Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?
By the time I was a high school senior, I’d already spent years dieting and exhausting myself with hours and hours of cardio. When I saw a strong fitness model on the cover of a magazine, I realized that women can be strong and powerful and I dived into the world of strength training.
Like most women, I started off with very little knowledge of how to train. There would be times when I would wander around the gym in between exercises, unsure of what to do next. Soon, my hobby became my passion and I became a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT) as a sophomore in college.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best individuals in the strength and conditioning industry over the past six years while building my own business and working toward my mission of helping women feel strong and confident in the gym.
I’ve since become a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA-CSCS) and certified sports nutritionist (CISSN), and I’ve also obtained my master’s degree in psychology. Currently, I own a private studio in San Diego, and I’m a Women’s Health Magazine fitness advisor. I run an online coaching business, ELT Method (which stands for “Eat, Lift, Thrive Method”), and I sell numerous products and services online.
What are some common mistakes people make with tracking macros, and how can you rectify them?
One of the most common mistakes is that people don’t account for everything they consume. I usually recommend that people use a digital food scale instead of volume measurements to have a more accurate measure of what they’re eating and to make sure they account for all bites, licks, tastes, as well as oils and sauces that go into their food.
These are things that many people overlook, and it’s very common to be unknowingly consuming more calories than they realize. One bite of something by itself is usually not so harmless, but rarely do people ever really stop at just one bite. It’s a slippery slope!
You have switched from tracking macros to a more intuitive eating approach, with certain guidelines e.g. consume at least 30g of protein at each meal. Is this something you would recommend to a relatively dedicated fitness enthusiast?
It depends on their current fitness goal. If someone who is already experienced with tracking has the specific goal of trying to diet down, I would recommend tracking macros in order to achieve the fastest results.
For someone who is a complete beginner, I might start them off by making simple changes in their diet and habits to help them see results.
If someone is trying to gain muscle and wants to be careful about the amount of fat they gain, tracking macros would be beneficial to ensure they’re not in too much of a calorie surplus.
I’d probably only recommend an intuitive eating approach to someone who is in maintenance, and remind them to pay attention to their internal hunger and satiety cues. If they’re not focusing on fat loss or muscle gain, taking an intuitive eating approach can allow them to devote less mental energy on their nutrition and be able to prioritize other things in their lives.
What are common psychological barriers that you see with clients that prevent them from making progress with their nutrition?
One of the most common is that clients will doubt their program too soon. They keep changing variables and end up not being consistent on anything. They don’t give any regimen a fighting chance to work since they don’t stick with them long enough to see results.
Have you found any strategies that work well with people who are prone to binge eating?
A lot of times, binge eating can stem from being too restrictive in your diet in calories and/or food choices. The simplest strategy would be to eliminate the restriction if possible. There’s a big difference as well between not eating something because you’re not “allowed” to versus not eating something because that’s a choice you’re making for yourself.
Of course, if the binge eating is not actually related to food/nutrition, that’s an entirely different matter altogether – one that’s outside my area of expertise.
What were some of the key takeaways that you got from your Master’s in Psychology with a focus on food behaviour change?
We really need to make a move to step away from the all-or-nothing mentality because it’s doing us far more harm than good. We glorify being super hardcore with our diet, and we don’t make enough of a big deal with being super consistent with moderation.
A lot of people prefer a slow and steady approach to behaviour change, in a perfect world. When working with clients, do you go down that route? Or do you make slightly larger changes initially to ensure that the ball is rolling in terms of progress, which may motivate people more?
This also depends on the person. Some people do better with smaller changes because they’re more likely to consistently adhere to their program, while some people are more motivated to kick things into high gear when they do more and see faster results upfront.
Sohee Lee is an evidence-based fitness coach and author based in San Diego, California. She has a Masters degree in psychology and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN).