If you want to know why I coach… I have to start at the very beginning….a very good place to start ?
As a child I was 100% tomboy through and through. I loved every sport with a ball. You would find me in baggy shirts, soccer shorts and pretty much covered in sweat and dirt. Through junior high and high school I played competitive travel soccer and softball, sometimes on 3 teams at a time. I also played 2 years of college volleyball. I was fit and athletic. Unfortunately I didn’t have a clue about healthy eating. My idea of food was cereal, popcorn, pizza, candy, bread, soda and sugary sports drinks. Healthy food to me was fat free spray butter, canned vegetables and diet microwave meals. Despite my diet, sports kept me at a healthy body weight. I was an exercise machine. *A note on the appearance of health. Although at this stage in my life I looked healthy, I suffered from severe acid reflux disease, chronic painful eczema, and significant allergies.
I was an athlete… until a knee injury, misdiagnosis and subsequent 4 ACL reconstructions on my left knee ended my time in sports. Serving in the Navy became the priority of my attention. I got married and we started a family. Fast forward to 2011… I had undergone 8 total knee surgeries and had 2 children. I gained 50 pounds with the first pregnancy which I lost doing an aggressive low calorie diet. I gained 50 pounds with my second pregnancy, but this time the weight wouldn’t budge. 18 months after Henry (my second child) was born I was rehabbing surgeries #7 and #8. I was overweight, out of shape and had no idea what to do. This picture is of me at Disney right before Henry turned 2. I was right around 190 pounds.
So I did what everyone does. I joined weight watchers. I joined a gym. I went to cardio class. I drank diet soda. I bought Smart Ones Meals. I ate weight watchers ice cream sandwiches. I went to meetings. I got annoyed. I quit. I started again. I bought an elliptical machine. I tried and tried. But the weight wouldn’t budge.
In 2013 my life changed. My husband left on deployment and I moved home to Salisbury, MD to be close to family while he was gone. My boys were 2 and 4 and I decided, like many do, that I would be in shape by the end of deployment. I started a 90 day challenge with a meal replacement shake program and joined a local gym. My first body pump class I couldn’t do one pushup, couldn’t squat at all because of my knee and I was 40# overweight and couldn’t breath. The gym was ok, but through a mutual friend I met a personal trainer named Donta who changed my life.
Donta was a personal trainer at the World Gym, but he also ran an outdoor fitness class called PIP, short for “Pain in the Park”. I started attending his class 2-3x week. He taught me how to track my food in myfitness pal, he talked to me about drinking water, eating enough protein, healthy snacks and training hard. Despite my limitations with my knee, he didn’t baby me. He treated me like an athlete. We lifted weights, he hoisted me up for hundreds of assisted pull-ups, he encouraged me to try and fail. By the end of that year I was down to about 155#. I had lost 35# through training hard,
learning new healthy habits, avoiding junk food and limiting alcohol.
These pics show how I changed over that year. The first pic was right before I moved to Maryland and the last pic was right after my husband got back from deployment and we had moved to Washington state. My life was changed and I was hooked. I needed to help other people the way Donta helped me. I got certified as a personal trainer, got my fitness nutrition certification and went to work. I started my own Pain in the Park out in Washington. I did my CrossFit Level 1 and started coaching. My mission
would be to give others the gift Donta had given me. Nutrition victory.. happily ever after, right??
PAY ATTENTION CROSSFITTERS….THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING! ! ! CrossFit is where my nutrition journey takes a different turn. I was introduced to Paleo and Whole 30. Like so many people, I did a gym challenge with the idea of, “well at least if I cut out bread and pasta I’ll probably lose a few pounds.” I did my first 30 days and my mind was blown!! The eczema and reflux I had suffered with my entire life was gone. My allergies were greatly improved and I was convinced that anything outside of paleo or whole 30 was surely the devil’s path to chronic disease. By switching to a paleo diet, I dramatically reduced my carbohydrates. Eliminating grains and dairy was fantastic for my health and obviously revealed some significant food sensitivity issues. However, this was exactly the same time I dramatically increased my training volume and started following an intensive crossfit competitor program. At this point, I was not restricting any calories. I was eating a low carb, high fat diet of whole 30 type foods.
For the first year of competitor volume training, I did fine. My body composition continued to improve and I continued to get stronger see fitness improvements. But by the time I was back living in Maryland at a new duty station. I began to get frustrated. I felt low on energy, was having trouble losing losing stored body fat. This didn’t make sense to me because I was training at a high intensity 2-3 hours/day, 5 days/ week. I was eating paleo. Something wasn’t right.
So, I tried a diet that is very popular in the CrossFit and weightlifting world. A template diet approach. I followed the advice of a coach that worked for the company and slashed calories. When I didn’t lose body fat, calories went down even further. For 4-5 months I followed the program and saw no improvement in performance or body composition despite the incredibly low calories. Ultimately, I had an additional knee surgery and decided I would implement the “rest day” low calories until I started training again. I was really confused. Many respected sources had advised that paleo and then templated calorie management would lead to “all the gains.” What was wrong??
Rehabbing my knee surgery, I went back to training hard. I was preparing for a weightlifting meet and training for the CrossFit Open. That’s when I heard a podcast with Jason Phillips. So many of the things he talked about in the podcast described me!! I was chronically underfed, overtraining and working my ass off with limited payoff. I had to get his help. In December 2016, I started with Jason as my nutrition coach. In the months that followed, he steadily increased my calories. He showed me that my resistance to lose weight was based on my metabolic adaptation to a hyper stressed (overtrained/underfed) state. We needed to reverse diet and rebuild my metabolism. I had the best performance in the Open ever. Many friends commented that my “engine” had substantially improved. My body started to change. I lost some of the hip and lower back fat that had never budged before.
As the months went on, we adjusted my macros on a seasonal approach based on my training goals and competition schedule and recovery needs. I made weight easily for 2 weightlifting meets, without dehydrating, even with vacation 3 weeks prior to one of the events. I PR’d lifts at both meets. I reintroduced some foods that had been off limits including oats and rice. I built in treats into my program and became more balanced. One year since we started, I am consuming almost 600 calories more/ day then when we started, regularly seeing improvements in my weightlifting and gymnastics goals and seeing noteworthy improvements to my health. My period returned after being MIA for a full year.
This was the missing piece. I could still avoid foods I was sensitive to and at the same time fuel properly for my activity and recovery. APPLICATION was the key. Seasonal approach to calories was important. Carbohydrates were important. Understanding my goals was important. Having a coach to keep me accountable was important. Balance was important. Individualized coaching was important. I wanted to learn how to help my clients the way Jason was helping me. I attended Jason’s Nutrition Coaching Institute Level 1 Certification in Chicago. In January, I will attend the Nutrition Coaching Institute’s Hormone and Mindset course.
If you are still reading, I appreciate you being in for the long haul. I wanted to share this for a number of reasons. First, my nutrition journey did not happen overnight. I learned important things at each stage of this story. I learned healthy habits, I learned about food quality, I learned how NOT to fuel for competitive training, how to fuel properly, and now I’ve learned how to rebuild my metabolism. I will absolutely continue to learn and will pass these lessons on to my clients. This blog posts starts and ends with two coaches that I admire and have changed my life. I’m grateful for my journey and plan to pay it forward.