8 Life Lessons from the Wellness Workdays Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 2

On Monday I shared four life lessons based on things I heard at the Wellness Workdays worksite wellness conference. Continuing from that post, here are four more lessons from the conference.

8 Life Lessons from the Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 2:


5. Be flexible and creative

Respond to changes in needs and interests. The program planner’s goals/needs and the participants goals/needs often differ. Rarely are things the way we expect them to be. Life in general requires the ability to adapt to new situations and move forward.

6. “Meet people where they’re at, but move with them to meet their goals”

Being accessible and helpful depends on being willing to find out where people are, what their struggles and goals are, and then to walk with them to achieve those goals. I forgot to write which speaker shared this advice with us, but it’s really good, and goes along well with lesson #5.

7. Customize, but not too much

Everyone (every business, every group, etc) is different, but there are basic needs/wants. For example, each company wants to be successful. Most see healthy employees as essential to that goal. However, an employee wellness program for each company looks different depending on the organization’s culture, goals, and other factors unique to that organization. Similarly, people may want/do different things with their lives, but we all want to experience health, love, safety, etc. The way you interact with each person or group of people changes on the culture, background, and so on, but the essential elements are the same.

8. Get started

“To have a successful program, you have to start a program.” Christine Durkee, VP of Human Resources Operations at BJ’s Wholesale Club, shared this with us. It’s similar to the concepts of “just ship it,” “start before you’re ready,” and hackathons. This isn’t saying accuracy, quality, or planning is unimportant, it’s simply a reminder that sometimes we get so caught up in trying to get it right that we never get it out.

What is the lesson that resonates most with you? Let me know in the comments below.

Click here to see Part 1 with lessons #1-4, and here to get posts – on health and wellness, recipes, lessons, social media tips, and more – sent directly to your email.

8 Life Lessons from the Wellness Workdays Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 1

Last weekend I went to Boston, MA to attend the Wellness Workdays conferences on worksite wellness and nutrition consulting. While we reviewed plenty of tips specific to worksite wellness, I noticed that there were several lessons that apply to anyone. I’ve separated them into two posts for quicker reading (you can read each in <5 min) – click to continue to Part 2.

8 Life Lessons from the Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 1:


1. Collaboration/Cooperation is key

Network with everyone you can. Eventually you will get to a place where you will have the ability to offer a mutually beneficial opportunity to one of your contacts. Michele Wise, Senior Benefits Special Programs Coordinator at Brown University, shared some examples of how her wellness program is built on collaboration with other professionals at the university. She drew on professors and staff to give popular wellness-related lectures and workshops. This increased employee engagement in the wellness program, provided interesting activities for employees, and gave the speakers good publicity.

2. Know where to find resources

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Know where to find good resources and you will save time and energy. This can be national/international organizations (like WELCOA in the worksite wellness industry), well-connected or experienced contacts, or even a resource saved from an earlier program.

3. Have a plan for executing your program/project… and for evaluation

It’s great to know what you want to do, but don’t forget to also think about how you’ll know if you’ve done it well. Many worksite wellness programs (and other programs and projects) have no way of evaluating their outcomes. This limits the amount that can be learned from all the work you put in. Don’t let this happen to your project. Have a plan to decide what you will need to measure, and you will be able to take measurements throughout the project, instead of wishing at the end that you’d recorded the required information.

4. Know when to ask for help

There are times when we can do things ourselves, and there are times when it is really best to ask for help/advice (even if we end up doing the work ourselves). Learning to identify the difference in these scenarios is key to success in many situations. Why start from the beginning if someone else has already made the mistake you are about to make? You can learn from their experience and move on from there.

What is the lesson that resonates most with you? Let me know in the comments below.

Continue to life lessons #5-8. If you haven’t already, you can also sign up to get posts – about health and wellness, recipes, lessons, and social media tips – sent straight to your inbox.

I’m a Registered Dietitian!

Shelly Najjar passed the Registered Dietitian exam
Part of the results printout after taking the test

Yesterday I took my registration exam for dietetics and passed! Thank you for all your support, prayers, and encouragement over the past few years. This has been a long process. Here are some of the posts that I wrote along the way:

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Lessons from my first year of grad school

Passed thesis, have plans, did guest post

Bucket list goal accomplished: Finish College (2011, 2013)

Bucket list goal accomplished: Become an RD (February 2014)

The next steps:

I’m looking for jobs, especially in worksite wellness and health writing, and am editing my thesis to try to submit for publication to a peer-reviewed journal.

I also share nutrition and wellness information by speaking and writing.

Lessons from leading online health challenge

Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In October, I had the opportunity to lead a health challenge for an online community group. It was my first time leading a health challenge and I tried to apply lessons from classes, as well as from webinars and other training on wellness programming. Overall, I think it went well, but there were some things I’d change if I did it again.

What worked:

Mixing it up: Every week there was a different way to get bonus points. People seemed to like the change and many chose to do the bonus activities each week.

Personal messages: When someone hadn’t posted activity or points in a while, I messaged them personally to remind them to submit activity for points. This was time consuming, but it was a smaller group so it ended up being okay. I wouldn’t do this for a large group, and I stopped doing this halfway through the month even for this small group. Instead, I sent a general reminder with the description of the new weekly bonus.

Incorporating many aspects of health: I tried to focus on different aspects of helath throughout the challenge when designing the activities that would earn points. I included physical health (physical activity, food tracking), goal setting (goals for the next month, motivation, setbacks, barriers), emotional health (stress), and social health (social support, physcial activity with people, recruiting a health buddy who will support goal for next month). Participants seemed to like these and find them useful and fun.

Not taking lack of participation personally (but I should have explored it more): It was difficult for me at first to deal with the emotions of having someone be very excited to sign up and then never participate, even when I sent them a personal message. However, I realize that things come up and sometimes participation in an event or activity you thought you had time for isn’t possible. Reminding myself of this was helpful for my emotions, but I think I ended up forgetting about them, which wasn’t so good. Many of the people who signed up and didn’t participate were new to the group. I wonder if they had different ideas about how the challenge was going to go (I should have asked).

Discussion boards: Each team had its own discussion board to post what they did (to get points) and to discuss with their team. One team ended up really using their board and the other team did not. However, they didn’t really use the board to discuss until I incentivized it by giving bonus points in the third week.

What could be improved:

Discussion boards: As I mentioned, I didn’t think about giving bonus points for participation until late in the month. Had I started with bonus points for interaction, I think more people would have done it.

Maximum points per week: I had it set up so each week had a total of 14 points maximum, one from 20 minutes or more of physical activity and one from the week’s bonus activity. This seemed like very little after a while and I wonder if it did not seem like enough to get people to be inspired to do the minimum required.

Minimum time required to get point: One of the suggestions I received at the end of the challenge was to reduce the minimum time required to get the point for physical activity from 20 minutes (with a cap of 1 point per day for physical activity) to 10 minutes (with additional points per each 10 minutes, with no physical activity points cap per day). The reason I had originally done the points cap and 20 minutes minimum was because that was what was done in previous months by other leaders, but it ended up being that only a few of the people in those challenges were even in this challenge. (It was hard to know who was going to sign up because most people signed up late, after the rules were established. So I should have changed them partway through when I found out, but somehow it didn’t occur to me). I knew that there were many people new to exercise and I wanted to make sure they knew that any activity was good and that they had the potential to help their team get the same number of points as the other team, no matter their ability to sustain physical activity. However, following this logic, it would have been wise to do 10 minutes minimum for 1 point, with a maximum of 6 points per day (for 60 minutes). This follows the recommendation that it is okay to do moderate to vigorous physical activity 10 minutes at a time, and it still wouldn’t provide incentive for obsessive physical activity. It would have been realistic and more motivating.

Asking for feedback sooner: I asked people when they signed up to tell me what they wanted to see in the challenge, and only a few people answered. Most of them said they didn’t have any expectation because it was the first one they participated in. When I asked the next time, it was as part of the bonus activity in the last three days of the challenge, and by then, not too many people were still participating. However, those that did answer the questions gave very valuable feedback. I would ask more frequently and earlier to get feedback on things that could be changed, and I would ask the people who signed up but aren’t participating what could be changed to make the challenge more appealing.

Like what you read? Subscribe for new posts via email.

Have you led a health-related challenge? What worked for you? What would you change for next time? What is your advice for people just learning about designing and administering health programs?

NutritionJobs Interview

NutritionJobs.com InterviewSometimes it feels like nothing changes, and then suddenly, something happens to make me reflect on the many changes that took place in a short period of time.

Back in August, I was interviewed (via email) for a blog post to be published on NutritionJobs, a job hunting resource for nutrition professionals. They published the interview earlier this month, and you can read it here.

It surprised me how different things are now.

At the time, I had a part-time job for PapayaHead, a weekly dinner plan website. I was testing a new feature that has yet to be released. I was also in my last quarter of classes, struggling to find balance between responsibilities for school and the rest of my life.

Now, I am a full-time dietetic intern (at various locations/rotation sites, see here for which ones). I have fewer assignments so I have more time for hobbies and my Goal List.

It was also good to reread the answer I gave to the question “What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?” (This was my favorite question). I was very convicted by the answer I wrote, because I feel like I lose track of that sometimes (no spoilers here, you’ll have to read the interview to find out what I said). Also, I like this question because I didn’t know what advice to give of my own, so I shared advice I got from people I think are “successful and fulfilled”–my parents. I appreciate their wisdom and I hope you will too.

Related: Lessons from my first year of grad school

I designed an annual report!

2011-2012 Annual Report for the Foundation for Initiatives in Development and Education for all (IDEA), designed by Shelly NajjarThis summer, with the help of the Internet, I had the opportunity to remotely design the 2011-2012 annual report for a non-governmental organization in India called Foundation for Initiatives in Development and Education for All (IDEA). They help children and women, focusing on providing education and job training and reducing school-drop out.

Please take a look at the full report and tell me what you think.

I found out about IDEA through a request they listed on the Sparked Community microvolunteering page. I was open with them about my relative lack of experience and training, but they were willing to give me a chance, and were very happy with the result.

Some of the lessons learned from this experience include things like…

  • The international standard paper size is A4, not the 8.5×11-in paper that we use in the USA.
  • It is a good idea to have a few options for someone to choose from; but for other things you just have to make a decision.
  • Follow-up is key to any job, but especially for remote jobs where things are being sent back and forth and may end up in spam folders. Make sure that you confirm that you got something (and if you know you are supposed to be getting something and didn’t, check your spam folder or request a resend).