Keep It Simple, Stupid: Nutrition 101

I will never claim to be an “expert” in nutrition. But what I can say is I’ve been through a myriad of diets and gained valuable experience from each one.

To give you an idea of my nutrition adventures, I’ve dabbled in paleo, vegan, vegetarian, carb cycling, stupidity no carbs, 80/20, detoxes, juice cleanses, intermittent fasting, and Chipotle binge eating.

Needless to say, there’s not one diet I haven’t tried.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this article (no pun intended), let’s face one fact: diet is the most challenging behavioral change when it comes to fat loss goals.

Now I’m not going to give mundane advice like “eat more whole foods” or “drink more water” or “eat protein 7.9 minutes immediately following a workout.” Why?

Well, just about any trainer and average person can google cookie cutter nutrition advice. <–I’m on a roll with the food puns.

On a side note: cookies are recommended. In fact, most treats should be squeaked into your diet. More on this later.

1.) Behavioral Changes

I always love when trainers write nutrition plans for clients, or call themselves “Nutrition Fat Loss Experts.” That’s adorable. Please tell me how much work it was to type  fish oil supplement, sweet potatoes, chicken, eggs, Ezekiel bread with peanut butter and avocado into a Word document and hand it to a client.


Admittedly, it’s been two years since I’ve charged someone for a diet plan. Compiling a list of the healthiest produce and whole foods is a sure fire way to make easy money, but it went against my integrity and expertise. Plus, I found clients weren’t sticking to my plans.

This begs the question: what do clients need beyond a planned menu?

Drum roll…

Help with behavioral change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally against trainers writing and charging money for nutrition plans. Some of my colleagues do an excellent job at customizing and holding their clients accountable.

For most clients, however, it’s tough to keep nutrition dialed in due to psychological factors. Or this could be due to people hiring shitty online bro trainers who specialize more in selfies and stealing money than nutrition.

Instagram charlatans aside, one thing we must recognize first: people aren’t idiots. They know eating an extra large pizza in one sitting is bad for them. And they know eating a box of Oreos to the face is not the way to fat loss.

We have to figure out why they’re doing so. Are they emotional eating? Are they stressed? Are the cookies easily accessible? Are they depriving themselves throughout the week?

You can even dive a little deeper and ask them the larger questions:

Why do you want to lose fat?
What long term health goals do you want?
What do you have to do to achieve optimal health?
What can you give up in your current diet that you can live without?
What types of food do you feel you get increased energy and confidence from?

It all comes down to finding core values. And if you can have your clients answer these greater questions themselves, they’ll be more likely to take action. A great book I read on how to promote behavior change is Motivational Interviewing.

Podcast: How to Beat The Freshman 15 >>

2.) Deprivation

There’s a lot of noise in the fitness industry with the rise of detox programs and green juice cleanses. Personally, I don’t like shitting green. However, I applaud anyone who can stick to a 30 day juice cleanse.

Honestly, I think cleanses are bullshit.

Gimmicky and money-sucking could be a few ways to describe these programs, but they become more problematic when people believe they can adhere to them for a lifetime. If anyone can do this, I’ll get a tattoo of a kale leaf on my ass. I’m not confident or anything.

This bears repeating: deprivation downright sucks. It’s not sustainable. It’s not energizing. It’s not fulfilling. It’s not breathing life into you. It makes you repeat the phrase “Oh, I shouldn’t” when you see a tray of cookies at a work party. What’s the fun in using every ounce of your willpower to say no to just ONE, silly cookie?


^On a side note: I googled “cookie with sunglasses.”

Strength coach and Top 25 personal trainer Meghan Callaway adds:

“Unfortunately, so many people opt for one quick fix, gimmick, or insanely complicated diet after another. Guess what, simple, practical, reasonable, and enjoyable work. While this common sense approach might not be as glamorous, and it is definitely not as marketable, it will help you achieve sustainable results, and will help you establish a healthy lifestyle that lasts.”

So how do we make gradual changes to alleviate the binge-deprive cycle? Well…

3.) Preemptive Cheats

I stole this term from fitness coach Jill Coleman. Instead of depriving yourself all week or month so you can binge on the weekend and gain 15 pounds back after your cleanse, why not squeeze in “preemptive” cheats daily that will keep you satiated throughout the week? Even better, throughout the course of your life?

I wrote an extensive article on How to Stop Binging with Cheat Meals.

Spoiler alert: don’t be a pig. But also, don’t starve yourself.

It’s all about finding your sweet spot. <— another food pun.

4.) Consistency

“People pride themselves in eating clean for 2 days of the week, but then the other 5 days they fill up with shit,” says strength coach Kory Kapinos.

It’s amazing and comical when clients come in on Monday and go, “I ate 20 pounds of ice cream, had Chik Fil A, and drank 10 glasses of wine last week.” What’s more fascinating is they complain they haven’t seen fat loss results yet.

“Fat loss is hard and earned. Consistency is the only way to accomplish a goal, and to maintain a certain body composition. Sure, the natural enjoyment of unhealthy foods is fine, but consistency is always king,” says Kory Kapinos.

Look. Us strength coaches aren’t Gandalfs. We don’t know wizardry on making fat melt.

And for people who expect easy results, as much as I want to let out my raging bitch, I will never yell at them. Or attempt wizardry.

Instead, I’ll simply say, “Describe how you feel after a binge” or “Tell me about what you’ve been doing and if it’s worked for you thus far.” Again, putting the ball in their court with open-ended questions.

5.) I’m not a Nutritionist.

If you made it this far, thank you. You just read an entire article on nutrition, written by NOT a nutritionist.

I’m a strength coach who just so happened to take one class on sports nutrition in graduate school. But I repeat: in no way does that give me the right to stamp “Nutrition Expert” on a business card.

Instead, my plethora of experiences with different diets has augmented my nutrition knowledge. I’ve seen people deprive, then binge, then deprive, then binge. And it wound up being an unending cycle of misery. I went through the same as well, only to finally realize this shit ain’t rocket science.

At the end of the day, nutrition should be easy. Focus on foods that you enjoy, that give you life, that fuel your workouts, that make your brain sharp, and that make you want kick the world in the ass. And do that forever. Rinse and repeat.

And always remember to KISS: keep it simple, stupid.

Erica Suter

I’m a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) based in Baltimore, Maryland. I work with college  and high school athletes, grandmas, moms, dads, and people who want to make strides toward an athletic and energetic life.
My passions are lifting heavy things, binge watching Lord of the Rings, teaching sport science and biomechanics, writing in witty pop culture references, and turning girls into beasts.
I’ve been a private soccer and strength coach for four years at the youth and college levels. In my free time, I research, hike, blog, and read Buddhism novels. Like a boss.
I’m a private soccer trainer and strength and conditioning coach servicing athletes and non-athletes in Ellicott City and Towson, Maryland. If you’re ready to sign up for private soccer or team training, reach out and let’s get started.
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