Breaking Down the Roadblocks in a Clients Diet

Paul Hooper | 05 Mar 2020

When first assessing a new client’s diet, the common question that is often asked is ‘how’s your diet?’ or ‘how’s your nutrition?’. The overwhelming response is simply ‘good’ or ‘I eat pretty good’.

This can mean several things; however, odds are they assume they are eating well, but in truth, they are not aware of over-consuming calories nor imbalances within their macronutrient ratios.

So in order to get to the bottom of a client’s diet, you have to look at their habits over the course of the week to see what could be causing the lack of progression.

Common roadblocks in a typical client can include, but is not limited to:

  1. Subconscious or mindless snacking
  2. Excessive use of oil when cooking
  3. Licking the knife or spoon when preparing food for children
  4. Finishing off kid’s meals when they don’t finish them
  5. Hidden calories in “low carb” or “sugar free” foods
  6. Alcohol
  7. Weekends
  8. Emotional eating
  9. Nutritional literacy
  10. Grocery shopping when hungry

Mindless Eating

Have you ever sat down to watch an intriguing TV show or movie with a bag of chips or popcorn and without realizing it, the entire bag has been eaten? This is mindless eating. You don’t realize the quantity or speed of which you are eating, but the entire contents are consumed in quick succession because you are transfixed in the content of the TV show or movie.

Once a client is made aware of this or the potential to do this, the need to have a ‘snack’ while watching TV is less likely.

Excessive Use of Oil

When cooking in a pan, we tend to use oil to lubricate the surface; however, the quantification of the oil is often overlooked. The volume of pouring oil can be added quite easily, whereas spray oil can be controlled a lot better and would be the preferred option. Always ensure they make allowance for this oil in their diet and use it sparingly.

Licking Knifes and Spoons

It’s so easy to overlook the licking of a knife or spoon when preparing your kids lunch or dinner.

Always ensure your client is aware of this situation and that once the meals are prepared, the cutlery used is immediately cleaned off. Small amounts of food over time can certainly add up in regard to the calories they hold.

Finishing Off Kids Meals

How often does your child not finish their meal? Potentially being of the mindset to not waste anything, plus with them eating earlier than yourself (in which case, you may be hungry), you generally make the decision to finish off their food.

If this is the case, make your client aware of this situation also. If they are hungry during the early hours of the evening when they are preparing their kid’s meals, make sure they are conscious of this so they can be better prepared.

A large glass of water, afternoon snack, protein shake, etc. can suffice until their own dinner time.

Again, these extra amounts of food can certainly add the calories up.

Hidden Calories in Alcohol Sugars

I have written about this before. Many ‘low carb’ or ‘sugar free’ options in today’s grocery stores are not what they seem and generally contain alcohol sugars as a sweetening substitute. Alcohol sugars are still a calorie, however not usually declared as one.

With products containing these alcohol sugars, the overall calories of the item can be much higher than declared on the packet. Products such as protein bars, low sugar ice cream, low sugar hot chocolate, etc. are all victims of this, and if your client is consuming any of these, chances are they are eating more calories than they are aware of.


One drink won’t hurt right?

Depending on the type of alcohol and the quantity consumed, the calories can certainly add up.

Alcohol can also have a negative effect on training performance and muscular development.

It’s important for the client to understand the ramifications of consuming alcohol if their goal is weight loss and more so the added calories alcohol contains, especially if quantification is not calculated.


Much of the population fall victim to weekends. During the week, it is generally much easier to be structured and organized due to the requirements of a workday; however, once the weekend comes around, the wheels fall off. There are plenty of graphs on social media that can be used as a visual example showing the consistency of a diet Monday to Friday. Then by Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, the calorie intake skyrockets, which means the weekly average is much higher than forecasted.

Have the client analyze their weekend and be honest about it. If there’s alcohol, takeout , snacking, etc., have them track it to provide ownership and accountability on their food choices and make them realize the weekdays are good, but the weekends are not. Provide solutions they can implement to help combat their poor weekend food choices.

It’s a common issue in a consistent week, but if the cycle of poor weekend choices can be overcome, then the results will come a lot faster.

Emotional Eating

This is another common problem in today’s society. We try and solve problems or make ourselves feel better with food, and often these food choices are the highly processed, heavily sugared kind.

Whether it be due to a bad day at work, stress at home, pressure from kids, financial stress, etc., food can be the go too option to temporarily make the client feel better. However, the triggers for this type of eating need to be identified so they can be managed and minimized. It may be something outside the scope of the trainer, in which case a referral to a different professional might be required.

If you can get through to the client and make them realize what they are doing, there are alternatives to eating that they can try to help destress the situation they are in.

A simple walk, meditation, massage, swim, bike ride, movie, podcasts, a good book, coffee with friends are all ways to provide self-care and limit the opportunity for emotional eating.

Nutritional Literacy

Like most things in life, achieving success requires education. The more you learn, the better educated you are and the better equipped you are at life. This also applies to the client’s nutrition. If they have good nutritional literacy or a good understanding of counting calories and macronutrients, then even on days when they don’t track, they are still educated enough to comprehensively know what they are eating within reason.

If a mechanic spends four years of an apprenticeship to be a great mechanic and a Doctor spends up to 10 years of study to be a great Doctor, why wouldn’t an individual with a goal to lose weight spend only a few weeks learning about calories and how to track them to better their own knowledge to aid them in achieving their goals?

For those that don’t know or understand calories, overeating is very easy to achieve or the concept of eating ‘healthy’ while still over consuming calories is also very easy to achieve.

If you can educate your clients on calories and make them understand the value of food, they will be much better equipped to make much better educated decisions surrounding their own nutrition.

Grocery Shopping When Hungry

This is as it suggests.

A big mistake made when an individual is trying to lose weight is going shopping when hungry. Not only do you buy items you don’t necessarily need, but you also look to snack during or immediately after the shop.

Instruct clients to shop with a list and stick to that list.

Suggest they try and shop just after eating so you aren’t hungry while shopping, which can lead to better food choices.

If your client does fall victim to shopping when hungry, instruct them to stay focused and strong and that they have a simple meal ready for when they get home.

These examples are not all that you may come across with a client when it comes to dieting roadblocks; however, they are certainly some of the common ones I have managed through my time as a Trainer.

In all cases, if you work with the individuals and not against them, manage their expectations, find their triggers, and talk them through everything to ensure they identify the issues, they can overcome these roadblocks and achieve success.

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Paul Hooper

About the author: Paul Hooper

My fitness philosophy is all about honesty, commitment and hard work. I believe you should always lead by example.

I have built a Personal Training business on providing a high quality service to my clients ensuring their satisfaction each and every time they set foot in the gym. I want people to enjoy health & fitness as much as I do therefore I always try and convey this enthusiasm in each and every session or even when speaking to a client, gym member or anyone else for that matter.

The basis for my training style is hypertrophy. I believe high volume training enables muscle growth and maintenance as well as affective weight loss through high repetitions and short rest periods. It enables a kick of endorphins at the end of each session which the client takes away with them feeling great for the day.

Having excelled at Rugby Union, Golf and Tennis in my younger years, due to injury I turned my hand at Natural Bodybuilding and really enjoy the style of training and nutritional education associated with this sport. I have learnt so much through this journey that it allows me to pass this knowledge onto my clients for them to also achieve success within their own fitness journey.

My business mantra is No Guts, No Glory, No Legend, No Story. This basically means if you put in, you will get back.

I am Paul Hooper. Personal Trainer, Teacher and business owner of Pauls Body Engineering on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

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