How 3 Baby Boomers and a Haitian Orphanage Shaped My Ability as a Health Copywriter
I grew up steeped in alternative health.
My mom is an educated woman, an avid reader, and a researcher who was passionate about raising a healthy family.
Growing up, we were the kids who weren’t allowed to drink milk or juice (much less soda or caffeinated drinks), even when we were at other people’s houses. We poured water on our cereal. I never even tasted a Coca Cola or a Pepsi until I was in college. As kids, our sugar intake was restricted to, say, 3 M&Ms as dessert after dinner. If we got candy at Easter, we were allowed to select one piece a day to eat, so it would last till Halloween. And then if we got candy at Halloween, it would last till Easter.
When we would drive around in the car, we would listen to cassette tapes by “The Juiceman” (Jay Kordich), and I remember drinking in every word as a 10-year-old. Even at that age, I couldn’t understand why EVERYONE wouldn’t take advantage of the amazing nutritional value that was packed into fresh juice.
As a young teenager, I helped wash and juice our carrots for the family on a daily basis. As kids, my siblings and I would call carrot-beet-spinach juice “chocolate milk.” Considering that we were literally deprived of drinking ACTUAL milk, we genuinely thought chocolate milk must taste like this.
We not only had the book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” on our shelves, we actually went out and stalked the wild asparagus. Fun fact: You find more asparagus growing beneath power lines than in random places in a field. (My theory is that asparagus seeds must pass through birds undigested, and when they sit on the power lines, they plant the seeds in their droppings.)
We raised our own chickens and enjoyed their eggs.
We made bread from grain that we ground fresh right before we baked it.
And guess what? Growing up, we were almost never sick. We never got cavities. We never needed to go to the doctor. My mom had her “concoctions” for the little issues that did arise from time to time, such as ear infections. But for the most part, we were healthy, energetic, and strong.
As the years went by, mom bought and voraciously read book after book after book. Jordan Rubin. Sally Fallon. Weston Price. The Hallelujah Diet. Paleo. Keto. Kombucha. Barley Green. Cutting out gluten. Cutting out nightshades. Cutting out grains. Detoxing. Healthy skin products.
You name it, she probably tried it.
It was as if she was looking for the one “silver bullet” that would make her perfectly healthy and solve a specific health challenge that she has struggled with ever since she was a teenager.
She embraced each new book or supplement or diet with a special kind of passionate abandon, an infectious joy, an irresistible enthusiasm that THIS was FINALLY the ANSWER.
And she certainly didn’t keep her knowledge to herself. She shared her contagious advocacy with all her friends. It was amazing.
In other words, my mom is the ideal target audience of almost any supplement or health product you can think of. (Except weight loss. She never struggled with being overweight.) My mom is the adoring fan, the epitome of a receptive listener, the ideal potential customer who is ready and HUNGRY to take in the message about a health product from someone with a promise.
Target Audience: When I write health copy, I can just picture my mom as the person I’m writing to.
Then there was my dad.
He wouldn’t even eat yogurt.
He viewed any minor alteration to a recipe as a cardinal sin.
Carob powder instead of cocoa powder? Horrors.
Tasting kombucha? Over his dead body.
Any minor alteration to his breakfast, like adding berries to his oatmeal instead of raisins? Not a chance.
My dad is the skeptic.
He’s the epitome of the more “resistant” side of the market.
His engineer brain craves logic. Facts. Proof. Demonstrations.
But once you win him over on an idea, and once he’s solidly convinced, he’ll change his ways and remember the facts for life.
Whereas my mom would discover “THE ANSWER” over and over and over again (and then forget it as soon as she found the NEW thing that was “the answer”), my dad would actually hold on to the ideas that he was convinced of. He would integrate them into the bedrock of his life. And 30 years later, you can still hear him telling people the exact same message in the exact same words.
Somebody convinced him of the value of drinking purified water once. And to this day, you’ll hear him asking a new acquaintance in casual conversation, “Which one of these 3 things do you think is the most important: The air you breathe, the water you drink, or the food you eat?” And no matter what the person answers, my dad will argue for water.
At another time, somebody convinced him that drinking milk was not healthy for you. To this day, he’ll tell people that drinking milk is bad for your health.
My dad is slow to come around, reluctant to warm up to new ideas, and resistant to trying new things. But when you win him over, it’s generally permanent.
Objections: When I write health copy, all I have to do is imagine I’m trying to convince my dad.
Then there is my husband.
Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about 3 Baby Boomers?
Yes, my husband is my parents’ age. Actually, he’s two years older than my parents. The funny part about this is, if we ever had a child, the kid’s father would be older than its grandfather. (It’s ok. You can laugh at this.)
So anyway, my husband never had a clue about eating healthy.
He ate off the dollar menu at McDonalds on a daily basis for almost 20 years.
When I met him, I learned this fact and looked at him like, “How are you even alive right now?”
My dearly beloved is genuinely clueless about nutrition and health.
And he’ll make innocent comments like, “Well, what’s the FDA for if it’s not out to protect people’s health?”
He didn’t even know that too much sugar was bad for you.
But he’s open to learning.
So you can imagine how big of a shock it was for him to start juicing, eating healthy, whole foods, and cut out fast foods after we married.
It was a HUGE change.
But he is seeing the results… feeling better… enjoying better digestion… and having more energy.
He used to say he was “64, going on 95.”
Now, he gets sick less than I do.
It’s truly amazing what can happen when you give the human body the building blocks it needs for your cells to restore themselves.
Empathy: My husband reminds me how many people out there truly do not know about healthier options.
So then, there’s me.
I’ve already mentioned the fact that I was rarely sick growing up. I had never even broken a bone. I had unlimited energy. I felt like I had NEVER tapped into my full potential. I always felt like I had reserves.
Initially, I was pretty arrogant about this fact.
I couldn’t understand illness or pain.
In fact, even up until my early 30s, I went so far as to legitimately wonder, “When people are sick, why don’t they just muscle through it and live their life anyway? Like, why can’t they just ignore it?”
And then I went to Haiti.
I believed that I was invincible.
From 2012-2013, I was the schoolteacher in an orphanage in Haiti. It was a tremendous experience in many ways.
Me “slowing down” started a couple of weeks before I got to Haiti, when I tore my MCL in a water skiing accident. So I was literally walking slowly at the time.
Even this was super weird to me. Walking fast everywhere I went was practically part of my identity. Sometimes, I would even run, just for the fun of it. I mean, walking was just too slow of a way to get from point A to point B.
The MCL healed and then I got malaria.
That knocked me down pretty hard.
Then, I got cholera.
That was pretty brutal, too.
And then I got some weird who-knows-what illness (I never got a proper diagnosis) but it was probably a cross between dengue fever and some kind of respiratory illness.
And that laid me flat for a few weeks.
By the time the school year was over and I got back to the US, I was a shattered wreck of my former self.
And now I understood how unrealistic it was to “just ignore it.”
My liver was messed up.
My kidneys were out of whack.
I had NO energy whatsoever.
Talk about understanding the pain points.
I remember how defeated I felt the first time I attempted to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee with some friends. We were at a park and I ran the short distance from the picnic table where I was sitting over to the field where we were going to play. And just with that short distance, I was done. I had used up the rest of my energy for the day. I walked slowly back over to the picnic tables, fighting back tears. I couldn’t do things like this anymore, I realized.
I remember how miserable I was when I went on an epic ski trip in the Rocky Mountains with my siblings that should have been SO fun. It was a beautiful day. We rented our skis and got on the lift.
I carefully selected the very easiest hill that I could ride down. It was a green circle (the easiest difficulty rating), and the slope was so gentle that I could literally just stand up straight on my skis and coast. Not too fast, and not too slow. In my younger days, this hill would have been WAY too tame for my adventure-loving self. But now, it was just hard and tiring.
I tried one more hill, and accidentally got onto part of a blue diamond section (a bit harder). I was so exhausted that I literally had to sit down in the snow and rest multiple times on the way down to the bottom of the mountain.
At that point, I was done. I knew it would have been literally dangerous for me to try another hill, even the easiest one. So I just sat by a bonfire with nobody to talk to for the rest of the day while my siblings had a grand time carving up the slopes.
I spent the next 4 years just fighting to have enough energy to make it through the day. All of my previous experience and knowledge about healthy eating was insufficient for this new challenge. Whereas before, I was able to “cheat” once in a while, now, my healthy diet became a necessity for existing at the barest minimum level of survival.
I struggled to work. I would crash into bed at night, utterly exhausted. I would wake up in the morning and feel like I needed another night’s rest before I would begin to feel ready to face the day. I would spend my entire weekend barely moving, just trying to recover strength to face the next Monday. And I had a sales job where all I had to do was sit in front of a computer. So it was by no means a grueling, laborious job.
It got to the point where I would go into the health food stores and just buy stuff. I was trying anything that could possibly help. This liver cleanse. That probiotic. This energy supplement. That superfood.
I felt the gnawing awareness that “if I got just a little bit more sick, I wouldn’t be able to work,” and that terrified me.
Little things became normal to me… like leaving my purse behind and carrying only my driver’s license, work badge, and one credit card with me (because my purse felt SO heavy and tiring to carry). Even my keys felt like a too-heavy burden.
Happily, I’m now doing much better, and I’m SO grateful to have energy again. But all of these experiences with chronic illness, pain, inflammation, and low energy taught me a valuable lesson.
Now, I have firsthand experience of what it’s like to suffer with a body that refuses to “bounce back to normal.”
Now, I can write about the pain as an insider, not like an outsider-looking-in-and-trying-oh-so-hard-to-be-appropriately-empathetic-but-actually-failing. I know the physical as well as the emotional pain.
Pain Points: My season in Haiti introduced me to illness and pain as a daily companion. I have lived this.
So here’s how all this works together.
Pair the experiences I’ve described above…
…with the writing skill that keeps people engaged (you read all the way to here, didn’t you?)…
…plus, add in a personal obsession and awestruck wonder at the study of biology…
…and then sprinkle in a dose of emotion (did you laugh at how “the kid’s father would be older than its grandfather”? Did you feel defeated along with me when I couldn’t even get START the game of Ultimate Frisbee because I was already spent?)…
…combined with the creative ability to think outside the box and do unconventional things (like putting my subheads at the END of the section they introduced? Who does that?)…
…and you’ve got the ingredients for a killer health promotion.
If you’ve got a healthy product that needs traction through some copywriting love, let’s talk.
If you want your copy to talk to the hearts of ideal customers like my mom, while overcoming the objections of people like my dad, while gently educating people like my husband, while pressing on all the vivid pain points of the people who need your solution… it’s probably fair to say you wouldn’t be leaving money on the table.
We can work up your funnel, your sales page, your VSL, your emails, your ads, your checkout page, your upsells.
And it’ll be fun.
Because I bet your product is amazing.
Hey, my mom might even tell all her friends this one is really THE ANSWER.
Let’s do this.