Interview with Sohee Lee: Coach, Writer & Fitness Buff
Sohee’s a writer that’s regularly featured on bodybuilding.com, she has a BA in Human Biology, works with Layne Norton on his team and is a renowned coach in her own right.
What really jumped out at me was not just the impressive results she gets for her clients but her unique perspective and mindset when it comes to health and fitness.
Her no B.S approach, in an industry filled with scams and misinformation, has been both helpful and refreshing.
Below she’s been kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Why did you decide to transform your body?
When I embarked on my first ever weight loss diet over ten years ago, it was because I wanted to be skinny. I didn’t like that I had an athletic frame; I thought that fitting into a smaller pants size would make me happier, more loved, and more popular.
Now, my reason is that I love my body – every little imperfection – and I think it deserves the best treatment I can give it. That means proper nourishment, adequate rest, and right amount of stress (in the form of strength training and conditioning).
It’s fun to see my body change over time in response to my behavior.
What is the diet plan or strategy you follow?
Everyday is different and really depends on how I feel. I’ve been eating intuitively for the past few months and my main guidelines are as follows:
- Get at least 30g protein in each meal.
- Drink a gallon of water a day.
- Eat mostly whole foods.
- Enjoy treats in small portions.
- Try to get in some veggies in some way, shape, or form.
- If it’s not absolutely delicious, don’t eat it.
With that said, I let my hunger levels guide my meal timing and that usually ends up being three or four meals a day.
I’m big on jasmine rice and russet potatoes as my go-to carb sources, and I vary my protein between beef, pork, chicken, and eggs. My fats tend to come from egg yolk, coconut oil (in cooking), olive oil, and animal fats.
What’s most important to me at this time is that I eat to fuel my body and I don’t stress out over food.
If I’m ever in a situation where I can’t control exactly what I’m eating, I don’t let it get to me. At the end of the day, I’m the one who controls how much I eat and I know that one meal isn’t going to make or break me.
I have no idea what my macros are because my goal right now is not to lose fat, but rather to roughly maintain my current shape and feel strong. If I were to eyeball it, though, I’d say I’m probably eating 120g protein, 200g carbs, and around 50g fats a day.
A typical day of eating might look like the following:
|9:30 am 1 cup coffee with full-fat half&half, two eggs cooked over easy with three slices bacon, oatmeal or russet potatoes.|
|1:30 pmSalsa chicken with broccoli and jasmine rice.|
|4:00 pmShredded pork with salsa and cheese all wrapped in a tortilla.|
|6:00 pmSmall treat of some kind (lately it’s been a dozen chocolate-covered gummy bears, two mini Twix bars, or even a few bites of birthday cake.)|
|8:00 pmHomemade meatballs with russet potatoes.|
What does your current exercise program look like?
I’m in a bit of an odd situation right now as I just moved cross-country and am not quite done settling into my new home. And given that my garage gym has not been set up quite yet, I’ve been sticking mainly to kettlebell workouts. I’ll usually do a bit of strength work followed by 10-20 minutes of metabolic conditioning.
Once I have access to my dumbbells and bumper plates, though, I’ll be back to my regular workouts, which consist of the following:
- Strength training 3-5 days a week – always begin with compound movements followed by some accessory movements. Maybe add a short metabolic finisher at the end.
- Brisk walking on days I’m not training.
- One or two days dedicated to longer conditioning sessions – utilizing battle ropes, airdyne bike, rower, kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells, or any combination thereof.
I always try to take two days off a week.
What aspect of your journey has challenged you the most?
Definitely the mental aspect, and I think this can be said for most people. I’ve found that the more I learn about fitness and work with clients, the more I realize just how important mindset is in this whole process.
You can know exactly what you need to do to get to your goal – no stone left unturned – but you will fail miserably if you don’t go into it with the right mindset.
Namely, what kind of expectations you have? How you handle setbacks? Do you trust the process? How patient are you willing to be?
It’s too easy to discuss ad nauseam all the things that you plan on doing: eat this, this, and this; workout like this; drink this much water and get to bed by this time every evening. But executing all of that on a consistent basis is a whole ‘nother story.
Life happens. Mistakes happen. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
It has taken me a long time to adopt this mindset of moderation and let go of my former black and white way of thinking, but doing so has saved me from the eating disordered thoughts that used to consume me.
I’m learning the moderation way does not, by any means seem appealing, but it’s the approach that I – and everyone – can sustain for life, which is what matters most.
As a coach, what are your thoughts on Flexible Dieting? What mistakes do you see people make with it?
Love it. Wish more people would use this approach.
Most mistakes I see are not from flexible dieters themselves but rather from people on the outside looking in. They hear that flexible dieters can eat junk food and still get lean and their first reaction is, “That’s so unhealthy – surely you must be joking.”
The truth is, many of those who respond that way are of the belief that flexible dieters eat nothing but junk food, and that’s not at all true.
I don’t see anything wrong with eating primarily whole foods and fitting in small portions of your favorite treats in everyday. In fact, studies have shown that this is far, far healthier than eating “clean” for six days a week and then binging for one.
Time and time again, I’ve worked with clients who have gone from binging nonstop and feeling guilty over eating “bad” foods to incorporating some flexibility into their lifestyle and having their eating disordered mindset all but disappear. Like I said, literally a life-saver.
You focus a lot on psychology and mindset. What beliefs do you see are holding most people back?
It’s this idea that everything needs to be absolutely perfect or else it’s not worth even trying. This gets people into so much trouble because ultimately, they end up taking one step forward and three steps back.
A lot of times, people will try to eat “perfectly” when they decide that they want to get fit. Typically, this refers to whole foods and places sugar, junk food, and sometimes even fruit and dairy strictly off-limits. But this never works out in the long-term because it’s not a sustainable strategy.
There is always, always a point when they cave and have something like a cookie and then decide that everything’s already ruined because of that one small deviation, so they might as well just throw in the towel and indulge the rest of the day (or weekend, or month, or year).
It never crosses their minds that one cookie isn’t going to hurt them. But when they give up and eat the whole bag – yes, that’ll do a little hurtin’.
Closely tied with this perfectionist mentality is the thinking that we need to get to our goal yesterday. More is better; faster is better.. and so on.
This needs to stop! Slow is good. It’s not sexy, but sustainable.
What are your future plans with health and fitness?
Things are pretty up in the air as my fiancé is in the army, so we’re not even completely sure where we’ll be a year from now.
I do know, however, that I’d like to go back to school at some point to get my Ph.D. in behavioral psychology. It would be a dream to return to my alma mater, but I’ll be restricted geographically by where we’re stationed at the time.
In the more immediate future, now I’m working full-time on my own business, I’ll be continuing to grow my brand. I’ve got YouTube videos, more articles, and more products in the pipeline over the next few months, and I couldn’t be more excited about all of it.
It’s my mission to reach out to women (and men!) all over the world to spread the good word about the perpetual love affair with fitness, to reach people to love their bodies the way they are, to practice self-compassion as they work toward their goals.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to change their body?
You can’t hate your way to your ideal physique.
No amount of negative self-talk, guilt, and punishment is going to get you to where you want to be. Even if you end up a little bit leaner and a little bit stronger, you damn well won’t be any happier for it.
Learn to love yourself right now. Embrace every curve, every little imperfection that makes you uniquely you. Don’t compare yourself to other people – their bodies, their progress, their athleticism. They’re not you.
I promise you, the journey will be much, much more smooth sailing if you can learn to enjoy the ride.
I personally think this guide is a great place to start for anyone wanting to take control of their diet. It’s also a really helpful primer for getting started with Flexible Dieting.
Disclaimer: Your results may vary and Sohee’s were largely due to her dedication and adherence to her calorie/macro protocols.