Consultation Question and Answer Sample

Contemplating a question???

I get quite a few emails from people inquiring about consultations, and/or just asking questions. This is great for me as a coach, because it exposes me to a wider variety of problems! Right now, besides working with an online client, I deal daily with mostly strength and conditioning factors for young athletes. Getting experience working with other types of clients is not as available, so I enjoy having to sit down and work through questions from all kinds of people. I use it as sort of a “simulator” for coaching experience. I thought I would share one of these question and answer emails, as an example. This woman wrote me for advice, and the following is what I sent her in response to her questions. She is in black, my answers are in red. Of course, its hard to give recommendations without knowing someone’s personal details, impossible in fact. And at the same time, I can’t sit down and write down a detailed plan for everyone that writes me; that’s why you would hire me. 😉 But I enjoy pointing people in the right direction, and at least help them start discovering the right information through my network of fave trainers whose information is solid, respected and well-regarded.

Thanks for the quick response Joy!
As for my diet, right now I am just trying to keep things pretty balanced, typically my workweek looks like this
AM- 2 eggs w/peppers, onions, eggplant, sugar free ketchup and either some sweet potato wedges, some bran flakes w/coconut milk and berries, or possibly a little oats with pumpkin
lunch-salad w/spinach, broccoli slaw, chicken breast, goat cheese, sun dried tomato, oil/vinegar, 1c greek yogurt with berries and a little honey, sometimes a piece of dark chocolate
dinner – I like to make something different every night (I am married and have an awesome 3 year old boy!), usually it’s a protein (chicken, pork, turkey, beef, eggs, etc.) and always a veg…then there’s occasionally a carb included, maybe brown rice (IF I eat it, it’s only like .25c, not the biggest rice fan), sweet potato, maybe some sprouted grain bread if we are doing BLT’s or burgers.  Tortilla if tacos, etc. Plus all the healthy fats and such!

What are all the healthy fats? Just wondering. Fats are an essential nutrient, but too much of any good thing will make you gain weight. Your food choices seem pretty good, but maybe you need to balance out your protein, carbs and fats and understand the balance between them. It sounds like you could definitely get more protein in! 

evening-I usually have a small snack before bed, it tends to be 1/2c greek yogurt w/PB2 or nut butter and banana, or a square or 2 of dark chocolate, or just banana and nut butter.  I also tend to have a few bites of my hubby’s ice cream, it’s a habit I haven’t been able to break yet, but I keep trying!

Nothing is bad in the right context, its your total daily calories/nutrients that will matter in the end. So if you are not reaching your goals, but still struggling with cravings etc, and want to include treats, you just need to fit them in in the right place and times. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on what we can’t do, rather than adjusting our diets to make “it easy for us to be good”. 

I also might take a handful of trail mix through the day, a bite of my sons waffle in the AM, maybe 1/4 – 1/2 of a homemade granola bar in the afternoons.  I tend to create a meal plan of about 1300-1500 per day, knowing that my little bites and such do add up.

That’s very low in calories and probably one of the reasons for your frustrations EVEN though you try to account for snacks and such. What about a calorie plan that let’s you include the snacks? All those bites and nibbles DO add up, but they could be doing two things:
1. Causing you to eat less of the proper stuff to stay “under” calories (which means you are less satisfied and receive less nutrients, which keeps you hungrier and less satisfied)
2. They add up more than you think they do
3. There IS plenty of room for treats and carbs etc. if you understand how they can fit in. 

Weekends are a little more indulgent, we tend to go out to eat once or twice, though I always try to make the best choice possible, chicken with veg, etc.  I never go crazy and let myself have the burger and fries or anything.  There is almost always treats too, going out for frozen yogurt, some brownies or cookies at a family function, etc.  I did lose 100 lbs and have kept it off (including a 45lb regain in pregnancy, which I had off after a year) for quite a few years now, so I think I am pretty good at keeping my portions of these things in check, I have my moments like everyone else 🙂

Congrats on your weight loss, that must have been a big milestone for you. Its usually the last 10-15 lbs that drive people a bit bonkers, and for a good reason. The more you lose, the harder it becomes to lose. But don’t despair, it doesnt mean its not possible, just that progress will slow down, the lower in weight you get. Eating more “freely” 2 out of 7 days of the week will add up though, and sometimes we overestimate portion sizing. Have you ever actually tracked or weighed food for a short time? This can be helpful with amounts. When setting up a diet, you want to consider in this order
1. Total calories (under or over)
2. Protein 
3. Fat
4. Carbs and activity levels/training
5. Set up a diet STYLE (small meals, IF, etc) that is convenient for you
This interview with an excellent nutritionist Alan Aragon covers a lot of common questions:

 I have tried low carb and it made me binge on trail mix with chocolate chips and I am not a binger usually, I have tried IF and it just made me obsess EVEN more then I do now about food and such, plus I couldn’t stop eating once I start.  I do best with 3 good meals and 1-2 snacks.  I am anywhere from 90-140 g of protein most days.

Low carb tends to do that, hahah, unless you build in “carb-up” days, but that can often be too confusing for people as well. Which IF did you try? Leangains? Eat stop Eat? That’s great that you know what you do best on, so you can work from there. Carbs are not your enemy, it just depends on your activity levels and what your body prefers.

As for training, I am floundering a little at the moment.  I just stopped working with this last trainer 2 weeks ago and have lost a little motivation.  With her, I was doing 3/week full body routines and 20-30 min of cardio(elliptical, stepmill, etc.), then on other days, I would do a lot of walking or sometimes try more cardio.  I can’t eat much to maintain my weight, so if I try to add in a lot of cardio or conditioning type stuff I instantly get really sore and exhausted.  SO for the past 2 weeks, I have been doing 2-3 full body workouts, mostly at home with my limited dumbbell (up to 20lbs) selection and pull up bar (I am still nowhere closer to doing 1 unassisted chin up, after a year of trying 🙁 ). and walking and even a little walk/run intervals on other days.  I am getting more interested in working out at home, it’s a lot easier as I work all day, have to pick up my son and get him home, so being able to do stuff at home is best…I am thinking of investing in some kettle bells and a bar with plates.

I’ll tell you right now that your training was “too much” while trying to diet as well. This is why you were constantly sore and exhausted. Your body couldn’t handle both stresses at the same time = lots of training and low calories (which is a big stress!). Do you like cardio? Do you like the elliptical? Have you ever done primarily strength training? Do you have a way to measure progress with your exercise?  I will tell you that I am highly biased towards strength training for looks, fat loss, and improving your body composition (not talking performance per se). Cardio is not necessary to lose weight, and can be detrimental especially when you keep adding more and more or use it to compensate for bad diet habits. More doesnt mean better. Walks are great, but adding in extra walks/runs/intervals/more cardio is part of the problem, not the solution. More on this below too. Some people love cardio. But it is not necessarily the way to go for getting a great body if you are the typical average exerciser who just wants to look good. My guess is that you don’t have some big performance goal, you are not trying to increase your aerobic training capacity (for a marathon for instance) and you don’t want to be spending a lot of time working out. Am I right? For looks and time purposes, I recommend starting a strength program that involves gradually increasing weight and working primarily big whole body movements for overall strength and isolation to target the areas you are concerned about, and perhaps a couple of cardio sessions per week separate from the strength training, if you enjoy it. Stuff like squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls. I know this can be confusing for a beginner, so here are couple links to explore. I also recommend JCD Fitness, John Romaniellos blog, and Girls Gone Strong. Go check them out online and on FB, they have tons of great information. 
Muscle Gain– Heres someone with a similar question to you

Last year, Aug of 2010 I got down to my lowest weight in my adult life, 130, but I did it the wrong way.  I was doing weight watchers and TurboFire (google it if you don’t know, it’s ridiculous).  IT was not maintainable, once I started lifting and walking, I gained 6 pounds.  I dieted, got it off, starting eating again and it came back on.  I maintained 136-138 for the most part of a year, I have only gone up to 146 in the past few months…I am not sure why, nothing has really changed.  Aside from experimenting with eating more fat/less carbs for a little while and not trying to diet.  I have been told by a few different experts that I have a pretty low percentage of body fat and that my loose skin makes me think there is more to lose when there is not.  I would just love to be able to fit back into all the clothes in my closet.  I often wonder if I have to accept where I am at and move on.

Pictures would help with this, as its hard to know just from your description. You know best if you feel that you could improve. From the above information I would say that there is plenty of room for improvement in your training and diet before you settle for anything. I would say you would benefit from 

– Setting a target calorie goal that includes high protein (essential for comfortable dieting) and the amount of carbs that gives you energy for workouts and does not deprive you so much that you are constantly snacking/craving etc, but keeps you in a deficit so you can lose weight.  Do you know how to set up calories? If not I can link you. Even if you don’t want to count calories forever, if snacking, portion control and general “unsureness” about what you are ACTUALLY eating in terms of calories everyday, it can be a good way to “reset” and stay on track. Easy websites like myfitnesspal or fitday make tracking pretty simple and only takes a couple minutes. 

– A progressive and basic strength routine focusing on getting stronger with less cardio. This will allow you to focus on honing in on your diet (you can’t diet hard and train hard and lose fat and gain muscle all at the same time) I would check out

Starting Strength Routine – Starting Strength – Novice Beginner Programs

Check out this article to understand the goals of fat loss:

Sorry for the long message, just wanted to give you a full picture.  Any advice, suggestions, etc is very appreciated and I would love to know more about working with you, I don’t have a lot of money to devote to my body though 🙁
Hope this helped a bit. Take some to do some reading and let me know if you have any other questions, and I ll help out as much as possible. 

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  1. Hi there i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this article i thought i could also create comment due to this sensible piece of writing.