Name: Lauren Bongiorno
Location: New York, New York, United States
Lauren Bongiorno, founder and CEO of Risely Health, is challenging the current healthcare system and the world of diabetes management through her company’s innovative health coaching programs and online educational classes. Lauren’s navigated type 1 diabetes firsthand since she was 7 years old and believes that when health transforms, so does everything else – our relationships, our time, our careers, our families, and most importantly, ourselves.
Georgetown medical students are currently researching Risely’s methods in order to publish the quantitative and qualitative results that clients see in their programs. Lauren’s been featured on the TODAY show, is partnered with two of the largest diabetes technology companies, and is “making waves in the diabetes space on both a personal and systemic level.”
Q: What inspired you to enroll at IIN?
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 7 years old, my family and I quickly realized that thriving with this autoimmune disease was pretty much dependent on what we did outside of my two to three doctor visits per year. Doctors, specifically in the endocrinology field, don’t have enough time or resources to give the personalized, integrative attention type 1 diabetics (T1Ds) need to experience more freedom in life. As a result, support’s largely focused on blood sugar metrics alone – not on helping the patient understand their own body’s patterns so they can make more autonomous, informed decisions.
When I was a senior in college, back in 2013, I was taking the LSAT and applying to law school. I was headed in the direction of lobbying and creating change in healthcare. But one day, in a yoga class, I had a massive epiphany that this wasn’t “mine” to do, wasn’t the path meant for me. I didn’t want to fight against a system for years and not see anything change. Instead, I wanted to make an impact on an individual level – to empower individuals living with type 1 diabetes, through coaching, to be able to create positive change in their minds, bodies, and outcomes.
Q: How are you using your Health Coach Training Program education?
I am the founder and CEO of Risely Health, a type 1 diabetes health coaching company that helps impacted people and families take ownership of their health so they can holistically transform their lives with more freedom and confidence. We have a team of seven nationally board-certified health coaches who’ve worked with more than 500 clients to sustainably improve their blood sugar. This, in turn, impacts everything else – their relationships, their time, their energy, their careers, their families, and most importantly, themselves. Having Georgetown medical students research our methods and publish the results for clients in our programs is a big win for the health coaching industry as a whole.
Q: How did your understanding of health coaching expand upon taking the program?
Going through the IIN program was an incredible way to give me the base-level techniques, credibility, and structure I was looking for in order to start working one-on-one with clients in 2015.
I saw through many examples, stories, and eventually my own clients how health coaching helps you prioritize yourself and get “unstuck” by helping you develop the tools and strategies to become aware of your blocks and patterns so that you can move forward toward the vision you have for yourself.
Q: Did IIN help you find a way of eating that works for you? If so, tell us more about that journey.
One thing I really appreciate about my time at IIN is, it helped me get out of the headspace that there existed a specific diet and set of rules around food that would ultimately make me feel my best. I found freedom in knowing I didn’t have to live in the extremes of high carb, high fat or high fat, low carb or vegan. I could learn to ebb and flow with the seasons and eat what felt good to me each day. There’s so much freedom in that.
Q: How do you nourish yourself beyond your plate with primary food?
Primary food is everything. When I’m feeling lazy, tired, burned out, or unmotivated, that’s what I immediately check in with. Where am I lacking? In my movement? Playfulness? Spiritually? Connection to purpose? Relationships? I can almost immediately identify it and then work on nurturing that area to bring myself back into alignment.
Q: How are you living a life you love? How did the program help you achieve this?
Every day, I get to wake up knowing that we’re impacting hundreds of people’s lives. We’re helping women start families, helping dads be more present because they feel better, helping nurses take care of themselves first…it’s real, meaningful work. IIN gave me my start with this, and I’m grateful I followed my instinct to put off law school for a year and enroll.
Q: Health is not a destination; it’s an evolution and a journey. How does this resonate with you?
With type 1 diabetes, there are more than 50 factors that can influence your blood sugar at any given time. It’s impossible to control it 100% or get to a place where it feels like you have it all figured out. The journey for a T1D is about constantly meeting yourself where you are, with compassion, and choosing to make yourself a priority every day, with curiosity rather than judgment.
Q: If you could tell your pre-IIN self one thing, what would it be?
I’d say, “Lauren, I know that right now, there aren’t a lot of people outside of medical professionals working with people with type 1 diabetes and there’s no road map to follow, but trust your gut. There’s a lot of people who need this type of support.”
Q: What’s your morning routine?
After my nonnegotiable eight hours of sleep, I wake up around 7 am and make warm lemon water. From there, I check in with myself. If it’s been an overwhelming week or I’m feeling stuck, I’ll meditate. If I’m feeling good, I’ll put on a podcast while I’m getting ready and making the bed. Then I’ll go move my body in some way. I cycle sync, so depending on where I am in my cycle, I’ll choose between a walk outside, Pilates, yoga, weight training, and a HIIT circuit.
Q: What music do you play to get out of a funk?
Q: What’s your favorite on-the-go snack?
I used to be a big snack-bar person but stopped eating them when I was going through a gut-healing journey after being in the hospital with multiple rounds of antibiotics. Now I keep it simple and just grab fruit or a rice cake with peanut butter and chocolate nibs!
Q: What’s one thing you can’t run your business without?
Hands down, my team. We have our coaching programs, online courses, diabetic health journal, Reclaim Your Rise podcast, partnerships…none of it could run without them!
Q: We are calling our IIN graduates and community members Well BeIINgs. How do you embody well-being?
How I embody “well” is by learning to work with my body instead of against it. Living with type 1 diabetes is something I can’t change. But I’m here every day, doing what I can to rise above my diagnosis and beyond the limitations of my health.