Natalie Coughlin

by Charles Platkin, PhD

She has won a medal in every single Olympic event she’s ever entered, and has earned a total of 11 Olympic medals in two Olympics, the second highest in American History.

Natalie’s affinity for health and nutrition go hand-in-hand with her natural lifestyle and green mentality; she has deep passion for the environment and embraces the use of renewable resources and local organic produce.

Natalie is not only admired for her athletic talents, but also for her class, vivacious smile and engaging personality, which MSNBC capitalized on when they recruited her as an on-air commentator during the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Her elegance and style have earned her accolades on the red carpet of the ESPY Awards and Golden Goggles, and she also participated in Season 9 of ABC’s hit show Dancing With the Stars.

Diet Detective: Tell us how you got to where you are now.

Natalie: I’ve been fortunate to have good balance of obstacles as well as success. It’s important to experience the setbacks in order to appreciate the successes.

Diet Detective: Define and discuss failure.

Natalie: Failure is definitely in the eye of the beholder. In my opinion, failure is not being honest with one’s self. If I set a goal and don’t achieve it, it’s only a failure if I didn’t give an honest effort in my preparation.

Diet Detective: Tell us something that “moved” you.

Natalie: I participated in an event called Dave Denniston’s Relay Across America that benefited people with neck injuries. I met so many inspirational kids that were either paraplegic or quadriplegic who don’t let anything stop them. They play all sorts of sports with the best attitude. Thinking about them really puts things into perspective. If these kids (with so many challenges) can have such an amazing attitude, there is really no reason for me to complain about anything.

Diet Detective: Was there a defining moment in your life when you made a decision that changed the course of the rest of your life forever?

Natalie: Deciding to come to the University of California at Berkeley. Training with Teri McKeever and that team changed my life.

Diet Detective: What keeps you going ?

Natalie: I realize how lucky that I am to be healthy and to get to workout as my job!

Diet Detective: On those days when you’re not motivated to work out, but you know you have to, what’s the one thought that gets you going?

Natalie: I remind myself how lucky I am to have such an amazing job.

Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you?

Natalie: My coach, Teri McKeever.

Diet Detective: If you could build a soundtrack to your life what bands would be on the finished product?

Natalie: Counting Crows, Bush, Courtney Love, Jay Z, Beyonce, Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson…the list goes on.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden food whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?

Natalie: Fried chicken or gelato.

Diet Detective: If there were one healthy food item (something you love) that you had to eat every day, what would it be?

Natalie: Fresh figs, sweet potatoes and lowfat milk.

Diet Detective: What is the one food or meal you always eat before an event? What about before training?

Natalie: Coffee!!!

Diet Detective: If you could only do one strength training exercise what would it be?

Natalie: Pilates.

Diet Detective: What are your two favorite health magazines?

Natalie: Women’s Health and Cooking Light.

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Natalie: Kashi Go Lean Crunch with sliced bananas…I’m obsessed and eat that every morning.

Diet Detective: Do you have any sports superstitions or rituals?

Natalie: I need my coffee and “quiet time” before my race.

Diet Detective: How do you take total control of your mind and body to achieve the focus you need during pivotal sports moments?

Natalie: I stick to the same routine no matter what meet I am at. I first have my coffee and relax at the meet. Then I have this Pilates/warm-up routine that I have been doing for three years. Then I get in the water and swim. Then I race! By having the same routine, I never question whether I am prepared or not for the race.

Diet Detective: What do you think is the best training location in the world?

Natalie: I would say home (Berkeley, CA) because it’s familiar, but if I had to choose somewhere else I would say Sydney, Australia. People there love swimming both in the pool and in the ocean.

Diet Detective: What do you do to relax your mind?

Natalie: One of my favorite things to do is enjoy a great meal with a glass of wine on my balcony with friends. Nothing is more relaxing than that!

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Natalie: My nutritional philosophy is to eat lots of whole grains, vegetables/fruits, lean proteins, lowfat dairy, and lots of water. Portion control is very important. From there, I allow myself to eat my treats (glass of wine, piece of chocolate, scoop of ice cream, etc.). I try not to be too restrictive with my diet.

Diet Detective: Define individual responsibility and how you react to adverse situations.

Natalie: It’s important to stay true to yourself and your values. I know that it’s impossible to please everyone, so I don’t try to. I try to be honest with myself and strive to be a better person.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Natalie: Working in a local pool’s snack bar. It was horrible.

Diet Detective: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

Natalie: Not sure, but there have been plenty of embarrassing moments.

Diet Detective: What place have you traveled to where you think you could live?

Natalie: Sydney, Australia.


Image: Webitect /
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