The way we eat has a significant impact on our health and wellbeing. But finding the time to research and plan what and how we eat prevents a lot of us from living healthier lives.
Joining us on this episode of HealthRedesigned is Julie Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of Methodology: a food-as-medicine delivery service that wants to change this by providing ready-to-eat meals, designed around your health goals, direct to your door.
What's Methodology all about?
At Methodology we’re building the first end-to-end nutrition service. It includes a food program that's personalized to a customers needs, along with the convenience of ready-to-eat food that follows that program. There is a big difference between eating healthily and eating for a health outcome. To do the latter people need structure and guidance to teach them exactly what and how to eat to achieve their health goals. That’s what we’re all about. We help people to achieve their goals, whether it's training for a triathlon, wanting to lose weight, or having better mental health. These things are tied to food, people are just unaware of how to use food as a tool to improve their lives.
People love learning through food because it's so sensual, so experiential, it’s exciting to use food as a tool to teach people about health.
Why did you decide to start this company?
I was pretty sick in my early 20s. I was extremely overweight and I was on over a dozen prescription drugs for a bunch of chronic lifestyle diseases - everything from anxiety, to acne, to asthma. I was so sick that there were times when I went to the hospital because I was temporarily blind. I almost had a stroke. I had three surgeries to remove a tumor. My health was really bad and at no point during my entire journey or interaction with all my doctors did anyone ever asked me - “Hey Julie what are you eating?” They only prescribed me drugs.
So I decided to research for myself whether there was another way I could get healthier. I started reading about health and nutrition obsessively. I read everything I could get my hands on and started doing a bunch of experiments on my own body, tracking really carefully what I was eating, tracking my symptoms, and then over the course of the years I started to feel better. I lost the weight and was able to move off all the prescription drugs. It was shocking to me to learn about how everything that was happening to me, all the suffering that I was experiencing, all the drugs that I was on, was all linked for me to food.
So I set out to start this business to provide education about what and how to eat along with the convenience of ready-to-eat food delivered straight to your door because we get busy, and sometimes even if we know how we should be eating well it doesn't mean we're gonna do it. We're always going to default to what's most convenient.
What is your relationship like with your customers on this eating journey?
We think of ourselves as a partner for the people we serve. We’re there for them as their needs change over time. For example we have some women on our platform who were using us both when they were trying to get pregnant and once they got pregnant. In each instance they had a specific diet to follow that we were able to help them with. This is the way I want it to be and I'm excited about what the company will be like when these children are old enough to eat solid foods. I hope by that point we have food options for kids as well.
How do people currently interact with Methodology?
During the online onboarding experience customers select how much they want to eat as well as specifying the foods that they know can't eat because they give them health issues. From there we design a custom menu that changes weekly. You’re able to see all the ingredients and nutritional facts for each item on the menu and adjust it to suit your needs - so you can delete items that you don't want and add the things that you do - we give our clients tons of control over their food options.
How do you learn about what your customers need to get healthier?
We work alongside our existing clients to help us prototype new programs and features. For example when our gut health program was in prototype mode we had a small group of our current subscribers join it. With their involvement and feedback it immediately became clear what the issues were and we were able to solve them and then launch it to our full client list. So now any of our clients can do our full two week gut health program which happens twice a month.
Learning with customers helps us figure out some fundamental questions like - how do you want to receive the information? If we do videos how long should they be? Do we even need to do video at all? Is the program too long? Is the diet too hard? Are You too hungry? Is it too much food? There are so many variables that need to be figured out, bringing our clients onboard is how we solve them.
How do you use technology to serve your customers?
We use technology to power the back-end of our system - the entire supply chain. We have a rotating menu of 40 to 50 things a week which is extremely complicated to process. We have probably one of the most complex menus of any food delivery company out there and we're only able to do this because of the technology we’ve built. We're also using it to build an education layer to Methodology to help our customers navigate their food choices intelligently. That experience, combined with the food they can interact with, gives us a really cool way to educate people. Rather than just listening to a nutritionist or a doctor in a room somewhere they get to learn through eating, which is really powerful.
On your journey to demystifying nutrition how has technology influenced you?
I've studied a lot of apps in the education, meditation and fitness space and I have drawn a lot of inspiration from them. What I've seen is that there are two different ways apps set up a learning experience. One is linear and like the way the brain training app Lumosity works. The other is a non-linear model where you can jump from course to course, learning from different teachers on different topics. I really like the latter model because you can go deep on a specific topic.
At Methodology we have programs that are tied to very specific topics because they are lot less overwhelming. For example learning how to overcome emotional eating can take someone months to really master. I think it's a bit much to try to do that along with a weight loss program. So I like the idea of giving people chunks of things to focus on and really master before going on to the next nutrition topic.
How will you make Methodology successful long term?
By focusing on ways to provide a ton of value to people by solving a real pain point. This is why we're making such a big push into programs. People are willing to pay a lot more for a weight loss food program for example than they are for just convenient healthy food. The best products out there are the ones that find ways to add new levels of value that customers never realized that they even wanted before. Because if you say to someone how much are you willing to pay for a healthy meal? And they say 13 dollars but you say how much would you pay for a healthy meal that eliminates your anxiety. That number is going to be a lot higher. The important thing when designing our product is to always put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and try to think of how can we make their quality of life better day by day.