My Nutrilite Experience

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Well it’s officially been 3 weeks today since we got back from our trip to Long Beach, California to Tour the Nutrilite Center for Optimal Health. I was waiting to get my bloodwork back and to have my consultation with their medical director to write my full review, but since that happened this past Monday, I don’t really have an excuse anymore!

Nutrilite, a division of the Amway company, had contacted Steve and Me to see if we would be willing to come to California to check out their campus and learn more about their company. After verifying that they didn’t want our souls or even rights to our blogs in exchange for them picking up the tab, we agreed. Honestly, who wouldn’t want an excuse to leave Minnesota in November to see trees with leaves on them and water that’s not frozen? I finagled my work schedule around so we could make it a long weekend (I’ve never actually been to California and didn’t want LAX to be my sole experience). We flew down on Friday, spent the day with Nutrilite on Saturday, and had Sunday to do some more exploring of Long Beach. Steve took a ton of pictures of our adventures when we weren’t meeting up with Nutrilite. His post here has all of them.

I was actually pretty nervous going down there because Steve and I had no idea what to expect. Would they spend the whole day trying to sell us a ton of supplements? What kind of blood work would they be doing? We knew that this was a “blogger” event. Who else would be there? That last question was actually answered on our ride from LAX to our hotel where we met John, a fellow Minnesotan who is actually a weight loss blogger. I’ve been blogging and reading blogs since 2006, but it never really occurred to me that there are people who blog outside of the “athletic blog” scope. I mean, obviously I knew that there are blogs out there about literally everything, and sometimes they’re about nothing. I’ve never explored them, though. Honestly, for how much free time I have, I can’t even hit up all of the awesome tri/running/getting in shape blogs that are out there. As it turned out, Steve and I were the only “athletic bloggers” there. We had a great variety of weight loss bloggers, healthy living bloggers, and personal training bloggers. Steve and I have had a lot of blogger meet ups, so that part isn’t new to us, but it was a little different to have people bringing up our past races as awe inspiring and not just topic of conversation. My 50K at the end of October raised a few eyebrows.

Nutrilite is a division of Amway, and although I personally don’t have experience with that company, I am familiar with the stereotype of the pushy salesperson. Fortunately, I never felt like we were being pushed into anything. The day felt more like a learning experience and less like a sales pitch. We started off by having our blood drawn which was quickly followed by having a few measurements taken. I’ll discuss those results later. We were then treated to a tasty healthy breakfast before the learning began.

We started off the tour by learning a little bit more about how their supplements are made. One of their mottos is “Best of Nature. Best of Science.” This is probably a good description since the company chooses to extract the vitamins and other compounds directly from the plants that they organically grow themselves. They cited the numerous scientists and other researchers they have on staff and showed us a video of how the products are grown for their products. I don’t know how much evidence is out there comparing plant-based supplements to more conventionally made supplement products, but the theory behind it does make some sense. What I do know is that every person we met during our tour firmly believes in the quality of their products.

Let me take a quick break here to remind you that I am a pharmacist. As such, I came into this experience with a very different mindset. I am trained to be skeptical. I pick apart decisions that physicians make all day, every day. In my opinion, the best pharmacists are the ones that are of the mindset that every prescription is wrong until proven otherwise. It’s the safest way for my patients. Also as a pharmacist, I have seen over and over what happens when patients rely solely on supplements to treat very complex medical conditions, or worse, combine certain supplements with certain medications (this could potentially result in life threatening situations). I’m not saying that people should never use supplements. In fact, many supplements are beneficial, and some of them have been proven over and over again to be better than traditional FDA approved medications. It’s imperative, though, that if you choose to take supplements, you let your doctor and pharmacist know you’re doing so. I have long employed the strategy not to take anything “extra” in my exercise nutrition. Sure some of that stuff may give you more energy, but you really don’t know what it’s going to do to you after 17 hours of exercise. Bottom line: you need calories and electrolytes. Anything else is uncharted territory. Just because I’m a pharmacist doesn’t mean I’m a pill pusher, though, quite the opposite in fact. There are hundreds of conditions that need to be treated with conventional medicines, but those medications are not without risks themselves. They can have side effects, and they can be terribly expensive. I firmly believe that if there is a lifestyle change you can be making to lower the dose, number, or need for medications, you should be doing it. That’s why I found the Nutrilite Center for Optimal Health’s 8 Pillars of Optimal Health so refreshing. Their whole goal is to help people obtain their best health and to avoid some chronic conditions in the first place. (Interesting enough, this little soapbox basically says the same thing as the chapter in Dr. Duke’s book I just went back to read).

So… Those pillars of health. Most are self explanatory. They are:
1. Reduce your risk factors for chronic disease. Many of us were just given crappy genes, and there’s nothing we can do about that. Risk factors like smoking, however, can be changed.
2. Exercise – we learned about the 4-3-2-1 approach which I’d like to discuss on a future post.
3. Good macronutrition – eating appropriate amounts of carbs, protein, and fats.
4. Good micronutrition – getting appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (beneficial compounds found in food that aren’t vitamins or minerals). One great message I took away from my day at Nutrilite is to think color when thinking about phytonutrients. Color dictates the type of phytonutrients that can be found in a specific type of fruit or vegetable. There are 5 colors to look for – purple, orange, white, green, and red. Click here for more info regarding which phytonutrients can be found in your fruits and vegetables. Most people fall short in this category, and that’s where taking a daily multivitamin comes in. Nutrilite emphasized that taking a daily phytonutrient supplement should also be common practice. I don’t know if I’ve quite bought into that yet, but I have been working on eating lots of rainbows!
5. Mind, spirit, and positive attitude.
6. Adequate rest – are you getting enough sleep?
7. Good medical care.
8. Healthy environment and good hygiene.

Overall, I left the weekend knowing that I need to be taking better care of myself, especially in the nutrition department. I really struggle to eat enough fruits and vegetables during the winter. I can’t get enough in the summer, but when the sun disappears, all my body wants is carbs. I’ve actually been doing a pretty good job in the 3 weeks we’ve been back. One thing that Steve and I have been doing more of is more frequent trips to the grocery store. We have the luxury of having more than 8 different grocery stores within a 5 mile radius of us. We used to employ the strategy of making one HUGE run every 3 weeks or so, but then we spent a ton of money, and much of the produce would go bad toward the end. Lately, we’ve been making weekly trips to the small organically-grown grocery store by our house (we save cereal runs and other pricey items for SuperTarget when I have my 10% off coupon – I can’t afford to feed Steve the $5/box cereal not on sale). The prices are a bit more expensive, but I’m not stocking up on crap that we don’t need and produce that’s going to go bad. Plus I’m really starting to realize the value of not putting tons of herbicides and pesticides into your body.

So as I mentioned earlier, I received my individualized health assessment in the mail at the end of last week, and Nutrilite’s Medical Director, Dr. Duke Johnson, gave me a call to discuss my results this past Monday. He started off the consult by stating that we were aiming for optimal health, not necessarily a perfect body. Good thing cause I’m far from it! Overall, there weren’t too many surprises.
* I need to work on flexibility (I have none in my hamstrings and am not a big fan of stretching in general).
* My bone density is great – chalk that up to 12+ years of running starting in my teens.
* I am deficient in Vitamin D – pretty common if you live in a northern latitude, or, as new research suggests, nearly anywhere. Turns out you may not get enough from sun exposure after all.
* My cholesterol numbers actually don’t look terrible, and my “good” cholesterol has improved since the last time I had it checked. This is one area where my bad genes come into play, so I’ve been watching it closely.
* My thyroid’s fine.
* My blood pressure and heart rate currently do not put me at risk for chronic disease.
* My body composition is still considered “healthy,” but it has changed over the last 6-7 years, even though my weight hasn’t. I think this may have to be the subject for a future post. Overall, my BMI, waist to hip ratio, and body composition combined fall somewhere between “ideal” and “normal.”
* One area that surprised me: my iron studies looked great. I can’t remember the last time I ate red meat. I actually have to force myself to eat any meat sometimes just because I know that I need the protein, so it’s nice to know I’m still doing OK in the iron department.

My consultation with Dr. Duke didn’t take very long. I knew what all of the lab values meant so I didn’t have a lot of questions. He did recommend that I take 3 pills of omega 3 (fish oil)/day, their magnesium/calcium/vitamin D supplement, Double X (their super powered multivitamin/mineral/phytonutrient combo), and a fruits and veggies supplement. That seems like a lot of stuff, and I still don’t know how I feel about taking all of it. One thing I did ask Dr. Duke about was the amount of Vitamin D found in their supplements. He stated that the Double X and the Mag/Ca/Vit D supplements each have 400 units. That would take me to a total of 800 units/day. The current accepted recommendation for Vitamin D is 1000-2000 units per day for people found to be deficient. None of Nutrilite’s products currently contain that much. Dr. Duke did state that they have a product coming out in another month or so that has higher Vitamin D levels. (Side note: Vitamin D is a fat soluble viamin. There is a possibility of “too much of a good thing. You can overdo it if you take too much).

Overall, the weekend was a great reminder of how to get and stay healthy and why our health needs to be a priority. I do think it kicked me in the butt a little bit, which I usually need this time of year. Racing season is over, and my body wants to go into hibernation mode. I left feeling like I had the tools to make some positive changes in my life.

(Full Disclosure: Nutrilite flew Steve and I out to their facility and paid for our hotel stay. They also paid for our blood work and several meals while we were there. I have no relationship with Nutrilite or Amway, and I was not paid for this write up. This statement is to comply with the new regulations.)