Bentley Adams (CEO and Founder, Way)
Bentley is a passionate, mission-oriented entrepreneur whose college degrees were in Training and Economics, primarily BioMechanics/Functional Movement. Seeing how people were happier and healthier after shifting movement patterns to align with their natural structures gave him the deepest sense of reward he’s felt professionally. Having built impactful and successful businesses that exited or made the Inc. 500 list, in consumer health as well as clinical laboratory, his passion and mission have led him to founding intuitive eating company Way. Check out Way and learn more here.
Can you explain your job to a five-year-old?
I help people enjoy life more, by helping them understand why they eat what they eat and staying grateful for their bodies. Adults sometimes have a hard time with that.
That's basically it. If you understand what you eat and you love your body or appreciate your body. And I think love is an interesting word because we can talk about body positivity and neutrality—there's a clear difference there. But I think just staying grateful, no matter what, for your body. It's funny how, once that happens, once that really happens, when somebody owns that decision to stay grateful for their body, their stress level goes way down. Everything shifts and the stress is such a big part of it.
So, that's kind of how I look at it. I just tell people to enjoy their life more, really through understanding what they eat and staying grateful for their body.
In many ways I think young children are so connected to their bodies. In a way that we could lose touch with as adults.
Exactly. I think around the world, a lot of the things that happen are when children are coming out of that childhood amnesia. That's the clinical name for that pre-development period before they even know that they would even have a body and they start getting taught in school.
They have an appreciation for the body when they're young. Whenever I think of kids, you don't really have to get them to get out of a lot of the pain, and stress, and all the issues that happen in daily life that adults have to deal with. They don't have to get out of that. They're just them—all the time. And it's beautiful. They're already grateful for their body. They're like, “I love my tummy, it makes funny noises when I eat.” Let's all be like that.
What excites you most about your job?
The deep sense of reward, that even if just a little, we're helping people live a better experience of life and find a sanctuary from the stress, shame, guilt, and pain that's at the base of diet culture and so many millions of people’s experience.
It's the first thing that for me made me want to work in health, which was when I was in school focusing and helping people with functional movement, with body movement, and seeing how they were starting to move in alignment with their natural structures.
It's a very interesting thing where changing how we move really can affect literally the amount of pain, the amount of stress, and the amount of brain activity that you don't or do have in a day. And so it’s just getting people moving.
My mentor taught me this: Losing weight is a horrible way to get people to make real behavior change. It's always about how they feel. And when they do feel it, they really start making decisions around that. That's where the power is. And when that happens, something unlocks in their mind and they're like, I'm just happier.
I think it's funny how, again, staying grateful for the body and connecting with it, it really just changes how the body works.
So giving people an experience that helps them have a sanctuary from stress is a big thing. It's the biggest killer really that we know of. So, you know, the most rewarding part—the thing that excites me the most—is figuring out all the avenues to help people the best we can, and reducing that stress.
Which trend will change the future of medicine?
So, what I want and what I think are two different things. What I want is food as medicine. Food as medicine in the long-term future, once we help people with their relationships with food and their body. Incorporating nutritional science and using food as medicine prior to that point is likely to create failure and more restrict-binge eating cycles.
The near, short-term future will definitely be influenced by the prevalence of GLP-1s (i.e. Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro). However, that may have a shorter shelf life because of how strong the claims and expectations are. The data is pretty clear that unless a patient stays on the injection forever, they'll regain most of what they lost and any previous condition they had will return, once the drug is no longer being used.
Moreover, I think we need a broader social and cultural education on what the drug is doing—effectively, it's basically enacting a deep, protracted state of ketosis. Ketosis is very well clinically understood to be a survival mechanism—the body eats itself as a result of starvation, in order to survive. Thus, we need to ask some fundamental questions, assuming patients stay on GLP-1s in perpetuity: What's the impact on internal organs? What's the impact on brain function? On neurodegenerative diseases?
There's a whole host of things and we won't really have answers on 5-year and 10-year data for quite some time. For now, supply and reimbursement issues are the barriers to access, so coming off the GLP-1 is a likelihood, so we need to address the recoil and probability that during their treatment period, due to less frequency of eating, the patient has not made any real changes to shifting their lifestyle or healing their relationships with food and body.
And GLP-1s are going to be marketed to huge proportion of our population, including those who are still growing. And that scares me. And so that is going to be the future that we're going to be talking about for two years.
I think, in the long-term future, it has to circle back to food as medicine. Actually having an understanding of the relationship with food in the body and learning how to listen to the body.
Looking back, which trends in this industry have you missed or underestimated?
Not really "missed", but I definitely underestimated the mental health wave and de-stigmatization of therapy. I’m a huge advocate and supporter for this wave, I’m just honestly pleasantly surprised with how we've moved forward generationally with this all-important area of health and life.
I think that I also underestimated how, despite the science, the consumer drive for quote-unquote weight loss is still extremely high. And that's not something new.
And I think, at the same time, that what I underestimated is the prevalence of the “stop dieting” movement. I don't think that I understood how intense it is and how deep it is and how many people feel it. But the percentages are kind of crazy. And we've started to analyze internally. We asked people who went through one of our heterogeneous marketing funnel, when asked the question, “How much do you agree with this statement: I'm ready to explore something different because restrictive diets have failed me so much?” Somewhere between 53.6% and 75% of people who are dieting—which is about half the population—want to stop dieting.
Which digital health initiative or startup deserves more attention?
Stress as a category is so interesting to me, particularly through the lens of the Harvard Study on Adult Development, as well as the U.S. Surgeon General's recent statement on the physical damage of loneliness and isolation. It's a fascinating and yet obvious area of life we can likely all see or connect with—isolation causes stress, chronic stress causes chronic inflammation, and inflammation is underlying 50% of the known diseases—including the biggest killer, CVD/IHD. We need more action in creating organizations, experiences, and tools that contribute to a social and cultural fabric that's compassionate and makes less stress for us all.
I would say, if there was one startup that's not Way, then I’d say Equip. I think they do a great job with eating disorders. And those two are connected—stress and eating disorders.
Where would you put a million dollars?
If I couldn't invest it in Way, I would definitely invest in stress caused by loneliness and isolation.
I think I’d love to invest in working toward a world where we’ve figured out how people can live in a competitive, capitalistic environment and produce while solving the income disparity issue, but on the other side of the coin, figuring out the stress which comes with living a high-intensity life. Which we all do—we all work a lot. Compared to, around the world, we still have one of the highest—if not the highest—hours per week ratio of any developed nation.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Progress over perfection. Progress is, you know, getting 80% of it right and then watching, going, running further. It sounds simple, and it is.