After dieting for a number of years and trying everything from gluten-free to Keto, Emily Hochman found herself at 22 years old with a bleak relationship to food and a growing list of medical diagnoses. Having been active and healthy her whole life, she was unwilling to just accept that she had polycystic ovarian syndrome and hyperthyroid disorder, was pre-diabetic, and may never have children and that the only way to get better was to take medicine.
“I thought there had to be a better way and a better solution, so I spent the next three or four years diving into the health and wellness world and really looking for how to be healthy,” she recalls. “I started investigating health and wellness, and it immediately drew me to fitness, but what was missing in that conversation was nutrition—what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, what that meant for me.” To learn about this part of the equation, Hochman enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she learned over 100 different dietary theories and the practice and belief of what’s called bio-individuality, the idea that one person’s food is another person’s poison.
“Miraculously, I was actually able to cure myself through the power of food as medicine and understanding that what you put into your body really affects your health,” Hochman says. “And after I went through that transformative experience, I told all my friends about it, and what I found was that, no matter their age, gender, race, or anything else, every person I spoke to had their own food relationship.” Some had bad digestion, some wanted to lose weight, some had been dieting for years without ever seeing results, and it soon became clear to the newly-certified health coach that there was a huge problem within her network of what to eat and why, and she realized no one knew how to get the answers they needed.
Hochman also began to take note of the national nutrition crisis that America w as experiencing, with more than 161 million people were dealing with problems around how to eat healthily, and she saw how antiquated and lacking in innovation or opportunity the nutrition industry was. “In short, you had hundreds of millions of Americans looking for nutrition help, and then thousands of nutrition providers—certified health coaches, dietitians, and nutritionists—who can help you, but the question was: how do we actually put the two together in a way that’s built for today’s consumers and built on technology that can help us scale?” she explains. “So, to answer that question, I started building Wellory.”
A mobile service designed to challenge diet culture and reinvent personal nutrition to be accessible and affordable for all, Wellory hopes to modernize the space by connecting clients with nutrition experts to create a custom plan tailored to their preferences, habits, and concerns . Ahead of the app’s September 1 launch, I sat down with Hochman to learn more.
Gabby Shacknai: It’s surprising to hear how out-of-date the nutrition sector is. So many people see it as a part of wellness, and wellness has obviously seen continued growth and innovation in recent years. Why do you think nutrition has been an outlier?
Emily Hochman: It’s interesting, and I couldn’t agree more. Wellness is booming, and as a culture, we’re prioritizing it more and more, and the thing that we’re most excited about at Wellory is the wide-open space to introduce nutrition. What’s existed prior to Wellory is one of two things—diet culture, which is like, ‘sign up here to lose 30 pounds,’ or private practice, but at the end of the day, if you want to see a nutritionist or health coach on your own, it’s very expensive and tends to be about $200 to $250 for a one-hour session. So, the opportunity for Wellory was to create accessibility to a nutrition expert and make it available and affordable to the masses so people all across the country could not only find us but could access someone, and to build it on a brand that was going to resonate and actually make a big impact on the world.
What we’re seeing now, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, is that what matters most is that we’re healthy, and Wellory is at the forefront of that conversation. Diet culture is dangerous and damaging, and what we actually need to do is give people the support, accountability, and education they need to actually prioritize eating healthy. That’s the way of the future.
Shacknai: Nutrition is incredibly individualized. How does Wellory cater to this and get to know clients on a truly individual level?
Hochman: First, a client downloads the app and creates a profile about themselves. There are two different parts to the profile: registration and your demographic information and then your wellness nutrition information—like, what are your goals, how often you eat, and your communication preferences. Based on this information, we then match you to a Wellory nutritionist, and we create a really powerful match because at the end of the day, what’s important to us is that one-on-one match and actually matching you to a real human and not a bot. Clients then have the option to do a 20 to 30-minute, complimentary Facetime, called a ‘get to know you’ call, with the opportunity to really get to know their Wellory nutritionists. From there, the experience takes place within our in-app messaging, and clients can take a picture of their food or drink and share it with their Wellory nutritionist, and then on a daily basis, the Wellory nutritionist provides tips, tricks, recipes, eating advice. The thing that really differentiates us as a business is that we take a meal-by-meal approach, so we actually help our clients think through how to build healthy habits as it relates to the chronology of the day—so, what does breakfast look like? What does lunch look like? And what does dinner look like?
Then, the personalization comes in two ways: first, you are really getting to know your Wellory nutritionist, and your Wellory nutritionist is really getting to know you, so the specific recommendations and meal plans they put together for you are hyper-personalized because they’re based on you. Those recommendations all come from understanding who you are as a human and what your lifestyle is like. And then the second part of personalization, which is very different from diet culture, is that we don’t necessarily put a time-cap on it. There are a lot of companies that guarantee ‘sign up here for 30 days, and you’ll lose 30 pounds,’ but that doesn’t work. Our approach is to match you with a Wellory nutritionist and provide you with personalized recommendations, and then we’re going to create a timeline that’s actually suited for you and your needs.
Shacknai: The photo-sharing approach seems very unique. Are Wellory nutritionists able to fully grasp what their clients are eating and drinking from just a photo?
Hochman: 66 percent of millennials are already taking photos of their food, so we’re taking advantage of that, but people love the photo-tracking feature because tracking calories and ingredients is a really antiquated and menial task that a lot of users don’t love, so the photo-sharing is a huge selling point in the market. As we build out our roadmap, we do have in-app features for additional tracking and creating healthy habits. So, our qualitative tracking rather than quantitative really comes from understanding what choices you as a human are making.
Shacknai: How many Wellory nutritionists do you currently have on the app?
Hochman: We have a network of over 500, which includes health coaches, nutritionists, and registered dietitians, and it’s actually all been based on referrals. The thing that’s super exciting about this company is that we’re creating job opportunities for the nutrition industry, and this is something that people are applying to on a daily basis and then telling their friends about. What we saw on the nutritionist side was that every nutritionist, dietitian, and health coach was suffering from client acquisition and/or community, so we focus on offering both of those things, and we’re seeing so much interest from the nutritionist market because we’re finally solving for both of those things.
Shacknai: What does Wellory’s nutritionist training look like?
Hochman: We go through a very extensive vetting and training process. Anyone we bring on has already been credentialed from the top nutrition schools across the country, so we are hiring the best and the brightest, but we also look for diversity. Only 2.6 percent of nutritionists and dietitians are people of color, so one of the things we’re excited about is that right now, 15% of our nutritionists are actually Black or people of color. But we also lean very heavily into diversity of thought, so we hire people of all different credentials, and our goal is to bring together an amazing community of experts who’ve had training in different spaces and to pull together all these different practitioners to make an incredible customer experience.
And then we also have an internal training program that we put all Wellory nutritionists through. We train everyone on our Wellory methodology in order to ensure a cohesive experience on the client side, but at the end of the day, we’re hiring professionals, and we do trust them to, after their training, make the right personalized recommendations for their clients.
Shacknai: How many clients do you expect each Wellory nutritionist will work with?
Hochman: To be frank, we’re still learning every single day to see what that balance is between scale, technology, and human touch. But at the end of the day, we have a saying that we’re human first and technology second, so we’re really trying to find that perfect balance between maintaining a good experience and leveraging technology along the way.
Shacknai: What is the thinking behind Wellory’s price point?
Hochman: Our pricing is $89.99 per month. It’s a monthly subscription, and you can cancel at any time. We think about it in two ways. First, we’re a high-touch experience, so unlike any of our competitors, you’re hearing from your Wellory nutritionist on a daily basis. Most only engage with their clients on a weekly basis. And then if you were going to go see a nutritionist on your own, it would cost somewhere between $200 and $250 for a one-hour session. If you were to see that person weekly for a month, you’re talking about spending between $800 and $1000 for four hours in total. So, at $89.99, we’re a tenth of the cost of that. And by the way, we’re much more accessible and you’re hearing from us every single day.
Shacknai: Wellory is obviously more affordable than the traditional nutritionist experience, but how do you cater to lower-income clients who have never spent anything on nutrition?
Hochman: Our mission statement as a business is to make personalized nutrition accessible to all. So, when we think about that and look at the history of diet culture, we’re going against that to give everyone a healthy relationship with food, regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, location. We’re really building for everyone. As we build, we will also be offering lower-tier options as well as higher-tier options because our goal at the end of the day is really to service anyone and everyone.
Shacknai: On a similar note, how does Wellory broach the high price tag that often accompanies healthy eating?
Hochman: The really interesting thing I’ve learned is that it’s really just about starting somewhere. Not everyone has access to an organic grocery store or a farmers market, but if we can just help someone make micro changes that will lead to macro impact, like moving away from eating a sugary granola bar every morning and teaching them how to eat protein instead, that is one amazing shift that can lead to huge health benefits. So, we don’t have to go from zero to only shopping at the most organic market and spending crazy amounts on healthy food. We’re here to help people create healthy, sustainable habits, and that starts with educating someone on how to shop at a grocery store, no matter what grocery store that is. At the end of the day, we’re looking to encourage people to make better decisions when it comes to food, and that really comes down to this personalized, judgement-free support system with their Wellory nutritionist. The goal is not to increase the amount of money someone is spending on food every month; it’s to help them make smarter decisions with where they’re at.
Shacknai: As you’ve built Wellory over the last few years, what has been the biggest learning curve?
Hochman: In this business, people always ask if there were will be a point when they’ve built their healthy habits and don’t need Wellory anymore, and that’s a very tough question. What we’ve learned, though, is that when someone gets to that point when they’re at their best, they don’t want to leave, and there becomes this beautiful connection between Wellory nutritionists and clients to keep them accountable and make sure they’re maintaining that healthy lifestyle. Once you get to that place, you never want to leave that place, but life does happen, and at the end of the day, that’s okay. It’s our job to help you handle that and stay with those healthy habits.