Clean up your sleep hygiene. If you do just one thing to live a healthier life, focus on your sleep! A proper night’s sleep helps our bodies repair and reset, and getting a poor night’s sleep for just one night can wreak havoc on our blood sugar and mood. Poor sleep is consistently linked to a host of chronic health issues, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and more. Some small, easy ways to start tackling your sleep hygiene include putting your phone down at least an hour before bed and keeping it away from the bedroom so you’re not tempted to check it; getting into bed each night at the same time; and limiting your caffeine intake during the day.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynda Cloud, CEO of Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Lynda Cloud brings nearly 30 years of education and online learning industry experience to her chief executive officer role at IIN, where she is guiding the organization’s strategic positioning and innovation during a period of unprecedented expansion for the health coaching industry. She previously served as CEO at Equal Ed, a global start-up focused on expanding and equalizing access to online learning tools in emerging and developed markets. Prior to Equal Ed, she was executive vice president of K12 Inc., where she ran its products and technology groups as well as a 150 million dollars institutional division that built virtual schools. Lynda started her career at Pearson, where she rose to be general manager of its K12 learning businesses.
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?
I was born in NYC and raised in NJ. My parents were second generation immigrants who instilled in me a very strong work ethic and core values that have helped guide me through my career and life. Throughout my life I was always passionate about education and learning, probably because my parents and grandparents placed such an emphasis on what a powerful tool education could be. After putting myself through college I pursued a career in education and never looked back. I loved watching the ways that learning could transform a person. For 25 years, I worked at some of the largest educational publishing houses to build new educational programs and businesses, and candidly I couldn’t get enough — until suddenly, one day I found myself at a crossroads. I still loved the work I was doing, but I knew that my body and my mind were burning out. Too many long days and sleepless nights filled with stress were taking their toll. I always believed that if you listen to your body it will tell you the answer — the problem was, I wasn’t listening. The annual pneumonia or bronchitis was just a cold; the tendinitis in my elbow was just strain from lifting luggage. I realized I had to start listening, and to make choices. I had to prioritize my health. I needed to find an opportunity that would allow me to continue to work with my first love of online learning and business and combine that with my newfound commitment to health and wellness. As fate would have it, I discovered IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition). It has given me the opportunity to work with a fantastic team and to blend my love of lifelong learning with my passion for health and wellness, as well as new and innovative ways of transforming lives.
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?
I can honestly say when I started on this professional journey years ago, I never thought I would be a CEO. I did, however, make my career decisions based on what areas that I was passionate about. For me, it has always been about being able to make a lasting difference in people’s lives. Whether that was developing new ways of learning for a struggling student or helping someone with chronic disease find relief by using food as medicine — it has always been about helping people through education. Whether you’re building a coaching business or running a fortune 500 company, the principles are the same:
Put your customer first. Always place yourself in your client’s or your customer’s shoes. Try to imagine their journey, what unspoken need or problem they might have — that’s where the innovation and breakthroughs will happen.
Work with people you care about and who care about you. Work days can be long and you want to enjoy the people you work with. I think about my staff and my team as my family. I feel a sense of responsibility to make sure that they are growing professionally, enjoying what they’re doing, and getting the right work/life balance.
You don’t always need to be the expert (but surround yourself with experts!) You’ll never know everything, nor should you try to. Use your colleagues, network, and experts to guide you.
Embrace the mistakes. You have two choices, you can dwell on your mistakes or you can learn from them, find the lesson, and move on. Choose the latter and it will you make you and those around you stronger.
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?
It’s really hard to do it all!
I was 29 when I had my first son and 3 years later my second son. (They are what I am most proud of!). I was well on my way to building a strong career in publishing and thought, no problem I can do this — I can do it all. Of course, I quickly realized just how difficult it is to manage both a career and motherhood. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again but there are some definite lessons to be learned.
Lean on your support system. It’s okay to ask for help, whether at work or home. Taking care of small children or an aging parent can be really hard. In the early years, I felt that if I asked for help then I was failing. I realized later in life that knowing your boundaries and needs is actually a sign of success, and if you take care of yourself, you’ll be stronger and better able to take care of the people around you.
Store bought cupcakes are okay. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. We do it all the time, checking out someone’s Instagram story, observing your peer in the office down the hall… don’t! You’ll drive yourself nuts. One morning in my 30s I woke up after working late the night before and realized it was my son’s birthday. I remembered the other parents’ perfectly baked cupcakes from his class parties and literally started to cry. I had forgotten to bake the school cupcakes for the party. Did it matter, I mean really matter…? The answer is no! Store bought cupcakes are perfect. Focus on the things that are most important in your life and let the little stuff 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?
Marjorie Scardino was the CEO of Pearson for much of the time that I was there. She taught me countless lessons, but the most meaningful was the importance of living your values. She brought to the company a culture of imagination, bravery, and decency, all while herself being a model of these values. I remember many times having the opportunity to share a new product idea or new business plan with her, and I always left the meeting with bolder plans as a result of her support.
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?
Chronic disease affects one out of every two Americans, and studies have shown that at least 80% of chronic disease would be preventable if only we made lifestyle and behavioral changes. These changes are within our power, but we can do this by tackling the problem from a preventive angle. The work we do at IIN is to help transform the world through education. By learning and teaching the deep values of holistic nutrition, we’re building a bottom-up movement to reverse the global health crisis.
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.
Try to sneak in veggies whenever you can
Similar to how you might try to hide vegetables in your children’s food, adults can also benefit from this practice. As we’ve spent more time at home, we may be experiencing cooking fatigue, so it’s important to still make sure we’re getting high-quality unprocessed foods in our diets. Eating a wide range of different vegetables — think: bright colors — fuels our body with essential vitamins and minerals that allow our bodies not only to function properly, but to function optimally, especially under stress. Need some inspiration? See below:
Breakfast: if you normally opt for a sweet breakfast, try a savory dish once or twice a week, such as scrambled eggs or tofu with spinach and roasted sweet potato. If you really can’t give up having something on the sweeter side, whip up a smoothie with a handful of greens.
Lunch: chop up some radish, celery, and carrots into your tuna or chicken salad, and serve over a bed of greens and diced avocado.
Dinner: throw zucchini and broccoli into your tomato sauce for a pasta dish, or dress up a Swiss chard side dish by sautéing in olive oil with garlic and shallots.
Keep water by you at all times
Staying hydrated is super important! Most of us probably don’t drink enough water, so having a constant reminder is probably going to be helpful. I like to keep a glass on my desk at all times, and aim to fill it up a few times over the course of the day. If you have a large water bottle, even better! Aim to drink a few bottles’ worth a day.
Take a deep breath before writing/sending an email (every email!).
When dealing with stress, we tend to take quicker, shallower breaths, as opposed to fully expanding and contracting our diaphragm on each inhale and exhale. Even under normal, non-stressful situations, we’re likely not breathing to this full potential. It may seem like a lot to set aside time each day to breathe, and while you could build up to that, try to build up your breathing as you go about your day. I get and send a lot of emails, so committing to a full, deep inhale, and a full, soothing exhale before sending an email has helped train my body to do this more naturally. Diaphragmatic breathing can not only help you relieve stress by bringing you back to the present moment, but it can also help relieve the physical symptoms of stress such as a tight chest, neck, and back. This type of breathing is also one of the exercises you can do to strengthen your lungs, which is ever important now in the time of COVID.
Set aside time each day to put technology down/step away from tech
This is a tough one, but necessary. We’re glued to our phones and our computers, likely stretching the workday beyond our normal hours as we no longer have a regular commute to/from work. Setting up healthy boundaries with your technology will help bring back some balance into your workday by separating work from home as much as possible. It will also relieve strain on your eyes and your body to take a break from blue light which has been shown to negatively impact our mood and quality of sleep.
Take advantage of meetings without screenshares to get steps in
Before COVID, you’d walk to and from meetings, walk to the break room or coffee shop for a coffee break, walk to someone’s desk to ask them a question. Now, you’re parked in your living-room-turned-office, making occasional trips to the kitchen to the bathroom and back again. We’re moving around much less, and even if you’re able to get a walk in before or after work, we can still find ways to get in some steps at home. If you are able to walk around the apartment while on a phone call that doesn’t require your screen, I would highly recommend it! It helps get your blood moving after sitting for too long, and gives you an excuse to stretch a bit and keep your muscles moving to prevent stiffness.
Start your day by reciting one thing you’re grateful for
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day grind, especially if you’ve gotten settled in a routine after all these months of working from home. Starting your day on a positive note can help set your attitude for the day, which will permeate into everything you do, from your work to your conversations with your partner. Better yet, tell someone you’re grateful for them, as maintaining important relationships has been key for getting through this challenging time.
Clean up your sleep hygiene
If you do just one thing to live a healthier life, focus on your sleep! A proper night’s sleep helps our bodies repair and reset, and getting a poor night’s sleep for just one night can wreak havoc on our blood sugar and mood. Poor sleep is consistently linked to a host of chronic health issues, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and more. Some small, easy ways to start tackling your sleep hygiene include putting your phone down at least an hour before bed and keeping it away from the bedroom so you’re not tempted to check it; getting into bed each night at the same time; and limiting your caffeine intake during the day.
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’ve started it! Well I should say Joshua Rosenthal, our founder, started it and now I have the honor of building and expanding on his great legacy. We have trained over 100,000 Health Coaches who are making an incredible difference in millions lives every day around the world. In the 90’s when the school was founded, this was a new concept, and now people all over the world are realizing the tangible benefits of having a Health Coach to help create an action plan and facilitate the holistic changes that individuals want in their lives.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Covered in my earlier questions.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Taking care of my mental health has been my priority during this time. Our lives changed in the blink of an eye, and we had to radically accept these major changes and find a way to move forward in our day to day as best we could.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were experiencing a pandemic of health issues. The cost of healthcare is incredibly high, and that includes the cost of managing chronic disease. And how do chronic diseases develop? A host of reasons working in tandem: poor dieting, poor lifestyle choices, poor sleep — all of which can be caused by the lack of work-life balance, and by not having the time outside of work to prioritize health and well-being.
We live in a culture that equates burnout and stress with success, and the chronic mental health issues that stem from this burnout are just as detrimental as physical ones. Feelings of anxiety on a regular basis are commonplace, resulting in inability to focus, headache, dizziness, chest pain, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and many more physical symptoms. Mix in a global health pandemic, and you have a recipe for skyrocketing anxieties and stresses that continue to go unchecked.
Just as we put a strong emphasis on taking care of your physical well-being, we must also do the same for our mental and emotional well-being, as the two are so intimately connected. Eradicating the stigma around receiving mental health support is paramount — we can’t do everything on our own (as I said before) even though our culture tends to send that message. Finding someone to safely confide in and receive support from can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may be feeling, and allow you to free up some mental space for taking care of yourself and those around you. This might look like finding a therapist to work with, or simply setting up a weekly phone call with a friend or mentor to check in with each other.
I believe that the pandemic has started to erase this stigma because of the traumatic nature of this experience, and the realization that we can no longer ignore the mental health issues that people are experiencing as a result of this situation. If we can learn how to better take care of ourselves mentally and emotionally, we’ll be better able to show up in our daily lives as the best versions of ourselves, which then impacts those around us as well.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find me at @lynda.cloud and IIN at @nutritionschool on Instagram and online at
Thank you for these fantastic insights!