Nutrition Q&A: Time to Talk Food


Heather Refenes, the nutrition coach at CrossFit Illumine in Niles, Illinois, shares why you need to be talking about nutrition in your gym. 

BP: What does the nutrition offering look like at CrossFit Illumine?

HR: I love empowering people to change the way they feel about their body and themselves. I help our members by offering nutrition consultations, workshops, organizing periodic group challenges, and providing one-on-one custom nutrition help with long-term options, including regular body composition scans and personal accountability. I partner with Nicole Aucoin from Healthy Steps Nutrition for our in-house program, and I also have a Precision Nutrition certification.

BP: What’s your Kickstart program and how have you found success with it?

HR: Illumine’s Kickstart program combines fitness with nutrition, focusing on nutrition as the foundation for good health. We are successful because we provide data-driven results. The biggest factor thwarting people’s progress toward real and lasting change is commitment. Illumine’s Kickstart program locks in commitment, provides accountability and our clients see the results.

BP: What role does nutrition play in member retention? 

HR: The majority of the people who come through Illumine’s doors fall into the trap of trying to out train a bad diet. They come regularly, work hard, but do not see the numbers on the scale change. A nutrition program provides a safety net for these people. This safety net allows us as a gym to continue helping them reach their goals.

In short, people get frustrated when they don’t immediately get results. By incorporating nutrition, we set up realistic expectations, provide an outlet for frustration and give them a roadmap to get them the results they are working toward. 

BP: What impact does nutrition have on the gym as a whole? 

HR: Everyone thinks in terms of overall health instead of beating up their bodies every day. They realize the physical exertion is only a piece of the puzzle. They over train less, and don’t stress out if they are forced to spend time away from the gym. Feeling good becomes the goal we strive for as a community.  

 BP: Why does nutrition need to be part of a gym? 

HR: Changing your diet has been compared to changing your religion or your politics. There are a lot of ingrained ideas you don’t even realize you have about nutrition, emotional attachment you have to food and a lot of social pressure to take you off your path. Most people already know what they should eat to some extent. People need someone keeping them accountable, keeping them positive, celebrating their achievements, and actually seeing data driven change rewarding them for their efforts.  

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