Dieting sucks. Ask any of the 45 million Americans who attempt to lose weight each year, and youll likely hear struggles of managing hunger or yo-yo dieting.
As a health reporter, I regularly interview dietitians about nutrition and weight loss, but that doesn't mean dieting comes easy. I've attempted to lose the same 20 pounds for more than a year: dropping five pounds one month, only to regain it - sometimes with a few additional pounds.
I finally realized I couldn't do it alone, so I decided to try Stronger U, a personalized program that matches you with your very own nutrition coach. As you document everything you eat in an Excel spreadsheet, your coach provides regular feedback to help you achieve your goal - be it weight loss, weight maintenance, or muscle building. Plans currently vary in price from $349 for 12 weeks of coaching to $1,149 for a year of coaching.
Heres how Stronger U works.
Once you pick your plan, you'll complete a brief questionnaire about your activity level, current weight, and expectations for your nutrition coaching experience.
Stronger U uses that information to pair you with a coach who tracks your progress, and who's always available by text, email, or phone to walk you through any dieting frustrations. All coaches are certified National Academy of Sports Medicine fitness nutrition specialists, and Stronger U also has several registered dietitians on staff.
You're encouraged to follow the Macro Diet, which entails eating specific amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fat each day. Your daily macronutrient goal is based on the information provided in the questionnaire, and is adjusted to fit your goals.
Heres what Stronger U was like for me.
I was paired with Derek, a patient and easy-going coach based in Texas.
He sent a welcome email that included a Stronger U beginner's guide, my personalized macronutrient goal, and an Excel spreadsheet to track my macronutrients, sleep, exercise, and weight.
Every week, I updated the spreadsheet and sent my progress to Derek, who provided feedback and determined whether my macronutrients needed to be adjusted. Derek only lowered the macronutrient goals if I went multiple weeks without losing any weight; he said the goal was to eat as much food as possible while still dropping pounds - advice that I can get behind.
First, the cons:
The program was easy to follow, but it did require a lot of diligence. You'll need to track everything you eat on an app like MyFitnessPal, weigh yourself daily, take waist measurements three times a week, and weigh food.
Now, the pros. There were a lot of 'em:
Dropping a few pounds doesn't require saying goodbye to your social life, but it does mean you'll say no to a few after-work happy hours. Derek helped find the balance between having fun with the discipline needed to lose weight.
When I wanted to save macros so I could have a few drinks at a friend's party, Derek looked at my food journal and offered advice on how to tweak my meals for the day. Then there was the time I went to a music festival and didn't want to go overboard on pizza, alcohol, and junk food. Derek looked at the festival's food offerings and pointed out the healthiest options.
Of course, there were times I gorged on junk food, but Derek never made me feel guilty. Instead, he encouraged me to get back on track one day at a time without beating myself up for past cheat meals. Whenever a week went by without losing weight, he emphasized that developing healthy, sustainable habits was more important than the number on the scale.
I also relied on the Stronger U Facebook group for encouragement. Members share recipes, tips for staying on track at parties and progress photos, which helped keep me motivated.
So whats my final verdict?
In three months, I lost 11.5 pounds, which is not the full 20 I hoped to drop. Full disclosure: I didn't always nail my macronutrient goals and had many cheat days.
Do you need a fitness coach to lose weight? Absolutely not. But here's the thing about losing weight: It's frustrating, requires sacrifice, and can be isolating. Using a fitness coach kept me accountable, motivated me, and helped put things in perspective.
Aside from losing 11 pounds, Stronger U helped me develop new habits that'll help me lose the last few pounds:
- Portion sizes are key. I never realized I was eating much more than a normal serving size until I began weighing food.
- My "occasional" cheats, like weekend brunch, were happening way more often than I realized - and delaying my weight loss.
- I became more serious about fitness when I started eating healthier. I used my Apple Watch to track workouts so I could accurately report my activity to Derek.
Is nutrition coaching worth it for you?
It depends. If you're easily motivated and can follow a healthy weight loss plan on your own, then you probably don't need a coach.
But if you're constantly trying to lose the same 15 pounds, having a coach can be beneficial. I often used one cheat meal as an excuse to continue gorging for the rest of the day (or even the week), but texting Derek during those moments helped me get back on track. I used to struggle with that on my own.
Derek's encouraging texts, and just knowing there was another person to keep me accountable, helped make three months of dieting bearable - and even provided results.