How to Prepare Members’ Nutrition for the Holidays

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

It’s not just food that makes people overweight.

This was a realization Damian O’Hara, the owner of Ares Athletic Club and Martial Arts, home of CrossFit A-Game, in Manahawkin, New Jersey, had during his Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. “There are a lot of other factors: stress, allergies, hormones, self-care, etc.” said O’Hara.

Over the years his gym has experimented with its nutrition offerings. O’Hara said they have tried six-week fitness challenges with template meal plans, but it hasn’t worked. Either people don’t do them, or they do and then fall off as soon as the challenge ends. And with the holidays quickly approaching, focusing on members’ nutrition isn’t something that should be lacking at one’s gym.

With the realization that the above wasn’t producing results, the gym started to offer a nutrition coaching program to give its members a specifically tailored plan. “We are looking to take a more personal approach to nutrition instead of handing a client a list of foods to eat or not eat,” said O’Hara. “People don’t suddenly have new dietary habits, whether they are good or bad. It takes practice to make skills to reinforce behaviors. The person we are today was cultivated over time. If we want to change that, nutritionally speaking, we must steadily make the changes in our lives to make the difference.”

With clients at his gym, O’Hara uses the ProCoach platform offered by Precision Nutrition. He said he wants his athletes to understand that one falter in their healthy eating isn’t a failure. It’s a chance to learn why it happened. “It allows clients to get drip feed ideas about nutrition and how they might better deal with stress,” he explained. “They also give feedback on [educational lessons via the ProCoach platform], which allows them to put the lesson into a context on how it fits their lifestyle and also gives me an indication on what else we might need to work. We also have a habit that the client checks in on for two weeks. The habits start simple and then build off one another as we go along.”

All in all, CrossFit A-Game is going back to the basics of CrossFit. The base of the pyramid is nutrition, which is why O’Hara has begun to focus on it so intently. He shared the Precision Nutrition approach is anti-dogmatic and teaches members to change their mindset and learn why they are doing what they are doing.

It’s that mental shift that can lead to lasting change, something that’s been powerful and lasting at CrossFit A-Game. That’s the path on which the gym’s nutrition program will continue, especially into the holiday season and beyond. “Let’s learn why it happened. Was it a trigger, stress or how previous meals in the day were eaten? Even if we eat some we don’t view as healthy, how can we make it a win? Can we eat it slower or with a portion of vegetables? Such tactics may stop us from eating too many helpings of stuffing at Thanksgiving,” said O’Hara. “The clients I’ve worked with love the change in mindset. Instead of, ‘I have to eat vegetables and eat slow,’ they find themselves saying, ‘Why wouldn’t you eat vegetables and eat slow?’ The goal is to work on the behavior, not the food.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at