Quick Start Guide
Welcome to WellStart!
Congratulations on taking this big step on the road to better health, a leaner and fitter body, and a more vibrant life! This Quick Start Guide will give you all the details, links, and resources you need to hit the ground running.
WellStart is a 12-week program designed to guide and support you as you uplevel your habits and behaviors around food and exercise and stress (or, as we call them, Menu, Movement, and Mindset).
The overt objectives are to get you healthier than you’ve ever been, and to give you more energy and joy than you’ve ever experienced. As a proxy for health, we can look at biomarkers like body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, lipid panel (including cholesterol), and A1C (blood glucose).
The energy and joy are harder to measure objectively, but you know when they increase because you just feel better.
Our program differs from a lot of other approaches to health improvement and disease reversal in some significant ways.
WellStart isn’t “one size fits all”
The most important thing to know about the program is that it isn’t a Program. That is, there’s not one way of doing things that we expect everyone will get to. Instead, we point you toward a general direction, based on scientific evidence, and encourage you to customize it to your needs and desires.
One of our mantras is “results dictate sufficiency.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that you’ll know if you’re “doing it right” based on whether you’re getting the results you want. Is your weight moving in the right direction? Do you feel more focused during the day? Is your aerobic capacity increasing based on the length and intensity of your physical activity?
So the first thing to do is articulate your goals. If you could wave a (realistic) magic wand, what would be different about your body and your health?
Once you’ve got that clear, you can evaluate everything on that basis. Like a pilot flying a plane from Houston to Lisbon, you constantly correct course so your actual journey conforms to your flight plan.
Behavior change is about skill development, not “moral character”
We live in a society that is quick to shame people for not being thinner, healthier, more selfdisciplined, more focused, or more motivated. And we internalize those judgments when we don’t live up to our intentions.
When we “binge” or skip the gym or lose our cool in an argument, we tend to view these occurrences as moral failings. We think, “I can’t believe I did that again. What’s wrong with me?”
At WellStart, we reject the concept that giving in to a craving or skipping a workout means there’s something wrong with you. Instead, we view the ability to resist cravings as a skill that must be learned and practiced, like riding a bike or playing the guitar. You wouldn’t shame a beginning guitar student for not being able to play a Bach Minuet at their first lesson, or even their first couple of years of lessons.
Be a scientist of yourself
If healthy habits and behaviors are a skill, then the process of learning that skill involves paying attention to mistakes and learning from them. That’s how all learning takes place. If you get everything right, then you haven’t learned anything!
So we don’t beat ourselves up or shame ourselves for not doing what we say we want to do. Instead, we get intensely curious. We ask ourselves, “What was going on that make me forget or override my desire to achieve these important goals?”
Throughout this program, you’ll be discovering and practicing the use of tools that can give you the answer to that question, and more importantly, give you skills to overcome those forces of resistance in the future.
Community is Key
As one of our founders, Josh LaJaunie, likes to say, “It took a community to get me to 420 pounds. And it took me finding a different community to turn me into an endurance athlete.”
Science tells us that the best predictor of our behavior is the behavior of those around us. If we want to change a behavior, there are lots of forces of inertia that exist in our lives to resist that change. Family and friends. Systems and routines. Preferences, habits, and addictions.
The one force that can neutralize all this resistance is finding - and participating in - a community where our new attitudes and behaviors are normal, natural, and commonly displayed.
That’s why one of the most powerful predictors of success in WellStart is how much you connect with the community: your fellow participants and your coach. You’ll see how to do that below, when we get into the program structure and elements.
Code of Conduct
The most important element in any program that seeks to change behavior is safety. We need to feel safe to try new things, to share feedback, and to seek help. It’s up to all of us - coaches, physicians, dietitians, and participants - to create and nurture that feeling of safety.
That means, first and foremost, than we keep everything confidential. What happens in WellStart stays in WellStart. Please keep to yourself any details that any participant reveals to the group, whether in a discussion or in a live call. And definitely do not share the audio recordings of live calls (see below for details) with anyone else.
Second, this is a total, 100% no judgment zone. Everyone messes up. We’re here to lift each other up, not put each other down. We cheer for each other, hold each other accountable, and question faulty thinking. But always from a place of encouragement and deep positive regard.
Third, this is a fun place. We are doing serious things, but we don’t have to take them all that seriously. That said, we want to make sure that we aren’t accidentally offending anyone with “over the top” humor.
In other words, play fair, play hard, and play nice.
The WellStart Program consists of daily text messages, a web platform, and weekly group video calls. All three elements are two-way: you can text your coach with questions and updates, you can create and participate in group discussions, and you can ask questions and receive live coaching on the video calls.
You’ll receive a morning text with a link to the message of the day. This might be a short article, or a video. You’re encouraged to respond to the message, and there are two main ways to do this. One is to simply reply to the SMS; this will send your response directly and privately to your coach.
Another way is to log in to the WellStartHealth.com platform and create a discussion around the content. That way others can benefit from your questions and observations, and you can benefit from their perspectives as well.
Get to the discussion forum by clicking or tapping the people icon at the top right of the platform once you’re logged in.
Once you’re there, you can initiate a discussion by clicking the + Start a new discussionbutton above the list of topics.
Next, title your post, and then start writing. You can use regular, bold, and italic text. You can add links, as well as numbered and bulleted lists.
You can also upload photos and choose from our small (and carefully curated) selection of emojis. When you’re done, click or tap the Post Discussion button at the bottom to post it to the group.
Once you log on, you’ll automatically be taken to your dashboard. It includes several elements, including the current week and day of the program, a suggested area of focus, a list of recent discussions, and a place to log your daily activities.
Start logging your daily actions at the end of each day. Each action has three possibly responses:
- Nope (significant gap between the goal and my actions yesterday)
- So so (modest gap)
- Yes, totally (rocked it)
Just slide the blue dot to the appropriate place.
Don’t worry if you are nowhere near achieving those daily goals at first. They are for diagnostics, accountability, and motivation.
The Daily DO! is a place for you to share in the morning what your health-related plans are for the day. You don’t need to be exhaustive; focus on the non-automatic and non-default activities.
That is, what are you going to do that doesn’t yet feel “second nature.” Those are the behaviors that are most likely to get jettisoned when you get stressed, busy, tired, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. Publicly announcing what you’re going to do, and when, can help you implement these new, positive behaviors even when life feels like it’s conspiring against you.
You’ve already seen how to use discussions to announce your Daily DO and comment on the Daily DOs of others. And how to share your responses to the daily SMS videos and articles.
You can also use the discussion forum to ask questions that would be of interest to others in the group, to upload photos of meals and dishes and snacks, and to discuss (and yes, brag about) your movement sessions (“I just walked a mile in under 22 minutes for the first time ever!”). And we’ll have a lot to talk about regarding mindset, resilience, and self-care.
Learning TabThe “graduation cap” icon at the top right of your home screen takes you to the WellStart Learning Center.
1. Mindfulness Exercises
Click this button to explore a world of mindfulness practices offered by our partners at Stop, Breathe, and Think.
2. Recipes and More
Looking for food ideas? Click this button to see some of our signature simple-and-healthy meals. Many of them have been contributed by current participants and alums, and are literally “no recipe required.”
3. Program Documents
Here’s where you can access and program documents and special reports that can’t fit onto a phone screen. Got a voice in your head telling you that you’ll never ever break that bad habit? Grab the “Beat the Bully” Action Guide and change the script.
When you have a minute, feel free to check out all the Action Guides in the Documents Section.
You can see all the daily lessons in one place, in order. So every article and video that you get via text is stored here. This is useful if you want to refer back to a previous article or video, and you don’t want to scroll through lots of texts on your phone to find it.
The lessons that you’ve already received are available to view; the upcoming ones are locked, and get unlocked on a day to day basis.
Group Video Calls
You’ve already received a schedule of group video calls. There are 6 such calls in the 12- week program, all at the same time on the same day of the week. Three calls are for group coaching, during which the coach will answer questions and guide participants to get traction on their goals. Some will be focused more on coaching (that’s where the coach asks the questions and participants do most of the talking), and others on presentation (that’s where the participants ask and the coaches answer).
Three calls with a WellStart dietitian are specifically about Menu; food prep, nutrition, special dietary restrictions, and so on.
You can access the calls live via video or audio. We prefer video for several reasons, but if you can only join via phone, then that’s definitely better than not attending at all. Try to find a comfortable, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. If you’re using a computer, make sure you have a working microphone and headset ahead of time.
If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, your earbuds should work just fine for both speaking and listening.
We use the zoom.us group video platform. Here’s what you’ll see when you first join a meeting:
The first thing you’ll want to do is click the Gallery View button at the top right, which allows you to see all participants on the call at once.
Next, make sure your audio isn’t muted and your video is streaming using the buttons in the bottom left of the Zoom window. Your screen won’t look exactly like mine, since I’m showing you the Host view, but you will be able to use the Chat button. This allows you to Instant Message all participants and coaches, or just a specific person, live within the Zoom platform. As a coach, I often send links to resources through the chat feature.
The other thing I recommend, if you’re on a computer, is to click the four-arrow button at the top right, which makes Zoom take up the entire screen on your computer. This helps to keep you from wandering into addictive territory like email and social media during meetings!
For your first time on Zoom, try to arrive 5-10 minutes early to get the hang of the platform and make sure that your equipment is working.
We record the Zoom meetings, but share them only as audio, to protect everyone’s privacy.
Three video visits with an MD (not for everyone)
For participants in the disease reversal arm of the program, you’ll schedule three online video visits with a WellStart physician. Each visit will last 15-20 minutes. If that’s you, we’ll be in touch with details.
For three of the weeks, instead of live calls, we’ll be sharing hour-long recorded Q&A webinars: one from a dietitian, one from a physician, and one from WellStart coaches.
Even if the live calls are difficult for you to attend, you’ll be able to watch these webinars at your leisure, and with the ability to pause, rewind, and watch multiple times.
The content for these webinars will be based on the questions and challenges you share in private texts with your coach, in discussions, and in live group calls.
Join the Alumni Network
Following the three group coaching calls and the three dietitian calls, you’ll receive an invitation to join the ongoing weekly Alumni calls. These hour-long calls occur on Wednesdays at 10am ET, and Thursdays at 8pm ET.
Got Questions or Issues?
This program is for you. If anything isn’t working for you, or is confusing, then please reach out to your coach via SMS.
Your feedback is crucial, and the timelier, the better. That way we can nip problems in the bud, clear up confusion, and get you moving in the right direction to achieve all your health and fitness goals.
See you on the inside!