I have a client who has been training with me for five months now. She is the only client who has put weight on training with me. During this time, her bodyfat has gone up by three percent. She has not lost any muscle. On the contrary, she has put a little bit on (two pounds). She fills in a food diary for me every week. What she eats does not seem unreasonable. It actually seems quite healthy, and she only really has a drink on weekends and even then it's only a few glasses of wine. She swears to me that what she writes down is accurate. She exercises about four times a week and does weights and cardio. The program is changed every four weeks or so, and she works really hard when in the gym. I don't understand what could be wrong. If she's put fat on, then she can't be burning off the calories she's eating. She can't be starving herself or her metabolism slowing down, as she hasn't lost any muscle. Could she be intolerant to something she's eating, so it's just not being metabolized, or is she lying about the amount of food she eats?
You have all the dots in place, and you have even connected them. However, it is hard to believe your client is not being honest with you. Here are the facts of life. If caloric intake is greater than expenditure, one gains weight. If caloric intake is less than expenditure, then there is weight loss. If caloric intake equals expenditure, then weight stays the same.
You have a client who is gaining weight. She exercises four times a week, doing both cardio and resistance training. You bring up a valid observation: she cannot be malnourished, as she is gaining both muscle and fat. However, she states that her food intake is appropriate for weight loss. We are now experiencing a quandary that every trainer faces. Is my client some sort of aberrant freak that gains weight while doing lots of exercise and eating very little food, or is my client simply not being truthful with me? I think you know the answer. (For a more thorough investigation of difficult weight loss and underreporting of food intake, please see "Why Does My Client Gain Weight on 1000 Calories a Day?" under "related articles" at right.)
You need to let your client know the facts about weight gain and loss and establish that her food intake exceeds her caloric expenditure. You must get her to be honest about her eating behavior. This is not easy. Then, you need to work on why she eats. What are the triggers? Are they environmental? Emotional? Is it simply a lack of understanding portion sizes and reading labels? Or is it a deeper issue such as depression or boredom? If the eating is behavioral, the solution may be beyond your scope of expertise. I recommend all trainers educate themselves as well as have a network of trained professionals they can refer to for clients with behavioral eating problems. A dietician or psychologist who specializes in eating disorders can be immensely helpful in identifying and modifying disordered eating. Good luck.