HPN 22: The Rise of Health & Nutrition Coaching — An Inside Look at Our Process and Tips for Coach-Client Success

October 9, 2020


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Welcome to episode 22 of Holistic Performance Nutrition (HPN) featuring Tawnee Gibson, MS, CSCS, CISSN, and Julie McCloskey, a certified holistic nutrition coach who you can find over at wildandwell.fit.

On this episode:


  • Tawnee and family are in Montana; podcasting live with Julie!
  • It’s great to be able to share a run with a friend.
  • If you’re interested in running Ragnar SO CAL with the Endurance Planet team, please email: admin@enduranceplanet.com

Cary asks:

Health and nutrition coaching

Hello and thank you SO much for the podcast and insight! I have an in-depth question so thanks in advance for your patience. I am 36 years old and have been running and participating in sports for most of my life. I have run a marathon and a few half marathons, dabbled in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Crossfit and general weight lifting and have always wanted to get into triathlon. Endurance sports make me happy and I really enjoy them.

I have a high stress job, which requires me to sit in a car most of the day and wear gear that is not great for posture and mobility. My work causes decent levels of chronic stress with bouts of acute, adrenaline induced stress sprinkled in there. I injured my back during a crossfit workout years ago, but have “treated” it with rest and static stretching… I know, I know *eye roll* but it is still a chronic issue.

A few months ago, I (irresponsibly) began ramping up my running, started swimming, and regularly mountain biking all at once. While doing this, I cut my calories in an effort to lose some weight but took it too far, and crashed really hard. I lost my libido, almost entirely, was extremely fatigued, and very emotionally “jacked up” for lack of a better term. Additionally, I strained my soleus, rested it, changed my shoes, started running again and now am experiencing pain in my hip. It seems there is always something wrong or something new popping up.

I say all that to say: After listening to your podcast and doing some serious googling, I have realized I have done a lot wrong and need to revamp the way I am living and training to actually get healthy. I am seeing a PT and committed to sorting out whatever is going on mechanically. I am getting bloodwork done to see what’s going on inside this body of mine. Lastly, I am completely open minded to get myself back to a place where I am healthy enough to train. I have no lifestyle, dietary or fitness convictions that I am unwilling to change OTHER than my job, which I cannot quit or change.

So here is my question:

Presented with a mess of a human, like me, what would your course of action be to evaluate and “fix” a person like me? From developing baseline health markers, fitness markers, treatment plans, stress management, and dietary suggestions. I don’t expect you to give me answers as you would a paying client, more of suggestions on a strategy to get healthy. What tests to have done, what kind of coaches, therapists, doctors to seek out, books to read, articles, websites, podcasts…. There is SOOOOO much information it is overwhelming. Love the work you’re doing and thank you again!

What the coaches say:

  • “Lasting meaningful change needs to be driven by self-acceptance.” Language matters – you’re not broken.
  • The foundation here, first and foremost, is mindset; catch yourself when you’re going down a negative path.
  • Switch your mindset from “I have to do this,” to “I get to do this!” Reframing is important; practice, practice, practice.
  • Use setbacks as a tool to come out stronger.
  • Reflect on things that were/are going right.
    • Questions that Julie asks her clients, “When was the last time you felt well? What did that look like?”
  • Own your strengths!
  • A sports coach will help you perform better (and may work on the psychology side of things). But there is also space for a nutrition coach that can complement the whole package. A nutrition coach will work with individuals to:
    • Simplify and break things down step by step.
    • Builds a trusting relationship with the client.
    • Personalize strategies.
  • Julie outlines examples of small changes:
    • Drink a glass of water before drinking your coffee in the morning.
    • Higher protein breakfast.
    • Do 10 pushups at noon every day.
  • You want a coach that will hear, see, and support you.
  • You’re already started doing the right steps – getting bloodwork done, seeing a PT, emailing Endurnace Planet!
  • Reach out to a supportive coach/therapist that can meet you where you’re at, and support you along the way.

Dan asks:

Nutrition and diet

Hi, Long time listener, first time writer.  I really love the show and community you’ve built!  Hope you’re finding some safe places on the van life.

Before my question, some info about me. I’m 33, male, 6’1, 160 (I’m pretty skinny; my tri friends say I have the same build as Jan Frodeno although certainly nowhere near the skill or talent…), former D1 athlete in college, recently got into Triathlon (I have extensive experience running and biking; starting from pretty much scratch with swimming) after a long time playing competitive ultimate frisbee. I signed up for IM140.6 Coeur d’Alene in June 2021, my first full-distance IM.  My goal is to finish in 11 hours or under although I’m not trying to qualify for Kona or get like a sub-9.  I would be thrilled to swim a 1:30.  My half marathon best (self-tested) is 1:24, marathon just over 3:00.  FTP is about 275.

My question is about nutrition and diet.  I’m 99% vegetarian (my wife is a vegetarian and doesn’t allow meat in the house) and in general eat really healthy – salads, stir fries, lots of fruits and veggies in everything from the weekly CSA box, I never eat fast food, supplement work outs with recovery shake, etc. I do like sweets and ice cream at a moderate indulgence.  I drink coffee everyday and craft beer a few times/week.  I’m not anal about counting calorires to make sure I get enough, I just try to eat when I’m hungry.  In general I think I’m performing OK – my Triathlon coach (who is also a 3-time Kona qualifier), is satisfied with my progress.  I’m training at this stage about 15 hours/week with no real problems with cramping or anything like that.  I guess my question is how do you know what is the best diet/nutritional intake for me?  I’ve never really done a test (i.e. eliminating XX for some amount of time) but I’m not sure if like eating too many carbs (i love good bread and pasta) or dairy, or something else may be having an adverse affect that I’m not aware of.  How can you discover what you don’t know?  Is there a good way to test different kinds of diets for Ironman training in case something might work better for me?  I’ve definitely lost weight since starting training and I don’t have much more to lose.  I don’t care about body image or looks, I just want to make sure I’m giving myself what I need to perform.  I also do all of the cooking in my house so I can adjust things as needed. Really love the show and hope you, John, and the kiddo are doing well!

What the coaches say:

  • Restrictive diets should be reserved for people with food sensitivities or allergies.
  • Julie suggests trying to form the habit of eating meat outside of the house or talking with your wife.
    • Have a designated meat pan so there is no cross-contamination.
  • Training for an Ironman takes up a lot of time. Tawnee suggests having an open conversation with your wife, meet her where she is at, and see if there is an amicable agreement that can be made. What is her comfort level, what is yours?
  • Sounds like you’re relying too much on carbs.
  • If meat is totally non-negotiable, you can eat out. Examples include:
    • Canned fish (e.g., salmon and sardine – with the bones).
    • Buy a premade chicken.
  • Another possible idea could be to get your own mini-fridge to put the meat.
  • DUTCH Test (for hormonal health), GI Map (for gut health), Organic Acid Test (for nutrient status). Education is a huge part, and working with someone (e.g., functional doctor, nutrition coach) to help you navigate these pieces can be key.
  • You may have to be a carnivore during an Ironman year, then switch back to being a vegetarian.
  • Previous episode on B12

Books mentioned on the show (if you’d like to support the show and purchase these books, use the links below):

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