If career happiness is at the intersection of skill and enjoyment, Alexis O’Reilly has officially hit the jackpot and found her true calling.
An Ohio native, O’Reilly moved from the United States to Costa Rica in 2018 with her husband and four-year-old son, seeking an escape from a sedentary lifestyle. After years of working in product development, O’Reilly was left with little career flexibility as a working mom and her husband was itching to leave office life behind. As a family, they’d vacationed in the same town, Nosara, in the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica over the years and always felt at home with both the locals and diverse expats. Once they’d made up their minds to become expats themselves, they found a school for their son, packed their belongings and never looked back.
Between 2016 and 2017, a record-high one in five U.S. women (20%) said they would relocate to another country permanently (source: Gallup). For those brave enough to make the move, there’s a host of concerns including distance from family and friends and adjusting to a new language. But for O’Reilly and her family, moving to a Blue Zone, a region in the world that has a high amount of centenarians, was one of the best decisions they could make.
The Birth of a Nutrition and Wellness Coaching Business
“There’s no fast food here in our town. There’s a lot of little smoothie shops, some açai bowls shops. I see the cows grazing in the pastures and I see the chickens running around. They’re actually free-range, grass-fed, but they’re not getting pumped full of hormones, so the food is just really healthy,” says O’Reilly. In her former town of Columbus, Ohio, there were few options for socializing. A culture of eating out and drinking was a heavily ingrained social norm. Still, in Costa Rica, O’Reilly found comfort in meeting so many individuals who are looking for their purpose.
Once settled in Costa Rica, O’Reilly’s curiosity toward chemical additives in food and nutrition took hold. She voraciously researched the ingredients in her food and skin and hair care products but craved a structured program. She found an online program to learn the fundamentals of how to guide others to a more rewarding, holistically nutritious life.
Long before she had the desire to be a wellness coach, O’Reilly was baffled by the number of people who would tell her their stories. When she combined her ability to listen without judgment with her new knowledge of wellness training, her coaching business crystallized.
Her training is based on bio-individuality, the concept that every person is different and thus will have different responses to healing regimens. Dairy, for example, might serve as a wholesome contribution to one person’s diet but might cause irritation and inflammation for someone else.
Helping Others Find Balance
Nourishment is broken up into two categories: primary foods and secondary foods. Primary foods are career and relationships for example, while secondary foods are what we eat. “The idea is that if you are really full on your primary food, you won’t have a need to use your actual secondary food as a crutch. If you’re doing great at work, you’ve got a great relationship. You’ve got like a great spiritual practice going on. You’re not feeling the desire to just lay on the couch and eat a whole bag of chips,” O’Reilly explains.
“When I talk to my clients who want to lose weight, it’s never about the weight. I try to really figure out how they got to this place. Something else is going on emotionally that caused this person to gain the weight, so I really try to get to their ‘why.’”
O’Reilly’s clients are from all over the world. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, she has enabled a virtual option for sessions. After often fielding inquiries from other hopeful expats looking to make the same leap to Costa Rica, O’Reilly is adding a relocation consulting component to her business.
With each new client, O’Reilly starts with an interactive assessment that aims to identify which parts of the primary food needs strengthening along with paying close attention to any changes voiced by the client. O’Reilly also establishes some concrete goals that help ensure her clients are staying on track with their wellness plan, whether it’s boosting nutrition or decreasing use of chemical-based cleaning products.
“I have a lot more people coming to me for mental wellness and not for losing weight, but we can always add in nutrition [enhancements]. If someone’s having skin irritations or skin problems, I’d have them do a food diary and then we can really just see what they’re eating on a daily basis and maybe work on a little bit of elimination or crowding out. [Instead of] telling someone, ‘You can’t eat this,’ let’s add in extra cups of water every day and then maybe their Diet Coke ® addiction decreases.”
How to Achieve Blue Zone Benefits From Anywhere in the World
The Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica is among four other regions in the world that have been dubbed “Blue Zones” for their residents’ remarkable life expectancies. There’s a common thread that runs through each of the regions, whether it’s Okinawa, Japan or in Loma Linda, Calif., that includes a heavy focus on family and high legume consumption.
Blue Zone benefits are enviable, but O’Reilly believes with a few small lifestyle changes, those benefits are attainable for people residing elsewhere. “Move naturally. Just get more physically active. Costa Ricans are not really going to gyms and running on treadmills. They’re outside, in nature and hiking.”
O’Reilly also suggests eating more plants, finding a sense of belonging such as joining a faith-based community and being firm in your purpose. “People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.”