Mazarine Treyz: Hey, everybody. Welcome. This is Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising and today I am so psyched to introduce to you Coach Victoria Albina. Coach Vic is going to be speaking at the Fundraising Career Conference in April 2016, and I’m really, really excited to introduce you to her. She and I have been working together for the last year and I’ve just got so many incredible thing from working with her and things I think you need to know as a nonprofit professional and a fundraising professional. So I can just say, from my personal experience, I’m going to link the story about my work with her. But she has transformed how I eat and also a lot of the supplements that I take. I have to say that I feel so much healthier. Probably 100 times healthier since first coming to her. The reason I came to Coach Vic is because I had a weird health issue that nothing could seem to solve. If you want to hear more about that, please go to the blog post. So Coach Vic, now I’ve got everybody intrigued. Who are you and what do you do?
Victoria Albina: Thank you for that really lovely intro, Mazarine. I feel really grateful for this opportunity to have worked with you personally one-on-one, and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to be of service to your community and to the folks listening to this amazing conference you’ve put together. So thanks for the intro and thanks for putting this together.
MT: You’re welcome.
VA: I am a health and wellness coach. My training in coaching was through a one-on-one apprenticeship program, and my training in health and wellness is both through a Master’s in Public Health, which I completed at Boston University which gave me some sort of broad overviews of health, public health, environmental health, and the intersection of humans and our environment which is a thing I think about a lot. I also have a Master’s in Nursing from the University of California San Francisco, and in my other life I worked as a primary care nurse practitioner at an amazing clinic where I helped folks daily to make the big scale and small scale changes that lead folks to feel more and more better every single day.
MT: Wow. You’ve got so much health background. I just love that. But you also are a coach, and your company is called Heartbeets Holistic. How did you get started on that health coaching journey with Heartbeets Holistic?
VA: Right on. So I went into medicine with the hopes of helping folks to make the small changes that lead to the big changes, that leads to folks living the life they’ve always dreamt of, to waking up energized and going to bed appropriately tired. To finding ways to work in exercise in a way that doesn’t feel burdensome, but rather energizing. To help folks heal things, but start with your dinner plate. Start with the way we approach food, the way we approach self care, our relationships with family, with work, with stress. And while I loved my daily clinical work, what I realized was that people really grow and change when they have the consistent, steady support of someone who has no goal other than supporting them in their goal. So I started coaching because I wanted to bring this dream to reality, this dream of helping people little by little, week by week, month by month, making the changes that stick, the changes that lead to feeling like your life is freaking amazing. Because that’s all I ever want, right? Is for people to feel amazing. And through this really slow, sustainable work, people tell me day after day when they refer friends, when they keep coming back, that their lives are changing. That’s the work of coaching, to change the little things that lead, again, to those big changes that stick around.
So that was one motivation was having all this medical training. I have herbal training, training in functional medicine, training in nonviolent communication, training in behavior change, support. I wanted to really have an outlet and a way to bring all that training and knowledge to folks one-on-one. I also came into this work and into the larger work of medicine because I had a really unhappy belly. The language that first popped up was a bad belly, right? But that’s the language we work in coaching to move away from, to shift away from. So I had a belly that wasn’t really behaving the way I wanted it to. I had what doctors were calling irritable bowel syndrome, which often comes with nonprofit work, with a lack of self care. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the smart things to do. I just didn’t really know how to put them into practice.
So I spent many, many years working on my own, reading books as an autodidact, diving into ancient nutrition, into Weston Price, into paleo, into learning all these different modalities in order to heal myself. And now, through Heartbeets Holistic, I get to work with amazing people like you and help folks to heal their own selves with my guidance along the way. So the whole journey has been such a gift, and I wouldn’t change a darn thing about having such an upset belly for so many years because it was the impetus to do this work, to get the education, to learn and learn and learn and learn so I can help others feel better. It’s a gift.
MT: Wow. So you mentioned irritable bowel, IBS. So is that one of the health issues you help people with? And what are some of the other ones that you help people with?
VA: So people come to me because often nutrition is difficult to figure out. Or they’re feeling confused. You know, there’s so many diets and options out there that people feel overwhelmed, feel stressed out, feel anxious about what foods to chose to help with their own healing. And folks come to me for support with things that they’ve had clinically diagnosed. Because I’m a health coach, I’m not doing the diagnostics and I’m not treating or curing any particular ailment, per se. But really I’m just helping folks create a nutritional framework to support their own healing. Irritable bowel is one I deal with often. Thyroid, Hashimoto’s, thyroiditis, adrenal fatigue, low immune systems, those folks who are constantly having a cold or feeling sick can be helped with nutritional changes. Asthma, ADHD, allergies, eczema, anxiety. I deal with a lot of anxiety, depression. A lot of these issues can be really, really healed by doing elimination diets and figuring out what food sensitivities may be lurking, by looking at the known food sensitivities that often accompany – you know, things like eczema is often very reactive to dairy.
So I use an evidence base of science to say, this is what is common. For example, with dairy. And then to say, hey, you’re an individual. Let’s look at you as you and do – for example, an elimination challenge diet to figure out what exactly you are reacting to. Then we go from figuring out what those foods may be to doing what I think is actually the harder, the more challenging, and also then the more gratifying work which is the work of taking this whole slew of health recommendations that may come from someone’s primary care or their acupuncturist or whatever other healthcare professionals they’re going to, teamed with the experimental work we’ve done. Taking dairy out, seeing how you feel. Taking gluten out, seeing how you feel. Adding more coconut oil, more butter, more fat, seeing how you feel. Then taking that and really, really making it practical. One of the things I love doing is helping folks make the changes they want to make in a way that’s not overwhelming and not hard. But rather really to be the new habit and be the new norm.
MT: I love that. I know that that’s some of the work that we did together, and I grew up in a household where western medicine was very much the thing you do because my dad’s a doctor. This is not intended to replace western medicine or to even be official medical advice, as much as it is this is what works for me, I’ve done the research. Let’s see what works for you, right?
MT: Yeah, I just want to stress that for everybody.
VA: People tell me how refreshing it is, right? Because most western allopathic medical clinicians aren’t trained and don’t have the time and clinic to consider bioindividuality, to consider the fact that you, Mazarine, may not need the same food that I, Victoria need, or that my sister needs or that your cousin needs. While we can look at general frameworks of what keeps mammals healthy – less sugar, less caffeine, less refined foods – really addressing each individual as a beautiful, amazing individual person really creates the framework for success. So smoothies might work for me. They might drive someone else crazy. Bone broth might work for me. It might sound super gross to someone else. Working with a health coach gives us a way to tailor the work to the human in front of us.
MT: Speaking of work, you know, in nonprofit work and in fundraising work, people work a lot of hours. Whether you’re an executive director or a development director or a founder, what happens to people when they overwork? Can you share a story with us?
VA: A couple of things happen when people overwork. It’s not just the fact of working too much. It’s also what falls off the table when we’re working too much. So exercise, meditation, time with friends, time in nature, time with family, taking the time to relax, reduce stress. Eat properly, sleep enough, take a bath. All these sort of basic things, like if we look at Maslow. The most basic things of human life can often fall off the table of what feels possible to do when going through a job and doing the good work of changing the world becomes our priority. When that becomes our focus, we fall away. And while it’s tenable for five years, ten years, twenty years, eventually the body will say basta. That’s enough. I can’t go any further. And that’s when we see adrenal fatigue, adrenal burnout, when folks’ autoimmunity develops, things like diabetes or again thyroid. When the body starts telling us, like, hey, I really can’t do these 80 hour work weeks anymore.
I have an amazing client who came to me. She does incredible work in the nonprofit sector, is really changing the world. Is really doing amazing work at the policy level, at the interpersonal level, and she came to me because she was exhausted. She was stressed out. Her hair was falling out. On the rare occasion she was getting enough sleep, she would sleep 14 hours and wake up exhausted again. She realized she was doing what often happens in some nonprofits which was chugging coffee all day, barely eating lunch, and having a martini every night just because that’s what you do. And she wasn’t creating time for herself. Over the last year, we’ve slowly curled back, gently curled back the number of hours she’s at work and helped regain focus by optimizing her cognition, making that brain go nice and sharp with improved digestion, improved nutrition, more self care, daily meditation. All this took a year. This isn’t overnight. But she’s doing one minute of meditation a day, led to five, led to ten, led to actually taking a lunch break for the first time in 15 years and spending that time to center so that she can be at work for fewer hours and get so much more done. Each minute she’s at work now is ten of the old minutes when she was so tired, so stressed, caffeinated, not nourished with her food, her self care, exercise. Her time at task is now so concentrated. It’s effective. And the time she’s not at work, she’s taking care of herself. So she’ll tell you, right? She’ll tell you in a millisecond – and that’s hard to beat – that she feels better. She sleeps better. Her skin looks better. Her hair is growing back.
Everything about her looks and feels better, and then we also did some adrenal testing. So we had her do a saliva cortisol test, and cortisol is one of the stress hormones. It’s really important because it gets you up and keeps you going. But it should follow a natural rhythm in accordance with the world around us, and what was happening for her was that her cortisol levels were the exact opposite of what they should be. When she was having this really high bodily experience of stress hormones, of cortisol, all day long. Which having those high levels of cortisol are terrible for your heart, for your immune system. I mean, I could get really nerdy, you know I can, about the science. But I will spare your listeners. I’ll just say that all the levels of stress hormones in her body have come down to really healthy, really sustainable levels. So it’s just been a beauty to see how someone could go from such an overworked, overwhelmed set of habits to a new set of habits that nourish and strengthen her and her work.
She now in the last year has gotten two huge promotions at work. She’ll say that that’s largely due to the fact that when she’s actually at work, she’s so much more focused and she’s so much more on the game than ever before. Now she’s in a leadership role, and in that leadership role she is institution – when we talk about in coaching, which is five minute dance party, which is when the stress levels are the highest. That’s when you put on – I’ll show my age and say Madonna’s Like A Prayer, and start a dance off, right? For the duration of the song. So she has this staff of like 40, and she’ll just say, five minute dance party! These previously stressed out, anxious, hard worked, underpaid nonprofit workers will just get up and dance their butt off and then sit down and work. And how much more effective are they? Right? How much better is the whole environment in the office? She bought a blender for the office and they’re making smoothies and they’re taking breaks.
The other thing that she’s taught me a lot about that I find so engaging and amazing is because the environment in the office is slowly shifting to be one of self care versus one of over work, they’re able to address the deeper things that are problematic within the organization. So they’re starting to talk about intersectionality. They’re starting to talk about interpersonal stuff, race and class in their work. They’re starting to get deeper and to be more effective as an organization, because they’re starting to be a group of people who takes care of themselves first. I just can’t say enough, you know? This transformation has been incredible, and I give her so much credit for doing the hard work. It’s really inspiring.
MT: Wow, so that’s a really big positive plus for doing the work of actually doing the self care and looking at your food and working with you. So for some people listening, you may be thinking, wow, I’d like to have these but I feel like I just can’t really take a break right now. So some of our listeners would be struggling to eat right. They’re working very long hours. What do you have to say to them?
VA: So I say to start slow. Start small. Go slowly, and be patient with yourself and be patient with the process. All this change doesn’t come in one day. I talk a lot in my work about how baby steps are actually really, really big. And instead, we do kitten steps or puppy steps as you’ll have it. But we don’t aim in our first session together to change everything in your life. What we do is we start with – and I’ll show my public health background here. We start with a needs analysis, and we look and say, “What am I actually eating in a day?” We keep a little food journal, and then start to correlate food and mood, and we do a couple weeks of a food journal. We start to ask those questions, does that morning croissant serve me or does it just leave me feeling crabby and cranky and bloated and unmotivated to work, and probably working slower?
Let me try having some soft boiled eggs. Let me try having some organic, grass fed jerky or some nuts. Right? What are the little things that I can swap in – not swap out, because we never focus on taking away. We always focus on adding in. What are the things I can swap into my diet, into my day so that I’m not running to the candy bowl? I’m not running to the processed foods, the Poptarts, the chips, the cookies. What are the things that I can add in so that by the time I get to 3:00 in the afternoon, for example, I’m not reaching for junk and my mind is calm? I’ve had a little half a teaspoon of coconut oil between meals to steady my blood sugar. I’ve stocked the drawer at work with, again, jerky and nuts. I’m not a huge fan of those snack bars, but girl, you’ve got to do what you can when you can, right? Carb reduction all the way. So if getting one of the lower sugar, lower processed junk food bars is an easy way to not eat something more full of sugar, then go for it.
Maybe take some fruit or some vegetables. A lot of the supermarkets have pre cut up carrots and celery and peppers and apples. Try that with some hummus. Right? There are times to let someone else do a little bit of the labor for you while you make new habits, and there is no shame in that game, right? Because those are the little, tiny quickie things that we can do, fill up on fat and protein to keep your body and your mind going strong.
MT: I love that.
VA: And it’s so good. It’s just such a powerful thing, right?
MT: Oh, it is. In my car now, I keep little buffalo/cranberry bars for when I don’t have time to eat, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s a Tanka bar. Tanka bars are like buffalo and cranberries. It’s like I eat that, I can go for another hour. It’s okay. So Vic, you are teaching at the fundraising career conference in 2016. But what are you going to be sharing with people when they come to your session?
VA: I’m going to talk about some of these stories of over work and what over work and breakdown really looks like. I think it’s often really hard when you’re in it to see it. So we’re going to put together some checklists, maybe a little quiz, have folks really take a look at what’s going on for them and say, “Is my health really optimized? What’s going on here?” We’re going to talk about all of the things that have worked for my clients. So like you said, some ways to keep easy, quick, fulfilling, healthy snacks around. Ways to shift our focus back to ourselves. I talk a lot with folks in general, but particularly folks like us who have worked in the nonprofit sector, in the helping field about putting your own oxygen mask on first. Right? Put your own mask on first. And it can be so challenging.
This morning I spent the most beautiful hour talking with a young woman who works in a refugee support organization. Life is a little stressful for her right now. And it’s so easy when you’re doing the big work of saving the world to remember to save yourself first. And that self care is a radical act, and that taking care of yourself is the first step to helping others, and that if you collapse from not taking care of yourself, you help no one. So we will talk about some really easy, simple no stress ways to put the focus back on ourselves.
MT: I love that, and that leads me to my next question for you, which is so good. In the conference, you’ll be sharing some strategies of how your clients overcame some serious health issues. Could you just share one strategy as a taster with us today, aside from making sure you’re stocked with good snacks? Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
VA: Yeah, about how folks overcame serious health issues, definitely. You know, I always start with looking at nutrition as digestion, and what we may be eating that even though when we’re eating sort of all of the things, it’s hard to say, “Here’s the one food that may be making my joints hurt more.” Or may be giving me a rash. So one of the things I always start with is a periodic analysis, a dietary analysis. We call that an elimination challenge diet where we take out the seven most commonly sensitive foods, aggravating foods. But we take those foods out and gently, with guidance, add them back in while monitoring to see, oh, you know, day four when I added egg yolks I was a little more irritable. And we’re good scientists, right? We go slowly. We make sure it’s replicable. But it’s an easy thing to do at home, and I actually run guided cleanses where I help folks do elimination challenge diets. But it’s something I personally do for my own self twice a year, at least. I go through one of these challenges just to see what’s going on for my body right now.
Every nonprofit person at some point has heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and it’s so simple. If we’re not eating right, sleeping, hydrating, it’s so hard to really move the needle on higher order concerns. So if you are working in a nonprofit, you’re stressed out, your everything hurts, your poops are funny, you feel like food goes right through you or never comes out. Whatever your story is, if you’re tired more than makes sense, if you’re sleeping forever and just not feeling right, if you’re not letting yourself sleep enough, we’ve got to start with the basics. It’s so easy to forget to drink water, to take naps, – I feel like kindergarten had it right. Naps twice a day. But you stop and you have a little snack. You lie down for a few minutes, close your eyes. For a grownup, I might say meditate or color in a coloring book. Make some space for your soul and your spirit, and play with your friends. Remember that? It’s really good for grownups, too – play.
So I’ll sum that all up to say, do the work of feeding yourself. And every once in a while as you’re able, with no stress, connect with someone to help you figure out what foods do and don’t serve your human body. Sleep. Get good, restful sleep. One of the things I talk about is sleep hygiene and making sure that you’re setting yourself up for good sleep. Hydrate. Drink some water. Please. Don’t forget to play, whatever that looks like for you. Hanging out with friends, walking a dog. If you don’t have a dog, get one. Getting back to those basics and making sure the basics are all lined up, your ducks are in a row, gives you the space to then again go to that higher order thinking and really fine tune things and sort of clean up the edges on your diet. Optimize nutrition. Optimize wellness. But man, you’ve got to start with the 101, you know?
MT: Oh, yeah. Oh, I love that. Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
VA: Oh, gosh. I feel like we’ve covered so many of the bases today, and I’m again so glad you’re doing this conference. The folks in fundraising are the folks that keep the doors open, and it’s really hard to – you know, I did a lot of work in the global south, in Latin America, and in West Africa in my public health days, and those flights ain’t free. I’ve got to eat when I’m in country, right? Without the amazing fundraising staff behind the work, there is no work. So I’m really glad that you’re making this space for fundraising folks to remember how important they are and how worthy of care. It’s vital, just vital.
MT: I love that. I love that. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing this today, and if people want to get in touch with you, any seasonal cleanses coming up? How do they get in touch with you?
VA: Absolutely. So my website is www.heartbeetsholistic.com. Facebook, Heartbeets Holistic. Instagram @heartbeetsholistic, Twitter @heartbeetsholistic. Any or all of those platforms, drop me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org, and be in touch. I do one-on-one coaching. I do packages. I’m more than happy to offer a discount for your folks, and we’ll talk about that and put that deal up on the website for you, and I also run seasonal cleanses.
So the cleanses are this 21 day elimination challenge diet, which is an opportunity in a guided and hopefully unscary way to connect with what your food sensitivities might be, and see how much better you might just feel if you cut the things from your diet that make you feel lousy. You might not even know what they are yet. This is an opportunity to figure it out while really, really, really focusing on abundance. Because I don’t like feeling deprived. I don’t love feeling like I’m cutting all this stuff from my diet. I love feeling like, oh my God, this morning I’m going to have a mojito mint fennel amazing smoothie with coconut milk and all this gorgeous fat in it, and I’m going to be full until lunchtime when I’ll have a beautiful quinoa veggie salad with endives and arugula. You see where I’m going here? And that’s what we do on the cleanses. We really focus on adding in luxurious, abundant and easy meals. Because I also don’t want you spending all day in the kitchen and then just not wanting to go back in there ever again. So we work on making it easy and making it practical like I like to do. And at the end, we add everything back in gently.
It’s really phenomenal, and we do it with an online group. There’s a Facebook group. One of my favorite things is just to watch people really connect on there. One of the first groups from 2008 is still connected. I know, it’s amazing. Every once in a while I’ll get a little Facebook alert, so and so has posted in the 2008 Heartbeets Holistic seasonal cleanse. I know, it’s so fun. So many years later. But what’s amazing, people post pictures of their food, pictures of their meals. They’ll ask questions. They’ll support each other. People will post, like, I miss coffee, and five people will say – I know, it’s amazing. People will just chime in and say, like, oh, I’m having dandiblend, or oh, I’m having – you know, decaf earl gray. Have you tried this? Or I’m so sorry your head hurts. It reminds you that you’re not alone in this healing process and it’s so beautiful.
MT: I love that. I love that so much. Oh my God, wow.
VA: Yeah. So I’ll have a spring one coming up. Keep your eye on all the social media and I’ll post the spring one which will be coming out right after the fundraising career conference. You get some coaching time with me as part of the deal. You get all your menus, all the recipes, recommendations for supplements that folks have used to support detox and healing of the gut. It’s really a great time. I actually look forward to when one of the cleanses is happening because it’s such a beautiful thing to watch folks transform so much so quickly and without ever getting hangry.
MT: Yay, no hangry. No, it’s true. I transformed completely how I ate, and then I went to the beach with my friends a couple weekends ago and I made food for everybody at this beach retreat, and they’re like, “Oh my God. Where did you learn to cook like this? And I didn’t get hangry once this entire weekend.” I’m like, that’s right. Because I had food on hand that was healthy and delicious and wasn’t made of crap. Thank you for helping me and helping my friends and my family. I referred my family to you, so I really am so grateful to you for presenting and helping other people have the joy that is improved health through food. Thank you.
VA: Such an honor and a pleasure, every single day, to get to do this work. I’m a lucky gal.
MT: I love that. Everybody, you should totally come to Vic’s session. You’re going to learn a lot, and if you personally don’t have a health challenge but you have a friend who does, tell them to come. So if you just want to feel better, if you’re just kind of feeling a little bit run down, this can help too. So thank you so much again, Vic. Thank you.
VA: An honor. An honor and a pleasure. Thanks to everyone listening for the work that you do. It’s really, really important and I’m so grateful.
Join Coach Vic at the Virtual Fundraising Career Conference April 6th-8th 2016! Who else will be at the Fundraising Career Conference?
How to interview strong for a fundraising role – Interview with Claire Axelrad, J.D., ACFRE
How to create better boundaries at work – Interview with Sheena Greer
How to use your team’s strengths to raise triple your goal – Interview with Kishshana Palmer
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