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Hidden Gems: Meet Alex and Courtney Barilec of Mindful Health Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex and Courtney Barilec. They share their story with us below:

In 2015, Alex was diagnosed with a nut allergy on a routine doctors’ visit. What began as bad news, turned into a quest for solutions over the next 2 years. He tried many different approaches, and the best solution was taking a hard look in the mirror at the way he was living.

At the time Alex was working full-time and he was in graduate school. He ate mainly processed food, didn’t sleep much or well, and drank alcohol on the weekends. His health was struggling. He was confused. He was a college athlete just a few years ago, and now going up the stairs at work he would find himself out of breath. That’s when he met Courtney.

Courtney was working on her Master’s in Nutrition & Integrative Health at Maryland University of Integrative Health. The two were college friends who reconnected in 2018 over their interest in living healthier lives, coupled with their care and concern for how the standard American diet and lifestyle was negatively affecting the people around them and the planet. They quickly became enmeshed in each other’s lives and set out on a quiet quest to change their own lives from the inside out.

They found themselves desiring a change from their hometowns of Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY and decided an experiment living amongst the mountains in a new environment might help them on their health journey. After falling in love with the Wasatch Front, and each other, their health journey began to pick up momentum.

Courtney began working full-time as the Nutritional Health Coach at the local Natural Grocers in Ogden, UT. She finished her degree and chose to focus as a Certified Health Education Specialist and began to seek ways to integrate her degree with her yoga teaching. It was at Natural Grocers that she put her knowledge into action by helping people learn more about healthy alternatives, supplements, and making changes in their life.

Alex followed his background in human development towards professional life coaching. He had spent time working as a high school hockey coach, college career counselor and in sales and training, always seeking ways to help those around him maximize their potential. He became professionally trained through the Coach Training Alliance and began his private coaching practice in 2020, amidst the pandemic. He is now a Certified Associate Coach with the International Coach Federation, the global standard of the coaching profession, and helps aspiring leaders become more successful in all areas of their life through focusing on their well-being.

In the summer of 2021, while on their honeymoon in Maine, Alex and Courtney began to brainstorm what it would look like to bring their work together. They sought to create a life they truly desired to live while also making the biggest impact on the health and well-being of their community as possible.

They saw a real problem in the health and wellness space. So many approaches were focused on external, “magic pill” type solutions. They saw many people around them make transformational changes for short periods of time, only to slip back into old habits. They knew that there had to be a better way. And that’s how the Mindful Health Collective was born.

Alex is a master in helping people create sustainable healthy habit change in their life from the inside out. And Courtney is a master in foundational nutrition principles and helping people figure out how they can apply these to their life. They combine their skills to meet people where they are at. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to health and wellness and that’s the approach they take with everyone they work with.

Alex and Courtney incorporate mindfulness at the core of their approach to help people tap into their inner wisdom, vision for a healthy future and identity shifts needed to see transformational results. They believe to achieve full health and well-being we must turn inward to increase awareness of our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Today they offer programs to help busy and stressed professionals develop individualized blueprints for healthier lives physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They do this through a combination of 1:1 coaching, nutrition education, workshops, yoga, and retreats. Courtney and Alex focus on spending time creating relationships and partnerships in their community with businesses, schools, gyms, and networking groups. They love hosting workshops or trainings to help people learn more about healthier approaches.

Courtney’s favorite place to be is in a family’s home providing nutrition education and activities, leading private yoga for individuals or groups, or dreaming up a retreat. Alex loves to speak to ambitious leaders and entrepreneurs, who feel stressed and stuck, about the link between wellbeing and performance, and his superpower is helping them to maximize their potential through 1:1 Coaching.

The couple calls Ogden, UT home and when they aren’t helping amazing people build healthier lives you can find them in the great outdoors all year round. They love to ski, hike, bike, climb and backpack along the Wasatch Front and explore all Utah has to offer. Moab is their favorite place, which is where they first reconnected and later got engaged. You can learn more about what they are up to at www.mindfulhealthcollective.com and for healthy insights join their bi-weekly newsletter “Moment of Wellness”.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Like most small businesses it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. One initial struggle we had was figuring out how to combine our gifts and interests in a way that was going to be most helpful to our clients. Through this struggle we have learned that our business is going to ebb and flow based on the needs of the people we work with, and what is going on in our lives. There is one common thread that links our work together. We are passionate about taking a holistic and whole person approach to health and well-being.

Another challenge has been marketing. With so many options and so many “experts” sharing their approach, the choices can be overwhelming. After trying and failing at several different approaches, we really honed it back to a simple strategy of teaching and connecting with people. No funnels, Facebook ads, or SEO. Our goal is to help you live a healthy life. We know that making the commitment is not easy and requires trust (in yourself and us), which is why we avoid marketing that captures individuals in a vulnerable state.

One of the most impactful relationships we’ve formed to help us get our name out in the community has been with Weber State University and their Wildcat Microfund. The funding from the Wildcat Microfund allowed us to seek professional help in branding, identity, web design, and bookkeeping. It also helped us to quickly expand our network, to run workshops and webinars for groups in the areas and to gain momentum.

We are both immensely grateful for the support from family, friends, colleagues, and connections throughout our network who have helped introduce us to other amazing individuals, offered guidance or words of wisdom and have encouraged us to keep sharing our gifts with the world.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Mindful Health Collective?
We aim to improve the health of our community by guiding busy professionals and entrepreneurs on their path toward their full potential for health and well-being.  It’s a stressful world today and we are constantly surrounded with too many options that are not health supportive. We offer nutrition education, 1:1 coaching, private/corporate yoga, and wellness workshops and retreats. What sets us apart is that we help people create personalized approaches to support their health and well-being. No one size fits all approaches. We also work with people on the root of sustainable healthy habit change as a fundamental drive to success. We are both master’s in our fields and have combined our work to offer our clients unique access to high-level education and coaching services so you don’t have to piecemeal solutions together yourself. We are most proud of our ability to help people pull out their own wisdom, develop clarity of their path, and confidence to put it into action. We want people to know that the work we do helps make creating change easy. So many programs tell their clients what to do only to leave them feeling stuck or stressed when the solution doesn’t fit their lifestyle or needs. We help people build a foundation of a healthy life first and how to make it simple, realistic, and manageable.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
We are guided personally and collectively by our values. These are important to us because they serve as our north star. We use them to make strategic decisions, draw boundaries, and create a life we love to live that makes an impact. Here are a few things that we try very hard to bring into our lives and work daily.

Believing Everyone We Meet is Creative, Resourceful and Whole

Being immersed in the world of habit change and health, we’ve both been frustrated with the cultural phenomena occurring around this space: so many people looking for the magic answer, pill, diet, plan, etc. It’s an approach that breeds negativity, dread, drudgery, and unsustainable change. And there are so many people out there selling the perfect solution. We don’t believe it exists. Each person is a unique individual, and we honor that. We approach our work knowing that each person who asks for our help is creative, resourceful, and whole. We know they can do the hard work and it’s their responsibility to make changes in their life. We are there to provide information, strategies, accountability, and support when the going gets tough.

Focusing on Sustainable Approaches

We’ve been really inspired by the idea of the Triple Bottom Line, which means that all our decisions need to create positive outcomes for our planet, support our people positively and help generate a profit so we can continue to do this great work. We are holistic change professionals. We help people get down and dirty with their lives in all areas like scheduling, stress, diet, energy management, saying no, putting themselves first, developing clarity and being consistent. All the internal work that is necessary to create sustainable change is important to us. We have seen our clients leave jobs they hated, get big promotions in their career, create more time spend with their kids, recommit to focusing on their relationships and health, form a schedule that includes taking care of their health, and much much more.

Cultivating Mindfulness

So many of the problems we see in the world today are rooted in disconnection and a lack of focused attention. When we’re hurting, or others are hurting we have the tendency to run away or cover it up. Unfortunately, we know from research that doing that isn’t all that helpful. Stressors or challenges manifest in other parts of our lives. We help people become aware of what they are sensing and feeling in the moment without judgment. That is mindfulness. We acknowledge the pain and suffering that is inherent in the human experience, and we don’t shy away from it. Instead, we help people lean into that pain and discomfort to find that is the path of creating a life of meaning and purpose.

Practicing What we Preach

One compliment we often receive is that we practice what we preach. It feels natural, which tells us we are in the right spot! We do not think we would be able to serve the individuals authentically and fully if we didn’t walk the talk. We are deeply committed to living long healthy lives and we know that starts when we are young. The habits we have today will determine our destiny tomorrow, or 40 years from now.

We started a bi-weekly email newsletter we’re super excited about. Our aim is to compile the very best articles, videos and other media that will benefit you on your journey of developing healthy habits and enhancing performance and overall well-being. We share tools, tips and tricks from the worlds of nutrition, neuroscience, positive psychology, performance science, personal development and coaching.

It is also very important that we make time to rest, digest and focus on our own health. We are focused on playing the long game by prioritizing our well-being and the relationships we have around us to generate the fuel needed to live long healthy lives and help others do the same.

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Image Credits
Jay Maloney

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