Chopra and the IIN organizations together. So in addition to the IIN culture, we're now sprinkling in a dose of 15-20 people from Chopra, and then the Chopra graduates. So that's been also interesting, and it's been good. I think in some ways, the Chopra team is even pure on their health and wellness journey in terms of the attitude that they bring and the thoughtfulness and they're just so happy. We've got a happy group, but they've given us this dose of energy, which is great.

    Elizabeth Stein 12:33
    That's so cool. Is there anything that's like your favorite thing that you've done in the last year that has felt like you were just sharing the stories or something that's resonated? An off-site that you've done or something that's a cool tip?

    Lynda Cloud 12:49
    I think, when you're in the middle of the transformational work that we were doing with AI, Joshua did an amazing job of building out strong bones. But we needed to overhaul the infrastructure, we needed a new technology platform, and we overhauled the curriculum to bring it up to date. So, we were keenly focused on getting the house in order so to speak, so we can go to our next level. And when you do that, the softer things, the things that align with your brand, sometimes fall by the wayside. So I would say one of the things that I'm most proud of is a lot of the ways that we've introduced the brand into daily life. So meditation Mondays, yoga Thursdays, organic lunches each day, we have a cocktail happy hour each month celebrating an event. I think those community aspects are much more important right now, especially coming out of COVID. And we're in a hybrid workforce right now. We want to create a space that people want to come to. I think that's been a good pivot, and good aha. We used to do this every day, then COVID happened, and now we're back. And we lost that. So reinstating that has been helpful. And then using our staff, because they're all trained in so many different verticals to cross-train other teams, so whether one of them is leading a yoga course, or someone's leading a Spanish course because we've just introduced the program and Spanish and they're teaching other people a Spanish class. We've been doing a lot more of that.

    Elizabeth Stein 14:30
    I love that. I could not agree more that coming back and that thing together, how you foster this is so key, and people are craving that connection I think. So as you talk about Chopra and that integration, let's get into what the IIN program looks like today. Because it certainly looks very different from when I did in 2007. But I would love to hear what it looks like today and who's going through the program.

    Lynda Cloud 14:58
    Yeah, IIN is the parent of this broader platform. And I would say, since you went through the program, we did a major update of the health coach training program. And part of what we did was update and refresh the content, recent scholarship, new topics, and more interactivity. So more opportunities for application and learning, created more self-paced opportunities if folks want to do sync or async. So we've done quite a bit on the core program, our flagship program. Over the past six months, we've been working on this for a year and a half, but we launched publicly about six months ago, and we've brought it into an education, health, and wellness platform. So we now have certification and health coaching, life coaching, aerobatics, and meditation, and we just launched today, our brand new yoga certification.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:51
    So cool. Congratulations.

    Lynda Cloud 15:54
    Thank you. So, that is a big pivot. This is coming out of a lot of the trends we're seeing and we saw, especially coming out of COVID. So to your question, who is our customer? Our demographic, and the Chopra demographic, they're pretty consistent. We've got mostly 35 to 55, 91% female. That's what our staff looks like, as well. But that is generally who is pursuing their certification and health coaching, meditation, yoga, etc. What we saw coming out of the pandemic, in particular, was more interested in our 20s and 30s. So, our Gen Z are wanting to prioritize their health and wellness. But they may not be quite ready to sign up for an entire year to become a health coach. So, the new platform has a variety of different courses. So of course, you can access from $299, which is Foundation's basic information on nutrition or yoga or meditation, or enrichment. So that may be if you want to go through and do a specialization, or get trained in a particular vertical, all the way to mastery where you become certified, and you can hang up a shingle and go work. So we're creating a more diverse portfolio to make health and wellness more accessible to more people.

    Elizabeth Stein 17:19
    I think that's super exciting. I'd be curious to hear what this statistic is, but even just for the health coaching program, you're not just to go in there to become a health coach. So many people end up going a path that I did, which was not my intention, I intended to be a health coach, but just the variability of outcomes, I'm curious to hear what that looks like for you guys.

    Lynda Cloud 17:44
    It's really interesting. You go through the health coach program and as you know, you can take it in 12 months, or you can take it in six months if you want to start practicing sooner. But about 50% of the folks who go through our program are going through it for personal transformation, and about 50% are going because they want to work as a practicing health coach. The folks who are going through it either for health coaching or personal transformation or someone in their family is looking for help for a particular problem that they need guidance or help with and believe that food can help them on their journey as medicine, maybe they have an underlying health issue or chronic disease. So, we see folks go through the journey exactly like you did. They'll go through, they'll start practicing or many of them have an entrepreneurial spirit and they'll use their skills to go off and start a business typically in the health and wellness space.

    Elizabeth Stein 18:43
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    Well, you mentioned the personal transformation and I think it's just so interesting because whether you're looking to go to the school for that, or coaching, the foundational tool to me at least was it gave me the confidence to go after whatever it was that I wanted, whether it was health coaching or this or running a marathon, like that was the fundamental piece. And I think that's such an important aspect of the program that is just so special.

    Lynda Cloud 20:15
    Yeah, I think you're right. I don't think health coach training does the program. I think it explores every part of your circle of life and it looks at nutrition, activity, socialization, and relationships. And it's an immersive introspective journey. And as you know, the idea is the best coaches will start on themselves and figure out what the application looks like. And then what we find is most of our health coaches usually ended up specializing or finding their niche, and the reason that brought them to the program in the first place. So whether that's hormone health or gut health, they'll make that their specialty or their niche.

    Elizabeth Stein 21:01
    For sure. So for you, when you did the program, what was your biggest aha or takeaway?

    Lynda Cloud 21:07
    As I said, I was a stress-monger. Coming off with 25 years of corporate America, this intensity and taking supplements to sleep, taking stuff for my gut, but not using food as my primary vehicle. I was taking handfuls as a supplement, because it was quick, and it was easy. I was still eating relatively clean, but I wasn't consciously making decisions about how the food and the nutrients were changing my lifestyle. So, I have not taken gut health medicine, I don't take sleeping pills. I don't need anything anymore. Because I've learned to prioritize myself, and my sleep hygiene, and then in turn that had its impact on obviously, my gut health and my microbiome.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:01
    You think about those changes that you've made, how else do you see the changes in your life from a CEO perspective of handling the stress? What's a typical day for you? Any morning routines, night routines, or things that you do to feel your best?

    Lynda Cloud 22:22
    A typical day for me, I'm an early riser. So, I'm usually up by 5:30 or so. And in the past three months, I've been doing more guided meditations. Before I even get out of bed, I just sit there and I use Deepak’s app, which is great. And I take some time to ground myself, to center myself to think about it, what I want to accomplish that day, and start the day with intention. So give yourself the gift of that time, we all don't do it enough. We grab our phones, or we start moving or we jump in the shower or we run and get the kids. We just don't take the time to have a deliberate plan of what we want to manifest. And so, I think that little shift will make such a huge difference in somebody's life. I commute to New York City. So that also helps ground me when I'm going into the hustle and bustle of the city. I spend time walking everywhere. I'm a huge walker. I do yoga a few times a week. I spend as much time outside now. I find that this time of year in particular, just being outside and being with nature has been rewarding for me.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:43
    Yeah, this is such a nice time in the city especially. Well, not right now. As you think about the future, so much is happening right now at IIN. But if you think about the vision for the next three to five years, what does that look like? I feel like there's so much possibility, I have some things swirling in my head that I love IIN to do with, but I'm so curious to hear what that path is gonna look like.

    Lynda Cloud 24:09
    Yeah, we did a lot of work these first couple of years and just created a scalable system, a content management system, a deployment system, and getting the school in the right state to help us curate additional courses and content. The big pivot, I would say from a school perspective is, we want to be a destination where people can find organic IIN courses, but we also want to be a clearinghouse for best-in-class health and wellness courses that match the needs of our students who are looking for continuing education. So, we'll continue on that journey. And that work is started and in flight. Additionally, we are piloting right now, we were in a beta of a product called InWell. I can't tell you it's going to be the final name, but the idea is that it's a platform for wellness seekers and a platform for wellness practitioners. So if you are looking to find a meditation teacher or yoga instructor or health coach you would be able to go to the IIN Chopra community, sort by profile needs, and do a diagnostic to understand who's the best match for you. If you are new to practice, and you want to build your client base, you would use this destination to access a way to build your website, create marketing campaigns, and all the administrative stuff that a lot of new coaches and teachers struggle with. So, we are in beta this year, we will stay in beta on that through this year to do a broader launch in early 2024 around that product.

    Elizabeth Stein 25:47
    That is so exciting. I feel like that search in particular is such a hard thing. Say you Google whatever practitioner and it's so hard to know and understand who you're going to. And to have one destination like that, I'm psyched.

    Lynda Cloud 26:06
    Yeah, I'm excited too. I think it's the biggest question that our graduates are struggling with. Like now what? How do I find clients? What's the path to employability? It just feels like a natural extension for us. And with the Chopra, we have 170,000 graduates. So, let's create a destination. And then as you were saying earlier, the idea of a community, the idea of bringing like-minded people together, I think there are a lot of possibilities as we learn through the market what works and doesn't work.

    Elizabeth Stein 26:42
    That's super exciting. As you think about where health coaching has been and where it's headed, what that looks like, and particularly how that starts integrating with insurance and that side of the business, we'd love to hear your perspective on where that is.

    Lynda Cloud 27:01
    Yeah, health coaching, as you know, has gotten much more mainstream. It used to be this out there swimming. What is that woo-woo thing out there? What do you mean you're a health coach? Hospitals, insurance companies, and different organizations have prioritized the hiring of health coaches. So the InWell community, that would also be an opportunity for them. So if folks are interested in hiring health coaches, they could come into our database and access our students and our graduates. But when I think about health coaching in general, I think that it's going to continue to evolve, it's certainly going to get more accessible as the CPT codes which the insurance or the insurance companies need to remunerate for that. We're in trials and testing on that right now as a category. So that will come to fruition, meaning that health coaches will be able to reimburse within the next six to nine months, which will make this a lot more obtainable and accessible for the masses. So the consortium has been leading a lot of work in that area. And I've been thinking a lot about AI. There are lots of schools of thought, and there are lots of things out there concerning AI. And I think for us, the good news is our premium content sits behind a paywall. So, we'll continue to iterate on that. But we can also access things through different channels and different AI tools to go to market more quickly. I think from a health coaching perspective, that's pretty cool to start to think about. Like if I'm doing an intake with you, and you give me your background, your history, your family history, what your goals are some of the topics you want more information on, using AI to accelerate that content, that information gathering, lets the coaches spend more time being best at what we want them to, which is helping coach you, the content assembly. Different use cases could be interesting. Who knows? Maybe there's a digital health coach that lets us provide a different type of model out there and go to some more remote folks or access more people. I think it's about really just spreading the mission and spreading the love.

    Elizabeth Stein 29:26
    Yeah, it sounds like the accessibility piece of it is going to increase and we're on the cusp of all of this. Super exciting. As you think about feedback that you get from graduates, everyone has all different experiences, but curious to hear what you hear the most. I know why I love it, but why do people love the program or what's the one or two pieces that end up resonating with everybody?

    Lynda Cloud 29:59
    I think it's the breadth of our visiting faculty. We have amazing teachers. And we have over 99, different instructors, we're the world's premier specialists in each of the areas. So, I think getting that breadth of understanding and insight in a way that's delivered, that people can understand and access is really important. But I would say most people will say, this transformed my life. It has given them an awakening in different ways. And we have this annual event that we invite grads to, and I didn't realize just how powerful this product was, the school was on the community until I went to my first IIN event where folks were crying, they were just like, “This changed my life, I didn't think I was going to live, this helped me. I was able to live my best version of myself whether it's looking at diet or mental health.” I think that is the coolest thing. Because people who have had the IIN impact, they are believers, and they're huge proponents for our brand and for paying it forward.

    Elizabeth Stein 31:19
    100%. It's probably the mix of everything, but can you identify the piece of it, that is what transforms everyone's lives?

    Lynda Cloud 31:32
    It's a really good question. I think the piece of it that probably is transformational is the fact that we're not preaching something to you, we're not advocating a particular dietary theory. We're letting you decide, we're exposing you to over 100 different diets. And what I need today is going to be very different from what I need two years from now, or even two weeks from now. So, I think the concept of bio-individuality, and the fact that we exposed folks to a variety of approaches to looking at their whole self in a holistic, integrative way is probably the thing that let allows you and gives you the tools to transform yourself. Because it's the work that you're doing. It's not that we're doing that work to transform. You're doing the work.

    Elizabeth Stein 32:27
    You're holding the space. It's like Josh was standing there and asking one high mileage question, and then 10 mins later, someone's crying and they've figured everything out in their life. You touched on AI, but I'm curious to hear about any health and wellness trends, where you see this more generalized, but it could come back to AI. Because everything seems like it's coming back to AI, but where you're seeing health and wellness trends or anything else impacting, what you guys are doing or not?

    Lynda Cloud 33:00
    Yeah, I think one of the thing

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