CHEW Chicago founders bring personal experience to lives' work

2012-11-11T00:00:00Z 2012-11-19T17:30:03Z CHEW Chicago founders bring personal experience to lives' workBy Kelsey McQuade Medill Reports nwitimes.com
November 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Realizing she was looking for something more, something to help reinvent her lifestyle, Jessica Marie decided several years ago to walk away from her career in graphic design.

Jessica Marie felt down emotionally, mentally and physically. She was not satisfied with her career and her health was not where she wanted it to be. She was active and ate healthily, but something was not right. She had found herself suffering from serious digestive problems in her early 20s. She later discovered she had both a gluten and dairy intolerance. She began taking supplements, watched her diet and committed herself to being active.

Her interest in health and nutrition grew from there. After changing her diet and exercise routine, Jessica Marie realized she had changed her entire life. It dawned on her then that she wanted to spend her life helping others change theirs.

So she enrolled at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and traveled back and forth between Chicago and New York City for a year until her degree was complete.

Out of that, Complete Health Education Wellness, also known as CHEW, was born four years ago.

CHEW encourages a lifestyle change, rather than simply changing what you put in your body, Jessica Marie said. To achieve that, people must find balance.

“You’re doing the right thing 80 percent of the time, and you have the other 20 percent to play,” she said.

Oftentimes, people turn to crash diets and detoxing and end up running out of motivation, she said. The programs offered at CHEW teach clients to change the way they think about food.

On paper, she is president and her husband, Joe Hehn, is vice president. But in reality, they are a team. They were married in March 2011 in a destination wedding in Costa Rica. Lucky for them, being married has worked wonders when it comes to the business.

“When you are an entrepreneur and you own a small business, you wear many hats,” Joe Hehn said.

“Joe knows me really well, so he knows my strengths as well as my weaknesses,” his wife said.

The company is multi-faceted, serving corporations and individuals and leading seasonal twice-weekly 3.5-mile wellness walks-the food fitness and fun tour in the Lincoln Park area.

It offers companies a variety of workshops, such as introducing healthy food into meals and offering advice on how to make quick yet nutrient-rich lunches and dinners. Their clients include Leo Burnett, Hu Friedy Manufacturing Company and a variety of other advertising agencies.

The individual programs, called health coaching, are offered in-home in the Chicago area by Jessica Marie, as well as online. It is a three-month immersion and both are custom-designed for people with different needs.

With the in-home health coaching, several services are offered.

Jessica Marie takes the client grocery shopping and teaches her/him to read nutrition facts and labels and how to formulate grocery lists.

Another session involves kitchen staging, a pantry raid and a cooking experience. The staging helps to set up the kitchen to have everything where the client needs it, when she/he needs it. She personally goes through the refrigerator, freezer and pantry to get rid of unhealthy items. There is one-on-one menu planning and food preparation that includes cooking, organization and food storage that allows the client to have meals and snacks for an entire week.

The virtual programs can take place over the phone or Skype and can be done on the client’s schedule in the comfort of her/his own home, Jessica Marie said. There are also "electives" that people can choose, whether or not they are in the three-month immersion program. One is "Recipe Redo," where someone sends in a recipe, and Jessica Marie modifies it with healthier ingredients. Another is "Supplemental Aid," which lets the clients bring their current vitamins and supplements to her and she reviews them and makes suggestions for what else they should be taking.

The health coaching, both virtual and in-person, tends to draw the most people because many need that individual attention and to know that there is a support system there for them, she said. CHEW seems to attract clients who are women ages 30-65.

Her Food Fitness Fun Tour, a seasonal event in Lincoln Park, is inspired by Jessica Marie's invitation to a bar crawl. It is a 3.5-mile walk over three hours with nine stops. They begin at the Green City Market with some tastings and a 20-minute boot camp and continue on to stores like Lululemon Athletica, a clothing store, LUSH, a beauty store, and Karyn’s Raw Cafe, a restaurant that caters to raw food eaters.

“It’s a fun way for people to get out and socialize, or even for those people who haven’t taken the first step towards wellness,” she said.

The client base for CHEW has grown dramatically over the years, Jessica Marie said.

In the business of changing lives, the Hehns find new insight and form new goals.

One of their main goals is that they will be able to raise awareness of the state of health in the United States.

“We have an epidemic in this country. People are eating these awful foods and think that they’re doing good things for their bodies,” Joe Hehn said.

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