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Test driving 6 Atlanta nutritionists and personal trainers
We sent reporters on anonymous visits to test six different introductory sessions
My problem usually wins me little sympathy: I have trouble keeping on weight. At thirty-two, I eat like a horse and work out daily to maintain the minimum healthy weight for my height: six foot three, 170 pounds. Complicating matters is that I’m becoming more sensitive to certain foods—dairy, hops, maybe gluten—and dealing with low energy. I sought help for my “lucky” problem. —Charles Bethea
Nutrifit Sport Therapy, Sandy Springs
The vibe: We meet in her office high up in an office complex, where I fill out more than ten pages of forms asking about daily eating habits, exercise routines, and family medical history. Love has a motherly touch and a desk drawer full of snacks.
The approach: Love has a master’s in sports nutrition, and her clients include the Atlanta Braves. After a few minutes, she asks me to lift my shirt. She squeezes my belly with a device, then weighs and measures me. The verdict: I have 9 percent body fat. “That’s too low,” she says.
How do I gain weight? I need to eat 3,800 to 3,900 calories a day, she says, handing me a packet of tips, including a personalized breakdown of how much meat, milk, oil, grain, fruit, and veggies to consume. She invites me to her Breakfast Club later in the month, where I could learn how to dine out more effectively. She also tells me to increase my intake of legumes and complex carbs. Also, she says, “do less cardio.” That means I won’t be joining her free bike rides and tennis clinics.
Cost: From $75 for a one-hour session. nutrifitga.com
Health Plus Wellness Center, Marietta
The vibe: I wait and wait in a hot, crowded reception area after filling out a short intake form. Apparently, Esposito is overbooked. Periodically he walks by and says something witty to his receptionists as I glare. He has a nutrition radio show on WSB 750, someone says, where he is also witty. I check his website while I’m waiting. It calls him “one of the most dynamic and authoritative international nutritional experts of our time.”
The approach: Esposito, a peppy middle-aged man, is a chiropractic doctor as well as a nutritionist. After a five-minute rapid-fire explanation of human physiology, while holding a replica spine, Esposito tells me to lie down on an exam table. He then proceeds to push and pull my legs as I exert opposing pressure. The results, he says, suggest that I may have some issues with my vertebrae related to a long ago bicycle accident mentioned on my intake form.
How do I gain weight? He doesn’t say. “We can talk more about that when you come back for another appointment,” he says.
Cost: Free for an initial ten-minute consultation . . . after an hour’s wait. drjoeesposito.com
Landria Voigt Nutritional Consulting, Buckhead
The vibe: Voigt is a hip, smiling mother of young children who chats easily with me at a booth at the Whole Foods on West Paces Ferry. The conversation is casual, but she deftly steers it toward my inconsistent eating and exercise habits.
The approach: Voigt describes herself as a “certified holistic health coach,” with a focus on family nutrition. She explains to me why grass-fed meat is so beneficial (omega-3s, iron, and B vitamins). She suggests that I may have low stomach acid, accounting for the occasional stomachaches. Voigt even points me to a few websites for tasty, healthy recipes.
How do I gain weight? She suggests that I buy an immersion blender for daily smoothies, a book called Grain Brain, and a number of mostly gluten-free foods I’ve never tasted before: almond flour, coconut oil, sheep’s milk cheese, ghee, buckwheat honey, brown rice bread. Then we hit the grocery aisles, where she even throws in some “healthy” hot dogs.
Cost: $145 for a sixty-minute consultation at Whole Foods, followed by twenty minutes of shopping. (Voigt also works at the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine in Brookhaven.) stiritup.me
I have a problem: I can’t sit up. Try as I might, when I lie flat on my back I cannot bring myself to an upright, seated position without using momentum to hoist myself up—this despite the fact that I am a fitness instructor and do abdominal work at least three times a week. It’s a conundrum to me, and one I asked three trainers to consider during my first and free consultation with each. Here, a look at their prices, personalities, and approaches to fitness in general and my problem in particular. —Christine Van Dusen
Brad Kolowich Jr.
Brad Kolowich Jr. Personal Training, Westside
The vibe: On his website Kolowich is tan, muscly, and glistening with oil. In person—at his compact and airy studio in a mostly residential neighborhood—he looks just as fit, but a lot less slippery.
The approach: Kolowich asks about my personal goals and promises—nay, guarantees—I’ll be able to achieve better definition in my arms and slim my thighs lickety-split. He’ll design a tailor-made training program just for me. He doesn’t shun any one approach, saying we’ll probably use a lot of free weights, but leaves open other possibilities. To measure progress, Kolowich typically encourages clients to do before-and-after photos, some of which (with a client’s approval) he might post online.
Guilt factor: When I tell Kolowich I don’t like to weigh—what girl needs a number hanging overhead?—he doesn’t push me to measure my progress that way. He does suggest I sign up for the studio’s nutrition services if I want results super-fast. But he doesn’t spend much time on the pitch.
Why can’t I sit up? Kolowich and his colleague, certified trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Mandy Malool, look almost amused as I strain to pull myself into a seated position on a cushy black mat. “We’ll fix that, no problem,” Kolowich says, suggesting the issue may be weakness on the sides and back of my abdominal core. “A lot of people have trouble with that.”
Cost: As low as $15 for a thirty-minute group class. bradkolowichjr.com
Karen Schrier Fitness Girl, Kirkwood
The vibe: Walk behind Schrier’s house to the apartment space above her garage and you’ll find a small but sunny studio with blond wood floors and the usual array of circuit-training equipment, including free weights, a bike, and suspension-training straps. Schrier has the lithe frame of a yogini and the personality of a close friend. Even a novice will feel at home in this space. It’s small, though, so it can fill up fast during classes.
The approach: While sitting on an exercise ball and bouncing gently, Schrier doesn’t just ask about what I want to do in the gym; she seems genuinely interested in getting to know me. There’s no fitness or strength evaluation in this meeting. She has a scale but doesn’t necessarily advocate its use. She typically sketches out a workout on a white board, then sends the client through a series of cardio and strength moves.
Guilt factor: “I don’t yell at people when they’re working out; that’s just not my thing,” Schrier says. But when you see her sculpted arms, you just might push yourself to do that last plank.
Why can’t I sit up? As I lie on the mat, straining to sit up, Schrier doesn’t seem fazed. She tells me to try again while holding a five-pound weight to my chest. Success! She also recommends I try Pilates in order to engage my whole core.
Cost: $60 per hour for personal training; $14 per group class. karenthefitnessgirl.com
JD Body Sculpting, Old Fourth Ward
The vibe: In his black tracksuit and snapback, Daniels is about as laid-back as it gets when we meet in a common room at the West Inman Lofts building on DeKalb Avenue. His voice has the slow drawl of Outkast’s André 3000, which puts me at ease, even as he asks lots of questions about my fitness history, what injuries I’ve sustained, my current goals, and what I want to accomplish. He takes copious notes but stays quietly engaged. After a chat we walk down to the building’s fitness center, which is where he often trains his clients, and go through a series of exercises to measure my strength, balance, and flexibility.
The approach: Daniels doesn’t map out very specific training plans for each client; he comes to a session and, depending on the client’s energy and motivation levels, comes up with ideas on the spot. That can mean a ride on the stationary bike followed by isometric exercises, or maybe a swim. He believes in changing things up as much as possible, and credits his own chiseled physique to a similar philosophy.
Guilt factor: Zip, zero, none. He doesn’t give me the hard sell or try to pinpoint flaws.
Why can’t I sit up? Daniels watches me struggle like a turtle on its back and seems puzzled. “That’s weird,” he says. “But we can work on that.”
Cost: $30 for thirty minutes; $45 for an hour. Includes $15 off a massage with an affiliated therapist. jdbodysculpting.com
Illustrations by Nick Iluzada
This article originally appeared in our special July 2014 Feel Great issue under the headline “Intake Versus Ouput.”