Improving Sleep, Digestion, Skin, Recovery and Body Composition All Through Learning How To Prioritize Food Quality with Dara & Erik, iCoach Nutrition Coaching Clients

Coach Justin: “Dara and Erik, what is going on?”

Dara & Erik: “Thank you for having us.”

Coach Justin: “How’s the weather over there where y’all are at right now, Is it as beautiful as it is over here 50 miles away? Lol typically when I interview people for the podcast I feel like they’re never in Texas. I feel like that’s always the icebreaker question of like you know, we’re lucky here in texas, especially for all my friends up there in the north, basically every time I ever complain of being cold, they just tell me to shut up! Anyways, let’s dive in to the podcast! Obviously, y’all are both on the podcast here for those of you that are just listening and not watching. Dara, let’s start with you and just kind of give us like the 10,000 ft. view of your background and what you do and then we’ll have Eric do the same and then we’ll kind of dive into our journey of working together.”

Dara & Erik: “So I always grew up as the super skinny kid, didn’t realize until I was an adult and really in the last couple of years how this contributed to many of my medical issues like allergies and asthma. I was always really skinny and then in college I gained the freshman 15 or 20 whatever it is and that was me, and then when I decided I wanted to be a police officer, is when I really got more into fitness and wanting to get in shape. I had started working out probably about a year before that because honestly it helped me battle some depression I was going through when I was working in social work and so I got through that and then I started lifting weights and getting stronger. I became a police officer and now it’s really one of my biggest duties is to stay fit and healthy so that I can be of the utmost service to the people that I serve and anybody I come in contact with. Erik helped me start tracking my macros when we first met, but it was a lot more of the, you know, eat candy and fruit for your carbs if you wanted to because you could and meet your numbers. So then, you know, we’ve meal prepped ever since we’ve known each other and then we really wanted to dial it in and that’s when we started working with you and I had found you through a facebook group and it’s been life changing. It’s been a whole different last year for us.”

Coach Justin: “That’s awesome. I love that. We’ll dive into a few different points on your story here in a second, but Erik let’s get the five minute intro of you brother.”

Dara & Erik: “Well I am the gentleman from up north. I’m originally from South Dakota. Dara and I are very similar in our stories. I have a nine year background experience in law enforcement, I was in law enforcement up in South Dakota, but I was kind of on the backwards side of where their story was, where back in 2011 I was extremely overweight. I was clinically obese and when I heard that from my doctor, that’s kind of when the light bulb came on and I got a kick in the butt and I knew it was time to change my life and so that’s when I really when I started my health and fitness journey. I started at a gym working out and I hired a nutritionist while I was up north because I wanted to do a bodybuilding show and that was really a goal of mine was to be 30 years old and have abs and you know it was a game changer. I then took what I learned from him and I was able to implement that into my everyday life and then when Dara and I met, I was able to take that knowledge and transfer it over to her to help her become what she has and I made the transition down here to texas just a little under two years ago, we got settled into our new house and we were really looking forward to setting some goals and that’s when Dara said she had found you on the the compete everyday group and shout out to jake for that but you know, working with you, oh my gosh I mean working with the nutritionist before I had an idea of what to expect, but we got so much more because it wasn’t just nutrition coaching, it was habit based coaching. It was accountability. It was basically like life coaching with an emphasis on what we wanted to achieve in. I mean, yeah, as Dara said, it’s been a life changer this last year and even this last six months since working with you, I mean things have just been so much different, but so much better for us and we didn’t rebound either. You know, like after finishing working with you, it’s not like we’re like okay, well that was fun back to what we were doing. So that speaks a lot to how you coached us and that is something that we’ve adopted into our lifestyle.”

Coach Justin: “First off, thank you! I always joke with other coaches in the space and it’s like, you know, as much as I want to take credit, I just can’t. It’s almost like I feel guilty ever taking credit for any client success because you know, as I’ve told y’all so many times, I can tell anybody what to do, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to take action. It’s all about trying to help you navigate through your current season of life in order to find what works best for you. And I mean, to be honest, y’all made the process very easy on my end because you know obviously you had some background, you know, this wasn’t your first rodeo, but you know, for me as a coach, it was just like, hey, how can I dive into, you know a couple that already has a phenomenal foundation and how do we start to improve add value to their life? Because everybody can get better, right? Like I can get better. We all can get better and so I think that’s the cool part about coaching. I always talk about the five big rocks: sleep, hydration, food quality and food quantity, exercise and stress management. Those are the big rocks if you will, but that’s not sexy to talk about, that’s not some new fancy diet, but you know, I believe that this is step one of establishing a really solid foundation to then build off of. So for y’all, it was more about you know, when I used the example of the mason jar with the five big rocks, pebbles and then the sand. Well, y’all have those five big rocks established well, right? And we got to kind of start getting into the pebbles and into the sand. Like, you get to nerd out a little bit and kind of dive into more of the higher level strategies. So, that was my long winded answer to, you know, thank you and congrats on your success because here we are a year later, right? And like you said, nothing changed. Nothing fell off, like, still improving, still setting new goals, still challenging yourself. Like this is forever, like, this is the rest of your life it’s not, not 30 days. So I’m curious you know, for the listeners out there, like you know if you’re if you’re tracking macros or this like whole if it fits your macros, obviously there’s a huge emphasis on one side of the equation of food quantity, right? You know, making sure that you’re tracking stay consistent with whatever those prescribed macronutrients were being fat protein and carbohydrates. So I’m curious, what did you love most about starting with that, like starting with learning macros and tracking macros, like what was some of the things that you liked the most about it and then what was maybe a few things that you I guess since then have learned that maybe you have to consider in terms of also focusing on the food quality side of the equation?”

Dara & Erik: “I think for me, like the initial was the idea of eating the foods that you enjoy, but still seeing the progress and I think that’s the big catch with flexible dieting, IIFYM or whatever you wanna call it, that’s what gets people and I was huge on the fact leading up to competition prep in like proving this fact to people that, hey you can eat what you want and you can get ripped up and so I was eating pop tarts after every workout. I think up to less than six weeks from my competition day, just because at that point the carbohydrates were too high that it leaves me with nothing for the rest of the day. But I was obsessed with pop tarts. My license plate in South Dakota was pop tart. No, not even lying, the greatest thing ever but one thing we have so many pictures eating pop tarts afterwards and that’s really kind of what branded me for the longest time within, you know, this group and even social media at the time was the fact that you know, this guy is the pop tart guy, you know, hashtag yeah, you know, and so that was really kind of the the huge catch, hey, you know, you can eat all this stuff and, and still achieve your goals. Yeah. And so not knowing that it wasn’t well knowing we knew that it wasn’t the best quality, but not knowing that that’s not the best for you and how eating better quality stuff that’s gonna make you feel better. That’s what was appealing to us because I’m a candy girl and eat sour gummy anything, you know, all day every day for the rest of my life. So that was initially what people you know, and I think over time it’s truly evolved to learn that, you know, I can eat that stuff here and there and get away with it, but if I want to continue to see higher quality of progress, you have to make those higher quality choices and so, you know I look back at it and go man, if I would have maybe have done a little bit differently leading into prep you know, at the time it might not have been a sustainable for me but would I have come in and done better, you know? Oh yeah, I’m sure and even coming out of it, I’m sure it would have been better, but you know, for the time for where I was at mentally and just educationally coming into it, it was, it was perfect for me and so from that, I’ve always been kind of jealous of him because he can basically eyeball food and know that it basically fits within where he’s supposed to be and I don’t feel like I can’t, I feel I used to feel like if I went outside of that, then I would gain way or I would get acne or you know whatever the case was. But then, I’ve noticed I am numbers and structure oriented which it is sometimes to a fault. So I realized to give myself a break, but I don’t have to put everything into my fitness pal and that, you know, I know i’m supposed to eat this many eggs and a banana or whatever the case may be. And so to not be, so I call it erotic about weighing out my banana and cutting off the end if it’s, you know 10 grams more or whatever it is. And so since I’ve done that, it’s been, I’ve come to much more peace with eating in my progress and I’ve done just fine and I’m gaining muscle and I feel great. So it’s, it was kind of to a fault on my end that I got a little too obsessed with the numbers asked of me.”

Coach Justin: “Yeah, well, I mean, you know, I think you hear about it a lot…right? I always ask clients, especially when we start working together. I’m like, look what have you tried in the past and what did you like about it? What did you not like about it? Because I think that that tells a lot about their diet history and what they’ve been influenced by. It’s no different than where you grew up and the parents you had in the school system. We’re influenced by our environment. So, you know, the thing that I think that y’all had the most awareness in was food quantity, right? And like you had the awareness of hey, like these are my macros, this is how I lose body fat. This is how I gain muscle, you know, etc. If i was doing IIFYM, I would have done the same thing. I’ve never done a specific diet for an extended period of time because I always just looked at them and I was just like, what’s the purpose? I just hate putting myself in a cookie cutter box of a diet. I love individualization. I like to do things on different days and change things and just do what I want to do basically. I guess that’s what it is, but I do love it for that reason, that it creates awareness from food quantity. So, were you feeling you know, I know there was some you know, we’re talking about biofeedback with some of the listeners on there and you know, this is sleep, digestive, all those types of things. So what were some of the biofeedback issues that maybe you’re experiencing with focusing more on food quantity and not so much the food quality?

Dara & Erik: “Well, you know, we didn’t learn them really until we started working with you. Mine was as you know, digestion was huge. Probably sleep and recovery, you know, like soreness and that because we didn’t take rest days like we hated taking rest days, but it’s much easier and much more enjoyable now. Pretty much since you made us take at least a rest day a week. So, you know, for me definitely digestion sleep and recovery or skin issues. I know that wasn’t necessarily one of the biofeedback you worked with. Since we worked with you, my eczema went away. I went to the dentist, I used to have a recurring abscess or something in my top gums behind my teeth and it would come like every 6 to 8 weeks randomly it would just show up and then go away and my dentist couldn’t figure out there was no infection, there was no leaking or anything like that. So I talked to him today about it because I just went to get my teeth cleaned and he said it might have been because a sinus issue cleared up, I haven’t had that issue since we started work, like, you know, a couple of months into working with you, once my body started reaping the benefits of the quality of food, so all kinds of skin issues for me and then huge digestion and improvements it’s just been it’s life changing.”

Coach Justin: It’s just so mind blowing to me, the power of nutrition, I mean, you know, Socrates, Einstein, whoever it was said that nutrition is medicine and this was you know, hundreds of years ago, like it’s just mind blowing to me honestly hearing stories like this is like what made me want to pursue a degree in nutrition, because here I was, you know seeing two sides of the equation, you know, seeing conventional medicine and then seeing more of this like, preventative integrative functional approach and I was seeing what food was doing in people’s lives and and really not just food, but kind of all the lifestyle habit components as well, and it’s it’s powerful, I mean it really can, you know, change your life and I know that’s kind of a truthful statement sometimes you’ll you’ll hear it a lot from people, they’re like, oh this is life changing or whatever but like no, like for real like this could literally change your life. So identifying it and you might have to remind and jog my memory here a little bit but you know, there were some big changes from a digestive standpoint, some big changes with the skin. What were the foods that you feel were contributing to those issues?”

Dara & Erik: “I think the biggest foods that were contributing to those issues were the processed foods, the foods that we were buying prepackaged, lower quality meats, etc. Yeah, I mean and definitely think that the quality of the food that we were getting, you know, we were very big on doing cereal for our pre or post workout. You know we try to keep our those meals low in fat higher in carbs and we do it with a protein drink and mixed in to simulate the milk and you know, that was that was kind of our jam at the time and you know, working with you and learning just about that food quality and you know making those smarter choices when it comes to wow, eating something fresh as opposed to the prepackaged. I mean yeah, especially to fuel your workouts. One big thing that we discovered about me and my digestion is that once I stopped taking birth control, my digestion really made a huge improvement which was bizarre to me because the average person doesn’t think that birth control would affect your digestion. It’s only supposed to affect the female things, you know, not necessarily digestion. So that was a big improvement for me, but you didn’t just say well your digestion is not good, so you need to get off. There’s all of this information about how it can affect you positively or negatively, educate yourself, do what you guys, you know, think is right because you don’t want to be responsible for any unexpected babies. There was so much educating us about how and why it can affect certain things. So I honestly, probably learned more from you about birth control and my cycle than I ever have in my whole life. That’s just not something that was true education. It was just like, yeah, you get your cycle and that’s life and here’s some birth control to make it better. So I was on it for 12 years and I mean any medication long term is going to do some damage. I had no idea. Yeah, so that was big for me because we didn’t eat a ton of dairy really, I mean string cheese and that’s about it because we only drink almond milk for milk. And so there wasn’t an issue. I think a lot of it was just the process for the prepackaged, you know, meals, yeah, we meal prepped, but you know, the quality of food still, I mean we definitely we choose rice over over doing a potato or a vegetable. I mean, yeah, I think the most vegetables we got is if we had salsa, yeah, you know we do fruit because fruit worked well, but you know we didn’t really do the vegetable side, rice was always our carb. And so since you challenged us to incorporate vegetable carbs for those grain carbs or whatever it was, that, I mean, that’s been huge. I’ve literally never eaten so many vegetables in my life as I have in the last year. And then you said, if you don’t like to eat vegetables, you’re not cooking them in the right way. And I was like, oh, mind blowing. So then that makes us to take responsibility for how we see it.”

Coach Justin: “Yeah, no, I think there’s so many great takeaways just from like those last few segments. There’s so many people that unfortunately you know, going grocery shopping and cooking on your own house are two things that are not really done all that much, it’s becoming more of a rarity. I think we’re getting farther and farther away from the kitchen and so you know me being a dad one of the biggest emphasis and focuses for me going forward is making sure that the kitchen is a place in my house that is like the best room in the whole entire house. Like I want to cook, I want to have the music up like I want to involve the kids, like I want this to be a part of their lifestyle and you know we’ll see what happens but maybe I’m just all talk here but you know it’s important and I think that like you know making cooking a part of your lifestyle is something that you know, it’s gonna make you live a better life, like it’s gonna make you feel better, it’s gonna just improve the quality of your life in general. So you know, I think that there’s some big takeaways for people that are one with the whole birth control conversation, you know, anybody that has questions on that just shoot me a message and like I can share resources and have those conversations obviously it can get complex with some of that, but the same with the digestive stuff but I think there’s just you know, it goes to show if we want to simplify the process here. Like look at some of the big picture changes. They went from essentially never eating vegetables to crushing the 800 gram challenge like consistently every single day. They, you know, they improved the food quality. That’s the, that’s the biggest takeaway, like the quantity was dialed in. They really improved the food quality. And, you know, I think I would probably argue one of the biggest things on the quality side would have been the meat, fish, eggs and then a little dairy that you were doing because maybe talk a little bit about that and what that transition look like in terms of the quality of meats and fishes.”

Dara & Erik: Yes those and the eggs. I know leading up to working with you, we would go to Walmart and we would buy the 60 count box of eggs, we buy two at a time because we would go through them so quickly because eggs were just such a big part of our, of our daily meals. And when we began working with you and you challenged us, hey, go to whole foods and try some eggs, try some of the meat and see what you think and we went there and we’re like, oh my God $3 for a dozen eggs. We’re spending like $7 for 60 eggs, this man is gonna make us go broke. We just bought a house. How can we do this? And I remember the first time we came home with them and cooked eggs, it was life changing. The way they looked, when we cracked them, the way that they cooked, everything was different. And then obviously the way that they taste was just phenomenal. And we kind of, we just kind of sat back and go like, why haven’t we been doing this sooner? And we sat down and we looked at the cost efficiency of it with doing those eggs as opposed to the walmart eggs. It really just wasn’t that big of a difference. The sticker shock I think initially got us. But, once we saw what we were getting out of it and what little difference there was, we realized it was all worth it. Same with the beef, you know, we would go through, I would say probably about 3.5 pounds of beef per week between us with meal prep alone and, just everything about it from the raw form to how it cooks to how it smells as to how it tastes. I mean, it’s, it’s phenomenal compared to the sort of the little tube of meat that you go and you, you buy it any of the major retailers. I would say that’s really about just as big of a change with the fresh proteins, is the stuff that we buy that’s package that’s prepackaged whether it’s, you know, the protein or even, cereal because I still need my cereal, we make better choices in what we buy. And so we try to buy the higher quality options. And one thing that you preached is that the look at the ingredient list is less is truly more. and I think that came down from when, when we first started, because we drank energy drinks every single day, rockstar energy drinks. And I still remember just mentally hating you when you’re like trying to stop drinking those at least, you know, have maybe three a week. And then you introduced us over to Zevia and you’re like, look at the ingredient list compared, you know, you’ve got the sugar free drink that’s got an ingredient list that you can’t even pronounce the majority of the things in there and then you have this Zevia energy drink that has four ingredients. And so we tried it and at first it was, it was a little different, but man, yeah, you get used to it, and now if we have one of those, you know, name brand energy drinks and just, it doesn’t quite taste right, and you, you can feel a difference even after drinking it. Like, we already didn’t like you before we started working with you, because we knew you would make us stop drinking those and some might call that an addiction but that’s just from our law enforcement background is working nights needing to stay up. Hey, let’s grab a bang energy drink and not sleep at all, even when we’re not working, but yeah.”

Coach Justin: “Let’s dive into the conversation around y’all working night shift. There’s a bunch of people out there that are police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, etc. Give me y’all’s biggest takeaways, lessons, advice, etc. that y’all can give out there for those people in the same situation because I’ve been in the field now for over 10 years and y’all are some of the most consistent clients I’ve ever worked with!”

Dara & Erik: “Probably one of the biggest things is being prepared. You know if you go into a night shift where you know that no other food options besides Whataburger and Taco Bell then that’s what you’re gonna end up with. So if you don’t take something, if you don’t at least take your lunch and a couple of snacks or something like that then when you’re tired and you’re stressed and nothing else is open, you are so much more likely to make those bad decisions. I don’t want to say bad, you shouldn’t feel bad for it, but to make those unhealthier decisions like going to Whataburger or going to Taco Bell. And if you do go to those, every restaurant now has healthier options of some sort, so you can at least make a healthier decision. There’s always a better option when you do go there though, you know, and especially quantity, you know not getting something super size or even the fries or whatever the case may be. I know one benefit we have in the city I work is that there are two IHOP”s close and they’re open 24/7 and you can eat really well if you go to IHOP you know they have vegetable options. They have eggs and egg whites and different omelets and all that kind of stuff. There are a lot better choices you can make there, but if you don’t go prepared into that night shift you are setting yourself up for failure. You’re going to make bad decisions and that’s I think that’s based on science. There’s a lot of research that’s done when you’re you know really low on sleep. I’m lucky right now and that we don’t have kids so I’m able to sleep during the day. So I don’t go tired to work, but if you have to wake up for court in the middle of the day when you’re supposed to be sleeping or you have kids or other responsibilities that’s unfortunately going to drive you to to worse decisions. I also use my lunch break to work out. Not only because before after a 12 hour shift, I don’t think it’s beneficial to go to the gym. It’s cutting into your sleep. And then After a 12 hour shift, I don’t know how anybody even has the energy to work out. So what do you do? Drink pre workout? Are you drinking energy drinks to get through it? But then that’s so close to when you’re supposed to be sleeping and you’re not going to get a good quality sleep, the more delay is just a snowball of issues. So preparation you know, using your resources when you can working out on your lunch can I think really help. She nailed it on the head as preparedness. You know, for me when I would go to work I would always, I always bring a couple of meals that I know I’m gonna need for work and I always bring one or two extra and one of the normal meals I always bring is a high quality meal, It’s got a lot of fruit or a lot of vegetables, you know, the high quality proteins but then I always have meals set aside that I can eat on the go if I have to because you don’t know if you’re going to get stuck on a call, if you’re gonna be stuck sitting in the hospital, you know in a place where you can’t leave and so if I can go in and reach my bag and grab the container of almonds and the RX bar and get that down. That is still so much better than going to a fast food place or you know, what other options might be available late at night. So preparedness is key.”

Coach Justin: “Yeah, I love that. Well guys, I, like I said, I could sit here and probably ask you all so many questions. I’m in shock, literally. I know we had a little bit of a late start here, but, I, yeah, I can’t believe it flew by so fast. We’ll have to get you on again. I think that there’s so many good takeaways on here for those of you that are either watching this or listening to this. So if you didn’t take notes when you’re going through this, then that’s okay. I understand you just have to restart the episode now and take notes through the whole thing lol. If you have questions, where can everybody find you all on social media and that way they can reach out to you all and ask away?”

Dara & Erik: “Well based on your recommendation and inspiring us to do so, we just started our own fitness and wellness page. Hopefully sometime in the future we will be doing doing some sort of coaching. But anyway, on instagram and on facebook, you can find us at full nelson fitness because his last name is nelson, we’re going full nelson getting engaged or getting engaged and married. We are always open to helping anybody out. We post a lot of workout videos on our fitness page and some of the food quality stuff that we’ve learned and that we have implemented. Feel comfortable reaching out to us, we’re pretty quick with responses unless we’re sleeping during the day so we just love to help. That’s, that’s really the ultimate goal. I think that’s why we do what we do, why we post, what we post is to motivate people and we know a lot of the times the people that were motivating never reach out to us. But when we do have the one or two people reach out and say, hey, I love what you’re doing or hey, you guys have really helped me. That’s what makes it worth it. And so just knowing that we’re helping people, it makes me want to get up and keep doing it every day.”

Coach Justin: “100%. I love it. It’s the most fulfilling thing in the world! I’ve dedicated my life these past 10 years to helping others and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think that helping people you know, people ask me all the time. They’re like I don’t know how to find my why, my purpose. I’m like, figure out something that you like doing that can help other people. And that’s it. Like, that’s the answer. So, guys, I’m so proud of, y’all, not only on your nutritional achievements, but you know, really paying it forward and helping others. Y’all have a Youtube channel as well. Right? What is that called?”

Dara & Erik: “Yeah, Full nelson Fitness.”

Coach Justin: “Got it. Well, that’s awesome. Well guys, go check these guys out. They were phenomenal clients to work with and have been great friends and it’s just cool to see everything that you are doing now. And yeah, other than that, thank you so much for taking the time Dara and Erik!”