CSNN Interview with Darlene & Orsha

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RHN Profile: Orsha Magyar & Darlene Higbee Clarkin

This is the first time I’ve interviewed a pair, or (as I’ve been referring to them in my head), an RHN power duo.  While Darlene and Orsha each have their independent stories of where they’ve come from, where they’re headed is, most clearly, a shared path. Combining their unique skill sets and a palpable passion for bringing nutrition to the people, these two are heating up the holistic nutrition industry technology style. Behold their vision.

It began with Darlene, a recent CSNN grad who is no stranger to innovation. For example, the day before Darlene met with Judith to enquire about CSNN, she was in semi-retirement from an epic career in the tech industry which included: the launch of the first airline loyalty program in Canada and cofounding  Points.com (Points International Ltd.), the world’s first loyalty program currency exchange.

Darlene’s initial interest in CSNN however, had nothing to do with building a business. Her family history includes both cancer and diabetes. Although Darlene has always been active and ate what she thought was a healthy diet, she started to experience high blood pressure. Not one to sit idle, she decided to learn more. One mid-October day, on the spur of the moment, she looked up ‘holistic schools’ on the internet and came across CSNN. She called that day, met with Judith the next and immediately asked, “Can I start?”  She was told that the next cohort started in March, at which time Darlene asked: “Is there any way I can start right now?”

With steely determination, Darlene started in the 1-year and the 2-year program simultaneously and though she was really behind, managed to catch up. What came as almost a surprise to her at this time, was how deeply impacted she was by the knowledge she was acquiring. “The information was so powerful. I immediately began to see the ways in which I could help bring it to the masses.” And thus began Darlene’s transition from semi-retirement back to the cutting-edge.

Essentially what Darlene meant by “bringing it to the masses”, was bringing the field of holistic nutrition online—something her skill set was clearly set up to do. But while she had the tech side handled, the provision of scientific nutritional information and services was something she needed at least 3-4 more years to feel qualified for. In order to get her business up and running, she decided to go find someone who has the experience she needed.

Orsha (who has a background in biopsychology and neuroscience) was teaching for CSNN at the time, as well as running her private consulting practice, Neurotrition. After becoming familiar with Orsha as both an instructor and an RHN, Darlene felt that she was a fit. Darlene seems to have chosen wisely. Ten minutes into our interview, it’s clear that they are well matched.

When Darlene approached Orsha to be the nutrition brains behind her venture, Orsha says that she was first surprised, but also immediately interested.  “What really sold me was the accessibility and getting nutrition to the masses. I can’t do that working in my office by myself.”So what exactly are they doing?

Darlene has founded WholeLife Holistic Nutrition Inc. – a company that offers mobile apps and nutritional services at myWholeLife.ca. With the aim to integrate holistic nutrition and Western medicine, myWholeLife.ca is soon to be a North American-wide web portal that (in addition to apps and personalized health assessments) will also offer a subscription-based referral system for nutritionists all across the country and throughout the USA.

myWholeLife, which launched in May, utilizes leading evidence-based research to provide nutrition services that , in terms of the number of people it can reach,  is unparalleled in the industry. Included in this vision is the inherent motivation to make the industry more accessible, affordable and well-known, thus creating jobs and opportunities for RHNs in their communities.

Their first app, Quick tips, takes current scientific studies and synthesizes the information into a bite-sized piece. App subscribers then receive two accessible, health-improving tips, every day. Practical to its roots, subscribers will receive advice on how to utilize tips in their daily life, be able to archive or share their favourite tips and will also be provided with the reference source to further access health and nutrition research.

While their enthusiasm echoes through all of what they tell me, their excitement brims over when they tell me about their newly released Blood Sugar app. The app, which includes diet, supplement and lifestyle recommendations to achieve optimal blood sugar balance, is essentially “like having a nutritionist at your fingertips.” Where Darlene crafted the look and feel of the app and enabled all the technological aspects, Orsha created the content.

“I started by asking myself, what would this app look like if it was me? I put my whole self into it.”

Working for a solid month, Orsha researched the top 100 foods and top 25 supplements to promote blood sugar balance. This information, along with preventative lifestyle tips are featured in the app. “Every single sentence is backed by science,” she says.

The Blood Sugar app also includes a 7 -day meal plan that is designed to be accessible and budget friendly. (It may come as no surprise that every ingredient and recipe is sourced from the top 100 foods). While the app includes the top 100 diet “do’s” it also features the top 100 diet “don’ts”. But it doesn’t stop there. For every food that subscribers are suggested to avoid, there are two alternatives: “the healthy swap” and “the healthiest swap”. Basically, the app has a built in support system to guide subscribers towards making sustainable, affordable, and achievable changes in their health.

The app also doesn’t shy away from the educational aspect. Instead of putting all of the information in layperson terms, the two decided to use the scientific terms for words that the average consumer might not know.  To accommodate, they then created “show boxes” which provide definitions in simple terms.  This seems to be just one more way that Darlene and Orsha marry technology with the tenets of holistic nutrition.

The Blood Sugar app is the first in a series that focuses on the facets of metabolic syndrome. Future apps lined up to launch are: weight management, blood pressure, cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome.  Also lined up to launch is myWholeLife’s comprehensive health assessments. Where the apps are generalized, the health assessments will be customized, providing diet, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations as well as personalized meal plans. A mini (and free!) version of the health assessment will be launched in December in order to give potential subscribers a feel for what they can expect from the service as well as to gauge what the market is really looking for.

If this all sounds revolutionary, it is. “I’ve been on the tipping point of so many industries changing and that’s what attracts me.  I’ve always jumped into something that’s leading edge, something that’s leading to change. It excites me. I like to see progress; everybody wins,” Darlene says.

Everybody wins. Now that’s what I’ve been waiting for My Whole Life.