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Women In Wellness: Katie Pedrick of Point On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Get comfortable with the idea that you must be bad at something before you can be good at it. We’re all learning as we go, and it’s okay if the first draft of a project or your first social media posts aren’t perfect.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Pedrick.

As the cofounder, chief health officer for Point, Katie Pedrick provides the custom acupressure protocol for all users, like what she does for patients at V.I.B.E Wellness, her thriving acupuncture practice in Boston. Katie’s extensive background in the medical field dates to her time at Boston University where she studied cancer genomics and earned a bachelor’s degree in genetics.

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?

I grew up in Vermont with parents who were always focused on health. At school, I was the kid with the “weird” lunches that consisted of organic tofu and carob cookies instead of bologna sandwiches and fruit roll ups. For as long as I can remember, whenever any health issues in our family came up, the question was always “what are the diet and lifestyle changes that should be made” and never “what are the medication options.” During college, I was absolutely convinced that I wanted to be a doctor. I studied genetics, then started working in cancer research at a top cancer center to get my feet wet. Very quickly, I discovered that Western medicine was not for me. For everything that could go wrong in the body there was a pill. Then there was a pill for the side effects of the first pill, and another pill for the side effects of the second pill, and so on. Prevention of the disease, diet, and lifestyle therapy options like I had seen growing up were never discussed. It all felt very backwards and reactive rather than proactive. I knew that I wanted to help people improve their health, but I also knew I didn’t want pharmaceuticals to be my first line of defense.

After some soul searching, I discovered Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and without looking back, I decided to get my doctorate in acupuncture, and herbal medicine. What I find beautiful about TCM is that it strives to understand and address the root cause of the disease. We even divide treatments into two categories: “root” treatments that tackle the true underlying cause, and “branch” treatments that address uncomfortable symptoms. The goal is always to help one’s body heal itself, rather than using medication to mask symptoms. My true love and passion are combining modern science with traditional medicine, so I also got a master’s degree in Biotechnology where I wrote my thesis on using traditional herbal medicine in the treatment of depression. I own a wellness practice in Boston called VIBE Wellness, and most recently cofounded an acupressure iOS app called Point Acupressure.

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?

Every day in the clinic I’m amazed by my patients and how Traditional Chinese Medicine has the power to totally transform their lives. One of my favorite stories (shared with permission) is of a patient who was struggling to get pregnant. Although she was in her 30s, she had only ever had a handful of natural periods. She had been on hormonal birth control since she was a young teen, which she had stopped more than a year earlier, yet her period hadn’t returned. She had been told by her doctors that IVF was her only option, but a friend urged her to come see me, so she thought, “why not.” I set her up with herbs, provide lifestyle advice, and an acupuncture treatment plan. Within two weeks she had her first natural period in over 20 years. The next month she was pregnant and is now the mother of a healthy beautiful baby girl. It’s amazing how our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal themselves. Sometimes the smallest tweaks can make the biggest difference, and the key is knowing which tweaks are most appropriate and effective for one’s unique body.

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?

Starting a business is scary. When I first graduated from acupuncture school, I knew I wanted to start my own practice, but was terrified of going at it alone. What if I failed? I don’t know why it feels safer to do something scary with a buddy, but it does. I decided to partner with a dear friend from school. Unfortunately, it was a disaster! On the clinical side everything was perfect. Patients were getting better; they were so happy with their treatment that friends were being referred and our business was growing. On the business side, it was a different story. We were two strong willed people with an equal say in a business, where we had a difference of opinion that became apparent within a few months. It was not a recipe for success, and it ultimately ruined our friendship. This was a painful experience, but I learned a lot — most importantly, to trust in myself that I could do it alone. Now I mentor other women who are starting their own businesses and surprisingly, it’s always a familiar story. The woman has a brilliant idea, but is afraid to go at it alone, so her solution is to ask a friend. I always encourage the person to question that choice. What are her reasons for taking on a partner? Does that partner bring skills or expertise to the table that she doesn’t have? Could she be just as successful and build this business alone?

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?

Health and wellness are something that impacts all of us, but not equally across the socioeconomic spectrum. America has some of the largest income related health disparities in the world. People in the top 1% of income have an expected lifespan of a full 15 years [1] longer than those in the bottom 1%. Why is that? It isn’t just about having access to better doctors and care while one’s sick, it’s also about having access to a wide variety of preventative health services that keep one from getting sick in the first place. When we talk about wellness, we’re effectively talking about preventative techniques — eating high quality food, having a movement routine, practicing stress management, and supplementation etc.… The problem is that these things are expensive, and the traditional insurance model doesn’t typically cover them. I strongly believe that we should all have access to the information that can help one take control of his/her life to help prevent illness and live one’s healthiest life.

Therefore, my cofounders, and I created the Point Acupressure app! The app takes the user through a series of questions — just like an acupuncturist would in his/her office — to get a sense of one’s overall health and where it could be improved. It then tells the user what imbalances it sees and creates a custom wellness plan, which includes acupressure that can be done at home, diet modifications, lifestyle advice, and even supplement recommendations. All the pieces of the preventative health puzzle that used to be very expensive is now customized. The yearly cost of the app is a fraction of the cost for just one session with an acupuncturist, and as part of our commitment to making things affordable, most of the app is completely free! Our goal is to empower as many people as possible to be educated about their health so they can live healthier lives.

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.

  1. Learn to listen to your body. We’re often taught to ignore a lot of instincts — we eat until the plate is empty not until we’re full. We stay in uncomfortable social situations out of politeness, and we forego sleep to meet deadlines. This sort of habitual ignoring of our most basic internal instincts teaches us to tune them out. However, our bodies are constantly trying to tell us what they need. Learn to pay more attention to what your body is saying, and really listen in. What foods make you feel good, and vice versa which make you feel bad? Not necessarily while you’re eating them, but in the hours after. What exercise leaves you feeling energized for the day, and what leaves you feeling depleted? Does your body intuitively need more rest than you’re giving it? These are all important questions that your body has unique answers for, and those answers will help guide you to optimal wellbeing.
  2. Eat more plants. Seriously. You cannot eat too many plants, and odds are very good that you’re not eating enough. Compared to 50 years ago, our soil today is depleted in vitamins and nutrients, which means that the food we now eat is substantially lower in those same vitamins and nutrients than it once was. Our bodies are designed to thrive on large quantities of vegetables and <10% of us eating even two cups a day. It doesn’t have to be broccoli if that isn’t your preference, choose any plants that feel good to you (yes, even fruits), and just eat more of them!
  3. Sleep more. When life gets stressful, sleep is the first thing that gets cut, but it’s imperative to helping nearly every one of our body systems function properly. Sleep is so critical that sleeping less than 7 hours a night is associated with an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and even death. If you could slash your risk for all those diseases by doing something as pleasurable as sleep, why wouldn’t you?
  4. Move your body every day. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to be something that takes tons of time out of your schedule. What our bodies need isn’t always intense CrossFit classes (unless those feel good to you and you love doing them!), all you need to get many of the benefits of regular exercise is doubling your resting heart rate for a total of 30 minutes. That’s as easy as taking a brisk walk on your lunch break with a friend! Choose an activity you enjoy and do it every single day.
  5. Acupressure. Acupressure is an amazing self-care practice that can combine the benefits of mindfulness meditation with the benefits of regular acupuncture. Peer reviewed data demonstrates its efficacy for anxiety, sleep issues, digestive health, stress management, and many other ailments. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out the Point Acupressure app on iOS for guided sessions to get you going.

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 look forward to a time when acupressure and the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine are as common as taking Advil! We’re working hard on creating that movement with the Point Acupressure iOS App. Chinese medicine is wonderful because it doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to health, but instead it looks at the body as a unique being. The Point Acupressure app is so revolutionary because it’s powered by AI that creates a unique TCM diagnosis based on how I diagnose people in my clinic. This means it’s truly a personalized wellness plan in the palm of one’s hand, for pennies (or free!) a day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. There’s room for everyone at the top. Avoid the temptation to compete with your peers and instead allow them to become your greatest allies.
  2. Get comfortable with the idea that you must be bad at something before you can be good at it. We’re all learning as we go, and it’s okay if the first draft of a project or your first social media posts aren’t perfect.
  3. Enjoy the process. Building anything — a business, an app, a new wellness plan — takes time and patience. It can feel frustrating when you haven’t “made it” yet, but the journey is where you learn the most.
  4. Be curious and open to other perspectives. The people we meet who seem the most different from us on the surface often have the most to teach us.
  5. It is always worth it to chase your dreams. It’s scary to start something new, but don’t ever let the fear of failure stop you from trying.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine we think of mental and physical health as being intricately intertwined. One does not exist without the other. I love that mental health is becoming a bigger part of everyday conversation because, until recently, it was often overlooked and ignored. If you’re suffering from a serious mental health diagnosis you should always seek the help of a licensed medical provider. And I strongly encourage those who suffer with more minor forms of mental health concerns to think of their symptoms in the context of their total body health as well. The gut and brain can be very closely linked. About 60% of people who have diagnosed anxiety or depression suffer with IBS, versus just 15% in the general population. Our body systems do not act in isolation and taking a bird’s eye holistic approach to both mental and physical health can allow one to balance both the mind and body simultaneously.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Moxa’s Instagram

Tiktok

My Instagram

[1] Chetty R, Stepner M, Abraham S, et al. The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001–2014. JAMA. 2016;315(16):1750–1766. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4226

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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