By Deanna Latson, co-founder and chief product officer of ARIIX
When people ask me how I got to where I am today, I waste no time in sharing my secret. Today I’m helping people transform their lives through proper nutrition. Because 30 years ago I was making all the wrong choices for my own health, and no one was sharing the message I needed to hear. As a teenage bulimic, I struggled with my weight for over a decade. I was 60 pounds overweight, depended on over-the-counter medications to manage my daily migraines and health issues, and was living on autopilot. My family wasn’t much better. My father had been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition and was taking more than 16 different prescription medications. Then my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember looking at all those bottles, and thinking that they wouldn’t be around to see me get married, play with their grandchildren, live a full life.
So I got serious about nutritional education. The more I learned, the more I was able to help my family make simple, yet powerful, changes in our health and quality of live through the power of nutrition. My parents had an amazing turn around in their health. My father got back his energy and got rid of all those pills. My mother went into remission. I overcame my battle with bulimia and got back to a healthy weight. My own experience going from overweight, sick and feeling crappy all the time, to waking up and finally feeling good was eye-opening.
So I dug in and earned a Master’s degree in communication studies with a special emphasis on health communications and a Certified Nutritionist Consultant (CNC) degree from the Natural Healing Institute (NHI) Premiere Holistic Health College of Naturopathy.
I was excited about what I could do to help others, just like I’d helped my family – and myself. I had been a teenage motivational speaker, so I decided to use those skills and start talking about nutrition from the stage to share what I learned. This was 20 years ago, when it wasn’t sexy to talk about nutrition and practically unheard of for a women to speak from the stage about health and nutrition. No one would talk to me, book me or even think about paying me to speak. I stuck to it, though.
Three years later I became a top ranked speaker within the college market that included more than 800 colleges and universities. Five years later I was ranked among the best in the country. I was speaking in front of NCAA athletic teams, sorority and fraternities, and in demand for addressing Fortune 500 companies and similar organizations. In 2011, along with five business partners, I started ARIIX, an international opportunity company that promotes health, toxic-free living.
Today, as ARIIX’s chief product officer, I run our Scientific Advisory Board and oversee research and development. And I travel around the world to share my story and my message with people of all ages. I love that I get to help so many people. But I really love those moments when I get to connect with someone during a quiet moment when they share a story that is so similar to mine. I’m so fortunate to be able to hear remarkable success stories every single day. People write me, approach me at meetings, and reach out daily to share their successes, from losing 100 pounds, to doing new things they never thought they’d do again, to finally enjoying life when they really didn’t think they ever would again.
Success is in the details
There’s that old saying that success is in the details. When I teach people how to make transformational lifestyle changes, it’s the details that make it possible. And it’s the details that made my career success possible.
One time when I accompanied my mother to a chemo appointment, I remember her doctor telling her that it was important to wear gloves when she cleaned the house to keep the toxic chemicals from absorbing into her skin and hurting her suffering body even more. I thought “Holy crap! Why did you wait until she had cancer to tell her this?!” I remember thinking, if household cleaning products aren’t safe for cancer patients, then they aren’t safe for anyone. That little detail stuck with me. And helped inspire and launch an entire line of non-toxic personal care and skin care products so safe that even cancer patients can use them.
When I overcame my bulimia, lost the weight, and kept it off for good, it wasn’t because of any quick fix. I was able to do this by committing to a lifestyle change, having access to the knowledge I needed, and the support that was so essential for success. Looking back at this important time of my life, I can see that not only did this influence the creation of our revolutionary Slenderiiz weight loss program, but it also influenced the entire company’s philosophy.
As one of seven owners – and the only female – of a large and growing company, I’ve learned a lot about holding my own as a business woman, as well as balancing my life as a wife and mother.
When you start a business, you’re not just making your own money, you’re providing employment for a lot of people who rely on you. I didn’t understand the stress that would come from that and all the pressure I would feel. However, that challenge is also a benefit, because you have the power to help the community and society through corporate responsibility and have a positive impact in a lot of ways whether it’s hiring great people or helping to change lives of people.
The work I do is very exciting – and exhausting. I log over 200,000 miles a year flying around the world, and regularly appear on TV, radio and stage as part of my responsibilities as ARIIX CPO.
Finding “me” time for can be pretty tricky. There are times I’m traveling for 2 to 3 weeks straight. I have a long-standing tradition when on those trips to immediately schedule a massage as soon as I land. It helps me re-center and get my balance before diving in. Also, people often ask me how I always seem so full of energy. Here’s my secret: Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, take high-quality nutritional supplements, and put good food in your body. That’s it. Small details, daily choices, big results!
I think balance is all about knowing your priorities and finding rejuvenation in the moments that bring you joy. I’m a wife and mother of two. It’s a constant struggle to balance work and family. That’s the hardest: to be the mom I want to be and the businesswoman I want to be. But then again, the best thing about being a business owner and entrepreneur is the freedom it allows. If I want to go spend an hour or two at school with my kids, I can. I volunteer in my kids’ classrooms and spend time with them in their activities. For me, my family is my R&R. It’s in those moments when I’m reading a book quietly with my son, taking a walk with my husband, and watching my daughter at a performance, that I take a deep breath, unwind, and be at peace in life.
Succeeding as a woman in business
Women definitely bring different things to the table than men in the workplace. Men talk different, interact differently, they make decisions differently. I’m the only female owner in our company out of seven of us. When we sit around an executive table, six men and one woman, and are making decisions for the future of our company, our differences are definitely out there. Yes, men can be kind and soft and gentle, but I am even softer and often approach issues in a much different way than they would. Still, I‘m really grateful that my male business partners are able to make some of the hard business decisions that I really don’t want to make. I think it’s important for women to not try to act the same as men in business, though. Men and women have different strengths. When we all bring those different strengths and perspectives to the table, we end up with more varied and balanced solutions.
As an advancing woman in the workplace, you’ve got to remember that just because someone is older and in a position of power, doesn’t mean that they are always correct. I was naturally very curious and always questioning everything when I was a child. I would sit in the confessional at church with a flashlight and say “I know who you are, you know who I am, why are we sitting in the dark?!” I was always questioning the norm and wanting to know why. This often got me in trouble as a child, but as an adult it has served me well.
Give it your all
Katherine Hepburn said “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” I love that! She’s known for playing strong-willed women when it wasn’t popular. She was unconventional, nonconforming and did a lot for women that up to then had been totally taboo. I admire women who have extraordinary circumstances against them, but push through and succeed anyway. Like J.K. Rowling, who worked in cafes to save money on heat and kept working toward her dream even after she was told that no one would buy her idea for a book. She was a woman who didn’t take no for an answer. She had a dream, she knew what she wanted, and she didn’t accept limitations and pushed through. That’s what I admire.
My father always told me to never settle for mediocrity. I’m always ready to give it my all, I always say “we’re all in!” Failure is not an option. I am in the driver’s seat of taking my dream, finding people and solutions to support it, and moving forward to make that dream happen. And I like the challenges that come with being a leader in my company. I’ve always had my own big ideas and thought that as scary as it is to push forward for your big ideas, I’d rather do that than push someone else’s big ideas. There are a lot of perks to achieving my position, but it doesn’t come without significant sacrifices. Sometimes it’s not easy making the decisions, finding the right people to work with, and putting in more hours than anyone else you know. Being a woman in business is not for the faint of heart. But I get to be with who I want, when I want, doing what I want. And that’s living the dream!