Last Updated on July 31, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Last month I took the leap and decided to work with a performance nutritionist to help me with my diet while I train for Ancient Oaks 100. You can read the detailed blog post about why I chose to do so in this post (click here), or, you can just take my word that my diet sucked, and I’m certain it contributed to my ridiculous crash and burn.
I’m not on week five of working with Coach Wilfredo Benitez of On Pace Wellness, and I wanted to provide an update for those who are curious. In short, this experience has been NOT AT ALL what I expected…but in the best way possible.
What I anticipated:
Having never worked with a nutritionist at all before, I anticipated being told exactly what to eat and when. A meal plan, I suppose. Perhaps something along the lines of what I see some of my bodybuilding friends following when they are working with a coach.
In fact, the night before I received my first weekly email from Coach Will, I told Geoff to hold off on the grocery shopping, so we could wait and see what Will was going to “tell me” to eat.
What I actually get:
But a meal plan I did not receive. Instead, I received a list of nutrition goals for the week. For example, the first week gave me goals for:
- number of ounces of water to drink
- number of servings of leafy greens to eat
- number of servings of “other” veggies to eat
- number of servings of flax/chia/hemp seeds to eat.
(I’m purposefully omitting the actual numbers because this was prescribed to me specifically, and I don’t want anyone to assume that what was suggested for me is also the correct prescription for them.)
Each week builds upon the last week. So the servings of the original items often increase, but one or two more food items were added. I’m currently up to 8 specific nutrition goals that I am focusing on this week. This slow but gradual build helps you make slow, but lasting changes, rather than bombarding you with a slew of things that need to be fixed at once.
And, Coach Will puts notes underneath each goal as to WHY these are my goals for the week. For example, I’m now eating sunflower seeds for added Vitamin E, a nutrient my diet was previously deficient in.
Why I like this approach better:
At first I was like “wait a minute, I have to make my own decisions here? This isn’t going to work at all!” But ultimately, that’s EXACTLY why this plan DOES work for me.
You see, in using my nutrition goals as a guideline, I’m learning how to make food choices that incorporate my goals, rather than blindly following a plan. I consciously have to think about putting my own meals together in order to include all of the “good stuff” coach wants me to eat.
But – and here’s the best part – because I get to make those choices, I’m also choosing things I enjoy, and not feeling deprived of anything. Don’t like asparagus? NO PROBLEM! There are literally thousands of other veggies I can choose from.
(But for the record, I actually really do like asparagus.)
If I’m struggling with a certain area, Coach Will helps. For example, I like beans, but I really couldn’t figure out how to incorporate them into by diet beyond my weekly tacos. So Coach Will provided suggestions and recipes to help.
There’s no guilt or shame.
I, like many women my age, have suffered from disordered eating in the past. While my issues have never been extreme, I’ve absolutely fallen into the “diet trap” where I put far too much focus on ONLY eating “good” foods (and usually, not enough of them) while depriving myself of other foods. As you can imagine, this usually only lasts a week or two before I crash and burn, and end up right back where I started.
Coach Will is asking me to hit specific nutrition goals. He’s NOT currently analyzing everything I eat. So there’s no sense of “guilt” or “shame” if in addition to my prescribed servings of vegetables, I also have a slice of cake (because, I’ve definitely had a slice of cake).
But here’s the best part: as my weekly goals / number of servings increase, I’m finding myself so full of the “good stuff”, that I’m no longer craving – nor do I have the room – for the junk.
In fact, just last week I had a crazy averse reaction to a ton of dairy. This took me by surprise, but also really reinforced the idea that my body is thriving on the good stuff.
Being a goal oriented person, I most definitely thrive on being able to check things off of a list of “things I need to eat”, rather than having the mindset of “things I shouldn’t eat”.
How I’m feeling:
Now that we’re on week #5, I can confidently say that I’m feeling SO MUCH BETTER. It took me a while to fall into a routine. I struggled to drink enough water or eat enough veggies – which is crazy, because I previously thought I was doing just fine in those departments (I was not). But like anything in life, good habits take consistency and patience.
And ultimately, I know that this plan will not work unless I actually DO the work.
Initially, my goals for working with Coach Will were to:
- Avoid the ultramarathon crash and burn I experienced the end of last year / beginning of this year
- Use nutrition to help me become a stronger athlete
- Shed a little bit of body fat.
But now that we’ve been working together for over a month, I realize that a new goal of mine is to use this time to really learn how to eat better. Not blindly follow a nutrition plan, but completely overhaul my habits, so that in the end, I’m able to make these healthy food choices on my own.
In short, this experience so far has been incredibly positive, both physically AND mentally. If you are looking for a nutrition overhaul, or wondering how nutrition can help change aspects of your life you may be struggling with (whether it be athletics or something else), I cannot recommend Coach Will enough. Reach out to him through his website, https://www.onpacewellness.com/
Stay tuned, as I’ll be updating in another month as we continue to progress towards Ancient Oaks 100 in December.