This article is based on episode #29 of A Bridge To Wholeness podcast. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and on our website.
Jennifer Crisp: We have with us today a number one bestselling author, and she wrote the book called Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform your Relationships with Easy to Learn, Proven Communication Skills. And I want to welcome Dr Georgianna Donadio, who is the founder of National Institute of Whole Health. Welcome to the podcast today.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Jen. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Jennifer Crisp: And Dr Donadio, you have accolades that are three miles deep. You’ve been around a while now, you’re really well established, and about 42 years ago you started a movement. You really did, you started a movement. And this book that we’re talking about today, Changing Behavior, is really a combination of that movement and how you started that and where you came from and why you did that. And I’d love to really delve into the history of that and why you started National Institute of Whole Health. So can we go back a couple of decades?
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Yeah, quite a few decades. I wish I could go back a couple of decades, Jen, actually. If you’ve got a time machine I want in, okay? I’ll be happy to tell you. I’ve been very fortunate and been very blessed to have an opportunity to have lots of education and do certain things and accomplish certain things, and I’m very grateful and it’s very lovely. However, the reality is, I don’t believe better of any of these wonderful stories because I do think that life kind of grabs you by the scruff of the neck and guide you along to where it wants you. I’ve never felt that this was something I did, but something that more or less was given to me and provided to me as a task and as an opportunity. I don’t want to mislead your listeners. I wasn’t that clever, okay? I wasn’t really all that insightful and clever and profound.
I think when we talk to people who are founders, the one thing I will take a nod for, formulating the whole health field, the field of whole health. Nobody was talking whole health. And when I was talking it 40, 30, 20 years ago, people thought I was a quack and I was called a quack. ‘What are you crazy? You want to educate patients, you want patients to be in control of their health? Are you out of your mind? It’s heresy I tell you, heresy.” They can’t understand this stuff, you know.
Jennifer Crisp: I can imagine really seriously, even 10 years ago, although not as badly, but you are absolutely right, you must have been considered a little bit outside the box. Just a little, no, I think a lot. I think a lot outside the box. Talk about Whole Health Education® and what that means and why patients should be more involved in their own care.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Sure. Well, the whole concept of whole health started buzzing around in my head about 1976. And I came to Boston, I was starting an integrative health practice. I had just finished my graduate studies. I was starting a master’s program in nutrition. I just got my doctorate, I was starting a master’s program and I was a gung-ho lunatic. I mean I was very passionate. I’m all Italian, so I’ve got all this Italian … I’ve got moonstruck passion in my veins. I was running around Boston making a lot of noise and very passionate about doing this work, and I ran across some like-minded people who felt the same way. And I developed the concept of whole health, whole person health care and started to offer tutorials, started to offer classes.
And I didn’t choose to do that. There was a minister, his name is David Hall. He was a minister, he was also a counselor, and there was a couple of nurses and they said, “Georgianna, we want to know what you know. You have a different viewpoint of things.” And I said, “You could take what I know, put it in a thimble and that’s about the size of it.” They said, “No, no, no, no, no. You have a different take on things.” I said, “Okay.” So I started doing these tutorials and I did them in my office, my practice office.
And it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I said to David, who started, I said, “Look David, I’m starting a practice.” I was newly married. I said, “I don’t have time for this.” And he said, “Come on.” He said, “What if I bring you 10 people?” I said, ‘Look, you bring me 10 people.” He says, ‘How much is it going to cost?” This is back in 1976. Now, realize something. I’m trying to get rid of this man, and I said, “A thousand dollars. Everybody has to pay a thousand dollars.” I’m like, “Oh my God. A thousand dollars to take a one year tutorial course.” So I figure I’ve gotten rid of this guy.
So he shows up about six weeks later waving 10 checks in my face. My hand to God. And I looked up, I said, “Oh wow.” I’m a pretty prayerful person and I do believe we get guided by much larger intelligence. And I said, “Wow, really?” I was stuck. I didn’t know what to do. So twice a week for a year, I would meet after my office hours for two and a half, three hours a night, and I would teach everyone everything that I knew. Which in fact, I thought was really not much of anything. But the next year, after the 10, it was actually 12 by the time … I had 10 checks when he started, but there were 12 that actually came in, and by word of mouth we had 32 people the second year.
Yeah, I hadn’t advertised, I hadn’t done done anything. So this is 1977, we graduated the first group that started in 1976, and I was dumbfounded. I was just in a state of shock. So started doing it, we started to develop the curriculum a little bit more, et cetera, et cetera, but as far as what motivated this to happen, I can only tell you that things evolve. I think its time had come. If you had gone to Google ten years ago, seven years ago, five years ago, and you put in whole health, you’d find us and you’d find a vitamin company.
Jennifer Crisp: And I can vouch for that because, I’m just going to put it out there now, I was a student of National Institute of Whole Health and I have graduated from there and am a Whole Health Education®, and you are so right. Yes, you were like… That was it. That was it.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Yeah, we were, we were the visionaries, we were the founders, we were the developers of whole health. And now this is no joke, there are billions of listings on Google under the term whole health. So what is the point? The point is, I think sometimes we are tasked with doing things that it’s not our choice. It wasn’t my choice to do this. I started off in nursing, oh many, many, many, many, many, many years ago, in the middle of the 1960s. I was floor trained where when a doctor came in, you had to stand. You were wearing all white. Everything you had on was white, stocking, shoes, cap, the whole thing. And you either curtsied or stood up and cast your eyes down because you were taking a position of great humility. All the doctors were men, there were no women doctors. And if a woman doctor came in, she was suspect. What’s with her? She’s a woman, why is she a doctor?
So it was a very different world back then. So I grew up in very traditional medical circles, and yet after college and after graduate school, in my heart I just said, “You know something? This is all messed up. People are not respected, they’re not given their value as a consumer, as an individual who knows their own body. We’ve got to do something about this.” This was my thinking. So it evolved on its own. And today we are the only nationally accredited program in the United States that teaches whole health and Whole Health Education®.
I will share something exciting with you that you don’t know about because it’s relatively new. We are launching a new website for laypeople, for consumers, and this is called Whole Health Self Care. And we are offering over a hundred different audio courses for people to listen. For $9.88, you can listen to something about sleep, to something about the endocrines. There are so many courses, so many audio courses that you can avail yourself of. And you can also get some other services. You can do some private coaching, you can get the evidence-based handouts if you want them. You can join in on live calls if you want to. You can take a look at the book Changing Behavior, which is very much a part of what we teach. And you can do one-on-one coaching.
So it offers a bunch of stuff, and as you can tell by the price it’s really in the ballpark of affordable and invites people to educate themselves. And we’re earmarking certain courses. If you take 35 of … There will be a handful of courses that qualify, you can your own certificate in whole health self care if you’d like to do that. And for some people that’s helpful because they can actually get a discount with their insurance companies if they’re doing-
Jennifer Crisp: Oh wow. Oh my gosh. Oh, this is so amazing. I can’t wait. Now, when is it going to be launched? Is it there yet?
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Yeah, well, we’re kicking it around. We’ve got a lot of it up and going, but we want to get all the bugs out and we know that people are going on vacation. So we’re targeting the end of August, beginning of September. And what’s really interesting is for Whole Health Educators®, they can go in and they can … This is a no bells and whistles, this is not a video program, these are audio programs. So you can go in and you can take a lot of additional courses as well. And you can also use it to send clients, people can use it to send their clients. They can say, “Look, I would really suggest you go listen to this course.” And it’s a great way to help people help themselves.
Jennifer Crisp: Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. And it’s so necessary because this is what I find when I’m working with patients or clients, even if they’re not my patients or clients. Because when you’re a nurse and a Whole Health Educator®, people are, they’re always coming to you, right? They automatically ask you questions. And my thing is, where do I send them? What’s the good evidence-based information that I can trust that I know is going to lead them to a little bit more self care or lead them to a practitioner that’s going to be good for them?Because that’s so necessary now and you want to make sure that the sources that they’re pulling from are okay.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Exactly, exactly. And the whole movement today is a whole health self care movement. So once again, we’re pretty confident that we’re on it in the sense that this is the next frontier. People today are tired of institutions and experts. They don’t want to be told what to do, but they do want to have knowledge and they do want to have dependable evidence-based knowledge. So what we’ve done is we have taken a … We have, we have these wonderful programs with all kinds of experts. We even have someone who is running as a presidential candidate. We even have a program-
Jennifer Crisp: You do. Yeah, the presenters in your program. These are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill people. Come on, Dr Donadio, let’s face it, you have some pretty big names in your room.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Well, we do. We we don’t advertise it as such. We have never sold celebrity. There are programs out there that sell celebrity. That’s the way that they pitch their program. This program is really about, it’s a sincere attempt to say to people, ‘look, you can do this and you’re the only one who can. The only person that can heal or turn your life around is you.” And I think this is a problem. You asked me about, “Why did you start the organization?” Back in the day when I started this, the health literacy was so bad. You have no idea. The self care was so bad. It has increased significantly since we began this movement 42 years ago. So one of the things is to get people to realize, and many more people today realize. Look, Jen, you know, you’re in the business, you’re a nurse, you know all about this. The reality is I live with my body 24/7. We’re the only people that have control over our lives. Taking a pill isn’t going to do it.
Jennifer Crisp: No. No, it is not. If you just turn on the television, the commercials alone for pharmaceuticals are … there’s just so many. It’s almost every other one. And that’s where people are getting their information. And so what you’re doing with the Whole Health Education®, I think is even better with the self care because it’s not the final answer. We really have to go deep down inside and do that work and look at what self care is about because putting a pill to every ill is not always the answer. We’ve got to really dig down and see what that’s about. So providing this kind of information is going to be paramount, I think. Like you said, this is the wave of the future. It’s really understanding how your body works, right? I’m sure you’re going to have programs that talk about that. You said the endocrine system, the digestive system, simple things like that. I mean, they’re not simple, but I think that people are looking for ways to learn about self care.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Exactly. And look, here’s the situation. I work in acute care medicine. You’ve worked in acute care medicine. I have the highest regard and the greatest respect for excellent medical care. There’s no question. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift. It’s a wonderful … If anybody’s rushed off to the emergency room, they will deeply and profoundly appreciate having a skilled doctor helping them. So I want to make it perfectly clear, medicine is absolutely a gift. And when it’s practiced well it’s a blessing. Now, with that said, medicine is designed to be an acute care intervention. It is not designed to be a chronic care solution. 90%, or 87, 88% of our medical care in this country is for chronic conditions. Chronic conditions are longterm. They happen over time. They accumulate. It’s not something that pops up overnight like an upset stomach that you might have from eating bad food and you wind up in the emergency room.
The truth is we have to take that responsibility. We don’t have to, but if we don’t do it, then we really cannot be surprised when we find out we have a chronic disease. I’m pretty shocked. I don’t know about you, Jen, but I’m pretty shocked at the way most of us have just dismissed all the information that we hear about how important exercise is. When you look at exercise, the single most important factor in anyone’s health profile is activity and exercise. And what percent of Americans exercise? Do you know?
Jennifer Crisp: No, I don’t.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Because I’ll tell you it pretty much shocks me. 2% of Americans exercise.
Jennifer Crisp: No. Come on, really?
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: There are many Americans who think they’re exercising or start to exercise and sign up for the gym and six weeks later they’re nowhere near the gym. See, a lot of times people think, “Oh, well, I signed up for a gym or I exercised last year. I exercise.” You know what I’m saying?
Jennifer Crisp: Right, right. It takes a real commitment. I’m now into Pilates, I’ve been into Pilates the last year, and fortunately the place that I belong to, you actually have to schedule your appointment. You have to schedule the class. So it’s the first thing I do. I map out the whole month based on those classes. It’s a commitment because I understand that I’m aging. Balance is a big issue for older people. Just read the report this morning that there are now more falls in the elderly then it’s happened over many years. It’s because so many of us are living longer. But also just doing balance exercises and weight training, strength training exercises, is paramount for your health as you age.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Absolutely. There’s no question about any of this. But what’s remarkable is that we ignore this. And yet we’re drinking Diet Coke because we think it’s good for us. When you think about the irony of that, we’re drinking Diet Coke which is really bad for us and we’re not exercising which is really good for us. And we have a concept that we take care of ourselves. We do. Americans have the concept, “Oh yeah. I take care of myself. I take a multiple vitamin. I take a Centrum,” or whatever. Our concept of self care is not in any way self care. And I want to say that once you get past 60 and 65, wow. You really upped the ante. It actually becomes a full time job to take care of yourself.
Jennifer Crisp: Well, I’m almost there. I’m almost at the big 6-0, will be later this year. But I have to say that it almost feels like a full time job now. It is. As you age, and we’re living longer, we want to have that quality of life.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Exactly. There’s only one way to have a quality of life and it’s through whole health. You have to physically take care of your body. You have to nutritionally take care of your body. You have to emotionally. By the time you get up into your 50s and 60s, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the thing that kills people, and there are different age groups, but cancer and heart disease kill people as they’re aging. And the truth of the matter is, is when we’re emotionally healthy, when we’re nutritionally healthy, when we’re physically healthy, cancer and heart disease, they don’t have an opportunity to get invested in our body.
A lot of people are terrified of cancer and I have to share this, because of all the things I teach I think this is one of the most important things. Cancer has now been shown to be an opportunistic virus. What does that mean? That means in an appropriate environment where that virus can proliferate, where it can grow, where it can be cultured, where it can be nourished, it’s going to do well. So in a body that has a biochemistry or has an emotional profile or a stress profile or an environmental factor that allows cancer to get a foot hold biochemically into that body, it’s going to break into the cell membrane of healthy cells. It’s going to take all the nutrition for itself, it’s a greedy little bugger, and it’s going to keep breaking into different cell membranes and sucking out all the resources for itself.
Now here’s the irony, and we can see a parallel in our culture as well, this very greedy, very narcissistic, very self-centered disease, kills the host it’s living on. So what does that tell you? It commits suicide. It also tells us that overconsumption, greed, wanting more, wanting to have this place of being the one who gets everything, it’s a very self destructive attitude.
Jennifer Crisp: It is. And I love your description of that because I don’t know that we often take time to think that way, to really think about our bodies that way and how that self care can really, as you say, if you don’t give it the opportunity, it decreases our chances immeasurably. So a lot of this I think has to do with a lot of inner work, and yes, culturally I absolutely get it and where we are now with what’s going on even worldwide, it can be disruptive to us. And so I think we have to pick and choose even then what we tune into so that we can keep our bodies healthy. We don’t always have to 24/7 be on the Internet or listening to the news or listening to the television. Not that we don’t want to be tuned into things, but again, that’s part of our physical body care besides the emotional and the spiritual.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Oh, I’m going to make a prediction, Jen. I think that you’re going to see over the next five years, a huge movement away from technology towards nature and a huge self care movement. Look, people are getting fatigued now. They’re technologically fatigued. We’re politically fatigued. We’re all shaking our heads going, “Oh, please.” One of the things that human beings need, we need stability. That’s what we need. We need stability. The Maslow hierarchy, safety is number one. What is safety? It’s stability. It’s predictability. We need security. We need a roof over our head. We need to know that we can be protected from the elements. And when you look at our environment and you look at technology, I’m going to be frank with you, I just can’t stand it. Every three months they’re updating everything and they’re updating passwords. I call it a soul-sucking exercise. It’s designed to suck the life out of you because it’s all about demanding your attention, demanding your energy. And this is not the way we’re designed to function.
Jennifer Crisp: No, we’re not, because it takes us away from community. It takes us away from intercommunication with ourselves and with each other. And you’re right, I agree with you. I am definitely going to hold you to that. I hope that people really do start stepping away. And they’re actually … You know what? I just did an episode with a young man who has coaching, and he’s got a daughter and he realizes that technology is here to stay, but he said instead of fighting it, it’s learning to live with it in a disciplined manner so that it doesn’t rule your life. So that you’re making the choices that are good for you. You’re not allowing the social media and the technology to dictate your time and take it away from your family and your loved ones and your friends.
And I thought that was really, really fascinating because he’s got a teenage daughter and he has to deal with this. And he said, “I just realized that it’s here, but I still have the final say on this and I am not allowing this to interfere with my life. It’s not sucking the life out of me because I’m not giving into that.” And I think that takes a certain amount of discipline. But I think you’re right, I think people really are headed in that direction. At least I certainly hope so.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Well, yeah. And good for him and good for his daughter, you know? That’s fantastic. Because that’s what it’s about. We can’t turn the clock back. I wish we could. I wish we could, but we can’t. So what we have to do is learn to dance with this. Yeah. We need to learn how to dance with it, but we have to be in control of it. We have to remove it being in control of us.
Listen, I know you want to talk about the book. I want to tell you about the book. Thank you for the introduction. It won four awards and it has been a number one Amazon bestseller. We’re very pleased with it. It’s the subject of clinical trial studies. It’s been used for doctor training. It’s been used in a lot of really exciting environments. The thing about the book is if anybody is looking to understand how they can really communicate well and properly, if anyone is looking to understand how they can get past a lot of the discomfort of communication … A lot of us, we don’t realize, we really just don’t realize that we’re not communicating in a way that is effective and inviting and loving and supportive. We’re communicating in a way in our times that is protective and careful and defensive and in many ways invested in our own protection. So this is a very simple model.
Jennifer Crisp: It is. And it’s so beautifully written too and it’s so easy to understand.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Thank you. And it’s all based in evidence-based science. The whole thing is science-based. So, we’ve tested it in hospitals for 39 years now. We’ve been testing it for a long time. The latest study was published in 2018 and it was done by MSU, by some physicians at MSU, and it was published recently. And it has done very, very well and the feedback we get from people is very heartwarming, to tell you the truth. People say things like this has really changed my relationship with my daughter or my boss or my wife or my clients or whatever. So I think if you’re looking to have a really good experience in communication, this is something you may want to consider.
Jennifer Crisp: And I know that you have some steps in the book that people can take. Am I correct? And originally this book was actually written for medical professionals to have better communication skills with their patients.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Exactly, yes.
Jennifer Crisp: But you’ve expanded it beyond that. It’s available to everyone.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Yes, it’s on Amazon. You can read it. As I said, we’re opening things up for the general public, because quite honestly, when people individually find out about Whole Health Education® they want to know where can I find an educator? They want to know the information, they want to feel that they’re participating in it. So we’re excited about it. We’re going to launch our campaign to advertise it. We’re going to promote it. We’re going to let you know our graduates know about it. We’re going to let AARP know about it, and other outlets, to know that for less than $10, for two cups of your Starbucks a week …
Jennifer Crisp: I know. Starbucks, yes.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Can you believe these coffee drinks are $4 to $5?
Jennifer Crisp: I don’t buy coffee out. I make my own and we always have. I can’t wrap my head around that. It’s very hard to wrap my head around that. I enjoy making my own coffee and I enjoy drinking my own coffee.
I mean, once in a while you treat yourself, but I know some people do this every day. And again, I think that’s just another replacement for technology. It’s just something else that becomes a habit that sometimes we’re really not aware of, that it’s actually sucking something out of us.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Well, here’s an interesting concept. We need ritual. This is human. This is built into our Maslow’s third level, which is belonging and participating. The ritual of going to Starbucks. For people who are smokers, there’s a ritual of striking the match or of lighting the cigarette. We have rituals that we’re very attached to. And so I understand why we do a lot of what we do. What we’re trying to do is say, look, this is not going to interfere with what you’re doing. You’re just going to be informed and you can make a decision from there.
The biggest thing people need, the most important thing people need is information. No matter what you’re talking about, whether it’s your taxes, whatever it is, buying clothes, buying a car, what do you need to make a decision? You need information. And so our commitment and our focus is always on educating, informing, empowering people. I practiced for many, many years as a healthcare provider. I’m still a licensed healthcare professional. And I know, and I’ve said this, you’ve heard me say this in the classes, no one wants to be told what to do.
Jennifer Crisp: Oh, that is something that has stuck with me. It really has. And we’re going to get ready to wrap up in a couple of minutes, but I just want to say to you what an impact you have made on my life, because when I became a student in 2009, it’s been that long ago, yeah, 2009 and you interviewed me twice on the phone to see if I was a good fit for the program. And it took me longer to get through the program because of right after I signed up, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and so I was able to work with you and inside the program to extend it a little bit just because wow, life happens. And you talk about serendipity and coincidence, but it is no coincidence because I had stepped away from floor nursing and was searching for something that I would be able to contribute to my purpose and my passion in life, which is education and health. And I kept googling, I kept searching for programs and yours came up.
Now, the rest is history because I have taken what I had learned in all that coursework and utilized it so well over the years. And it’s been such an honor to be a part of this program and to also see it just continue to grow, to expand and to impact the world. So I want to thank you so much for coming on as a guest today. And if we do have somebody who is listening who is interested in your program, how do they get hold of you or where do they go to find that information?
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Sure. Well, to find out about the book, go to Amazon. And the title is Changing Behavior. All you have to put is in Changing Behavior and Donadio or Georgianna and the book will pop up. And if you’re interested in any of the programs, you can go to either niwh.org or wholehealtheducation.com. There’s lots of information. You can send us an email. Leave us a voice message, we will get back to you. We’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have. But I invite everyone, in September look for Whole Health Self Care. And if you have any kind of condition and you want information about it, we’re not going to prescribe it. We’re not going to say what to do, but we’re going to give you the information for you to make better choices about how to fix it.
Jennifer Crisp: I think this is so exciting that you’re able to come on here and really talk about this and I’m very excited that we’ll be part of that promotion. So we’re going to look for that in late August and September. And thank you so much for being on today. And for those of you who have enjoyed this episode, please share it with your family, your friends, your coworkers. You can find A Bridge to Wholeness podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. And of course, please go and rate and review us because that helps us to get the word out about what we’re doing here, and that’s education in health and wellness for the 21st century. So thank you all for tuning in today and thank you again, Dr. Georgianna Donadio for being on our show.
Dr. Georgianna Donadio: Thank you for having me, Jen.
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