In Melissa Hartwig’s opinion, nutrition is a touchy subject, third only to politics and religion.
“It’s very emotional for people,” said Hartwig, a co-creator of the Whole30 program. “Food is … more of a difficult subject to broach than exercise.”
Despite being a touchy subject, nutrition still remains essential to success in fitness.
Hartwig suggests starting the nutrition conversation as soon as possible. “I think it’s really important to have this conversation from the very beginning, like the moment the member sets foot in your gym,” she said. “You’re talking to them not only about the kind of exercise program you’re going to be doing with them and the fitness initiative, but also that you feel nutrition is such an important part of their health and fitness journey that you address it in a very direct and very prominent fashion as part of their comprehensive health and fitness services.”
At CrossFit Long Beach in Signal Hill, California, Chad Cross and Gina Caywood, the Box’s co-owners, send out an automated nutrition-advice email to all new members after their first week. They also give every member personal training and recommend that the first session is focused on nutrition and how to utilize given tools like shopping lists and meal plans.
It is essential to educate members on nutrition’s impact. Caywood said she talks about what happens when high-sugar foods are ingested. Also key is realizing each member is different, which is why Long Beach assigns every member to a personal Coach in order to have someone help them look at their overall health and wellness goals.
But, it is important how you approach that subject. “If you lead off with all of the stuff you’re not doing, you’re going to put the person on the defensive and it’s not going to be a very open conversation to have because you, as their Coach or as their trainer, feel nutrition is so important to them accomplishing their health and fitness goals,” said Hartwig.
Finally, one needs to maintain consistency. Whether that’s among your Coaches, your nutrition challenges, or the products you promote and sell, Hartwig said members look to a Box’s staff for guidance. If everything is varied, members can get confused. “As a gym and as a culture … [we need to say] these are recommendations we think are the most beneficial and then be able to demonstrate some consistency with that,” said Hartwig.