November 21st 2015
Extreme Girl Crush: Lorena Puica, founder, CEO and chief visionary of iamYiam
January 5th 2016
Seven marathons in ten days on seven continents? We’re sweating even thinking about this health entrepreneur’s achievements…
I was feeling pretty smug about my sub one hour 10k time until I met Lorena Puica. Her roster of extreme challenges and expeditions is quite literally Guinness World Record worthy (she’s just waiting on confirmation for several ‘firsts’ as it happens), and her transition from the fast and fierce world of finance to the domain of DNA profiling and natural health makes her quite the career role model too. I spoke to Lorena about some of the toughest tests tests she’s faced, leaving a successful job city job to start her health company, iamYiam, from scratch and what on earth keeps her going during those long hours pounding pavements...
Get The Gloss: Where did you grow up and what were your aspirations as a young girl?
Lorena Puica: I grew up in Arad, Romania. I was always eager to try new things and throughout my teens I enjoyed learning ballet, gymnastics, aerobics, tennis, martial arts & painting. Nevertheless, my secondary & high school years were mostly dedicated to studying maths, physics, chemistry and psychology. I was always fascinated about finding out how our minds work and why things in our ecosystems work as they do; understanding the formulas that make our world go on and on. My biggest dream was to become a physicist just like my dad!
GTG: You describe your first passion as microfinance- how did you first discover you were talented in the field of finance and strategy?
LP: At 17 my father passed away and that sent my family into quite a bit of turmoil. Those challenging times made me focus on what I needed to do next. Challenges have a beautiful way of enhancing focus and expanding our self-imposed limitations - and I love making the perceived impossible - possible. So I left home with only 300 euros in my pocket, moved to Timisoara and started studying finance.
Soon afterwards I received various scholarships one of which was an Erasmus study exchange scholarship in Germany. Studying international management in Deggendorf and doing research work for the director of the program led me to Microfinance. That passion further expanded as I worked on a strategy project with Allianz SE in Munich.
Microfinance is for me a beautiful tool to empower even the most disempowered to take action to change their circumstances. Microfinance provides very small loans, (especially to groups of women due to their very high repayment rates), to enable them to start their mini-businesses – which can be buying a cow and selling the milk, or buying a mobile phone and renting it to the rest of the village for one-off calls. This is a beautiful example of how even the smallest of effort can lead to a significant positive change.
GTG: How did you make the swap from the corporate business world to natural health? What inspired you to found IamYiam?
LP: About seven years ago I started having serious health issues that came to a head two years ago. At that point doctors in Germany as well as here in the UK recommended a course of action that I disagreed with due to its severity of implications for my overall wellbeing. I believe that it is rarely a good thing to take out an organ from our bodies, unless there is a high degree of certainty of that being the only way forward. That is how my journey with natural health started. Once again I wanted to transform the perceived impossible into possible. I started researching what the most effective courses of action for my condition were, and after a year and a half of engaging with everything from yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, Ayurvedic treatments, retreats across India and Morocco and extreme adventures, I achieved a balanced state of health.
Along that two year journey I realised that there is so much value in natural health and that there must be an easier way to access it and benefit from it.
The key turning point, however, was the 777 Challenge I participated in this past February to raise money for an educational charity. Running seven certified marathons on seven continents in ten days gave me more than enough time to meditate and reflect on ways in which I can bridge the two worlds of modern science and natural health. That is how iamYiam was born. When I returned from the challenge I felt that my mind was purely focused on finding ways to bring that vision to life sooner rather than later, and so I decided to leave investment management in July and incorporated iamYiam!
GTG: How does IamYiam work?
LP: Simply put, we have been called the Airbnb of Natural Health Experiences, meaning that we bring together quality practitioners of natural health (e.g. meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage, psychosomatic therapies, retreats & corporate packages) with consumers of natural health (like me) and make it easy to book the best experience tailored exactly to individual needs and goals.
I believe that experiencing natural health should be simpler, so we apply modern science to ancient wisdom to find what works for each of our health objectives. Our goal is to simplify the journey to select an experience and book a practitioner as per individual health aim, for instance sleeping better, reducing anxiety, lowering stress, recovering from injury or just enhancing overall wellbeing. We have built an algorithm based on over 110,000 academic research papers and genetic markers to achieve this.
Our mission is to help you book the best natural health experiences tailored precisely to who you are and the goals you want to achieve. We do this by providing personalised health recommendations supported by scientific research and analysis, to help you select what is best for you.
With iamYiam you can have one of three journeys:
1. Browse the site, find what’s right for you, book an experience
2. Sign in, set your goals, get a biometrically balanced™ plan, book your experiences
3. Sign in, order the DNA profiling package to fine-tune your biometrically balanced™ plan, book your experiences
GTG: You never shy away from extreme challenges…where does your drive and motivation come from?
LP: For me, challenges are an incredible growth and learning experience. With every one that I engaged with, I have understood both something more about myself, about others and about my ecosystem. I believe understanding is the key to more enjoyable life experiences. It is very powerful to find meaning and to have a better understanding of our own abilities by going beyond limiting beliefs such as ‘I can’t do that’, ‘nobody in my family has done that’ or ‘I have severe arrhythmia so I should not be running a marathon … let alone seven’, or ‘I had asthma so I could never climb a mountain, let alone the tallest one in Africa’. I could go on and on with a list of limiting beliefs that could have stopped me, but they didn’t!
GTG: What has been your hardest challenge so far?
LP: From a physical endurance perspective, it was the 777 Challenge of seven marathons on seven continents in ten days, finishing in Antarctica.
However, personally, the toughest one was my first ever extreme adventure of walking 861 km in 19 days (about 46km per day, without any rest days). The toughest thing with challenges is the psychological journey that took me from ‘this is absolute madness’ to ‘why am I doing this?’ to ‘I could be sitting on a comfy sofa and sipping some lovely rose tea while reading instead of walking in the middle of nowhere and getting lost more often than I care to remember’...
I could go on and on about the internal questioning of ‘do I have it in me to finish this?’ and ‘why am I doing this?!’. The answer to the first question has been in over 70% of cases a resounding yes (the 30% of ‘nos’ just provided extra motivation). The answer to the second is my lifelong mission of understanding how the world works, how I function as a human being and, based on my own learnings, what I can do to help others smooth out their own journey through life.
GTG: How do you balance running marathons with setting up a new business?
LP: I feel the marathon challenge and the business challenge are but two sides of the same coin. Both require a grounded and tenacious mind and a healthy body.
I also find that running helps me gain clarity. Very often I go for a jog or a walk with two or three different issues lingering in my mind without an answer. After a few minutes moving in fresh air, all sorts of ideas spring to mind that prove very effective and simple. Kind of like a mini eureka moment!
GTG: What would be your advice to others taking on an extreme or daunting challenge or change?
LP: The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, and I genuinely mean that. I found that taking one step at a time builds both stamina and also a momentum of motivation. Having a plan that slowly builds up to the effort required for the big challenge has great positive effects both on physical ability and internal motivation and drive. With every little step you achieve, you are more motivated to make it to the next milestone.
GTG: How do you like to relax? What do you do in your down time?
LP: I tend to find relaxation in moments throughout the day, doing one minute meditations while I walk, eat or gaze out of the window and breathe. My weekdays are quite unpredictable, iamYiam being still in its “baby” phase. Therefore Sundays tend to be my “me days”. I love to wake up in the morning and while having my matcha green tea imagine how would the world be and how I would feel if for example I achieved all I planned for that year, I helped one person that week and brought a smile to their face or I found a way to make it easy for likeminded people to connect and exchange thoughts.
I also love reading philosophy, both modern and ancient and enjoy private yoga sessions tailored to my health goals. Walking meditations along the sea front and inviting friends over to subject them to my mediocre cooking skills are high points too. Every Sunday tends to be different and I love it that way!
GTG: Could you let us in on the next challenge you’re planning?
LP: I am planning a Vipassana silent meditation; ten days of no mobiles, no communication, no speaking, just introspection & meditation. This is definitely the scariest one of all for me!
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