Wellness Wednesday: Nutrition Coaching with Noor

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography

Lilly Pulitzer "Weekender" leggings | Lilly Pulitzer "Teegan" sports bra | lulu lemon "Define" jacket | Adidas sneakers

I'm taking a little bit of a different approach to a fitness post this week to share my progress with nutrition coaching, and it is going to be a long one! As you probably know from some of my recent posts, I have started to really make nutrition a priority within the last year. If you are new, I basically just ate pretty terribly. Noor and I have followed each other on Instagram for awhile, and she recently reached out to me after reading my last Wellness Wednesday post, where I shared some of the nutrition progress I have made on my own. She has been helping me take that progress even further! She recently moved to Asheville, NC from California and offers remote nutrition coaching. Her Instagram is also super motivating and positive (and has photos of her gorgeous wedding)! Instead of trying to explain her service myself, I asked her a few questions about her background and coaching process:

1. Introduce yourself, and break down your nutrition coaching process!
Hi there! My name is Noor; my background includes BS degrees in Biology, Development and Women's Studies, and I am currently finishing up my masters in Nutrition! I view myself as a scientist and nutritionist, but have taken on the label of "coach" since I dwell in overlapping areas, and realized I am often called such! I played collegiate tennis, so I've been involved in the strength and conditioning + fitness world since I was about 14 years old. I went on to pursue my passion of fitness by participating in sports including tennis, distance running, weightlifting, and CrossFit, which is where I found my love for coaching and helping others.
I quickly came to realize, as most of us do, that nutrition, not solely exercise, is the foundation of health and fitness. I decided to make my nutrition a priority and hired a nutrition-specific coach to supplement my athletic endeavors. Long story short, it started out fine, but after a period of time, the coach had me eating a total caloric intake of under 1,000 calories. I didn't know any better at the time, but this was not supporting my workouts or body-type, and needless to say, I began to feel awful. It was after this experience and after watching so many around me follow fad diets or "coaches" without a strong background who were giving out cookie-cutter programs that didn't take the individual into consideration, that I decided to pursue a formal education in nutrition. 
I love the science behind what I do, so I look to include some simplified educational info to my clients too! My clientele range from those who are struggling to maintain their weight on very low calories and are experiencing metabolic damage/adaptation (often from being in a caloric deficit or previously dieting for too long or too aggressively), your average girl wanting to lose some weight, and fitness instructors and athletes wanting to get to a certain degree of leanness, fuel their workouts properly, and/or simply "look the part", as many say. My main focuses are in muscle building, fat loss, maintenance, and reversing metabolic damage in those who need it. Therefore, I believe in completely individualized, personalized programming. Meaning that no two people are doing the same exact thing, because no two people are exactly the same! A mindset I have always had is that my job is a very personal thing, so when someone is working with me, lines of communication are completely open. Health and fitness are not just about how we look, so communication is not only about physical changes, but also about their mental space, how someone is feeling, how their body is feeling, and questions that they may have as I view myself a resource for my clients.

2. What exactly are macros? Why do you use them for your clients?
Essentially, foods are made up of some combination of molecules labeled as fats, carbohydrates, or proteins. Things typically aren't simply a "protein" or simply a "carb", but instead are often specific ratios of a combination of 2, or all three, macronutrients. For example, peanut butter is often labeled as a fat, but in reality it is also comprised of protein AND carbs!
I love this second question! Carbs aren't the enemy and neither are fats; all three can work together to bring you  a well-balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle. I don't believe that restrictive diets are maintainable, so a huge part of my practice is showing clients that starvation or restriction isn't the only way to lose weight, and that we CAN do this in a healthier, more-fulfilling way. Tracking macronutrients isn't for everyone, but for folks and athletes that are looking for physical changes, I find it to be extremely effective!

3. How do you determine macro targets for your clients?
Honestly, this is so highly individualized that I can't give an A+B=C answer, but I'll do my best! An online calculator can sometimes do a decent job guessing your basal metabolism or ballpark of caloric needs, but I get a lot of my information from the in-depth questionnaire I send my clients once they have committed to working with me! I not only factor in the obvious statistics of a client (think height, weight), but also body fat percentage, activity levels, types of exercise performed, personal preferences (to a slight degree), short-term and long-term goals, and most importantly previous history and metabolic function. Not everyone's metabolism and metabolic capacity are the same (a calculator doesn't take this into consideration), and by doing my research about the person, we come to a baseline starting point and make weekly adjustments towards the goal we are working on- whether that is getting that metabolism functioning again, fat loss, or muscle gain.
The biggest mistake I see is that people are either shying away from carbs and fats because they think that those will make them "fat", and/or they aren't eating nearly enough protein to support their leaner mass, or desired lean mass. Putting all of it together, most people are not eating enough as a whole and are shocked when we add in a significant amount of food of the right ratios are able to lose weight, get leaner, gain muscle, etc. Essentially, it comes down to taking the complete person, inclusive of previous history into consideration. Not just their height, weight, and activity levels.

My thoughts 3 weeks in:
I am about to finish up my third week of coaching with Noor and overall, I think it is going great!
We started with the questionnaire she mentioned above with details like my height/weight/body fat as well as my activity levels (the different classes I take each week), and my goals: which were to maintain my weight, build muscle, learn how to properly fuel my workouts, and add more healthy foods into my diet.  Noor also had me track my macros for a week with no targets prior to the official start. This was to give her an idea of how I was already eating, which turned out to be fairly high in fat and not as much protein as I should be taking in. She suggested I not share my exact macro counts because they were set for my specific height/weight/level of activity/a meat-eating diet, etc. but they have been set fairly high for protein and carbs, but lower in fat.
We do a weekly check-in via a spreadsheet where I give my macro counts, weight, and measurements. My weight and measurements have remained about the same so far (which is on track with my goals). I honestly rarely ever weighed myself before I started this coaching, I actually did not even own a scale. I had also never counted calories (which are not included in this process anyway), carbs, or anything before. So one thing I have been adjusting to during this coaching is just watching how often my weight actually fluctuates, and just simply getting into the habit of logging everything. As she mentioned in the questions above, during the weekly check-in I also list my specific workouts and share thoughts about things like my hunger levels, how I'm feeling overall, and ask any questions I have for Noor.
I was a little overwhelmed the first week trying to figure out how to fit a high protein but low fat count. The high carb count was no problem though, I had plenty of almost pure carb foods around! Noor also set a fiber minimum, mostly just to make sure I am eating whole foods, which has been fairly easy to reach as long as I am eating some fruits and veggies. Noor mentioned above it is pretty common for people to be shocked that they are just not eating enough as a whole, and that was definitely true for me! During that first week without the targets, I was surprised at how low my calorie intake was on a few of the days. Although I think it also goes along with it being the first week of Sugar Free February (separate from this program), I was taking in a lot more calories on the first few days when I was eating sugar. And it looked even more off because I was eating even more sugar than usual, knowing I wouldn't be having much of it for the next few weeks. It was sort of a learning curve I had to get over. I officially started tracking specific macros on a Thursday, and I had started to figure it out by the following Monday. I also learned that week that I should be timing my protein throughout the day, as I started off sort of front-loading it in the morning.
By the second week, my carb macro was slightly increased, but protein and fat were about the same. Unlike the first week, I had a decent plan in place and this week went much better. I also figured out about the right way to time my food, which is: a slightly heavier than usual breakfast, a morning snack, lunch (about the same as before), an afternoon snack, sometimes an after-work snack (also already typical), and a little larger dinner than usual! I think the third week has been going just as well as the second one (macro counts were kept the same), eating a lot of the same foods. I am such a creature of habit, I look to change it up every once in a while, but never mind rotating the same few meals. My main sources of protein have been: a protein bar in the morning, hard boiled eggs at lunch, chicken or plant based vegan "chick'n" at dinner, and a protein shake either after a morning workout or after work before an evening workout. My main sources of carbs have been: fruit (mostly apples, oranges, grapes) at lunch or throughout the day. Along with snacks like popcorn, rice cakes, dried fruit, and sweet potatoes as a side at dinner. I have not needed to be looking for ways to fit the fat macro, it is usually just already filled when looking to fill the protein or carb numbers. It has been a little difficult to find protein sources that don't also have a significant amount of fat that will throw that number off, but I have managed so far! I also need to mention that although it is ideal to stay within 5 grams of the macro targets each day, it is not always realistic, and that's ok! My office has a big breakfast during our weekly staff meeting, which usually throws off my fat count for the day. Or I like to have a few drinks with friends or family on the weekends, but I don't deprive myself of social activities or foods I enjoy just to have the right numbers at the end of the week! For me, this isn't a "no exceptions" radical plan, I am just trying to get into some healthy habits that have been set by a qualified professional with my specific body type in mind. It is actually fairly easy to work in a glass of wine (or 2), or a big dinner at a restaurant by either cutting back on an afternoon snack, or just going over some macro (usually fat), by a few grams. But the important part is knowing that it is ok to do that!I plan to go more depth about foods I have been eating to reach the macro targets and more thoughts as this process goes along for my next Wellness Wednesday post! I also have a few other post ideas while I am working with Noor, let me know if there is anything specific you would like to see! And if you're interested in her service for yourself, fill out her Google sheet to get started!
Full disclosure: Noor has offered her nutrition coaching service in exchange for my promotion. But even if that was not the case, I would still be sharing just as much about it! I have obviously been taking steps to working on my nutrition lately, but had not really considered doing anything like this coaching process before. But wow, am I glad I did! It has been so interesting just to see what I need to be doing for my specific body type and goals. She has also been the best resource! I have always had a lot of nutrition questions (how much water should I actually be drinking every day? Is protein just as important on rest days? etc.) that she is so great about giving detailed answers and how it applies to your specific body and diet. She is always so positive, informative, and you can tell is very passionate about helping people reach their goals!

Thanks for reading!

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