Health Freaks (Like Me) Aside, Meal Garden Might Actually Be Onto Something Here…
A startup with a mission to make the world a healthier and more efficient place? “Where do I sign”?! Excited and eager doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to describing the emotions I felt when I found out about Meal Garden — nevermind when I was offered a position to join the team full-time! It’s been a month now, and my anticipation for our future is still as bright and inspired as ever.
But hey, I’ll be real with you, it’s not always sunshine and kale quinoa bowls over here, and I’ve already been hit with some painful realities. Let’s take it from day one. As the Inbound Marketing Manager, I’m tasked with finding and getting users to sign up. Meal Garden is a great product — ideal for meal management and health monitoring — what’s the ish?! Well, once I started talking to people, and introducing them to our tool, turns out people have “no problem making healthy meals” and “don’t need help”. That makes sense, since 25% of adult Canadians and one in 10 children have clinical obesity (read more at http://www.obesitynetwork.ca/obesity-in-canada). I guess it doesn’t make perfect sense afterall.
It’s fairly apparent that we’re facing an epidemic, as our country is spending literally billions of dollars in direct costs of overweight and obesity — not to mention productivity losses, as well as the stigma and psychosocial costs of those suffering. It’s also clear that many of us are actively seeking help — often online; using Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, or following influencers on Twitter to gain healthy eating tips and recipes. Some of us go further, signing up for “cleanses” and “detox” programs, or seeking out (often expensive) one-on-one counselling advice from naturopathic doctors, dieticians, registered nutritionists, etc.
We demonstrate and behave as if we need help, but then we’re granted it, and can’t be bothered.
Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit critical and negative now, but that was one of the first hard hits I faced working here. I quickly came to realize that while there were those who accepted our product with open arms — for every one of those, there were 10 people claiming they were fine with what they’re already doing.
What is it exactly, that you’re already doing? You HAVE to plan in order to eat — the amount of planning varies, yes. Though, it’s also fair to say that for food to appear on your plate in front of you, there are steps that need to be taken beforehand. Whether that be finding and preparing swanky recipes, or picking something up on the run — and everything inbetween.
Lots of mystery, lots of frustration, and yet still some hope.
Luckily, Meal Garden had done a lot of the grunt work before I even got here, and has re-iterated and adjusted its product to jive well with today’s realities. Working from the ground up to build a product to literally take the work out of eating healthy, delicious meals everyday.
In fact, I was soon granted access to tons of market research on everything health and eating related. Although daunting at times, the information represents valuable insights that truly help capture the way we think about and act regarding the food in our lives. To my pleasant surprise, this content has even already been analyzed for me — by health experts, UX experts, and basically anyone else who cares; all in effort to create a tool to fit seamlessly into our lives. All with the end goal of optimizing our meals, monitoring our health, and saving us time and energy.
I hope that in these next few months, I can delightfully re-introduce past users to a totally revamped system that can truly change their lives for the better. Of course, I also want to get the word out to those who haven’t yet heard of Meal Garden. Hopefully, I can encourage them to get over the “awkward hump” of using the tool, so that they can finally start to feel confident and proud of how they eat.
You heard right. “Awkward hump”. That’s how I describe first getting to know the pain and joy that is Meal Garden. At least, that’s how it was for me, as well as for other members of the team — yes, even the co-founder sometimes resists the need to ‘schedule’ his meals.
Let’s face it; changing the way you think about and eat food is tough, and I’ll be honest with you — so is incorporating this tool into your everyday life (at first). Personally, I started using it simply as a database to store all the recipes I come across on my favorite blogs (Oh She Glows links aplenty!) — having the nutritional data alongside the recipes is something I find useful when making decisions on what to prepare. Next came the value I found in being able to edit my recipes — and see the health rating change in real time with each and every adjustment. Maybe I’m weird, but I find that incredibly cool — seriously, what took us so long?!
Finally, a few weeks later, I thought — ‘what the heck’? I’m just going to bite the bullet and start scheduling some meals. I don’t have kids, and I can literally go to the grocery store anytime I fancy (24 HR Metro near my apartment — gotta love downtown living), but planning ahead wouldn’t hurt, I figured. Well, biases aside, it rocks.
But not for the reasons you think. Not because it’s nice to know in advance what I’m having for dinner, so I can prepare and get the groceries. Nor did I really care to plan my food around my life, or my life around my food…life is too short! With that said, looking at my calendar and seeing a health rating for the food I’ve eaten this past month (I admit, it doesn’t include everything, but it’s a start) is really satisfying. It’s rewarding to see my choices pay off, and get confirmation that I fed my body well over the past little while. Beyond that, it feeds encouragement to continue the journey, and keep making deliciously healthy food, tracking it, and seeing the results first-hand.
Meal Garden has turned into my cookbook database, calendar, planner, recipe editor, and most of all, that ‘encouraging personal assistant who also happens to be a master of nutritional science’ I always wanted (but couldn’t be bothered to go find/see).
I thought I ‘got it’ before: “Cool, a health and wellness startup providing a nutritional meal planner — I want in!”. Boy, was I wrong. The team and company I’ve come to know is so much more than that, and I’m learning tonnes. I have faith that I can also learn the best and most efficient ways of spreading the word, and getting people to get over that “awkward hump”.
Looking forward to sharing the joys and disappointments that are often abundant in any startup — especially one taking on the mission to change the way people eat. Here we go, this should be interesting.