Jill Coleman stands out as a positive force in the fitness community. She’s both funny and insightful, if you follow me on Twitter, no doubt you’ve seen me retweet her pithy wisbits ranging from Rumi quotes to fitness straight-talk gleaned from years of experience.
For those who haven’t yet been introduced, she is founder and president of JillFit Physiques, a thriving body-transformation coaching biz, and director of instructor training at Metabolic Effect, the fitness and wellness company she cofounded with these fine characters (including her integrative physician hubs Jade Teta, who you will definitely be seeing in this space, as well).
Because she does a lot of things really well, including approach fitness from a full-body, whole-health perspective, I asked her to share her thoughts on everything from hormone balance to growth mindset, from eating well on the go to splurging with protein scones. Find out how to connect with Jill directly at the bottom of the post.
Jen: What are some common hormonal issues you see in female clients that may be affecting their ability to lose fat? How can women figure out if there’s something wonky going on with their hormones?
Jill: Ah, what a juicy question! After working with women and fat loss for a number of years, especially competitors and those who have yo-yoed up and down in weight a lot, I started to notice something. Many of these women were doing everything “right,” staying 100 percent compliant on their nutrition, and doing more and more exercise, effectively operating in a caloric deficit daily, and yet they were not losing fat and their measurements were not budging.
At this point, many trainers would assume that these clients were “cheating” on their diet and then blatantly lying about it, but that’s the easy way out of not taking ownership of your clients’ success. Like Alwyn Cosgrove says, “If your clients aren’t getting results, that’s your issue. Take 100 percent responsibility for their results.” And he’s right. First off, if I have a client who is lying to me, that’s the first issue that I need to address by getting them to trust me with their struggle. Then we can begin tackling the problem.
“The problem,” it turns out, is often not a caloric issue, but a hormonal one. Their metabolisms were not responding to the traditional eat-less-and-exercise-more approach anymore. They ended up somewhere on a spectrum of metabolic damage, and we needed to figure out what was going on. Usually the first hormonal change is at the level of the adrenal glands, where they are not able to secrete adequate catecholamine output (affects metabolism since adrenaline/noradrenaline boost metabolism), and they may be in a chronically high cortisol state. Metabolic damage occurs as a result of being in a physiologically chronic stress state — namely, chronic dieting and calorie cutting. Once the adrenals are not able to work effectively, the thyroid can be affected, leading to hypothyroidism, which slows the metabolism further. One other key that is not as obvious is the effect on the digestive system. Often, women are not digesting their food effectively, which can exacerbate autoimmune conditions like gluten or dairy intolerance, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and others.
The hormonal effects of chronic dieting and excessive exercise are far-reaching, and unfortunately, many women don’t know they are in trouble until they are already in a state of metabolic damage. The symptoms include GI upset/gas/bloating, low energy, zero motivation to exercise, irritability, trouble waking and/or sleeping, and of course, fat-loss resistance, among others. The best way for women is find out quickly if they have some hormonal disruption going on is an adrenal stress index test. Metabolic Effect has a great online program, The Metabolic Rehab Program, for women dealing with fat loss resistance as a result of metabolic damage.
Jen: You’re pretty open about the fact that you don’t eat starch or processed sugars. Period. But this doesn’t mean you don’t eat dessert. Can you share a recipe for one of your favorite low-carb ultra-delicious desserts?
Jill: Yum! I do love experimenting in the kitchen with clean baked goods, and more importantly, I love eating them. My favorite of all-time is my Healthy Protein Scones recipe, which was also featured in SELF Magazine after I brought them to a shoot I was doing.
These are my favorite clean treat to bring to events, lunches, day parties and other people’s homes. I like playing “dessert defense” so it’s important that I bring a treat I can have, too. These are my go-to goodies. Hope you love them!
Recipe: Jill’s High-Protein Scones
- 2.5 cups almond or hazelnut flour/meal
- 3 scoops whey protein powder (unflavored, vanilla or BSN Lean Dessert in Cinnamon Roll)
- 1 cup liquid egg whites
- 1⁄2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1⁄2 cup walnuts
- 1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
- 1⁄4 cup raisins
- 1⁄4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup erythritol or xylitol granules
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- Dash of nutmeg
3. Mix ingredients thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon.
4. Spoon scone-like blobs onto sprayed cookie sheets.
5. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. Cool for 5 minutes, remove from pan and enjoy! Makes 16 servings.
Jen: You’re also pretty open about the fact that dessert is the ONLY thing you cook/bake/make. Yet your body is phenomenal. It is unequivocally strong, lean, and #@%ing gorgeous. Apologies for being a creep, but you are quite possibly the only person I know who looks as good as you do without cooking any of your own meals. What do you eat? How do you put together meals on a daily basis?
Jill: Ha! Yes, well, first off, I need to make clear that if I ate more meals at home and prepped my food more diligently, I would probably be leaner and shed some quick water weight. It is true that “the more you cook, the better you look” (thanks, Dr. Chris Mohr), so if you love to cook, I don’t recommend doing what I do.
But for me, this is a lifestyle choice more than anything, and it’s about priorities. Because a) I hate cooking, b) I hate cleaning, and c) these things take time away from things I would rather be doing, like working on my businesses, writing, and so on.
I also found something really interesting a couple years ago after a long stretch of dieting down for shoots and events, when I was completely burned out on disgusting diet food like bland chicken, egg-white omelets and dry broccoli. And that is, I didn’t look all that different when I ate out at restaurants compared to when I prepped food at home. Meaning, I could still make good, healthy choices while dining out — sticking to a few key hard and fast rules — and still maintain my weight. And ridding myself of the stress of having to prep, cook and clean was invaluable to my productivity. Plus, Tupperwares disgust me.
I dine out for at least one to two meals every day, whether it’s a salad from Whole Foods, take-out from Chipotle or eating at a restaurant for dinner. The only real drawback seems to be a higher sodium diet. I make choices to ingest as little starch, booze and sweets as possible, always. Which means no bread basket, no dessert, no starchy sides, etc. The other thing is that since I stopped competing in figure competitions, I don’t eat a six or seven meals per day anymore. I eat three larger meals and one smaller snack, and a lot of them are quickie DIYs that require minimal prep. This has really helped rid me of my previous obsession with food. In fact, I hardly think about it anymore, when it used to consume all my thoughts: Where’s my food? Is it time for another meal yet? Has it been three hours? Do I have enough? Am I eating enough vegetables? Are my Tupperwares clean? I was constantly mentally fatigued from stressing about food.
So, here’s what a typical day looks like for me now:
- 10 a.m. postworkout meal: Protein shake made with Vega Sport powder (pea/rice blend), unsweetened almond milk, PB2, unsweetened cocoa powder, BCAAs and tons of ice. (I’m all about volume so this literally takes me 30 minutes to eat and is about 400 calories.)
- 1 p.m. Huge mixed greens salad with tons of veggies and lean protein, with balsamic vinaigrette dressing (from Whole Foods Market or Panera or really anywhere).
- 4 p.m. Think Thin protein bar or 2 of my protein scones.
- 7 p.m. dinner out usually, either another huge salad with chicken or a piece of lean protein plus veggies.
- After dinner, I usually eat a big bowl of frozen raspberries with Truvia on top.
Jen: You spoke in a recent blog post about “growth mindset,” which set off my Carol Dweck alarm. Love her perspective on personal growth (essentially, that positive characteristics can be developed). Tell me how you came to the realization that you were stuck in fixed mindset, and three ways your life has changed since you changed your mindset to one of growth.
Jill: To be honest with you, I was somewhat forced to take on a growth mindset a couple of years ago when I was dealing with some personal issues. I was like most people, not making a change or become introspective until life throws them a curveball and they need to start doing things differently.
For me, the biggest realization and change came from a simple insight and decision to stop being a victim. And when I say victim, I mean sitting around waiting for other people to change or waiting on things “to happen.” I didn’t realize that I was complaining my way through life a lot of the time and had expectations for how other people should act or be. I decided that I could either complain or take action, but not both. I practiced taking action and stopped waiting for other people to change or be different.
And, I started taking 100 percent responsibility for everything: my thoughts, my actions and even other people’s actions. Meaning, when I found myself in a situation that was someone else’s fault, I started asking, what can I do? How can I take action to change this, regardless of who’s to blame? Like my husband, Jade, says, “There is no blame in change.” If you want things to be different, you have to take responsibility to make them different.
And a natural extension of taking responsibility was to change my attitude to stop all negative talk — both self-talk and toward others or about others. One of JillFit‘s Core Values is relentless positivity, and it permeates everything I do, say and write. I absolutely refuse to put negative shit out there.
Finally, I read. A lot. I am addicted to learning. To have a growth mindset means to never rest on your knowledge laurels. Once I stop asking questions, I stop growing.
Three ways my life has changed since I started to take on a growth mindset:
1) Making strides in my business became easier because I stopped blaming circumstances and started just doing my thing. I worked around obstacles and even embraced them. I am a true believer that struggles, mistakes and failures make us better and help us grow. I look forward to them now because of that.
2) I started taking more risks to make things happen. I use Practical Pessimism, a technique popularized by Tim Ferriss, that requires you go right to worst-case scenario in your mind when you’re thinking of trying something new. When I can visualize the worst possible outcome and then ask myself, could I handle that? The answer is always yes, and this process decreases the impact of a potentially poor outcome. I’ve made plenty of poor choices, but I have worked to maintain my self-confidence about taking more risks despite them. The more I try, the more things I end up doing, and the more doors open. I say yes a lot.
3) I prioritized the creation of something bigger than myself and impacting as many people in a positive way as possible. I stopped valuing money and started valuing outcomes instead. How many lives can I touch with this program? How much impact can I have? How many people can I help? How many people will embrace their own power as a result of interacting with me? As soon as I shifted my focus to others, my own life improved: I had more time, made more money, and experienced more personal and professional fulfillment. Instead of starting with “making money” in mind, I focused on providing incredible value and teaching. People ask all the time why I give so much away for free on my blog. I’ll literally write whole meal plans on there, workout programs and more — things that others would charge money for. I found that the more I gave away, the more came back to me. It is literally true that in order to help yourself, you need to helps others. It sounds clichéd, but it’s a huge piece of my value system.