Posted in Omada

Omada – Week 4

Health is complicated.

It would be lovely if there were a formula for health we could be taught and memorize and apply every day. But, every day is different. Every body is different. Every life has a different set of tools. Every life has a different set of challenges. And those tools and challenges are not constant. Life is fluid. Health, also, is fluid.

I’m nearly 49 years old. I should know by now that health is complicated, that nutrition and exercise are wrapped up in history and emotions, that most of us have lead-weight-backpacks of shame and insecurities regarding food, sleep, work, activity, and worth. I really should know that there is no magic formula for this part of life.

And yet…

And yet, I started the Omada program thinking “this’ll be it!” It’s different than the rest.

  • It’s 4 months long.
  • It’s a personal coach.
  • It’s a small group of people cheering each other on.
  • It’s not a formula for drastic change; it’s noticing patterns and shifting them toward healthier ones.

Turns out all those things are true about Omada…and it’s still not the magic formula.

Because there isn’t one, I suppose.

Here are some bummer things about Omada: (Promise you’ll read this list only if you read the list below it! That’s only fair.)

  • My group disappeared. There were 20 of us on the “roll sheet” at the beginning. It appears some of them never really checked in on the first day at all, so then we were down to maybe a dozen. Then, within the first week, it seemed we were down to 4 or 5 of us who ever posted a question – or answered a question others posted. I had hoped we would be a group of folks cheering each other on, offering ideas we’ve tried, links to helpful resources. That didn’t happen. And that’s a bummer.
  • Some of the data doesn’t add up on the Omada page. On the weigh-in page, it’ll tell me that I’m 52% of the way to my goal of weight loss, when simple math tells me I’m not that far along. Actually, I WAS that far along, then I gained some weight back. Seems weird that something that simple shouldn’t be up-to-date every day…especially because it’s a program that’s data driven, focusing on patterns and such. Inaccurate data is a bummer.
  • I was hoping the coach and the lessons would be helping me take a look at patterns: what time of day I tend to snack…or WHY I tend to snack…or what kinds of snacks I tend to reach for. But, that hasn’t happened. There is no section for recording how you feel when you are eating…or even to record something like, “I really wanted a big piece of chocolate cake and a huge glass of milk when I was at the birthday party, but instead I had a couple of Hershey’s kisses from the bowl on the table. So, while I’m recording that I ate chocolate, it’s actually a big win for me as far as making choices goes.” Those feelings and choices matter, but there is no way for the coach to know that about you…so there is no way for her (mine is a woman) to know she could cheer you on for eating Hershey’s kisses that day. That’s a bummer.
  • Most of the lessons and articles shared are not news. We who have joined Omada have likely read and read and read articles about:
    • food substitution (Eat This, Not That!),
    • managing cravings (Check in without yourself about why you are eating. Are you bored? Write a letter or call a friend instead of reaching for potato chips.),
    • not all carbs are bad (Fresh fruits and veggies count as carbs, but they are not the same as Wonder Bread.)

    These articles are not a bummer. They are good stuff, but I thought since Omada billed itself as helping us examine patterns and taking small steps toward healthier ones, I thought I might learn something more about human nature and choice-making and motivation and such. So, whether that’s fair or not, it’s a bit of a bummer.

Here are some great things about Omada: (You promised you’d read this list, too!)

  • My coach is incredibly patient, kind, and encouraging. I wrote her a long letter about a frustration I was having with the program – and some of the ways I was managing my health that were not showing up on the way we track things in Omada – and she was supportive of my choices and asked if there were any other ways she could support me. She just works within this system/app/website, so for all I know, she would manage things differently if she ran the place! Having an understanding and encouraging coach is a great thing! (Thanks, Omada!)
  • Some of the lessons have had a brand new idea for me to chew on. So, I have to assume that they have had the same for others. Just because I’ve read the Eat This, Not That kind of articles one million times doesn’t mean that everyone has…or they may have read it before but needed to read it again.
    • Just yesterday, in the “Managing Cravings” article we read, they suggested planning some indulgences on the regular. Maybe every Wednesday, you have your favorite meatball sub for lunch with your friends. Maybe Thursday night Must See TV on your sofa includes a bowl of ice cream. Making a decision ahead of time that you will indulge weekly means not having to feel guilty when you are actually enjoying the food and experience. I have never thought of that before. I’m going to try it. And now, I’m enjoying deciding what it will be, when it will be, with whom it will be. Savory or sweet? Alone on my sofa or out with friends? Here’s a very workable new pattern that may just form in my nutritional life. (Thanks, Omada!)
    • I’ve read articles about the Mason Jar Salads many times. I’ve watched YouTube videos about it, too. I own mason jars. I like salads. I really like menus that include the prep/mess on one day…and food for the week. For some reason, when I read the Omada article about Mason Jar Salads and clicked the link to the videos, it meant something to me this time. I made three salads. Ate them over the next four days. They were fresh and fantastic (not the avocado – yes! I tossed it in lemon juice, first!). I’ve done that for the last three weeks. Am I establishing a new pattern? (Thanks, Omada!)

So, here’s the bottom line for me regarding Omada:

  1. My church has partnered with this company to try to help us be healthier. I intend to honor that by seeing this through, and frankly, I’m happy to offer them feedback about this thing for which they have surely paid plenty of dollars to offer it to thousands of us.
  2. If this free program can offer me small bites of new information about nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress, then I’m in. I will set aside my longing to have everything make sense in a lovely and easy to digest chart with some clean bullet points (see format of this blog post), and I’ll take the little scraps of insight I find here at Omada. I’ll stitch them to the other scraps I’ve gathered along the way and create the quilt of Jennifer’s Health. It is not one-size-fits-all, and it is a bit crazy with no discernable formula. But, that’s really all we’ve got, now, isn’t it?
  3. The Omada program attends to four major areas of health: nutrition, activity, sleep, and stress. We began with nutrition. And it may be the one area I’ve spent the most time reading about (and feeling shame about) and practicing and failing in my lifetime. And even in this realm, I’ve learned some things. So, what might Omada have in store for me regarding activity, sleep, and stress? Even if there are just a few things from each area of health that I bring forward with me after the 4 months – this is a huge win for this 49 year old who really wants to manage her own health from here on out…rather than just keep floating along not managing it, shocked at her arthritis and high triglycerides and that the doctor wants her to take a statin for cholesterol. So, I’m looking forward to what comes next.
  4. I think there’s a lesson in humility here in the Omada program. I tend to think I know everything, and I’m right about stuff. So, when something doesn’t look or feel familiar, I can easily dismiss it. And I’ve done plenty of that in the last month. Then I take stock of things I’ve learned about myself, and I see I might just not have known everything before the program. Go figure.

I wish you the sweetest of peace as you attend to your health. I pray you are gentle with you as you examine the reasons and ways you nourish yourself. I hope the tenderness you offer others is also something on which you can draw for your own beautiful self.

Posted in Uncategorized

ELCA/Portico Biometric Screening

We clergy folk are among the least healthy folk.

(Don’t believe me? Here’s just one piece of journalism about it.)

I’m a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and my church is doing what it can to help me be healthy. Our benefits services include a “Call to Live Well”, with an abundance of resources for our spiritual, financial, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and physical health.

We have financial advisors, our health insurance covers services for emotional and mental health, and we are offered lots of opportunities for continuing education and even sabbaticals for our intellectual and vocational health.

It seems we might have a hard time taking advantage of the benefits regarding our physical health. Each year, they try something new to get us to pick up good habits, drop bad habits, and make good choices about our physical health.

Each year, there is a different challenge which literally pays off if you do it.

One year, we were asked to start and chart a new habit for 6 weeks: drinking more water (and less soda and Starbucks), tracking what we eat, walking more, attending to our sleep habits, etc.

That same year, we could choose, instead, to stop something: drinking sugary drinks, smoking, fast food, etc.

Upon completion of the 6 weeks, we were to log in to our benefits account, self-report what we had done, and write a few sentences about what we learned about ourselves while we did it.

I can’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was about $300 of Wellness Dollars. And when my husband was alive, he was eligible, also. So, each year, we earned hundreds of Wellness Dollars, which can be spent on medical expenses.

We used to take a wellness assessment online also (for more Wellness Dollars). One year, my health assessment resulted in the shocking news that I needed to exercise more! So, they let me have coach who set some goals with me, and then checked in with me each week over the phone to see how things were going. (Having the coach was completely my choice; nothing was required in that way.)

Things have changed a bit each year, as they work to find ways to help us be healthier.

This year, there are two ways to earn $200 Wellness Dollars.

  • $400 total
  • $800 if your spouse participates, too

ONE: Have a biometric screening.

TWO: Log in to your retirement account, make sure your retirement plan makes sense for your life plan, make any changes you might want to make, and when you click back to your Portico page – there are $200 Wellness Dollars in your account. Immediately. See? It probably took me 10 minutes to do a good thing for my financial life…and earn some money.

Okay, but what about the Biometric Screening? That sounds like way more work…and what’s it all about?

Seriously, it is not difficult. Here’s how it went for me:

I clicked on “Complete or review your biometric screening at Quest Diagnostics”, and it took me to a page where I could choose to:

  • print off a page and take it to my doctor to complete
  • find a diagnostic lab near me to complete it

I chose to just go to a lab near me, and right there online, chose a lab 1 mile from my house, selected an appointment for 2 days later, and received a confirmation email that my appointment had been set. Maybe 5 minutes for all that.

So, yesterday morning at 9:30, (having fasted after midnight and hydrated myself with plenty of water) I went to the lab near my house.

I signed in at 9:28.

She asked for a copy of my I.D.

I was called back into the office.

She measured my:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Waist
  • Blood pressure

She drew 3 small vials of blood and asked for my signature.

By the time I got in my car, it was:

…and I went home to eat breakfast.

That was yesterday.

Today, I got this email in my inbox:


So, I clicked into it. Inside it was a link to the Portico site, where I logged in, and was able to view my results.

And it brought me to some pages of VERY EASY TO READ charts and explanations.

Here’s a page that says there is one area of my health that is out of the normal range when assessing for Metabolic Syndrome. I’ve cropped out all the personal information here, but the one area is my good cholesterol is too low. And it gives me suggestions for improving it.

If I click on the Heart Disease tab, it says 5 out of 5 of the criteria are in the normal range, so I don’t have an active risk of heart disease. Still, it suggests I get or remain active, taking walks, etc.

There is a one-page document that I saved to my computer in my “health” file. It simply lists my screening results in each category, and the normal range for reference.

So, I went to check to see if my $200 Wellness Dollars were in my account yet. But, I saw a notice there that said it may take 2 to 3 weeks to process that.

Why write all this here?

Because every year, some of my clergy friends do not claim this money.

Because all of us can use some help being healthier, and our employer is trying to help us.

Because I write things down sometimes.

Be gentle with you.