macro phasing mastery: a coach’s journey through deficit, surplus, and sustainable changes

behavior change, macronutrient education, Eat to Lean group coaching, Macros Made Easy, registered dietitian, macros approach, macro phasing, deficit phase, maintenance phase, surplus phase, meal planning, fat loss phase, muscle gain, hypertrophy, progressive overload, strength training, Paragon training methods, body measurements, postpartum mother, hormonal changes, half marathon, attraction marketing, empowerment, stress-free macros approach

Kristen Vondenstein (00:00:00) – I think that a huge misconception out there is that, like, you have to catch up, there is no catching up. You just meet yourself where you are. You take an honest assessment of what you want, where you want to go, and you meet yourself where you are. And I think that that was a huge part of it. It was like letting go of this urgency that is around women’s bodies, that we have to be fixed all the time. And I had to realize that I’m in control here. I know what I need to do. I can soak up all the knowledge I want if I’m not willing to put myself out there to show up for what I want, then what does it matter?


Emily Field (00:00:32) – Welcome to Macros Made Easy, the podcast that takes the confusion out of tracking macros. I’m your host, Emily Field, a registered dietitian that specializes in a macros approach. In each episode, I help you learn how to eat in a way that supports your health, body composition, and athletic performance goals. We’ll cover the basics of macronutrients, how to track for various goals, the role of macros in your health, and how to make sustainable changes to your habits. I’ve helped hundreds of people experience more food freedom and flexibility while navigating their nutrition. So whether you’ve tried macros and it just didn’t stick or you just heard the word macros yesterday, I can’t wait to help you too. 


I am so excited to introduce Kristen Vondenstein , a proud New Orleans native and a woman of many roles, devoted wife, nurturing mother of three, a successful business owner and certified nutrition coach with precision nutrition. With six years of coaching experience, Kristen specializes in behavior change and macronutrient education. Her passion is rooted in empowering mothers to reclaim a resilient and energized mind, body, and life, guiding them and establishing a foundation of muscle and healthy habits that extend beyond societal pressures. As an integral part of the team, Kristen serves as an assistant coach for Eat to Lean group coaching and is the main contact coach for Macros Made Easy. In addition, she takes charge of managing the social media account for macros Made easy, so you will probably see her face over there.


Emily Field (00:01:57) – Kristin truly practices what she preaches, which is why when discussing phasing your macros over time, it is great to have someone color in the details of what it’s like to move through deficit, surplus, and maintenance phases. Join us for episode 19 of the Macros Made Easy podcast as we explore more of Kristen’s journey and her expertise. So today we are talking all about macro phasing, which is this idea that you might want to periodize your nutrition. You want to want to move through certain phases for certain goals. And we might do that across a year. We might do that over many years. Your career, there’s a lot of different ways that you can incorporate macro phasing. And one of my favorite people is here today, Kristen is going to be talking to us about her experience macro phasing, because she has just had some really wonderful takeaways of moving through deficit maintenance and surplus in the recent years. So thank you so much for being here, Kristen.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:02:56) – Thank you for having me. I love it already.


Emily Field (00:03:00) – Tell me a little bit about your experience over the last couple years. How much time did you spend in a deficit and maintenance and surplus? Maybe, let’s just say over the last three or so years.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:03:12) – So I would say my journey with macros when I learned it from your perspective was is starting at maintenance really learning to improve my relationship with food, our relationship with my body and learning how to fuel well, learning how to eat enough consistently. That is where I started. So I started with eating at maintenance, eating enough to maintain where I was for a year. I spent that time really learning a lot about myself, and then I knew I was ready to do a fat loss phase, and I did a 16 week fat loss phase and saw the results that I was really after for a long time. And then I went back into maintenance for a couple of months to get my bearings again. And before I attempted a surplus to intentionally gain muscle. And I did that surplus for six months. I gave it a six month job.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:04:08) – And yeah, I’m proud of all of those phases because I learned again, I learned so much about myself. And honestly, it was the first time I had taken that perspective in the past. I had put so much pressure on myself to look a certain way, and I decided to put those expectations aside and learn how to show up for myself in a different way.


Emily Field (00:04:29) – So that’s amazing. Yeah. I mean, you had the forethought to say to yourself, I’m leading with curiosity. I don’t know where I’m going to land here. So you kind of removed expectations on yourself. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, but like, what were your expectations from the fat loss phase? And I actually am curious how you picked 16 weeks to spend in that time.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:04:49) – So I actually when I started, I planned on doing 12 weeks plan on doing it for three months just to start off because I wasn’t sure what to expect. Like you said, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never gone about a fat loss phase in a healthy way from this perspective of macro phasing.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:05:08) – So I said I wanted to start with 12 weeks because I knew that was enough time to probably see significant change. And anything short of that, it wasn’t enough to see significant change. If I was going to take a slight or moderate approach to losing fat on my body. But once I got to the 12 weeks, I realized I felt really good. I was at a good place mentally. I wasn’t overly hungry, my workouts were still feeling strong, and I was at a really good pace and place mentally again, so I thought I could push for another month. And so I set the goal for 16 weeks, and I’m really glad I did, because I realized that I didn’t have to place limits on myself. And I knew that probably by the end of 16 weeks, that was going to be enough time. And I knew what to look out for. I knew when hunger was going to cloud my judgment, and I learned that feeling really tired is how I respond to being in a calorie deficit.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:06:04) – And I knew when I got to that 16 weeks I knew I feel terrible, I am ready, I’m hungry, I’m ready for more food. I have worked hard regardless of how much fat I have lost. And it’s time for a break. So you did it that way out of yourself.


Emily Field (00:06:20) – It sounds like. Yeah, yeah, well, and I mean from coaching other people and then also knowing yourself from previous attempts and dieting, it’s clear that maybe you’re starting to realize like, oh, I was feeling this way while I was under eating, and I hate the way that I feel. And because you had experience in maintenance, you said for a full year you really got to know yourself and you really knew what it felt like to be well fed. And now you can compare that deficit experience to that maintenance experience and be like, oh, I could feel 100 times better than I do right now.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:06:51) – Absolutely. That is definitely something that I learned from maintenance was, oh, terrible. I really did feel in the past from trying to die all the time.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:06:59) – You know, it’s this like red flag so many women ignore. And I didn’t realize how terrible I really did feel until I spent time eating enough consistently. And so yes, when I got into my fat loss phase, I realized little things like, okay, let’s say there’s these cookies that my kids have in the house. They love to eat. When I am really, really hungry, I’m going to want to. Eat those no matter what. Because hunger is taking over. Right? But in maintenance, I realized, you know what? Those cookies really aren’t my favorite. Like, yeah, I’d be happy to have one, but I’m not seriously craving them, like, all the time. Like, I assumed I was just hungry. So yes, when I was in my phase and I realized, okay, you know what? I am craving this food simply because I am hungry, right? Or under eating or like, yes, yes. So it was great to separate that emotional component from getting the job done.


Emily Field (00:07:51) – Nice. I love that for you. Tell me you enjoyed this already. You said primarily wanted to lose fat and a deficit, and that’s the main point of a deficit. And then you moved into a surplus later on and your main goal was to gain muscle. How did you decide on six months for that surplus goal?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:08:07) – I knew anything less than that was not enough time to see significant change, and muscle gain takes a long time, so I knew I needed to be in it to win it. So six months was a starting point and it just felt right at the time.


Emily Field (00:08:23) – How did you know you were done with the surplus? Because clearly there was an end point to the deficit. How did you know to be done at six months for that surplus?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:08:31) – It kind of became monotonous where, you know, just like in a fat loss phase, you get tired of being hungry. Well, in a surplus you get tired of overeating. You see gain. Right. So I just got to a point where I was like, okay, I met my goal.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:08:46) – I follow through with my goal like I intended, and it’s time for a break. And I saw the results just like I hoped I would. So six months was a great time frame for me.


Emily Field (00:08:55) – Tell me about some of those results that you saw at the end of six months.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:08:59) – Well, I’m basically a quad monster now. Yeah, I learned that about myself. But genetically my lower body carries more mass in general, and I gained mass in my legs and my butt and my calves very easily, which is exciting because I really dialed up the intensity with lifting heavy. And so I definitely saw gains there also in my shoulders as well.


Emily Field (00:09:26) – Biceps. I remember your selfie. Yeah.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:09:28) – My biceps. Yes for sure. My biceps as well. And yeah, I’m definitely proud of what I’ve built, especially since for such a long time I was ashamed of my body for being quote unquote curvy. And now that I’m okay with embracing my size and accepting my body for what it is, it’s exciting to see the changes that I’ve really worked hard to build.


Emily Field (00:09:53) – So that’s awesome. I think something you said that was really powerful is that you almost had to change your mind before you decided to change your body, and I think so many women decide to do the opposite. They think that their mind will catch up when they set out on a fat loss goal or a muscle gain goal. Sometimes in the rare instances that does happen right, we get people into strength training, we get them into coaching, and we have a lot of chat about this stuff and about body acceptance and all these things, but it sounds like can correct me if I’m wrong. Did you have to warm up your brain to get started on these goals, or did you start on the goals and then your brain caught up?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:10:35) – Oh, absolutely. In the past few years, I have learned that I really struggle with people pleasing, and I didn’t even know that. I didn’t even know how much that impacted my decisions and how much I was letting the standards of other people like their standards for their own bodies, how they are projecting onto mine.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:10:53) – And I was letting that impact my decisions, letting it hold me back from really going after what I wanted so I would hear my mom’s voice, or friends of mine that were scared of getting bigger, quote unquote. And I realized that their choices don’t impact mine. So absolutely, getting past that people pleasing tendency of mine and learning that it’s not going to probably go away completely. But if I notice it, I don’t have to let it impact my decisions.


Emily Field (00:11:23) – Absolutely. So you just I mean, I say just but it sounds like a lot of work to really untangle what is what I want versus what is what society wants or what my husband wants or what my mom wants or something like that. You had to untangle and find your own voice and then act on that. So you did a lot of work there. I’m really proud of you for that.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:11:41) – Thank you.


Emily Field (00:11:42) – I want to move into kind of talking a little bit about your meal planning, because you are a mom of three, and it sounds like you and your husband really do share a lot of the cooking in the house, but you probably do a lot more meal planning in that shopping and stuff like that.


Emily Field (00:11:55) – So tell me a little bit about how you manage, like from a meal planning perspective, when you’re in a deficit, when you’re in maintenance and when you’re in surplus, do they vary? Like does your meal planning change or does the format stay the same? And maybe like the counting or the tracking change? I’m just curious.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:12:12) – Format definitely remains the same. We eat pretty much the same thing all the time year round, regardless of what phase I’m in. Just the amount changes. So one thing my family we love to do is have deconstructed bowls or I know you love to call it macro manipulable meals, and it works so well for me as a mom because one I can ingredient prep, have all the ingredients prepped and ready in my fridge so that I can make a meal whenever I need to, but also because I have a picky kid that sometimes doesn’t eat what we eat. But if we have a bowl, I know that he’s going to eat at least two out of the five things that we’re going to put in that bowl, and he’s going to be fed and he’s going to be satisfied.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:12:53) – And I don’t have to cook three different meals for everybody in the house. Right. So that has really worked well for me for years now, like 3 or 4 years now. We have cooks like that. And it’s also easier to share that responsibility with my spouse because it serves everyone right. So instead of trying to make homemade recipes and casseroles and big soups and stuff all the time, having easier, convenient meals in this season of my life with having young kids and doing like baseball and gymnastics and all these activities, and working from home and getting an exercise routine in while mentally taking care of myself and getting enough sleep. It’s a lot. And so convenience is important to us. So that is something I have really relied on. And again, it’s remained the same in fat loss, maintenance and surplus. I just have bigger portions. So yeah.


Emily Field (00:13:47) – I think sometimes that’s what’s missed for a lot of people who are coming into macro tracking from a, you know, dieting standpoint, their brain has been dieting.


Emily Field (00:13:56) – They’ve been quote unquote, on a diet in their brain for their entire life. The things that they might choose when they’re, quote, being good are totally different than the foods that they might choose when they’re, quote, being bad. And so when we remove that framework and we just eat, what would you like to eat? What would you like to move in and out of your day and your week? So you are I think also what’s really important here is not only from a times perspective, are you saving because you mix and match these ingredients and everyone’s well fed and you can pass off responsibilities to your spouse, but your kids are learning to watch you eat well. They’re seeing many ingredients on your plate. They’re not seeing you say no to things. They’re eating the same things you are. It’s not like mom’s on a diet, but I’m. I’m not. So what does that say about me? Like all that narrative in your head, it’s also, you know, they say that grades are better, self-esteem is higher, self-efficacy is better.


Emily Field (00:14:49) – When we eat with our kids and we have family eating time. So being able to participate in your family meals like that is really, really important from not only a nutrition perspective, but their growth as well.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:14:59) – Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s so true. That is so important to me because I want them to build their own healthy relationship with food and their bodies, and they know that all food gives them energy. All food has a purpose and a time and a place, and I don’t have to talk about it all the time. Again, they just can witness us doing it at the table.


Emily Field (00:15:18) – Awesome. So how did you determine? I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast are brand new to macro tracking, and they may not have even started yet. And maybe they’ve dabbled, but they haven’t really found a secure rhythm. But if we’re talking to the person who is like super brand new to macro tracking, they want to figure out, how would I even find my maintenance numbers, how would I find deficit? How do I find surplus? Can you give us a little insight into how you decided to map that out?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:15:43) – So I know you have the DIY macros guide and you can find your maintenance calories with that guide.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:15:50) – It’s super helpful. I’ve used it a bunch of times, but that is where I started. I found out my maintenance calories and macros, how much protein I need to maintain the muscle mass that I have, and that’s where I would start for finding fat loss. You can decide if you want to have a slight deficit, a moderate deficit, or an aggressive take or and then vice versa. For surplus you can do a slight surplus moderate. But that’s where I would start. Is the DIY macros done perfect?


Emily Field (00:16:20) – Yeah we’ll definitely link it. It’s always linked in our podcast because that’s our biggest ask question is like how do I find my macros? But we’ll make sure to insert it here too. But when it came to the surplus, how did you decide how much you were going to go up? I’m just curious about that.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:16:34) – I started at 10% because I knew I probably wouldn’t have issues gaining. I’m not at a very low body fat percentage and I knew it wouldn’t take much for me to gain, so I thought starting small would be best.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:16:48) – You know, just like with fat loss, taking a huge jump down to see fat loss isn’t ideal because it’s not a matter of if, but when you’re going to have to drop those calories again. So I knew that I wanted to do a slight jump, especially since it was my first time.


Emily Field (00:17:03) – Yeah, you’re just being gentle on yourself psychologically and physically by taking something pretty slight to moderate. That’s great. Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about how you felt on the deficit versus the surplus, because I think, okay, not only do not a lot of women have. Experience with the surplus. But if they do try a surplus, there’s nobody that talks about their experience. And we have a few clients that have tried it, and they are surprised about how much work it can be to eat so much food to gain muscle. So tell me first about the surplus. How did you manage? Like, if you’re in a surplus, you’re rarely hungry, right? You’re like never hungry.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:17:40) – Never, never had no time to get hungry. And if you are hungry, the place to be. If you are hungry.


Emily Field (00:17:46) – And think you’re on maintenance or surplus, then no, you’re not. You’re not eating enough, I guarantee you that. So tell me how you managed your appetite, or lack thereof, when it came to the surplus.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:17:57) – Over something. In the beginning. When I first started the surplus, I mean, I felt incredible. I had so much energy. My workouts were, I don’t want to say easy, but I could really push. Like I could be dialing the intensity hard because I had the energy to do so. I was eating so much, and in the beginning I remember thinking like, I don’t know why people say it’s so hard to eat all this food. Can’t relate, I love this, I love eating all this food. But yeah, by month six it was like, okay, this is kind of getting old and by the end of the day, you feel stuffed and you kind of get over feeling a little bloated, especially if you still want to incorporate vegetables, you know, all a lot more volume.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:18:36) – Right. So but yeah, in the beginning I didn’t feel that way. In the beginning I was like, this is incredible. I wish I could live in a surplus forever. But towards the end, again, it’s just I think it was more mentally taxing to feel like you’re just always eating right. So yeah, that’s my experience with it.


Emily Field (00:18:53) – Okay. So not so much in the beginning. Probably very surprised that you could push yourself as much in intensity, which probably gives you some food for thought at maintenance. It’s like, you know, you probably can push okay, but not nearly as hard as you could in surplus. And then the exact opposite with the deficit, if you’re under eating your needs, whether that’s on purpose or not, and you feel like you’re really dragging in the gym or not recovering, that’s why, you know you have less fuel to work with. So it was mentally taxing. You probably played with food volume. It sounds like you ate foods that took up less room in your stomach.


Emily Field (00:19:24) – I do think I remember you when you were talking about this. While you were doing it, you would eat your meal, but you would also have like a protein shake liquid form, like with that meal or after that meal. And that’s just got to be a lot. But did you utilize like liquid calories a lot?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:19:37) – Yes. I loved chocolate for life. Milk. I loved for like chocolate for life milk. And then I would add protein powder with it, some oats. But yes, liquids definitely helped for sure, because even if it was a glass of orange juice at the end of the day, I mean, you know, a glass of orange juice could be like 30 carbs, and that’s all I would need. So it wasn’t something that I utilized often because I wanted to feel full and energized. But yes. Oh, I definitely utilized liquid calories. They were really helpful, for sure.


Emily Field (00:20:10) – That’s good. And then the exact opposite is probably true for a calorie deficit. Whenever when we talk to clients, it’s not about, you know, adherence to that calorie deficit really determines your success in fat loss.


Emily Field (00:20:22) – But the one driver of not being consistent or not being adherent to that deficit is hunger. If you are hungry, that is the number one reason why you will slip up or you not be able to stay committed to that calorie deficit. Your body is amazing and it will. You know, that drive will really override your willingness and your discipline to stay committed on that calorie deficit. So how did you manage hunger when you were in that four month phase of a deficit?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:20:45) – Adding volume to my meals. So things like salad kits, raw zucchini, cucumber, watermelon or swapping a banana for, you know, more berries. So it’s not that a banana is bad, it’s that I get to eat more strawberries and blueberries at the same time, or swapping peppers instead of eating crackers, having pepper. So I could have double or triple the peppers that I normally have. Things like that. Definitely aiming for food volume. Lots of vegetables that my stomach could digest.


Emily Field (00:21:15) – Well, okay. Yeah, that’s exactly what we would say to clients.


Emily Field (00:21:19) – So I’m glad that that worked for you too. At the end of the day, though, those calories can get low and by the time you’re at the end of your deficit, there’s just not a lot to work with. And sometimes your willpower and you know, your willpower really does have to flex super hard. Which is why we are really adamant about a 12 to 16, maybe max 20 week deficit, because it just gets so hard to stay committed when you’re underfed. So you obviously like to lift and you put on muscle during that surplus. Did your exercise differ when you were in a fat loss phase and that deficit?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:21:53) – No. I focused on hypertrophy, progressive overload, strength training. I personally follow Paragon training methods. They have a four day physique program that is basically functional bodybuilding that I have enjoyed for such a long time, because I came from this idea that I had to work out and burn calories every single day in order to see results, so swapping to training hard for four days out of the week was a huge relief for me, and so I felt like I was doing less while achieving more, which in reality I was just doing more of the right thing to achieve the physique that I really wanted.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:22:31) – So my training remained the same throughout fat loss and throughout my surplus. I feel like I could apply that intensity in a surplus because I had more calories to work with, right? So I might have felt a little different. I feel like I could push harder when I was a surplus, but the workouts were the same.


Emily Field (00:22:48) – That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, that just takes off a whole nother layer of decision making to when you you don’t need to change your exercise routine. And if you have a foundation of strength training 3 to 4 days a week, regardless of what you’re eating, that should likely stay the same unless you’re training for something specific or you are totally changing directions on your fitness in some way, your exercise should stay the same. That variable should stay the same. It’s kind of like a fifth grade science experiment. When we learn the scientific method, we want to change one variable at a time, and in this case, it’s just the amount of food you ate, the same kinds of food you did, the same non exercise activity, you did the same strength training that you normally do.


Emily Field (00:23:26) – We just changed that one variable to see what what’s possible with your body. So that’s probably a really good takeaway if anyone’s kind of thinking about this for themselves. Like how would you know what’s working or not working if you have multiple variables? I hear a lot of women doing intermittent fasting and calm cycling, and they’re also tracking, and then they’re doing hit and they’re also doing strength training. But then since there’s so many variables moving around, you can’t really tell what’s working for you or working in general.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:23:51) – Yes, exactly.


Emily Field (00:23:52) – Mhm. Okay. So how did you decide that you were going to track progress and success when it came to being in a deficit. Like surely you know the goal is losing fat, but how did you know you were successful at that throughout that time.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:24:07) – I decided to do three things. Track my weight daily in an app called Happy Scale. Take measurements, body measurements in the same place every two weeks and also take pictures. And out of all truthfully, out of all of those things, taking pictures was the best indicator for how I was progressing.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:24:27) – I found that in the past, I had always relied on the scale to tell me how I was doing, and we know that’s not always the case, right? Like it’s just one variable, it’s one data point. And so those are the three that I relied on. And I found that it got me where I needed to go.


Emily Field (00:24:44) – Yeah I mean did that vary from surplus then. Did you do the same exact thing during surplus?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:24:49) – Yes, I did the same exact thing. And you know, what’s shocking about doing the surplus is that, you know, I know women struggle with this. Like, you think that because you’re going to eat more, like changes are going to happen so quickly, but you think the complete opposite when it comes to fat loss, do you think that things are going to happen so slowly and it’s dragging right. And with a surplus, I still even as a coach, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m going to gain. Everyone’s going to know, everyone’s going to know that, and they’re going to think I’m fat.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:25:15) – And like, I totally had those thoughts. But I was so glad I was taking those pictures and taking measurements and monitoring my weight, because I could understand what the data was showing me, understanding that things are supposed to fluctuate. You’re not supposed to be the same every single day, but your body truly doesn’t change so much day to day. Your perception of it does. So yeah, that was a huge takeaway when doing a surplus for sure.


Emily Field (00:25:40) – Oh my gosh, that’s so powerful. It’s what’s going on between your ears that is changing that your perception of your body is what’s changing, not your actual body. It’s so true. And just for an example, tell us, like, how many more calories a day were you eating by the end of your surplus? Compared to maintenance?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:25:57) – It was about 200, 220, and 50 extra calories by the end. I started with just 100 100 calories, 150, and I only had to do one increase again. So that’s pretty much where I ended up.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:26:09) – And I know that there’s a lot of, you know, in the bodybuilding space, there’s a very specific method to follow and all these things. And that really wasn’t my focus. I wasn’t worried about doing it perfectly. My goal was to gain muscle mass, and I knew that the variables I had in place, which was eating my carbs and my protein, having the right macros in place, training really hard, getting my movements and showing up for myself. Whether it was willing to give 20% one day or 100% another day, like just trudging along and being able to follow through with the goal that I set so powerful.


Emily Field (00:26:43) – And then as an example, because 150 calories doesn’t feel like a lot. So just to put that in perspective, if you did 150 times, seven days in a week or sorry, you said 200, right? That’s an extra 1400 calories a week. And so that might feel a little bit more tangible for people to realize, like it was some significant calories. She’s overeating.


Emily Field (00:27:03) – In order to gain that muscle, she had to consume more building blocks, more nutrition in order to build that muscle. It weighs something. It is something. So that really moves me into my next section, where I really want to talk about any fears that you had when it came to the surplus that start there. Because a big one that you’ve already touched on is that this fear of weight gain or fear that you’ll never be able to lose any extra fat you gained or it’ll go too fast. What are some fears that kind of came your way when you did the surplus?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:27:33) – Like I mentioned, I was worrying about how other people would perceive me. I would I was worried about how people would look at me as a coach, and I was gaining mass. So it wasn’t really so much about feeling uncomfortable in my body. It was feeling uncomfortable around everyone else. That’s what I was so worried about. And I realized that that’s not a variable I could control. That’s not something I can change.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:27:55) – Only I can control how I feel about myself and my ultimate goal, aside from wanting to gain muscle mass, was can I follow through with this? Even if it’s really hard because it was mentally challenging, probably the hardest phase when I first started macro tracking was maintenance, because it was mentally challenging having to decide every day to consistently eat enough, especially on the days where you felt quote unquote, fluffy when you felt like you were bigger than yesterday, when you probably weren’t. Again, because your body hasn’t changed that much day to day. But that’s what my main concern was, was are people going to think less of me, less of me as a person, less of me as a coach, less of my work ethic? You know, my ability to show up for myself and to teach other people how to do this. Because I’m getting bigger, because I am intentionally pouring energy into something that someone else might not relate to. So that’s what my main concern was, and I had thoughts about it often.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:28:56) – But again, I knew that I couldn’t let it derail and impact the decisions I really wanted to make. And I really, really wanted muscle mass.


Emily Field (00:29:04) – Yeah, well, it sounds like you. Were aware that those thoughts happened, but you didn’t do anything with them. Like you didn’t let it affect your behavior, which is so powerful. I think a lot of people inappropriately think that, like if you do body image work or if you go to therapy or you know that you’re a people pleaser and you know these things are going to come through that someday, they’ll all go away and it’s not like that and maybe just become more like friendly with those thoughts. Or, you know, an image that I give with clients a lot is, you know, it’s kind of like a cloudy day where you’re looking at the clouds and you can literally look at them and just let them pass through your brain. Those are like the thoughts that you’re having around the people pleasing. And am I good enough and all that stuff that was coming up.


Emily Field (00:29:46) – But certainly, you know, your own internal work and the work that you were doing, your therapist really helped you identify those thoughts, let them move through, and you didn’t do anything with them. You were effectively thought stopping. You were interrupting that relationship that you may have previously had, or you would have changed your behavior or done something different when you noticed you were getting bigger, or your weight was going up, or you were becoming, quote, more fluffy or something like that.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:30:10) – Yes, absolutely. It definitely was hard in the beginning because my first instinct is, I need to fix this. I need to do something right now because I’m feeling uncomfortable. I have this urgency and I have to fix it right now. And that was the hardest part to be like, actually, no you don’t. You can just watch it. You can watch that cloud.


Emily Field (00:30:26) – Watch it.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:30:27) – And watch the cloud pass. And you don’t have to do anything about it. So it does feel good to know that I am capable of following through with something that is really hard.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:30:36) – And that gives you that’s really empowering, to know that I am capable and I don’t need the approval of others. Even if someone disagrees with me, I don’t need that in order to show up for myself.


Emily Field (00:30:47) – Yeah. Very powerful. So opposite. I’m really curious if you had any challenges during the deficit. Did you have any fears while you were there or was it hunky dory the whole time?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:30:58) – I had a fear before I started because as a coach, I talk about macro phasing all the time. Eating enough support, your activity level, gaining muscle. I talk about things like that all the time, and I was worried that me going after a fat loss phase would make people assume that I was obsessed with my body image, or that I had to look a certain way in order to be Ms. platform. I was worried again what people think, but again, it didn’t. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. That has never gotten me anywhere. It has never pushed the needle. And so I eventually had to let it go and keep showing up for the fat loss, because it’s something I truly wanted to do.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:31:33) – I wanted to see the muscle that I worked really hard in earning, and that required shedding a little bit of body fat, peeling back those layers. And ultimately, I’m glad I did it because again, I learned so much about myself. I follow through with my commitments and I did it. And it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t like someone else’s experience. It was mine. And I can own that.


Emily Field (00:31:55) – Awesome. It’s so powerful. I mean, the confidence that you’re talking with is just palpable, and it has made you a better coach because you’ve gone through all of this. You have confidence in yourself. You followed through on something hard. I mean, something that you say almost every day, like you can do hard things and you truly live that. And it’s really awesome. I know this way of thinking about macros was different for you than it was in prior experiences. So last I’d say probably, what, like 3 to 4 years you’ve really been taking like a macro phasing approach? Or would you say it’s more like one or okay, 3 or 4 years? Okay.


Emily Field (00:32:29) – So when you’re back before that time, what do you think really held you back from looking at things in a phased way? Because this might be our audience right now. They’re listening to me. They’ve heard these words. They have not really engaged with that. They’re still using macros or maybe not even macros yet. They’re using something to stay stuck in a deficit and not ever reach for maintenance, not ever think about a surplus, and probably really only will stay in a deficit. So I’m curious, can you put yourself 3 or 4 years back or even farther? What do you really think held you back from looking at things in a phased way? Was it just lack of education, or was it fear or, you know, it could have been the fear because we really just talked about, but anything else kind of come up for you?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:33:08) – I would definitely say two things. The urgency I told me four year ago, me had a very hard time of letting go of that urgency. Everything with eating, food, working out felt like an emergency.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:33:21) – It felt like I needed to have happen. Now I needed results. Now I’m killing myself working, working my butt off. Why isn’t anything happening? Why do I have nothing or feel like I have nothing to show for it? And that was something I had a very hard time letting go of, was the urgency. And I think the next thing would be that, you know, I feel like because I’m a mom, I feel like moms, especially postpartum moms, are targeted so easily in this industry, and we’re made to feel like we’re less than like we’re in this, like stage of life where, oh, you poor thing, you went through a lot and there’s only so much you can handle. Here’s a solution. You need to fix things quickly, or everybody’s going to think that you’re a failure, but they’re going to think that you’re not being productive and that you’re not enough until you look this way. And even if even out of all of the positivity that’s out there, the body positivity, body acceptance, even after everything you hear, you could hear all those things over and over and over.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:34:17) – But if you are still lingering on that one comment that somebody made about your body, or that one program that’s targeting you and telling you that you’re not enough until you get back, quote unquote, get back to your old self. It’s hard to move forward from that. Right? So I had to realize, like, okay, just because I’m a mom, mom, just because I have three kids, just because my day looks different than it’s one year old that’s in college, can work out whatever she wants, doesn’t mean that I have to put my goals on the back burner. It’s just probably going to look different. My method is probably going to be a little bit different, and I don’t have to work double the time than she does in order to see that. I think that a huge misconception out there is that, like, you have to catch up, there is no catching up. You just meet yourself where you are. You take an honest assessment of what you want, where you want to go, and you meet yourself where you are.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:35:03) – And I think that that was a huge part of it was like letting go of this urgency that is around women’s bodies, that we have to be fixed all the time. And I had to realize that I’m in control here. I know what I need to do. I can soak up all the knowledge I want, but if not, if I’m not willing to put myself out there to show up for what I want, then what does it matter? Like what’s the point, right?


Emily Field (00:35:27) – Yeah, what is the point? Do you think that the urgency around getting your body back, or weight loss as fast as possible, goes hand in hand with the postpartum mom phase?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:35:38) – Oh, absolutely. Your hormones are at play. You’re tired. You know, if you’re breastfeeding, you want.


Emily Field (00:35:43) – To feel different. Yeah. So you’re willing to go fast. Mhm. Okay.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:35:47) – Absolutely. You totally you’re you feel like I’ve said this before postpartum I felt like just this worn out tired whoopee cushion I felt like.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:35:58) – Just a sloppy mess. I was tired and I felt embarrassed. And it’s the last thing you should feel embarrassed about, you know, bringing life into this world. And, you know, it’s hard to accept. Like recovery has to happen. And you can only do that with fueling yourself well and taking care of your body, not trying to change it because you think it looks different. And so you can absolutely want change. You can absolutely want to change your body while simultaneously learning to accept what it is right now.


Emily Field (00:36:28) – Mhm. That’s so powerful. I know you’re an inspiration for me as somebody who doesn’t have kids but wants kids because you are pushing yourself and you’re chasing big goals and you’re doing it with such grace, being a mom of three and managing all that you do with all of them. So it just gives me a lot of hope to have an amazing example. And a close friend of mine, and just in my close inner circle, I know you’re a definitely an inspiration to my other friends that follow you on social media too, because their kid lists right now, but they want to start families.


Emily Field (00:36:57) – They’re all in that age. They want to start families, or they’re really close to starting families. And you give us hope that your life doesn’t end when you have kids. You don’t have to put your goals on the back burner. If anything, you’re doing way more right now than you were doing pre kids.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:37:10) – So 100%. Thank you so much.


Emily Field (00:37:15) – So tell me. Okay. Where do you go from here? Do you have goals to phase your macros this year, 2024? Do you have fitness goals? Are you trying to gain more muscle? What have we got on the docket right now?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:37:27) – Okay, so my goals have actually shifted at the end of 2023. I planned on going through a fat loss phase and then initiating another surplus halfway through the year, just like I did in 2022. But my sister, my younger sister, that’s 23, asked me to do a marathon with her in Nashville, the Saint Jude Marathon, which I’m going to do the half marathon. But my goal shifted because I really want to have this fun experience with her.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:37:52) – She’s one of my best friends. She’s my sister. I love her so much and I want to know what I’m capable of. I never in the past had a great relationship with running. I always used it as like the excuse to burn more calories, eat more food. And so this again, has been this really transformative experience of like learning to love moving my body because I can because I can learn to perform well and I know how to fuel it well. So right now I am eating at maintenance and sometimes more days I’ll have more carbs than others to fuel those runs while also trying to maintain the muscle that I worked hard to build. So I am training three days a week, doing strength training with Paragon training methods and then running three times a week. So it feels like a lot right now, but I’m in a season where I can do it. This is a really slow season in my life with my kids, and I am. I’m proud of myself. I’m thrilled that I’m doing it, and I still can’t get over there.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:38:46) – Like I can run eight miles, right? Oh, God, I know I’m like a runner. You are especially especially as someone that has always had a curvy, bigger, lower body. I don’t look like what society says a runner should look like or with social media makes a runner look like. And it’s exciting to know, like, hey, guess what? I’m doing it. I’m doing it. Even though you said I don’t look like it, I’ve been doing it. So it does feel good. And that’s the season I’m in right now. The half is in April, and after that I would like to again do a short fat loss phase, because right now is not the greatest time to do that. It’s not running a marathon. Training for anything specific like that is not a great time to try and lose weight, because I’m not going to have the energy to push hard and recover. So after the marathon, I’m going to do a little fat loss as well. Week funsies and then jump back in maintenance.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:39:39) – And then truthfully, I’ve spent so much time macro phasing, I would like to do another year of maintenance of just like being of just chilling. Yes, just chilling, eating well, eating enough and training hard because I really, really enjoy that. So that’s where I’m going.


Emily Field (00:39:57) – That’s amazing. I mean, I think all of the confidence that you built doing the hard things, doing your maintenance, deficit and surplus is probably playing into your fitness goals right now. You’re something that you previously perceived is not for you and out of reach. You’re doing well right now. So you’re following through on that goal, which is right in line with your personality and right in line with what you’ve done already with nutrition. So it’s so cool to see you transfer that out of nutrition and out of body composition goals and into fitness goals, because you can’t always be living in this like world where we execute our hobbies only on nutrition or execute our hobbies only on our body, we can be doing it in other areas like running or fitness competitions or professional growth or anything like that.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:40:39) – Yes.


Emily Field (00:40:40) – Well, is there anything else that you’d like to say about your experience, macro phasing or anything you think that the audience should hear from you? Anything that we didn’t touch on here today?


Kristen Vondenstein (00:40:50) – I guess I would love to thank you for helping me find its perspective, because I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I hadn’t hadn’t found your content, if I hadn’t reached out to you. So for everyone that follows Emily’s content, she has a somewhere you can buy to get a custom macros calculation. And that was my first experience with Emily, and apparently many people don’t reach out to her six months after, like a crazy version like I do. And I reached out to her and was like, hey, guess what? I’m doing great. I feel good, this actually works. Thank you so much. And he was like, wait, let’s be friends. Like, I can’t believe you’re telling me about your experience. I would love to know how it would work for you. Like, this is amazing.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:41:30) – And so I’m grateful that I am where I am today, because it’s because of you, of professionals that has worked hard to get to where she is as a dietician and truly looking out for women’s health and not just pushing something in our face to push that urgency. It is very much this like empowering. I feel like I know now that I am in control, and in the past I didn’t feel that way. I was very much in this victim mentality, and now I know that I have the autonomy to choose where I want to go and what I can do, what I’m capable of. So I really. And you’re.


Emily Field (00:42:06) – Unstoppable. I mean, any woman who believes in themselves is unstoppable or like, believes that they can accomplish anything, is unstoppable. And that’s my goal. To help facilitate that, I truly believe that I’m working in my zone of genius. So I appreciate you saying that and I don’t. I’ll never force anybody to do any work with me. I believe in like attraction marketing, where you feel like you resonate with the message, like this one from this podcast, or resonate with what Kristen said about her experience and you to find that I could offer you some solutions and some support so you can feel exactly as empowered as we do.


Emily Field (00:42:39) – So I really appreciate you being here. Kristen, thank you so much for sharing your story. It was really great.


Kristen Vondenstein (00:42:44) – Thanks. Thank you so much for having me.


Emily Field (00:42:48) – Thank you so much for listening to the Macros Made Easy podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of the one you’re listening to right now to share it on your Instagram Stories, and tag me @emilyfieldrd so that more people can find this podcast and learn how to use a macros approach in a stress free way. If you love the podcast, head over to iTunes and leave me a rating and a review. Remember, you can always find more free health and nutrition content on Instagram and on my website at Thanks for listening and I’ll catch you on the next episode.

Have you ever wondered how to navigate through different phases of nutrition to reach your body composition and fitness goals? 

Today we are talking all about macro phasing, which is this idea that you might want to move through certain phases for certain goals. Because if you’ve ever been in a calorie deficit or surplus before, you know that you certainly can’t live there forever…

In this episode, I had the pleasure of chatting with the inspiring Kristen Vondenstein, a certified nutrition coach who is passionate about empowering mothers to reclaim a resilient and energized mind, body, and life. 

During our chat, Kristen opened up about her personal journey with macro phasing, taking us through the ups and downs of her nutrition and training during deficit, maintenance, and surplus phases. We also dove into the mental hurdles that come with shifting body image and societal pressures, particularly after childbirth. 

If you’ve been curious about how to approach different phases in your journey to your ideal body composition and fitness goals, join us to hear more about:

kristen's experiences with macro phasing and how it impacted her fitness journey

Kristen’s macro journey began with a focus on maintenance. For her, this initial phase wasn’t about cutting calories or bulking up; it was about understanding her relationship with food and her body. She dedicated a full year to this phase, learning to fuel her body effectively and embrace a healthier lifestyle.

After a year at maintenance, Kristen embarked on a 16-week deficit. Originally planned for 12 weeks, she extended it as she felt good and saw progress. She shared that phase taught her the importance of tuning into her body’s signals and distinguishing true hunger from emotional cravings.

Following the fat loss phase, she entered a six-month surplus phase with the goal of muscle gain. This period was about lifting heavy and focusing on growth. But more than the physical changes, it was a time for her to overcome people-pleasing tendencies and embrace her body’s natural shape.

methods for tracking progress beyond the scale

When it came to tracking progress during deficit, Kristen adopted three methods to gauge her success – She diligently tracked her weight daily using the Happy Scale app, took body measurements every two weeks in a consistent manner, and captured photos to visually document her journey. 

She found that the most telling indicator of progress was the photos, emphasizing the importance of visual evidence over relying solely on the scale. Kristen recognized that her previous reliance on the scale alone was limiting, as weight is just one variable in the equation. 

She continued these tracking methods during the surplus phase, experiencing a shift in mindset regarding changes in her body composition. Despite initial concerns about gaining weight, Kristen found reassurance in the consistency of her tracking data, understanding that fluctuations are normal and that perception often differs from reality. This realization underscored the power of tracking progress beyond mere numbers and highlighted the importance of mindset in navigating different phases of nutrition and fitness.

overcoming mental challenges related to body image and societal expectations

During the surplus phase, Kristen grappled with concerns about gaining mass and societal perceptions. As a postpartum mother, the fear of weight gain and societal standards was a hurdle she had to overcome, learning to accept herself and set her own goals.

The urgency and pressure surrounding postpartum weight loss are real. Hormonal changes and societal expectations can be daunting, but Kristen shared that she found strength in accepting her body and pursuing fitness goals on her terms.

the importance of self-belief and finding a supportive community

Despite societal stereotypes about women’s body types and athletic abilities, Kristen’s confidence in herself and her capabilities has propelled her forward. 

The confidence that she built by challenging herself with her nutrition goals has increased her confidence as she approaches new fitness goals now – like training for a half marathon! 

Kristen’s journey not only highlights the significance of mindset in achieving success, but also emphasizes the value of fostering a community that encourages and uplifts each other in pursuit of shared goals.

Kristen’s story is a testament to the power of listening to your body, the transformative effects of nutrition and the importance of focusing on one goal at a time. 

Thanks for listening! Be sure to tune in to all the episodes to get more advice for reaching your health goals with a macros approach.

If you enjoyed this episode, I’d love to see you share what you took away from it by taking a screenshot of the episode and tagging me on Instagram!  And don’t forget to follow, rate, and review the podcast and tell me what you want to learn about next!


  • Custom Macro Calculation – No more second guessing those macro numbers or being confused by online calculators. Get personalized macro targets that you can trust. We’ll create your protein, fat, and carbohydrate targets, calorie goals, and give you bigger picture health recommendations for real results. To learn more, click the link or hop over to Instagram and DM me the abbreviation “CMC”!
  • DIY Macros Guide – Follow this free guide to set your own macros so you can start eating to your needs ASAP!

  • Happy Scale App

  • Paragon Training Methods

  • Macros Made Easy – Get on the waitlist to learn when we enroll next and qualify for exclusive bonuses. This is a professional led, self-paced online course that teaches you how to track macros—the stress-free way. Learn how to eat for your unique needs so you can be in the driver’s seat of how you look, feel and perform without relying on a restrictive diet plan ever again.
  • Eat to Lean Coaching – If you’ve mastered the basics of macros, but there’s still room for more clarity and personalization for your particular goals, join us in Eat to Lean Coaching! ​In this group coaching program you’ll learn nutrition, exercise and mindset changes alongside other women who are in your exact shoes.

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