Women In Wellness: Dr. Liz Lehman of Aluminate Life on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
Do One Thing a Day for You: Self care is such an overused and misunderstood term, but it really means doing something that nourishes your mind and body. Every day, do one thing for you that makes you happy. Light a candle, apply essential oils, take a luxurious bath, spend time in nature, dance or sing in your living room, or color or paint a picture. The list is endless and the benefits are real. Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Liz Lehman.
Dr. Liz Lehman is a board certified and licensed anesthesiologist with over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare, medicine, and treating disease. She is an expert in how the epidemic of lifestyle risk factors affect the balance of health, and how self-care and stress reduction can positively affect longevity and well-being. Dr. Liz Lehman left the practice of medicine to found Aluminate Life, an international wellness brand that unites the therapeutic benefits of scent with the healing powers of crystals to enhance mind-body health in your sanctuary.
With a goal-oriented workaholic “Type A” personality, Dr. Liz Lehman would often light candles to achieve a calmer environment at home. Shocked to learn about the chemicals, heavy metals, and toxins in the candles she burned around her family and home, she left traditional medicine in order to create products that make being healthy and whole easily accessible. In the last year alone, her business has grown almost 300%. Now Aluminate Life products can be found internationally at properties like Hilton and Marriott, and in the homes of dozens of influencers, celebrities, and wellness leaders.
A leading authority on self-care, best selling author, registered yoga instructor, and member of the International Alliance of Aromatherapy, Dr. Liz Lehman has educated and spoken on wellness, yoga, uses and benefits of essential oils, and has been featured in Yahoo!Money, YouRhere, Eat This, Not That, and Yahoo!Entertainment.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
The universe literally had to force me to sit still to set me on the path I was meant to be on. As a type-A overachiever I constantly pushed the limits and never listened to my body. I am embarrassed to say I was the person who left yoga class before savasana. In my overdoing everything, I tore my hamstring badly. I was forced to sit down on a frozen water bottle and stay still. In a moment of reflection, I found a blog on making candles. I had never read blogs before , but I read this, and thought: you can make candles at home? Needing something to do, I ordered a candle making kit that day and continued to research candle making. I was appalled to learn about the chemicals and toxins in candles I had burned in my home and around my family. I started my kitchen candle experiment.
To preface this, I had always loved candles. I am fifty-three and grew up at a time where childhood safety meant coming home when the sun went down. I survived without seatbelts or bike helmets, playing in the street, and with candles burning all around the house. I was drawn to those candles. I loved to pull the wax off the pillar, make balls of wax, put my fingers in the melted wax and make molds of my fingertips. I even called them wax cuplettes! My mom would always yell at me to stop messing with her candles. She recently told me that I said I couldn’t help it, and that I just needed to be around the flame and put my fingers in the wax.
Fast forward forty years and I am an anesthesiologist. I had started a baby candle business. Uniting my knowledge of medicine and holistic healing with my desire to make a candle with purpose, I developed a beautiful coconut wax candle. It is scented with essential and natural oils, uses eco-friendly cotton wick, is infused with healing crystals and is hand poured into a luxurious barware glass. I was dabbling with being an entrepreneur.
However, when I turned fifty, I started to develop pain in my hands. An anesthesiologist uses their hands extensively in the care of our patients for routine tasks like opening vials, performing nerve blocks, ventilating and intubating patients. This chronic overuse took its toll and I developed arthritis. Never the one to listen to her body, I kept pushing through, downing ibuprofen until the day my hands didn’t work, and I couldn’t put my patient to sleep. That was the last day I practiced anesthesia. I wish it was more memorable, but after twenty-five years of being a doctor, my career as I knew it stopped in that moment. I scheduled what should have been corrective surgery on my left hand. It didn’t fix the problem, but in fact made it worse. I have had two subsequent surgeries, and I still need another.
Not being able to practice medicine opened another door for me. It gave me the green light to pursue my business Aluminate Life. Despite the global pandemic, it has been very successful. My mission is to improve your mind-body health in your sanctuary so you can achieve balance and wellness in your life. Now, not only am I still doctoring, but I am walking the path of a candlemaker that my younger self knew I needed to be on.
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 am often astounded that I have created something that actually works! In anesthesia you know within seconds the results of your interventions; you give a medication and fix the problem. With a wellness product, the response is less tangible and delayed. However, when a customer reaches out to let me know they can’t sleep unless they apply my SLEEP essential oil rollerball, or that their home work day is better with a CALM candle on their desk, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment because something I created can really change how someone feels. My takeaway is that I should have never doubted my ability to blend science and wellness to affect change. You must always believe in yourself, because if you doubt yourself, everyone else will as well.
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?
When I started making candles, I knew I wanted to make a natural product that was scented with essential oils. I started blending essential oils to make a well rounded scent profile, but that ultimately would correct an ailment I wanted to treat. I discovered that not all essential oils are burn compatible. There is a thing called a flash point, or the temperature at which a substance will combust when exposed to flame. I glossed over that detail in my research and development. I had burned many prototype candles without incident, but when various friends and family told me their candle was literally on fire, I had to go back to science, learning that almost every citrus essential oil has a lower flash point than the temperature of the flame. So those first one hundred candles I had handmade ended up in the trash. My trials and errors, now called trials and lessons, taught me that what I want may not always be feasible and to never ignore the rules of science.
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?
Once I had a physical product in hand, well vetted by family and friends, I was ready to launch it into the marketplace. I thought that spa and salon retail would be a good fit for my candles and diffusers. I emailed every single one within a one hundred mile radius. One spa responded that they would love some samples. Then I had my first retail sale! They only worked with sales reps not vendors, (not that I even knew that lingo at the time), but they introduced me to Jenna, my first sales representative. She became my business jedi master, teaching me about SKU’s, PO’s, invoices, marketing and sales. Thanks to her I now have sales reps across the country and my products are in one hundred and twenty retail outlets in the US and Canada. I am eternally grateful for her knowledge and guidance, especially at a time when I knew nothing about entrepreneurship.
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?
As an anesthesiologist, my job involved treating a patient in the pre-op area, in the operating room, and through recovery until discharge. I kept them alive and safe and then sent them on their way. The vast majority of my patients went immediately back to the lifestyle choices that led to their arrival in the OR. Caring for one’s self is so important, because when our mind and body are neglected and we are stressed and emotionally depleted, we have nothing left for ourselves or to give to others. By making self care, wellness and feeling better in your body and home easily accessible to others, I know that I affect change in people’s sanctuaries, both body and home, with my products. I am now able to improve the mind-body health of so many more people than I ever could in my twenty-five years in medicine.
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.
The CDC says that 40% of the top five causes of death are preventable with lifestyle changes. After twenty-five years of treating patients I know this to be true. Here are my top five tips for easy lifestyle changes to prevent disease.
1.Daily Movement, Not a Marathon: Exercise is a pillar of physical and mental health. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Incorporate some kind of movement for at least thirty minutes into every single day. It may be as simple as walking your dog, taking an online zumba or yoga class, or lifting weights. Alternate routines to make it fun, keep your interest and target key areas of the body for optimal fitness. Practicing aerobic activity, cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance are so necessary for living better and longer. And take the stairs as often as possible!
2.Eat Real Food: Nutrition is another pillar of health. Restrictive diets don’t work, so you need to make daily sustainable food choices. This starts with eating a variety of whole real foods; if it comes from the ground or has a mother it is a real food. Shop at farmer’s markets and the outer areas of the grocery store. Buy organic, and more importantly, non-GMO foods. Consume dairy and gluten in moderation, as they trigger inflammatory reactions in the body. Eat more plants and less animal protein. If prepared or packaged food has more than five ingredients don’t eat it, because it probably has unhealthy chemicals in it!
3.Meditate and Be Mindful: The science on meditation is indisputable. It lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and provides immeasurable mental benefits. As a type-A person, meditation was always a struggle for me, until my daily stress was affecting my sleep, my mood, and increasing anxiety. You have to carve out even five minutes a day to sit quietly and just exist. As an anesthesiologist, I took five to ten minutes of my lunch break to sit outside or in a stairwell to meditate with a guided meditation app. As an entrepreneur, I start every day with ten to twenty minutes of a guided meditation. It decreases my stress, promotes creativity, and establishes a mindset that allows me to deal with whatever my day has in store.
4.Invest in Rest: Sleep is so important for physical and mental health. Chronic insomnia leads to increased cortisol levels, weight gain, and increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Establish a pre-sleep routine that eases your body into a restful state. Take a shower or warm bath before bed. Read a book or spend time meditating. Keep your bedroom dark and lower the temperature for deeper sleep. Cell phones and televisions should stay out of the bedroom.
5.Do One Thing a Day for You: Self care is such an overused and misunderstood term, but it really means doing something that nourishes your mind and body. Every day, do one thing for you that makes you happy. Light a candle, apply essential oils, take a luxurious bath, spend time in nature, dance or sing in your living room, or color or paint a picture. The list is endless and the benefits are real. Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement of movement. Physical activity is so important and obesity is rampant in our society, with over 40% of US adults qualifying as obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that due to the prevalence of childhood obesity and the associated diseases, this generation will have a shorter life expectancy than the previous one. We need to stop being sedentary, and we should move and burn calories if we want to live longer.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Ask for and accept help. I used to think I needed to do everything myself. Make every candle, pack every order, create every marketing campaign. This is unsustainable. Once I asked for assistance, I had friends and family wanting to make candles every day.
- As soon as you are financially able, hire your weaknesses. Starting as a solopreneur you need to wear many different hats, but nobody is an expert in all fields. Consider what your favorite aspects of your business are, and focus on them. Then, outsource what you hate or are not good at.
- Don’t take business personally. I was deeply hurt when a customer said they didn’t like one of my products. It took a moment for me to accept that it’s not a reflection on me and what someone likes or doesn’t like is subjective.
- That you are your brand. This took me a while to wrap my brain around. While I am more comfortable in my studio making candles and living behind the scenes, you need to put yourself out there to connect with your customers. Being the face of a brand allows your customers to relate to you and it humanizes your products, ultimately allowing you to grow your mission.
- Imposter syndrome is a real thing. The feeling of self doubt or “fake it until you make it” is universal. I thought it only applied to me. Working trade shows and speaking to hundreds of people about myself and my products and why they should buy them was terrifying. What if they found out I didn’t know what I was doing? That I was a CEO fraud? I felt such a sense of relief when I learned 85% of all CEO’s admit to feeling imposter syndrome. The other 15% are hiding it!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Our body’s systems are so connected, so our mental health has a direct effect on overall well-being. We have only started to open up and discuss mental health and disease. About one in four adults in the US suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Stress, anxiety, and depression can have physical effects on the body and often occur with substance abuse. Nutrition and movement really contribute to improving mental health and our younger generations are not getting that message. We need to increase our national awareness of mental health issues and take preventive measures to continue to improve mental health as a significant part of our overall well-being.
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