Our founder, Aaron, had the opportunity to sit down with keto health coach, Olena, to discuss her recent transition from Ukraine to California, the benefits of keto, and her overall journey into wellness coaching. You can watch the entire interview HERE or read through their insightful conversation below:
A: We are so grateful to have you in the U.S. Can you share a bit about your life in Ukraine and your journey to California?
O: I feel very grateful and lucky to be here. We got lucky to be here during [the war]. All people see on the news is this terrible tragedy and I am very sad because Ukraine is amazing. I would like people to know the other side of this country because people in Ukraine are very hospitable and the cuisine is a keto paradise. All traditional Ukrainian food is very fatty and nutrition-dense. [Ukraine] has a lot of fermented food and it’s all just amazing! It was hard for me to come to California even though it’s a place of dreams for many people. I had a great life in Ukraine. We had a great Keto community [in Ukraine] and I was surprised when I came to California and not all stores are equipped with keto food!
A: How and when did keto become as popular as it is in Ukraine today?
O: Ukraine is a very progressive country. It’s a big place for a lot of people in technology and there are a lot of connections between Ukraine and the rest of Europe. I think that all generations have issues with health like diabetes and obesity. Younger generations understand these issues and how the keto diet can help with these issues.
A: How did you get started with health and wellness coaching for women?
O: Originally, I was a journalist. I worked for Elle and Cosmopolitan and was writing articles about dieting that were not very good. I was promoting crazy dieting, but I didn’t realize how bad it was back then. In my 30s I was permanently exhausted with migraines and allergies and I made up a diet to help. I ate lean protein and vegetables and basically followed the Dukon diet, but it is SO boring and tasteless! I started “cheating” and eating some fats and a miracle happened. Now I know that the miracle is called ketosis, but back then it was just realizing that I was waking up very energetic and motivated! I lost weight; I forgot about my migraines. As a journalist, I started digging into this topic and found out about the keto diet and the science behind it. I started a blog and I had a lot of readers, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. I felt like women needed more help so I got my certificates and started coaching. My focus is on women because we are still not treated equally to men. It affects a lot of [women’s] wellbeing because they don’t have the time and energy to focus on their health. We are expected to do housekeeping and take care of the children and relatives and keep up with the neighbors, coworkers and so on. There is also a huge pressure on women to diet and look a certain way. People expect women to eat like birds. Many women tend to choose salad with cheese over a steak which leaves them hungry and without enough nutrients. My goal is to work with women as a health coach and to talk about lifestyle, not just diet. My motto is: we should all be feminists and low-carbers.
A: What are the benefits of being Keto overall?
O: I would say that the keto diet changes you as a person. You can be a better person on the keto diet because of all of the health benefits. It helps you reset. We are meant to be strong, motivated, and energized. When you start the keto-diet you change your chemistry and how your genes express themselves. You become stronger! This is why so many people who start the keto diet go onto ice bathing or advanced meditation. You have so much energy and you feel powerful, like you can do anything!
A: I love that! I feel like a lot of personal power and mental strength comes from what I am eating and drinking.
A: Are you still coaching clients in Ukraine? How are you finding new clients in the U.S.?
O: People are finding me mostly through social media. I have an instagram account that was more popular before, but some people have followed me because of my content related to [the war]. This is how I can show people how I live my life and feed my family. It’s not just a product to sell, this is my lifestyle.
A: What are a few tips you give new clients about switching to keto?
O: I think the number one tip is to eat more food. It’s hard to get rid of dieting behavior. People attempt to count calories on the keto diet or control their portions, but they really just need to eat more food! Of course it should be good quality animal protein and healthy fats, but you have to eat more. The second tip is to not only focus on food, but other lifestyle factors. Sleep is crucial. If you are a complete beginner just start with changes to your sleep, not your food. All my advice is very individualized, but if I had to think of another tip I would say: Be prepared. [Going keto] is a big change! If you ate a certain way your whole life and now you are changing everything, it is easy to get distracted. You should get rid of distractions in your house, your car, your office. You should bring good foods and snacks in so that when you are hungry you will always have something healthy to grab.
A: What are things that you would like people to know about Ukraine and its people that we might not be hearing in our everyday headlines?
O: I think that the Ukrainian government does a great job with PR. They really show Ukrainian bravery well and all of these examples are real. There was a woman who threw a jar of pickles at a drone and took it down! Ukrainian people are unstoppable. They say, “ok I might not have weapons, but I have a jar of pickles and I can fight.” As a keto coach, I saw so many examples of this bravery where people know that they can hold on and resist. So many of my clients are in spaces occupied by Russians. They are eating lard because they know that if they stick to their keto diet they will stay strong, focused, and able to fight which is crucial under these dangerous conditions. I have so many stories like this. Another one is people going outside between bombings to exercise because they know that they need to stay in good shape to fight. It’s incredible.
A: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that!
A: Everyone at Brass Roots has their own favorite thing about Sacha Inchi. What is yours?
O: I found out about Brass Roots and [sacha inchi] from KetoCon! I think the taste is good and the flavors are all great! Almonds are boring so it’s great that there is something new and interesting. As humans, we are evolutionarily predisposed to want to try new things in order to stimulate our brains. We need to eat different foods to get different nutrients. So, it’s great to discover a new taste and an unusual product.
A: Thank you so much for meeting with us today and sharing your story, it has been such a pleasure. What is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
O: The best way to find me is through my instagram @olenacilantro. I answer all direct messages myself and I am happy to connect with people to answer any questions!