A few years back, I hired someone to program my diet for my figure show. I know that competition diets are low; it’s the nature of the beast, however mine was too low, and I didn’t know any better at the time. I followed my diet with nearly 100 percent compliance for 18 weeks. It was brutal and I always felt awful, but I chalked that up to being part of contest prep. As my show drew closer, I felt worse and worse. I placed first in my class in my show and although I was excited, I was a bit relieved that it was over. I had planned on bringing my calories up a little with hopes of starting to feel better. Little did I know what I was in store for…
Over the next few weeks I was diagnosed with severe Metabolic Syndrome and Adrenal Fatigue. I also suffered from a vicious weight gain rebound and watched with horror as my weight climbed 30 pounds over the course of the next 10 months. I was exhausted, cold all of the time (living in Las Vegas, where it is boiling hot in the summer), my hair was falling out, my sex drive was gone, and no matter how clean my diet was, I simply could not stop gaining body fat. All of this contributed to my sinking into a deep depression. I wanted to sleep all of the time, I avoided my friends, and I wouldn’t wear anything but sweat pants and baggy clothes because I was so ashamed of my body. The nutrition coaches I sought out didn’t know what to do to help me bring my weight back down. It was the worst year of my life. I visited an Endocrinologist countless times for thyroid tests and blood work. I remember the doctor reprimanding me for following such a low diet, which I found confusing. I had thought my adherence to this insane diet showed my dedication and commitment!
It took about 10 months of slowly increasing my calories until my weight finally stopped climbing, and then it took about another five months to get my weight to start crawling back down.
It was hell. It was the only time in my life that my body was completely out of my control. It took me over a year to reverse all of the damage I had caused by following a severely low and restricted diet for a little over four months. It was a very long, sad, and tough journey that I don’t wish upon anybody. I wish I would have had somebody to give me some guidance on what to look for in a diet coach, because there is a good chance that what I went through could have been avoided.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve gotten countless emails from girls that have found me through elitefts™ or my blog, that are in the exact same situation. I welcome these e-mails because I’m in this industry to help people in any way I can, especially with this topic because it hits so close to home with me. I know from experience how hard and upsetting it is. The majority of the e-mails I receive are from girls that aren’t even competing – they are all from girls that have enlisted the help of a nutrition coach to simply help them get a little leaner. These girls have all shared their current diets with me and I’ve been absolutely shocked. Most of these girls are eating under 1,000 calories a day, with a few as low as 700 calories per day, and they wonder why they are so tired and feel so sick! There’s no excuse for this and it’s irresponsible of anybody to prescribe a diet so low.
A good nutrition coach should be able to help you achieve your goals while enhancing your health and keeping you sane. Sound impossible? It’s not. Even if it takes longer to achieve your goals by going a safer and more conservative route, so be it. The journey to a bangin’ bod is a challenging one, however it shouldn’t be a completely miserable one.
I feel very passionately about this and I feel like it’s a topic that desperately needs some light shed onto it, so I’m going to give you a few suggestions on how to hire the right nutrition coach to ensure that you don’t compromise your health like I did.
When you hire a nutrition coach, you need to do your research. Do not let anybody talk you into some hairball diet where you are eating 1,000 calories (or worse – LESS) per day! I don’t care who they are or what they promise you. There is no reason for it and your health is so much more important. If a coach can’t get you leaner without starving you and making you feel awful, then that shows their ineptitude in the field and you need to find somebody else.
Things to consider before hiring a nutrition coach:
First off, you are hiring them to do a job. Don’t forget that! Make your goals very clear and be as specific as you can, that way the coach knows what you want and there is no confusion. A good coach will be honest and tell you if they don’t think that they can help you achieve the goals that you have listed.
A good nutrition coach will ask a ton of questions about you and require a lot of information up front before they ever agree to take you on as a client.
Some of the things that they should ask you about are:
- Your specific goals and your timeline in which you’d like to achieve them.
- Specific details of your current food intake.
- What is your current nutrition plan doing for your body? Are you losing, gaining, or maintaining?
- How long have you been eating this way?
- Any supplements you are currently taking.
- Your lifestyle activity level (i.e., do you sit at a desk all day? Are you on your feet a lot?)
- What training program you are following, frequency, intensity, and what time of day you typically train.
- Your stress level.
- Your sleep patterns.
- Any medical conditions.
- Food allergies.
- Food preferences.
After a coach receives your above information, they should analyze this information to assess if they can, indeed, help you meet your goals in a safe and healthy way. A good diet coach will be very selective of whether or not they take you on as a client. Be very leery of nutrition coaches who agree to take you on as a client without knowing anything about you, your goals, or your lifestyle, but they are quick to take your check or send you a PayPal invoice. Also, beware of coaches that give out cookie cutter diets! Every body is different, and must be treated as such.
Other things you will want to find out before you hire a diet coach:
- How long will their program run?
- Will they provide references of people they are currently working with and people that they have worked with in the past?
- Are their programs customized to each individual?
- Will they give you a specific meal plan or just macros to hit?
- If they give you a meal plan, will they provide a list of appropriate substitutions?
- If they provide a macro guideline, will they provide a list of appropriate food choices?
- How often is the diet adjusted? Once a month, once a week, or as needed?
- How often is the coach available for consultation if you have questions or concerns?
- Are they available in person, over the phone, or only through e-mail?
- If they are only available through e-mail, what kind of turnaround time can you expect on correspondence?
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. If the nutrition coach that you are looking to hire can’t answer these questions, and do so cheerfully, then you need to look elsewhere. I can assure you that there are very competent coaches out there that meet all of the criteria listed above. This brings me to my last tip: shop around. Talk to a few different coaches to see which one will be a good fit for you. Nutrition coaches are typically not cheap and you are hiring them to do a very important job.
I realize that reaching certain physique goals can be challenging. Some days will be a little tougher than others. However, there is no reason that a diet should make your life miserable. If you’re exhausted, starving, light headed, foggy headed, or feel cold a lot, those are warning signs that something is very wrong. Other warning signs are very dry skin, very low sex drive, and hair loss.
Please make sure your diet coach has your health as their No. 1 priority!