We had the good fortune of connecting with Marlayna Bollinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Marlayna, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Being grounded in our ‘Why’ has been the root of our success. Our ‘why’ allows us to share the heart behind our brand, the reason we still rise every morning, ready to fight. Our ‘why’ is both the guiding light towards our vision and the anchor for our mission. As they say, “Life is what happens when you’re planning.” The pandemic has proven that even the most well-thought-out plan is no match for the unpredictability of life. When chaos occurs, self-doubt and disorientation also ensue. I’ve found the only way for me to move past surviving towards thriving is to remain grounded in my ‘WHY.’ I’ve been fortunate to know my ‘why’ since 2001, even though I was unable to articulate it at the time. I still remember the moment I felt it, the moment it charted a different course for my life. I was standing in my sister’s living room, and I saw an unfamiliar look appear on my father’s face. It wasn’t just sadness or despair. I was watching the strongest man I know contemplating our latest defeat. He was mourning the fact that another family member died because of inadequate access to quality health care. Becoming a doctor himself did not change his parents’ or siblings’ fate. Losing your family to poor health care is an everyday reality for those living in the wrong zip code. The concept that your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code is widely known in public health, but it’s a reality I’m not willing to accept. I abandoned my dream of being in the advertising industry and joined my father’s fight to create health equity for all. My passion is increasing access to diabetes prevention programs in underserved communities. While my organization’s ‘Why’ is access; my personal why is legacy. I believe we owe it to our children, for generations to come, to have a say in their fate. Their health should be their decision, not chosen for them.

What should our readers know about your business?
Over the last 12 years, the Skinny Gene Project has transformed from being a diabetes prevention advocacy organization to a scalable solution to end the trend of type 2 diabetes in our communities. Although we do everything from community screenings and webinars to helping create statewide legislation to increase diabetes prevention services for seniors and low-income populations, we are most commonly known for our Skinny Gene Lifestyle Change Program (LCP). Unlike a diet or most weight loss programs, our LCP is about helping participants change the behaviors that lead to disease (e.g., type 2 diabetes, heart disease, specific cancers). Participants in our program learn how to overcome the barriers to living well. With one year of support, accountability, and guidance from their coach and peers, participants learn how to reduce stress, have more energy to be active, and feed themselves back into good health. Our graduates are frequently surprised by how much their life has changed in only a year. Their weights are lighter, their spirits are higher, and their outlook on life is brighter. They reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by at least 58%, increase their overall quality of life, and even make some new friends.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love San Diego! I’ve been here for 15 years and still appreciate every beautiful day, which is why I generally like to spend my time outside. Here are some of my favorite spots in SD Favorite Tea/Coffee: Communal Coffee – North Park Copa Vida- Sorrento Valley Favorite Breakfast Splurge: Snooze Favorite Lunch Spots: George’s at the Cove (3rd floor) True Food Kitchen (Tasty and Healthy) Yanni’s Bistro Favorite Walks/Hikes: Torrey Pines La Jolla Cove Del Mar Beach Dinner (and Wine): Juniper and Ivy Market Born and Raised Taco Shops: The Taco Stand (La Jolla) City Tacos Los Quatro Milpas Drinks: Newtopia- Cider Juneshine- Hard Kombucha Modern Times -Beer Ramen: Underbelly Menya Ultra

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My long journey to success was one I never had to walk alone. My parents, husband, and friends have supported me every step of the way, and my daughter is my biggest cheerleader. The heart of our organization is the family we created within it (e.g., Aya, Alyssa, our team of lifestyle coaches, public health interns, physicians, etc.). We are a small non-profit organization rich in passion and partnership; without whom we wouldn’t be where we are today. I want to extend my gratitude to the following organizations for their continued support of our mission: Live Well San Diego, Mission Driven Finance, Mission Edge, YMCA SD County, Neighborhood Healthcare, Community Health Group, 2-1-1, Multicultural Health Foundation, UCSD, SDSU Research Foundation.

Website: www.skinnygeneproject.org

Instagram: @skinnygeneproject

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marlaynabollinger/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SkinnyGeneProject/

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