Don’t diet, aim for lifestyle change. Study after study shows that diets don’t work, small incremental lifestyle changes do. Make small changes that you can sustain (with an occasional cheat) rather than extreme radical changes.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Arielle Levitan and Dr. Romy Block, co-founders of Vous Vitamin.
Arielle Levitan, MD, is a board-certified internal treatment physician and the co-founder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the co-author of the award-winning book The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health, published in November 2015. She attended Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of treatment, and currently practices general internal treatment on the North Shore of Chicago where she teaches medical students on-site.
Romy Block, MD, is a board-certified specialist in endocrine and metabolism treatment, member of the American Thyroid Association, and the co-founder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the co-author of the award-winning book The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health, published in November 2015. She attended Tufts University and Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of treatment and now practices on the North Shore of Chicago where she specializes in thyroid disorders and pituitary diseases.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
We are both physicians who met through work. We quickly became friends and realized we had a lot in common. Both have physician husbands, three kids and live close by. We started walking together for exercise and we would talk about our practices. We started to talk about the fact that we were spending a lot of time talking about vitamins with our patients. We recognized that they all seemed confused about what they should and shouldn’t be taking. Some were taking unsafe combinations of products and others were vitamin deficient and not taking anything at all. The answer was not the same for each person. What they should take depended on various factors about who they were, their diets, lifestyle and health histories.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Dr. Levitan: I once saw a patient who came in complaining of a variety of issues. She had listed that she was taking no medications in her chart. I asked her if she was taking any vitamins or supplements. She told me she takes over two hundred pills daily, all vitamins and supplements. Needless to say, this was very concerning, and it completely highlighted to us as physicians how people can get carried away with over the counter products. They think that taking any sort of vitamin is not harmful because it is “natural.” However, people do not realize that taking vitamins improperly can be quite harmful. We have seen in our careers people end up on the liver transplant list due to vitamin overdoses, end up in comas and more. Taking massive amounts of products without physician oversight is very scary and not recommended.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we decided that we wanted to create Vous Vitamin we initially felt that we needed to find someone with experience in business to help us build our company. We spent a little bit of time looking but did not find someone with the same passion or understanding of the space and the right expertise. We ultimately chose to do the best we could on our own and we were able to successfully launch with the help of multiple resources and our own ability to learn as we go.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
We were originally partnered with a man who was going to “help us with the business” but we were struggling with him seeing our vision, execution and other aspects. A good friend of mine who is a successful female Silicon Valley CEO was listening to us complain about this person and our struggles. She said suddenly “get rid of him. It’s your idea, your company and yours to do. You don’t need him just because he has an MBA.” We did so and never looked back. If it weren’t for that insight, we might have spun our wheels for months in this unhealthy partnership. Later on, we did find a perfect match in partnership with our current COO, Brad Helfand. When it’s right it’s right and we knew that from day one of working with Brad.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
We aim to help all people find their proper blend of vitamins tailored to their individual needs. We provide our customers with personalized multivitamins that are safe, medically sound and easy to take. By taking our online survey each Vous Vitamin customer gets the ideal combination of nutrients in proper doses based on their diet, lifestyle and health concerns. We have essentially solved the frustrations people have about knowing with confidence what vitamins they should or shouldn’t take.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1)Sleep well — this means enough time (usually 7–9 hours) consistently and with good quality and “sleep hygiene”. Did you know more sleep can promote weight loss? Certain hormones that promote weight loss are emitted only during sleep.
2) Take the right vitamins — this means a personalized doctor created blend based on individual needs.
3) Exercise regularly — this does not have to be 2 hours at the gym. A regular long walk will do the trick. Start small.
4) Don’t diet, aim for lifestyle change. Study after study shows that diets don’t work, small incremental lifestyle changes do. Make small changes that you can sustain (with an occasional cheat) rather than extreme radical changes.
5) If you want to make changes in your diet, opt for a more plant based diet if you can. You can rarely go wrong with more fruits and vegetables and much data supports less meat intake and as more plant based foods when possible.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We would empower people with the tools and knowledge to take positive steps to improve their health — how to eat, sleep, exercise and take the right vitamins to meet their needs. If people can be educated about these aspects of their health they can take the appropriate actions to find their best health.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) At the end of the day your business rests on you. Even if you hire help, the bottom line will always come back to you. Get good people, but always know that you are still ultimately responsible.
2) If you have the passion to create something you can do it, even without the supposed prerequisite business skills.
3) Things take a lot longer than you can imagine. But it is often worth the patience for a good result
4) Things change quickly in the world of technology. What seemed impossible a year ago, may now be possible.
5) Surrounding yourself with the right people is the most important thing you can do. If something doesn’t feel right with someone it probably isn’t and it’s best to part ways sooner rather than later.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is exceedingly important right now. Many people are feeling the stress of the pandemic in different ways. We are passionate about mindfulness and other ways of managing stress (vitamins can also be a part of this).
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!