Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I’m a Nutrition Coach, but I Refuse to Tell You (Exactly) What to Eat

12 Week Meal Plan 

Meal 1
5 egg whites
1/2 cup oats

Meal 2
4oz chicken
1/2 cup brown rice

Meal 3
4oz chicken 
4oz sweet potato

Meal 4
4oz tilapia

Meal 5
4oz cod

When you read the above, what is the first thing that comes to mind? 

I mean, aside from this:  

"Five spears of asparagus, how many times a day??"

The meal plan listed above is what many people envision when they think of a diet plan. Somehow, certain foods have become known by many as having magical fat-melting properties. Egg whites, protein powder, chicken, oats, sweet potato, brown rice, tilapia, cod, broccoli, and asparagus have developed a reputation as the only foods that will land you in Shredsville.

Spoiler: that is false. 

Yes, those foods will work in the right quantities, but it's not the only way, and it's certainly not an enjoyable or sustainable way for a long - or, really, any - period of time. 

Brace yourselves, my friends. I am about to lay down a cold, hard fact that will rattle the dieting world right down to it’s protein-powder-filled core:

There are no magical fat-loss properties in any single food item that some coaches are forcing down their clients’ throats.

Bodybuilding Folklore 
Years ago, I thought the above diet was The Only Way, too. As a matter of fact, the menu listed above looks nearly identical to the diet I followed for 18 weeks (!!!) for my first Figure show, and it’s extremely likely that most physique competitors have followed something incredibly similar. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with the foods listed above if you tolerate them well, and enjoy eating them - most of them are great, and nutritious! I’m also not arguing that eating those foods in the correct quantities for your body will get you leaner - they will. 

However, you don’t have to eat those foods in order to lose fat. It’s not the only way, and, I'll happily argue that there is a better way if you don't genuinely enjoy those items. 

You want to lose fat, but you hate cod and broccoli with a vengeance? No biggie. Eat something else. 
Eggs make you gag? No problem-o. Eat something else. 

I’ve had clients tell me that their past nutrition coaches have told them that there aren't substitutions for chicken. Chicken. Or oatmeal. OATMEAL

Riddle me this: What if you don’t have access to chicken or oatmeal? More importantly, what if you vehemently despise chicken or oatmeal? Or what if, like many people, oatmeal doesn’t digest well for you, making it miserable to eat? 

You’re supposed to - what - eat it anyways? 

No, no, no. 

“But, Jen, I thought I had to have protein powder post-workout because of it’s bioavailability?” 

If you like protein powder post-workout, then have it. However, if you don’t like it, or it upsets your stomach, or it doesn't satisfy you, or for whatever other reason it doesn’t totally float your boat, then eat real food that contains protein post-workout. Problem solved. 

I now interrupt this blog post with a short story:

A couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation between a trainer and his client at the gym, and the client was telling him that she hated protein shakes. She told him that the taste grossed her out, and she never found one that she liked. 
His response: "Well, you're just going to have to deal with it."


If you hate protein shakes, you don't drink them. For anybody. Ever. Also, fire that trainer immediately. 

“But, asparagus is a natural diuretic.” 

Groovy. You don't need a natural diuretic at several meals each and every single day, for 18 weeks straight. 
Or, at least, you shouldn’t

I understand that some coaches still do water manipulations with their physique clients during the final week of dieting leading up to a show. This is a topic that is worthy of a post all on it’s own, but even if you choose to take diuretics and eliminate some extra water for a show, you sure as hell do not need to start at 18 weeks out by scarfing down asparagus by the truckload. 
Some coaches are saying that it can not be kale, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, or any of the other beautiful, nutritious green vegetables that are available; it has to be asparagus.

Say what? 

I love asparagus, but if you force me to eat it several times per day for weeks on end, I will likely end up hating it, for eternity. I refuse to do that to myself, or any of my clients. 

I Won’t Tell You Exactly What to Eat

For years now, I have been running a very successful nutrition coaching company, and I’m going to unapologetically toot my own horn: I am really, really good at what I do. 

I am positively elated to have the opportunity to guide, coach, encourage, and cheer people to success in order for them to become healthier, happier, compete (powerlifting, weightlifting, physique competitions, and other sports), or change their body composition to boost their confidence. 

There is just one stipulation when it comes to my services: 

I don’t - and won’t - tell my clients exactly what to eat. 

I do not give food plans laid out like the one at the beginning of this article, telling them precisely which food to eat, and when. As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I despise those types of plans, because they are removing, and therefore disabling, the client from the decision making process, which is crucial for their long-term success. 

Let me repeat that: specific diet plans that lay out exactly which foods a person needs to be eating, and when, is taking all of the power away from the client, leaving them totally dependent on the coach. 

The entire purpose of coaching is to guide and teach. A good coach gives the client the tools to succeed, guides them to make the decisions that will set them up for sustainable success, and then sets them free. 

Go Fish

It’s like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

I’m all about teaching people how to fish. I help them figure out what works best for them, get them more in tune with how their body is reacting to certain things, we make the necessary changes, and it's magical. There is no requirement to scarf down 17 pounds of chicken per week, or a pallet of broccoli, nor cartons of egg whites. Everybody is happy. 

As much as I truly cherish every opportunity to work with each individual, I do not want my clients to need me forever. My goal is to set them up to thrive on their own. 

“Can’t You Just Tell Me What to Eat?”

Nope, and lemme tell you all of the reasons why not. 

First off, you are an adult, which means you should have an active role in the decision making process regarding which foods you put into your body. 

When I was younger, I remember sitting at the dinner table for hours while I stared at those cold, soggy little brussel sprouts, unexcused to leave the table until I finished them. I vowed that when I was an adult, I’d never eat those miserable mini-cabbages again! (Untrue. I love them now.) 

You endured many adolescent years being forced to eat whatever was prepared for you, now you get to call the shots. 

Good Food, Bad Food 
When we follow a strict and narrow list of specific food items, we start to develop unhealthy thought patterns in regards to those foods, even if it’s subconsciously. The foods that are allowed become the “good” or “clean” foods, and the foods that aren’t on the list are considered “bad” foods, which leads to unexplainable and irrational food phobias, like a fear of fruits, or white potatoes - both of which can have their place in a nutrition plan for fat loss. 

I could rattle off an insane number of foods that are both healthy, and conducive with fat loss. You are not relegated to a list of ten foods in order to get to your goals! 

When you are told what you have to eat, the first week will be fine. The second week will be tolerable. After that, however, it can start to seem like punishment. 

It’s almost lunchtime and you are hungry… until you realize that it’s the same old tilapia and broccoli again, which is the same thing that you have eaten the last 14 days in a row for lunch. Wah-waaaaah. 

You start to think mean thoughts about tilapia and broccoli. You realize that you may actually now hate tilapia and broccoli, which is a shame, because guess what’s for dinner?? 

Day in, and day out, for weeks a time.

Food sensitivities
Some people can develop food sensitivities if the same food is eaten over and over and over again. I developed food sensitivities to eggs, chicken, and almonds due to over-exposure because I ate an obscene amount of them over a couple of years. Variety is important. We need nutrients from a wide variety of sources. 

Of course, we all have our go-to meals and foods - I certainly do - but it’s one thing to eat them because we enjoy them. It’s another entirely to eat the same ten foods over and over again because somebody is forcing you to. 

Not only is food variety important for optimal health, but it helps ward off food boredom. Nothing will kill your ability to be consistent with a nutrition plan quite like being bored to death with the food that you are being forced to eat. 

Food Rules for a Nutrition Plan 

I hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, because I’ll be honest - I’m not usually a fan, but in this case, it’s justified. 

Availability, and Substitutions  
This is pretty self-explanatory. What you are going to eat needs to be available. If your plan says you must have chicken, and you don’t have any chicken available, that is going to be a problem. Your plan should have plenty of substitutions, so that you don’t find yourself stuck at a seafood restaurant, in a panic because they don’t have chicken breast, and that is the only thing your coach said will work. (Which again, is completely false and totally ridiculous, but I think I've made that clear by now) 

It Needs to Sound Good! 
We don’t always get to eat exactly what we want. If we did, I’d subsist off of filet, carrot cake, and whisky, but we all know that won’t cut it. However, whatever you are eating still needs to sound pretty dang appealing. 

It Needs to Taste Good! 
No doubt that you’ve seen somebody that is dieting sit down to a dry piece of meat that vaguely resembles chicken, and a big soggy pile of some unidentifiable green vegetable, and the look on their face screams killmenow

If I had to narrow it down to the one spot where people get tripped up the most when it comes to trying to make healthier food choices, it would be that their food doesn’t taste good. Eating the same crappy, boring, bland, unappealing food is setting you up for disaster. You’ll end up eating the food that you didn’t want to eat in the first place, and then you’re left unsatisifed. This, in turn, leaves you ravaging the cupboards for something that does sound good, or, you’re just pissed off. Neither situation is desirable. 

Choose Your Own Food

Food is not merely sustenance, and anybody that tells you that it is is either lying, or an automaton, and either way, be leery. 
Food is glorious! It’s fuel, but it’s also social. There is nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to truly enjoying it. 

If you are able to choose your own foods based on what you have available, and what sounds good, the chances of you staying on track are infinitely higher than having somebody dictate to you exactly what to eat. Additionally, this gives them all of the control, and that's not fair. It's your body, which means you make the choices of what you eat. 

Fat loss does not only come from chicken and broccoli, or cod and asparagus. There is a wide variety of beautiful, tasty, nutritious foods out there that are fantastic for health, performance, and fat loss. 

Learning to make solid choices on your own, and tuning in to how they make your body feel, the better your chances are for long-term success! 

If you are interested in my nutrition coaching services, you can contact me at JenComasKeck@gmail.com 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's All In Your Head: a Mindset Makeover for Lasting Change

It's All In Your Head: a Mindset Makeover for Lasting Change

“I know what to do… I know how I should eat and how to train, but… I just can’t seem to actually do it.” 

I hear this all of the time, and there simply aren’t enough font altering options to emphasize just how much I understand. 

You can have a wonderful training program and a fantastic nutrition protocol, yet unable to execute them due to certain thought processes and mental barriers that are holding you back - many of which we may not even realize are happening!

Maybe you’re obsessing over the next meal, or when your next indulgence will be, and worrying about which foods you can or can’t have. When things don’t go as planned, you’re dealing with guilt and negative self-talk, which eventually leads to labeling things (food, days, and ourselves) as “good” or “bad”. All of this starts to eventually pour over into other areas of your life, and pretty soon, you find yourself avoiding things that should be fun, such as social situations or vacations, simply because you aren’t sure how to handle them, which ultimately ends up affecting the quality of your life, and that is not okay. 

It saddens me to admit this, but…  I’ve been there. It isn’t fun, and can be quite consuming. 

For years when I was trying to make changes to my physique, I allowed myself to become trapped in the restrict-binge-guilt-restrict cycle that often accompanies really restrictive dieting. I would diet hard, indulge, feel guilty, and then try to “make up for it” by being even more strict with my food and intake, and the entire process would repeat itself over and over. Never thinking I looked quite good enough, and wasting an embarrassing amount of time dwelling on my flaws, I suffered from a wicked case of “If, then”. “If only I could get to x body fat percentage… if only my abs were visible…. if only I wore smaller jeans….  then I would finally be truly happy!”

It’s All in Your Head 

Mindset, how we think about things and react to them, is the foundation upon which lasting change is built. Without permanent habit change - which entails getting to the root of the issue - results are only temporary.

Let that one sink in for a moment. 

It is easy to tell somebody, “Stop eating those cookies every night” or “Stop caring what other people think of you” but how well does that usually work out?
Often times, it isn’t realistic to expect somebody to alter their behavior just because you tell them to. If it was that easy for them to just “stop”, then they probably would have done it by now.
Instead, we must dig deeper, and learn how to look at things from a different perspective.
A good coach - whether it be for nutrition, training, or life -  knows that their job is just as much about the mental side of things as it is dishing out (see what I did there?) which foods, how much of them to eat, and which exercise protocol to follow. . 
Often times we know the end result that we desire, but there is something that is preventing us from being able to execute. 

My friend Jill Coleman knows all about this. As a former fitness competitor and model, personal trainer, coach, and mindset aficionado, she understands the mental games that we play with ourselves to both justify and perpetuate certain thought processes that prevent us from meeting our goals, and more importantly, being happy with ourselves! 

In honor of the launch of Jill’s 10-Week Mindset Makeover, I had the chance to ask her a couple of questions about where so many women are going wrong in regards to mindset, and how her program can help make lasting health and physique changes. Here is what she had to say: 

Mindset Makeover

I've followed your stuff for years now, and it's been incredible to witness you evolve and shift your focus from solely diet and exercise topics, to the deeper things that affect our health and physique, such as mindset and habit change. 
What made you realize that lasting change involved more than just which foods we ingest and the workouts we do? 

Love this question! 
The JillFit blog has been around for almost 4 years now and contains 500+ blogs, so luckily for me, it's been really fun to watch the content change over the years as my own journey has shifted. I started out as a figure competitor and fitness model, engaging in solely physique pursuits for years. It was an amazing experience, seeing the body transform, but no matter how lean I got or how many tearsheets I collected, I never felt at ease or happy in my body.  
Dieting constantly was misery, and when you are in that mental space, you cannot see out of it. I spent many years berating myself for not being perfect with my eating, and then disgusted with myself for being what I perceived to be "weak" or "undisciplined" or frankly, just not good enough. My mindset was just always: leaner, more muscle, less sugar, more cardio, be better, stronger, thinner, etc AND THEN you can relax and be happy.  
And so, I thought it was the diet and the exercise that mattered most. If I just found "the best meal plan" and did the best workouts consistently, then of course I'd get the body of my dreams and finally like myself!  
Welp, it doesn't work that way because information does not equal transformation, and just because I had "the diet" and "the workouts" didn't mean I'd be able to do them perfectly or consistently. 
Implementation is everything. For the most part, people know WHAT to do, they just can't do it. And not because they are lazy gluttons who "don't want it enough," but because we are human and willpower is exhaustible. Plus, we have many focuses: kids, partners, jobs, home life, school, whatever, and the only people who can get and stay super lean are those who focus on it exclusively, like pro competitors and models who are getting paid to look that way. And even they struggle and the pool of those individuals is very small anyway. So for the average multi-tasking woman to compare herself to that is frankly absurd. And yet we all do it, and it doesn't serve us. 
The final piece for me came when I realized that hating yourself into positive change is impossible. Guilt, shame, remorse and self-digust are terrible motivators.  
Who's healthier: the person who's 12% body fat but hates themselves and is completely body-obsessed? Or the woman who is 25% body fat but loves who she is, wakes up excited to workout and eat healthy and doesn't waste a million hours stressing that she's not good enough according to some arbitrary number? I'd say the second woman every single time.

How important is mindset when it comes to making change, whether it be modifying physique, enhancing health, or changing the direction of one's life in a positive manner? 

Mindset is everything. I kind of sort of hate the word "mindset" because it feels really overused, but also somewhat esoteric. What I really mean by "mindset" is actually PERSPECTIVE. I've known women sitting at 10% body fat who are painfully insecure and I've also known overweight women who wake up every day killing life and loving every inch of their body. Perception is everything. You literally create your reality in every second with how you choose to see the world, how you see others and how you see yourself.  
In general, when I talk about mindset, it's to contrast two specific models:
  1. The Victim Mindset and 
  2. The Empowered Mindset. 
When we play the victim, we feel like life is out to get us. We say, "Why is this so hard??" and "How come so-and-so seems to do this effortlessly?" or "Why am I the one this bad stuff always happens to??"  
Can you see how these statements take our power away? They create the perfect scenario so that we get to continue being the one "done wrong" and unfairly treated. Playing the victim leaves us helpless to make a change. And it's also a choice, by the way :)  
The Empowered Mindset, on the other hand, is also a mindset that we can CHOOSE, and when we do, we get to be the creators of our life. When we perceive that we get a say in how our life unfolds, we are more likely to TAKE ACTION to make it so. Even when in situations that aren't ideal, people who choose an empowered mindset always feel like they have a choice. Is it always easy and pleasant? No, but they know that by choosing their attitude and their effort, they can change their circumstances. 
It's that simple. 
The Empowered Mindset is about possibility and achievement. The Victim Mindset is about staying small, scared and helpless. It's 100% your choice. 

Today is an exciting day, as your wildly popular program, The Mindset Makeover, opens up! In this program (which I have gone through), you ask some really interesting questions, and challenge our current perspectives, which leads to looking at things in a completely different way. 

How can somebody know if your 10-week Mindset Makeover is right for them, and what are some of the topics that they can expect to work through? 

Awesome! Yes! My 10-Week Mindset Makeover launches this week, and we've had over 500 women go through the program so far, and I'm pumped to have it out of retirement for the week! :)  
The program is for women who have exhausted all other options and are honestly ready for a huge mental overhaul. Meaning, they are sick and tired of stressing out about their physique constantly and wondering if they are ever going to be good enough/thin enough/successful enough/whatever enough. It's a game we never win, and certainly not by "dieting harder." 
The 10 week educational program takes the participants through 5 modules including intro to mental awareness, beating your inner victim, active acceptance and how to talk to yourself more effectively for physique change plus boosting body esteem, how to choose your attitude in every moment for success and putting it all together into a doable long-term strategy for physical and mental change. 
It combines the latest in positive and change psychology, with some of the new age personal development insights plus some unique takes on the fitness industry as it relates to body esteem and self-confidence. 
JillFit's motto is "You can have a cookie and still like yourself after," and this program is all about teaching you how to interact with your environment, other people and most importantly--yourself--to become the best version of you. 

What kind of time commitment is expected to participate in the program? 

I'm not going to lie--this program is not for someone who wants to merely dabble. This is a hardcore mindset change program. I'll often be asking you to take 10 minutes out of your day and complete some exercises to get at the core of you, your beliefs and the places you are stuck. 
The program is 100% educational in nature, but it involves the participant doing the work. I want each woman to know themselves better than ever at the end, and truthfully, that's going to take some time, introspection and the desire to unearth some potentially hard and scary truths about themselves. Each email takes a couple minutes to read, and then some exercises can take 5 minutes, while others will take more.  
Obviously, the more you put into the program, the more you get out of it. I've had plenty go through the program and learn a ton without doing any of the exercises, but ideally, the program is best for those who want to make real, sustainable change and stop wasting time looking anywhere outside themselves. 
This program is 100% about the individual. And of course I share plenty of embarrassing, open and super vulnerable stories from my own past so that everyone knows they're not alone :)

You've had a ton of people successfully complete this program with outstanding results. What are some of the biggest changes that people have reported? 

The biggest and best outcome is a complete mindset shift away from The Victim Mindset to an empowered one. 
I love getting emails from participants afterward saying that they've completely taken control of their life, their body, their career, their relationships, whatever. Ultimately, this program is about creating a life you love and feeling like you have a say in how it all plays out.  
The program can get emotional for people, and I've had women write and say they got back in touch with an estranged loved one or the program saved their marriage or they made a complete career change. It's been amazing to see. 
My personal goal? For each woman to appreciate who they are in the world, 100% and show up authentically and powerfully, as a result of going through this education :)

While almost everybody has tried to make alterations to their diet and activity levels at some point or another, I've found that diving headfirst into the mental aspect of things can be far more challenging. If you could give anybody a piece of advice as they embark upon your program, what would it be? 

Yep, I agree totally, Jen. Mindset change is so difficult! 
Usually, focusing on diet and exercise is easier because it's clinical. You're either compliant or you're not. And when you're not, it's easy to point the finger: "My coach is the worst!" or more common: "I'm the worst! I can't even follow this freaking diet for a week!"  
Negative self-talk is the biggest waste of time and energy, yet it's it's also the most effortless thing on earth--we all do it, and then wonder why we're not getting results. This is humanity's natural default state--to blame others or ourselves, which is really just one big distraction when it comes to outcomes. Blaming and complaining is a crutch. And it's also not a solution. Emotions are important, but action is what moves us. 
Mindset work is tough because it requires us go beyond the human default state. It requires we TAKE 100% RESPONSIBILITY for everything in our lives. Our thoughts and actions, the situations we find ourselves in, even if they were a result of someone else's actions. Doesn't matter, because regardless of whose "fault" something is, the bottom line is that we can never wait on others to change in order to be happy or accomplished. We have to do the leg work ourselves. 
The key with mindset work is ownership. And ownership takes courage and looking inward. Shining the spotlight on those not-so-useful parts of ourselves like the feelings of not-good-enough and the real reasons why we need to get thinner. This is hard, and sometimes painful. We have to give up the story that we've been done wrong or that life has "happened" to us. 
Mindset work requires taking 100% responsibility in every moment. And though it can be scary and uncomfortable, the alternative to doing this work is staying small, scared, insecure and never feeling like you have a say in your life. And I don't know about you, but the latter sounds a lot worse! :)
Thank you so much, Jen, for having me! Your readers are the best! Honored to be taking up space on your blog today!  


If you are ready to make lasting change to your health, physique, and happiness, you have to start with the foundation, which is your mindset. 

10-Week Mindset Makeover

Also, Jill is doing two free webinars today, Tuesday, July 22nd, at 12pm EST and 9pm EST, titled “Five Female Mindset Insights for Physique Change”

Jill will chat about the things that typically trip women up when it comes to reaching their physique goals, and how to shift your perspective to keep you moving forwards. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What To Look for in a Diet Coach: The Best in the Biz Sound Off About Contest Prep

What to Look for in a Diet Coach: The Best in the Biz Sound Off About Contest Prep

“Cod and asparagus”

“Okay. What else?”

“That’s it. I’m only allowed to eat cod and asparagus for all of my meals leading up to my show.”

“But… you’re 3 weeks out.”

“Yeah. It sucks. I’m doing cardio twice a day, too. I’m kinda scared what is going to happen after the show.”

This is a conversation I had about a month ago with a woman that was preparing for her first Figure show, and had reached out to me with concern. For five meals a day, she was only allowed to eat cod and asparagus. She is part of a "team", which in this case means (and sadly, such is the case with many of these prep teams) she is following a cookie-cutter diet program, and participating in one-size-fits-all group training sessions, regardless of individual needs. 

Getting back to her diet, let's crunch the numbers. At 4oz of cod per serving, and let’s say 10 spears of asparagus per meal, five times a day, breaks down to about:

100g of protein
12g of fat
30g of carbohydrate 
628 calories per day

Plus two-a-day cardio, and strength training four days a week. 

There are multiple problems here. 

There is the glaringly obvious, which is that she is totally miserable. Personally, I love asparagus, but force me to eat it for 140 meals in a row and I may hang myself. 

Next, she is starving, and not in that facetious “I’m so starving I may die”  type of way that I claim each time I leave the gym, but she is actually, genuinely starving. 

Less than 650 calories a day? Are you kidding me? 
Hell, even less than 1,000 calories a day. Are you kidding me?? 

Also, her concern about what happens after the show is completely valid. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to re-enter a world of ‘normal eating’ when all you are used to consuming is fish and asparagus? 
Unfortunately, I predict serious binging accompanied by a ton of remorse, followed by extreme restriction. Rinse, and repeat. That is a scary, scary path to be on, especially when you are fresh off of a competition, when most people struggle with a depressing case of the “What now?”s as it is. 

Bad Coaches

Horrible diet coaches, and more specifically to this article, contest prep coaches, absolutely pervade the industry. These reckless individuals are recommending cookie-cutter starvation diets and obscene amounts of cardio, driving their client (and the client’s health and sanity) into the ground. 

Subsisting off of nothing except for protein and vegetables, drinking only distilled water, cutting out all sodium for the course of the entire prep, using an arsenal of stimulants and fat burners, two-a-day workouts, fat coming only from fish oil.... the list of ridiculous tactics employed to get these women to the stage goes on and on. 
These women then turn to myself and my colleagues to help them sort through this metabolic nightmare once the show is over. It is heartbreaking, and it is rarely a snap to fix.

Make No Mistake - It’s Not Easy

Interestingly enough, every time I write about irresponsible diet coaches, I always have a few people rebuke me (and not surprisingly, it's always the people that have to resort to hairball tactics to get their clients leaner). Their rebuttal is always "competition prep is hard, and there is no way around that", and I agree with that to a point. 

Contest prep will rarely be a walk in the park. 
Let’s get that straight right now. 

Of course, there will always be the outliers that breeze through their prep. (We want to strangle those people. Kidding. Sort of.)

For most of us, though, contest prep is certain to be challenging and uncomfortable. You will likely be hungry, have cravings, and struggle a bit with dips in energy. You may suffer from lowered libido, irritability, and some strength loss. There will be days that you are prepared to do really desperate things for 30 more grams of carbohydrate. You may accidentally eat half of a carrot cake in the middle of the grocery store before you realize what you're doing. I get it. This is normal for many people preparing for a show. 

However, as a responsible coach, it is up to us to decide just how difficult we will let a prep be, and it's imperative that we take into consideration possible repercussions the client is going to have to deal with during the prep, and once the show is over. 

The coach that I mentioned in the beginning that has the client eating nothing but the same two foods every day, all day, is obviously not concerned about the client’s re-entry into post-competition life, and this is an aspect that must be taken into consideration. 

Professionalism and integrity aside, a coach is dealing with another human being, their health, and happiness. I certainly hope that your coach wants to see you succeed long after you’ve worked with them - because they should. 

Good Coaches vs Irresponsible Coaches

An irresponsible coach is one that takes on a client to prep for a show, knowing that there is not enough time to get the client contest ready in a somewhat healthy manner. 

As a nutrition coach myself, I am not afraid to turn down clients. If somebody comes to me, and wants to step on stage in 12 weeks (or 14, or 18, or whatever) and I know it’s not possible without employing extremely aggressive and dangerous tactics, I do the following:

  • I shoot straight. I simply tell them that they need more prep time in order to do things in a somewhat healthy manner, and still bring their best package to the stage. 
  • If they aren’t okay with finding a later show date, I will not take them on as a client. Period. I refuse to compromise their health or my integrity for a self-imposed deadline.

If a coach tells you that they can’t get you ready in a safe way for the show date that you have set, and that you require more time, it doesn’t make them a bad coach; it makes them a responsible one. 

I take my client’s health - both physical and mental - very, very seriously. Sure, I could recommend some idiotic diet, such as the cod and asparagus one above, coupled with obscene amounts of energy expenditure work, but I refuse to do that. No way, no how. 

I’d rather see somebody take 5-6 months to come in slow and steady, rather than make a big sweeping transformation in 10 - 12 weeks. The latter may look impressive on social media, but you have to ask: 

At what cost did this change come at? 
What price did this person pay - and will they pay in the future - because of this transformation?

In an effort to help you, or someone you know, find out how to hire the right contest prep coach, I asked the best diet coaches in the biz what you need to be aware of when hiring. 
I can personally attest for the knowledge, integrity, professionalism, and results that each of these coaches bring to the table.

My question to them:

"What should people look for when hiring a nutrition coach, for dieting or contest prep purposes?"

"The number one thing I tell people to be wary of when hiring a coach is when someone never is willing to say the three magic words: I DON'T KNOW.  

No one has all the answers and coaches who do not have the humility to admit when they do not know something or a topic is beyond their scope are very dangerous. Many coaches will make up nonsense when they do not really understand a topic or they will use the ever popular line 'because I said so.'  You deserve better than that.  You paid this person, they should either be able to accurately tell you why they want you doing something or they should admit that they simply are not sure.  BS or 'because I said so' is not an acceptable response."

"Be an informed athlete.
One key point that I cannot stress enough is individual specificity within nutrition. You are an individual and not a programmed machine thus your nutrition recommendations should be tailored to you, and changes should be made based off of your feedback and response, not ignored with responses like, "Oh, that is normal, this is just part of the plan." if you personally feel off or as if things are not going well. 

Make informed decisions prior to hiring a coach, a coach can sell you anything he or she wants but I encourage you to speak to the athletes of that coach and get an idea as to how that coach assesses and makes changes to nutrition with his current cliental. Reach out to several as well this will give you a good amount of data to review as to whether or not that coach is utilizing an individualistic approach or one that is more so one size fits all. 

If current athletes are all with different starting points, body fat set points, and possessing different amounts of lean body mass are all on a similar plan this is a sign that the coach is not the best option for you the individual." 

Twitter and Instagram: @INOV8ElitePerformance
YouTube: INOV8EP

Matt Jansen
INOV8 Elite Performance

"In my opinion the number one most important thing to look out for is a coach who is handing out meal plans. 
People must understand that every single person, even of the same height and weight, is going to require a different caloric intake to accomplish their goals. 

A meal plan is a generalized layout which can lead to metabolic issues, eating disorders and many other detrimental issues. A good coach is going to give you a customized caloric intake- hopefully based around macronutrients that are optimal for reaching your goals."

Kelsea Koenreich
NGA Figure Pro
IG: teamproscience

"When hiring an online prep coach, take notice how much background information they collect on you before officially hiring them. 

If they are a good coach, they will take many factors into consideration. If they don't get background info, and just hand you a diet and cardio plan, chances are it's a stock diet that may or may not work for YOU.

Also, reach out to their former and current clients, and not just the ones that are listed front and center on the testimonial page. Ask them how their experiences were and what they liked/disliked about working with that coach."

Facebook: FB.com/Julia.Ladewski
Twitter: @JuliaLadewski
Instagram: @JuliaLadewski

"Aside from obvious things to look out for like education/credentials, experience, client successes/testimonials, etc., I think the biggest thing that women face when seeking online diet coaches is the pressure to be part of a 'team'.

There are MANY teams of competitors, made up of mostly women, who have fabulous sounding names, logos, team clothing/uniforms, social media pages, group support, etc. Many of these teams give out things like cookie cutter diets, dangerous or gimmicky exercise prescription, push drug usage, offer no or minimal contact with the coach, provide no or minimal weekly assessments or updates, and promote antiquated nutrition information (all fish diets, no sodium, distilled water, etc.).

Some of the best coaches I've come across aren't flashy, don't have cool sounding team names, and don't make competitors feel part of a sisterhood of sorts, yet they are educated, experienced, and incredibly dedicated to their clients' health, goals, and success as an athlete."

Ben Hartman, MS, CSCS

"Be wary of a coach who tries to give you too much too soon. Is he/she restricting you to a ten-item food list? 
Piling on the cardio, slowly but surely? Have your workouts become a part-time job? 

If something in your program looks suspicious, there’s probably a reason behind why. You always want to start out with the minimal effective dose when it comes to training and nutrition – that means spending as as little time in the gym as possible and eating as much as you can afford to while still making progress toward your goal."

Sohee Lee, NSCA-CSCS 

When you are shopping for a nutrition coach, remember that you are hiring them to do a job, and you are trusting them with your health. This is a very big deal! 

The coach you are hiring should gather a ton of information about you prior to committing to helping you, including your goals, current and past nutrition, training, sleep cycles, stress levels, and health issues. 
If somebody shoots you over an invoice without gathering all of this information, that is a huge red flag.

Additionally, if a coach agrees to help you prep for a show without knowing your show date, and seeing pictures of where your physique is currently, along with obtaining the information listed above - yikes! You need to find somebody else. 

Remember - you are hiring somebody for a job. Ask them plenty of questions. Don't be afraid to request references from both current and past clients! If they are anything less than enthusiastic about answering your questions, and providing you with the information you're requested, immediately move on! 

If you are interested in my nutrition coaching services, please contact me at JenComasKeck@gmail.com

Questions? Comments? 
Did my colleagues or I miss anything that you'd add like to add? 
If so, drop us a line below! 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Wrong Training and Nutrition INCREASED My Body Fat

How the Wrong Training and Nutrition Can INCREASE Body Fat

“It’s happening all of the time!”

“Seriously. I know! Right and left.”

“It’s like an epidemic! A morbid training and dieting epidemic.”

“We’ve got to help these women!” 

Molly and I had just sat down to lunch at the local co-op two weeks ago, and the first topic at hand was one that we both wish we never had to discuss. 

What's lunch with a bestie without a selfie photo shoot?

Women reach out to Mols and I on a daily basis, asking for our guidance to help them get leaner and healthier. We both feel like we were put in this world to help people achieve their best health, and most confident self possible, so we are grateful for the opportunity and love hearing from everybody. 

The problem is that many of these women are only eating 1,300 calories a day, and exercising like it’s their job - sometimes doing two-a-days, which, for the record, makes our skin crawl at the mere mention of. 

This type of scenario has, sadly, become the norm. Women are going to extreme, unhealthy, and unnecessary measures, ironically, in the name of “health and fitness”.

We’re constantly seeing ludicrous things posted by women on Facebook about how they’re hammering out two-a-day cardio sessions, twice daily WODs, doing HIIT five days a week, hours of fasted cardio, and the list goes on.

These same women are the ones that are watching what they eat like a hawk, demonizing carbs, and obsessing over MyFitnessPal.

Far too many women are overtraining, undereating, over-cardio-ing (I’m sure that’s a word somewhere) and putting themselves through the wringer, desperate to get the results that they want, and yet … it’s not working. 

My heart bleeds for these women. Know why? 

Because I used to be one of these ladies. 

When I was 17, my (then) boyfriend looked me in the eyes and said, “You know, you’re getting kinda fat”. 

It threw me into a rage of fury. I was upset at him for approaching it in such a rude way, but more importantly, I was mad at myself because I knew it was true. 

I was chowing down on fast food all of the time, and went out of my way to avoid any type of physical activity, and it was starting to show - my weight was at an all-time high.

Hell-bent on making changes, I launched myself into the gym with fervor, taking every aerobics class offered. 
I made the rookie mistake of being overly restrictive with my calories - and let’s not even discuss my food choices.

I remember eating a turkey sandwich for lunch, and a bowl of Cream of Wheat for dinner, and forcing myself to starve the rest of the time.

The less calories, the better, right?? 

Um, wrong

This madness peaked after I moved to Las Vegas.
I was doing insane amounts of cardio, taking a ‘more-must-be-better’ approach, winging my strength training because I had no idea how to properly progress, and running a chronic sleep deficit. Throw in a bunch of fat burners and it was a recipe for disaster. 

I could not get leaner

And more importantly, I felt like crap all of the time. I was burning the candle brightly from both ends, working out like a fiend and barely eating. 

When our on-staff Exercise Physiologist took my bodyfat, my weight had continued to decrease, but so had my muscle mass, and - you guessed it - my body fat had actually increased

It wasn’t until I made a total overhaul to my nutrition and training that my body finally started to change, and I began to feel better.

The mistakes that I made are not at all uncommon. As a matter of fact, I believe that the internet and social media has left things fuzzier than ever for women, as they are inundated with more bad information than ever. 

A few of the most common mistakes that we see, that are standing in the way of you and your goals: 

  • Doing way too much cardio and conditioning, both in frequency and in duration.
  • Not doing any strength training because they are unsure of where to start.
  • Winging it in the gym because they are unsure of how to manipulate the variables to keep progress moving along. 
  • Undereating.
  • Making the wrong food choices. 

The right training and nutrition is about so much more than having a nice body. 

You deserve to move better, feel your best, and ooze confidence. We want you to be able to pick up your kids with ease, chase your dog around the park with plenty of energy to spare, go on fun hikes this summer, and feel good about yourself

You ladies have been asking - begging - for a program designed specifically for you that addresses proper training, warm-ups, cool-downs, recovery, techniques, and nutrition programs, and Girls Gone Strong has delivered.

The fantastic thing about GGS is that we speak from experience - both our own, and from hundreds of clients that have gotten fantastic results.

We know the exact formula and dosages that are required to get women stronger and leaner, while becoming healthier than ever.

After almost a year in the works, fielding hundreds of emails and questions to find out exactly what you need, and listening to all of your thoughts and concerns, this program covers it all.

The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training is finally here!
  • What training program should I follow? 
  • How much, and how often?
  • How do I perform these exercises?
  • What about a warm-up?
  • How can I recover quicker?
  • What should I eat? 

From start to finish, all of the guesswork has been removed. 

Whether you want to simply get started, get stronger and leaner, take things to the next level, or fine tune what you are currently doing, this program is perfect for you.

You now have every single tool that you need in order to become your healthiest and happiest you. 

All you have to do is follow it. :) 

No more waiting. Life is short. Let’s do the dang thing!

Get the program HERE:   http://bit.ly/GIRLSGONESTRONG

This sale ends Sunday night at midnight, which is when the price goes up forever-ever. Hurry!

If you have any questions, or want to chat about this program, I am here for you! Simply shoot me an email at JenComasKeck@gmail.com, and I’ll respond immediately. 

In strength,