"A company fast"3 Unexpected Business Benefits Come From Employees Banding Together for Better Health

When half the employees of a PR company took a 10-day fasting challenge, they shed pounds and addictions and, strangely enough, gained bonds of friendship.

The unusual company project started at the top.

“We had a new client, a California nutritionist with an ‘anabolic fasting’ regime for weight loss and cleansing,” explains Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations. “I wanted to try his program myself, both to better represent him and because, frankly, I was curious.”

For 10 days, she would replace all of her meals with a cocktail of powdered spirulina algae and other dehydrated plant materials mixed with 18 ounces of water. Besides an occasional “flex food,” such as half an apple, that was it. It sounded difficult, but within three days, Friedman says she felt energized and clear-headed. By Day 6, she realized her frequent migraine headaches had vanished.

“I felt great and, honestly, after the first couple days, I didn’t miss food,” she says.

She felt so renewed, in fact, she made her employees an offer: If you want to try the 10-Day Transformation, I’ll pick up the tab.

Ten said, “I’m in!”

The 10-Day Celebrity Transformation is part of Superfoods for Supermodels, a dietary program created by nutritionist David Sandoval to help his clients – mostly actors and models — avoid developing the eating disorders rampant in their industries.

He crafted the nutritionally rich, low-calorie 10-Day Transformation regimen for clients who needed to drop a few pounds before a big audition. It’s engineered to maintain high energy and metabolism while cleansing the body of the additives from processed foods.

“By consuming only clean and green nutrient-dense superfoods, slow-burning carbs and highly digestible protein, people lose 5 to 15 pounds on the 10-day program,” says Sandoval, author of “The Green Foods Bible” and touted by the National Cancer Institute as a leader in plant chemistry.

“It’s a way to fast while still consuming the nutrients necessary for prime metabolic function.”

He recently made it available to the general public, issuing a Transformation Challenge with prizes for nine winners.

The EMSI employees received their supplies in January and dug into the boxes, handing out containers of green Power Shake, Herbal Fiber Cleanse capsules, Master Aminos pills, tape measures, printed guides and shaker bottles.

Most were eager to get started.

“See that guy on the cover of the guide? That’s gonna be me,” bragged writer Harold Valentine.

“I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to try to quit smoking at the same time,” said marketing coordinator Will Candler.

“Oh, no!” responded social media campaign manager Jeni Hinojosa. “Does that mean you’re going to be really, really cranky for 10 days?”

Seven started the fast together on a Saturday, agreeing to weigh, measure and take a photo of themselves beforehand, as Sandoval suggests.

On Day 3, they went back to work and enthusiastically compared notes.

“It hasn’t been hard for me,” reported Hinojosa, whose husband, Alex, also took the challenge. “I didn’t even lick my fingers when I fed the baby.”

Russ Handler, TV campaign manager, had a harder time of it.

“By Sunday night, I was ready to eat the neighbor’s kids,” he grumbled.

But they hung in, mixing their 9 a.m. green shakes together, reminding each other how much better they felt, and sharing ways to “legally” dress up half a cucumber, one of the “flex food” options.

“I think it’s much easier doing this as a group,” said Alex Hinojosa, vice president of media operations. “Most of the time I feel satisfied but every once in a while, I just want to bite something. It helps to have all these people around who know exactly how I feel.”

Candler agreed.

“You feel like everyone’s your buddy in this. Every time I want to eat, I text Alex.”

The experience produced other unexpected benefits for the company:

• Team building. The fasting employees worked together as cheerleaders and strategists, and saw how important each individual’s contribution was to the group’s success.

• Increased productivity. Whether it was because they were energized or because they had no meals to plan, their productivity went up. The fasting week was a top sales week for EMSI.

• Esprit de corps. Successfully mastering a tough challenge together significantly boosted company morale.

Seven employees started together and, by Day 11, with only a couple reports of cheating, they’d lost 55.5 pounds.

“And I’m totally off caffeine,” said Alex Hinojosa, who dropped 14 pounds — 6.6 percent of his body weight — making him the big winner.

Candler lost 8.5 pounds and his cigarettes. Executive assistant Marti Carlson dropped 7 pounds — and 10 points off her blood pressure.

Friedman was happy.

“There’s nothing better than seeing your employees, who are like family to me, looking and feeling great,” she says.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations , a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST