Kick Gluten for Good
Jennifer Fugo is a functional clinical nutritionist who helps women struggling with autoimmunity, IBS and other digestive issues to live “la dolce vita” again.
Having gone through these struggles herself, she knows that the keys are listening to their symptoms, creating a plan of action, and respecting their boundaries. Her talents not only lie in the nutritional field but she’s also got some great business advice to share with her fellow entrepreneurs, including some straight from her Uncle Joe.
- Tell us about your business – what’s your mission; your soul’s purpose and why you created your wellness business or service?
My mission is to help women reclaim their own “dolce vita” (“sweet life”) away from the shackles of what seem like never-ending bathroom issues. When I can help a woman, her life as well as her family’s dramatically improves.
You can’t ever enjoy life unless you find the root cause and address it from there. In my mind, helping these women is equivalent to setting them free… because there is nothing worse than being tied to a bathroom or being unable to care for your home (and family) or kill it at work.
- Tell us about your journey and your story….what got you to this point today?
I’ve always believed that I was here to help make this world a better place, but I had no idea that I’d do that through health. Though I had a pretty normal upbringing, I didn’t realize until I was 27 that I’d spent over a decade of time pretty sick.
None of it was something you’d need emergency care for, but it had slowly worn me down to the point that I really felt “like an old person.” I was sleeping over 11 hours each night, living with constant brain fog, and struggling with my “stomach issues.”
I know you and I are just meeting for the first time, so you’ll have to excuse me for being so straight-forward. But I had chronic diarrhea so badly that I might have to go 6 times (or more!) during the course of a meal and would pray we’d make it home in time for me to run to the bathroom. My gas smelled so foul… it was terribly embarrassing. I had become very bloated, and even my face looked puffy and tired no matter how much I slept.
I had rashes on my arms and legs that wouldn’t go away… and sometimes I’d get them across my face suddenly without any warning. Headaches were a constant in my life (I always had to have Tylenol on hand) and caught every bug that went around. My immune system couldn’t keep up!
My doctors (and even my dad who’s an MD) all told me that I was fine. No one knew what the heck was making me so tired. I didn’t understand why this was happening and had no idea about how food could make you sick.
Fortunately, my cousin introduced me to a nutritionist in LA who finally listened to me. And that’s when I discovered that gluten, dairy, and eggs were not my friends!
Since then, I started Gluten-Free School, and have addressed my gut, triumphed over adrenal fatigue and candida, and even put my eczema into remission. And this is in addition to getting rid of all the symptoms I already mentioned. As a result, I went back to school to get a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition (from the University of Bridgeport where they follow a functional approach) so that I could work directly with clients who aren’t getting better when they’ve got Celiac disease or chronic IBS.
- How are you changing the face of healthcare and/or the wellness industry? How do you create, innovate or break the rules in healthcare?
I help women take back control of their health when they’ve been told that there’s nothing to be done about their terrible digestion, in-the-toilet energy, skin rashes, and brain fog. I LISTEN to them (what a shocker!) and help them piece together an action plan based on a really comprehensive intake and testing. I help them navigate the process of dealing with their doctors and I honor their boundaries of what steps they are and are not comfortable with.
The idea is to help women honor that inner knowing and take meaningful steps without feeling like they’re all alone. I believe my relationship with my clients is acting as their co-pilot so that they have the support and guidance that they need to take the next step.
- What personal and professional legacy or impact do you want to leave on the world?
I’m really hoping that the work I do will help give women struggling with digestive issues their lives (and freedom) back. Women are generally the caretakers in life. We want to be there with our families, kids, and friends. We are the support structures in many people’s lives. And when your digestion is wrecked, doing many of the most basic things in life (like holding your grandchild) can become impossible.
To someone who’s never had to fear leaving the house because of chronic diarrhea or terrible bloating that looks like you’re 6 months pregnant or being so exhausted that you can barely do anything without falling asleep, you might not get it.
But for women who wants to get “the good life” back… “la dolce vita” as they say in Italian… finding the root cause of the digestive issues and addressing them can hand a woman back her joy. If you want to hear a really cool client story that demonstrates how powerful this is, check out my client Linda’s story here.
- In your opinion, what is the most significant factor in healing or overall wellness?
Your mindset. If you lose hope, then the journey is already over. I’d also say that it’s important to trust the process and know that consistency matters. Flat out ask your practitioner(s) how long someone in your situation will take to get back to “normal” so long as there are no setbacks or curve balls ahead.
- What do you wish people realized when it comes to their health or about the wellness industry?
There’s a lot of hype in the wellness industry. A lot of it isn’t based on solid science (like sharing an animal study and saying that the outcome would be the same in humans… Wrong.). There’s a lot of slick marketing being used that I ultimately think over-promises and under-delivers. No one is melting wrinkles, okay? That’s just ridiculous.
Another quick, but important point is that you really have to be cautious in believing that there are quick fixes in the health industry. There generally aren’t. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The body takes time to heal… you can’t expect to feel like you’re 20 again after you’ve had chronic health problems and autoimmune disease for over 25 years. It could take a year or more to finally get things fully sorted out.
That’s why it’s best when you’ve got a lot going on to reach out for personalized help. Most of my clients have NEVER benefitted from general supplement programs they’ve previously purchased online. The reason is that they had underlying problems that these programs didn’t address.
If you’ve tried to deal with your health for 3 or even 6 months without substantial success, get help so you can get on with life.
- How long did it take you to reach important milestones in your wellness business? And, what has really helped you move the needle in making your vision a reality?
Try. Fail. Learn. Do Better. That and laying out a plan with clear steps to take. Being clear on whom you need to hire to help you get the job done. And giving myself deadlines. I can move mountains when there’s a deadline involved 🙂
I’ll also say this… doing the work that I avoid — like working on my avatar or learning how to understand the financials of my business. Those are challenges for me. Everyone’s got different hang-ups. What’s important is that you identify your weaknesses and the to-do’s you avoid, and find a way to make them happen because they’re probably the projects that will move your business forward the most.
- Tell us about the start-up scares: Was there a moment where you ever seriously contemplated giving up?
Heck yeah! The day I turned on my computer to get my financials over to my accountant to prepare my taxes only to discover that both my hard copy as well as the back-up copy had been deleted. That was the last time I sobbed in front of my computer.
After I pulled myself together, I called my accountant. He helped me quickly figure out a solution that would get the taxes in on time and said not to worry. It was great to have someone like that who I could call in a crisis.
What I learned from this situation was more valuable though. First, if something goes wrong, take 10 or 20 minutes to be upset. After that, you’ve got to move on to problem-solving mode. Two, things like financials are worth spending money on to maintain. I stopped using an old desktop version and moved everything to Quickbooks Online so that I would never lose this type of vital business data again.
- Did you ever fail or make a substantial mistake in business or organization? Any serious challenges? How did you overcome and resolve it?
I had created a group program that was up and running… and very successful. Because I wanted to feel like I had more support, I invited my best friend to join me to teach the course that I had created and eventually offered her 50% of the course (we actually started a new business together just for this program). I honestly thought this was the best way to get her involved without paying her a lot of money to help teach and create more materials for the course.
Though I love my best friend, she wasn’t nearly as passionate as I. She did certainly help improve things within the course, but she couldn’t do much in terms of tech and marketing. I felt like the split was unfair and began to resent her every time I had to write her a check for what felt like a very lop-sided relationship since no more program material was being created.
Two business advisors set me straight and told me to close that company and buy her out. We agreed on a price and I spent a year getting my program back.
Everything totally worked out. We’re still best friends (and probably better since there’s no resentment between us). And upon running the program for the first time by myself, I went on to gross FIVE times the amount we would normally make while running the program together. I realized that I mistook not having a supportive team nor a supportive community of like-minded entrepreneurs around me for feeling like I needed a business partner.
- What action has the most impact that you’ve taken to reach your goal/s?
Putting my money where my ideas are. I am an excellent starter when it comes to projects. My strength isn’t in finishing a project. I’ve improved leaps and bounds on this part over the years, but in committing over $40K to a master’s degree… I felt obligated to see it through and really utilize it. I no longer gave myself the option to move on to the next course or certification. I was all in. I’ve found the same in ponying up some serious money for honest (and experienced) business coaches to guide me through uncharted territory so I can make better choices.
- What would you tell your younger/earlier self about following your dreams?
It’s gonna’ be hard and life isn’t going to be easy nor pretty early on. It’s a hustle every day and you have to be willing to take advice as well as criticism in order to grow. You have to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. And you may have to give up on some of the “normal” experiences in life in order to work your ass off to get to a more comfortable, stable place.
- What’s the best piece of business or personal advice YOU’VE ever received?
My Uncle Joe, who was a very successful businessman, was the first business mentor I truly had. His advice was to do one thing really well before moving on to another product or project. If you jump from project to project, your attention will be too diluted to make a real impact.
- What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give a new Wellness professional who really wants to make an impact in healthcare and people’s lives?
Find a mentor. There are so many pitfalls that new Wellness professionals make and they feel like they’ve got to buy all these different programs just to be successful. Having someone experienced on your side means they can advise you on the best options in front of you which ultimately saves time and money.
If you don’t know someone personally, look for someone further along than yourself who has had legit success. See what value you can add to their life or business to build a relationship with them.
Once you’re ready to ask if they’d be willing to mentor you, don’t waste their time. If you have a question, take action on it. Don’t spin your wheels or keep asking about it repeatedly.
And lastly, don’t assume that someone will mentor you for free. Some people will, some won’t. Part of the reason they won’t do it for free is because they want to know that you’ve got skin in the game and won’t waste their time.
- What does a typical work day look like for you?
Get up and get ready for the day. Put on comfy clothes and get to work. I’m most productive in the AM so I push off exercise during the week until mid-afternoon when I tend to be less motivated to work. My evenings are spent cooking, gardening, and overseeing renovation projects (it’s a long story).
- Stevie Wonder or The Beatles? (this, I personally must know.) 🙂
It totally depends on the mood of the moment. If I had to pay to see one, it would be Stevie.
Jennifer Fugo, MSc, CHC, is a functional clinical nutritionist and the founder of Gluten Free School. In her clinical practice, she helps women with never-ending IBS “bathroom” problems get back to pooping like a normal person by looking for the root causes and developing unique, yet effective solutions.
Jennifer also has extensive experience inspiring gluten-sensitive women to take simple, savvy, and empowering steps towards becoming 100% gluten-free. Living gluten-free since early 2008 after a gluten sensitivity diagnosis, she knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by the complicated and confusing aspects of going gluten-free.
As a sought-after expert, advocate, and speaker, Jennifer has been featured on Dr. Oz, Yahoo! News, CNN, Paleo Magazine, and Philadelphia Magazine.
She is the author behind the best-selling book “The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank“, the host of the Gluten Free School Podcast having interviewed over 90 health & wellness experts, and the creator of the online programs called the Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse, Skin Rash Root Cause Assessment and a free webinar to teach you how to Kick Gluten for Good.