As fitness coaches and nutritionists, we know the vital role that nutrition plays in achieving aesthetic, performance, and health-related results for our clients. Our clients do as well, and most of them can easily rattle off the DOs, as well as the DO-NOTs of nutrition.
However, when we review their food logs, we often see all that knowledge has translated into bupkes, as most logs show some pretty cringe-worthy eating habits. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges that we face as change agents is how to translate the theoretical into the practical, when it comes to having clients adhere to a “meal plan.”
So, how do we get them to be compliant, or back to compliance in some cases? I believe that it first starts with the foundation, and us putting on our detective caps, a la Sherlock Holmes.
There are two things that we first need to uncover:
- Why is my client here? We need to dig past the superficial responses such as weight loss, beach body, or even an upcoming wedding. What is really motivating them? Why do they want this? Why do they want it now? Why not just continue with the status quo, aka the path of least resistance? Why is it so important for them to break from the past
- What are my clients limiting factors? While it may seem obvious to most, we don’t often do a great job of finding out what has stopped a client in the past from getting results, or what is likely to stop them in the future. Is time an issue? Money? Attitude? Knowledge? By knowing this, we can customize a successful, client-centered solution.
In order to do this, we need to ask questions in a way that we will get detailed, informative answers that will clue us in if a client is ready, willing, and able to change.
When it comes to understanding the client’s why, as well as overcoming inevitable ambivalence during this process, Motivation Interviewing by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (https://www.guilford.com/books/Motivational-Interviewing/Miller-Rollnick/9781609182274) is a great place to start to prepare our clients to change. However, in order to affect meaningful change, we need to really listen to what our clients our saying.
Ryan Maciel, a Precision Nutrition Level 2 graduate and one of Boston’s top nutrition coaches (https://www.middlewaynutrition.com/) explains the importance of truly listening to our clients.
“Whether you are a novice or an experienced coach, the best advice I can give to you is to really listen to your clients. Most of us are so excited to share all the information we have learned over the years, but we forget to listen to our clients and hear what they have to say and what they think is best for them. Your client is the expert in their own lives and it is our job as coaches to listen to them and meet them where they are.”
Maciel also uses a step-by-step process that he learned from the co-founder of Precision Nutrition and Registered Dietitian Ryan Andrews to get the most for his clients, which he recommends using during your next consultation:
- Find out what they want
- What they want and what you think they should do may be different.
- Find out what they are doing
- Great opportunity to highlight all the things they are doing well.
- Find out what their limiting factors/barriers to success are
- This will give you insight on what they have tried in the past, their weakness and what to work on moving forward.
- See if they can identify solutions
- The client is much more likely to do something if it originated as their idea.
- Determine their level of confidence
- Ask your client “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “there is no way I can do that” and 10 being “are you kidding me that’s too easy”, how confident are you that you can complete this habit daily.” You want your client to be at a 9 or 10.
- Finally, help them troubleshoot problems and make change easier
- If they are having a difficult time determining their limiting factors or implementing a habit, this is where you can offer your expertise. Before offering advice, ask your client for permission. They will be much more willing to hear and give your recommendation a try. I have never heard someone say “no,” so why not?
For most of his clients, Maciel likes to use the habit-based approach model for long-term change. Maciel says that, “Meal plans don’t teach clients how to develop healthy habits and they usually result in failure.”
“For clients who are adamant about meal plans, I meet them halfway. I help them develop meal planning and preparation skills. They leave the session feeling good knowing that they have a meal schedule and recipes for the week. I feel good knowing they have learned what a well-balanced meal is, how to choose healthy options and the importance of planning and preparation.”
Aligning expectations and results is one of the biggest challenges that Maciel and other coaches have faced, especially early on in one’s career. It is critical to help clients understand what it will take and the trade-offs that will be made when attempting to make body composition improvements.
One of Maciel’s favorite tools to use is “The Cost of Getting Lean” infographic by Precision Nutrition. The infographic highlights for the client what they need to do, the benefits, and the tradeoffs of each level.
At each consultation, I determine the fitness level of the client and we go through all the things they do well first (e.g. eat slowly and until satisfied), and then we determine what they need to do more of to improve their fitness level.
Follow these steps from the pros such as Ryan Maciel, Ryan Andrews, and the rest of the Precision Nutrition team to get your clients to stay on track with their nutrition and help them get the most out of their easily sustainable nutrition and training programs.
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