I wish I had known how hard it was to get people to care about their own health. I am a person with lifelong Type 1 diabetes and I am always working on improving my blood sugar control and my health. It is hard to understand when people don’t want to put any effort into getting better and prevent serious complications. That is just beyond me.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristi Jacques Falk.
Kristi Jacques Falk is the Founder and Executive Director of The Diabetes Wellness Council. Kristi is passionate about the positive effects “true wellness” has on the lives of children and adults in South Carolina.
Diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at the age of 12, Kristi has searched for a healthy path for her life. In 2000, she owned and operated Abundant Life Whole Foods Market in Conway, SC where her knowledge of healthy lifestyles expanded and was put to good use. After a couple of years, she realized that she needed to reach a larger audience and organized the Alternative Healthcare Expo which later became The Wellness Expo of Myrtle Beach. In 2006, Kristi founded The Wellness Council for South Carolina with a goal of educating and improving the lives of citizens throughout the state. This later became The Diabetes Wellness Council.
She has appeared on local television and radio programs and featured in publications such as Coastal Business Life, South Carolina Woman Magazine, Natural Awakenings Magazine, The Sun News, and Weekly Surge.
She is a Diabetes Educator, a DPP (Diabetes Prevention Program) Lifestyle Coach, a Certified Ketogenic Lifestyle Coach, and a Certified Intermittent Fasting Coach. Kristi is also a public speaker and author.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My “introduction to this career path” actually came when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982. After having ups and downs and making every mistake in the book, I finally decided to take control of my health. I am now under very tight control and now helping others work to achieve the same.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made many “mistakes” along the way but to be perfectly honest, they have all gotten me to where I am today. If I hadn’t made those mistakes, things would be much different today. Whether that’s good or bad, I can’t say. But I know that I really wouldn’t change a thing.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We have had many programs that made an impact. For several years, we had an afterschool program called Green S.P.A.R.K. (Shaping Potential and Reaching Kids) where we taught middle school students about nutrition, physical fitness and environment. Some of those kids today are actually in college going into agriculture and environmental studies, and many of them are now leading healthier lifestyle than they were before. Recently, and along the same lines, we had a Kid’s Healthy Kitchen Summer Camp that had the kids cooking healthy meals every day and learning about nutrition and exercise. Those kids now cook for their families at home at least once a week and are always excited to try new vegetables.
We are working on getting funding and donations to help start diabetes prevention and management programs in lower-income communities where the need is much greater. We have so many projects and programs that we want to do, but we need the funding first. We have a running “wish list”.
To be honest, everything we do has a social impact since we are working constantly on helping people achieve better health and better outcomes. That itself is significant I believe.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
I met an older couple earlier this year at a local health fair, who were both overweight with poorly managed Type 2 diabetes. She was told by her doctor that if things didn’t improve she would have to go on insulin. She was determined to not let that happen. After an initial consultation, they decided on the 6-week blood sugar management course that I put together. After the first week, she told me that is was all a scam because nothing had changed and she hadn’t lost any weight. 6 weeks later, they both lost weight and their numbers improved dramatically. No insulin needed. Now they are my biggest supporters. They come back periodically just to stay on track.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe a true leader leads by example. If the head of a company wants hard-working, dedicated employees, then that leader needs to do the work as well. Don’t expect others to do what you yourself are unwilling to do.
I try to lead by example every day. I practice what I preach when it comes to my lifestyle and my attitude. I try to get better and do better every day. It inspires me when I see others do the same.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- No one told me that when you start your own nonprofit organization, you have to wear ALL of the hats — Executive Director, Program coordinator and director, bookkeeper, marketing and everything else. It is a lot of work but can be very rewarding.
- I wish I had known how hard it was to get people to care about their own health. I am a person with lifelong Type 1 diabetes and I am always working on improving my blood sugar control and my health. It is hard to understand when people don’t want to put any effort into getting better and prevent serious complications. That is just beyond me.
- I REALLY wish I had known how hard it was to write a winning grant. We have received a few small grants here and there but nothing significant, even with the help of a grant writer. Every organization is in need of money these days so we need to get our organization in front of the line.
- I am certain there are other things but they are escaping me right now.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Become a role model for others. If you have children, be a role model for healthy living for them. I recently saw a quote that said, “it’s clear that you would die for your kids, but would you live healthy for them?” I thought that was pretty powerful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
From Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to sit down with Michelle Obama. Her efforts as First Lady, with the White House Garden and Childhood Obesity Initiatives, were inspiring. I could never understand why wanting children to be healthier was made to be so political. I always thought that parents wanted their children to be healthier. She was a great influence on me and a big reason I started some of my earlier programs with children. I thank her for that.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
LinkedIn: Kristi Jacques Falk
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!