By using these cutting edge strategies, you can help even your toughest clients follow the rules.
In the fitness industry we often joke that clients are looking for “the magic pill.” But here’s the real joke: even if such a pill existed, clients wouldn’t actually take it.
Compliance — people doing what they know they should — is a critical problem in the fitness industry.
[The medical industry too: miracle cancer and diabetes drugs prescribed by MDs are taken a shockingly low 55% of the time.]
That’s why, in this video series, we’ll share 5 strategies for helping clients — even the toughest ones — follow the “rules.” The rules we know can change their lives.
This video is about 4 minutes long.
The rider, the elephant, and…
As mentioned in part 1 of this video series, the left and the right brain’s relationship is sort of like a person riding an elephant.
The rider is the rational left brain. The powerful, but potentially unreliable elephant is the emotional, intuitive right brain.
But there’s one additional – and critical – part of the equation: the path on which the elephant treads. This is our environment: the circumstances and structures that shape our choices, often without our conscious awareness.
According to the elephant-rider analogy, when we complain that clients “don’t listen” or “can’t stick to a new program”, what we’re bemoaning is the loss of rider/rational control.
Our clients’ left brains are the elephant riders. They’re trying to stay on track with a good nutrition or fitness program in an obesegenic, scary, emotionally taxing world.
In fact, entire industries are now based on tweaking our brain circuits. Fast food companies poke at our visual cortex with omnipresent flashy ads; bright colours on packages; and delectable images.
Food manufacturers purposely create foods that light up our brain’s reward pathways and make our tongues and noses do a little happy dance. This food also gives us – in abundance – what would have been scarce and valuable a million years ago: salt, sugar, and fat.
Why the heck would our primal brain trade deep-dish pizza for rice cakes? “Eat it now! Famine could strike any minute! Maybe have a nap afterwards and save energy!” says our reptile voice.
In the meantime, our personal stress has increased.
Depression and anxiety are now the top mental illnesses in industrialized countries – not because we’re naturally neurotic, but because the world is so stimulating, demanding, and frazzling that our Stone Age physiology and neurology can’t cope.
Full of fast food, work and family pressures, car commutes, sedentary labor, and few opportunities for natural movement, this environment scares the heck out of the emotional elephant.
Combine the elephant’s natural fear and avoidance responses with an environment that presents us with hundreds of decisions every day, and hundreds of ways to get “off track”, and you can understand why clients are both mentally exhausted and dipping into the donuts.
And that’s just one of the reasons why appealing to our clients’ left brains too much may sometimes be counter-productive.
Self one vs. Self two
In psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s well-known book Flow, it’s discussed that when we’re “in the zone” – performing effortlessly and joyfully, unaware of time and unimpeded by obstacles, we’re actually using our “non-rational” brain – or synthesizing the various parts of our brain – much more effectively.
Noted sports psychologist Timothy Gallwey, famous for his Inner Game series of books, concurs: You can’t think your way into “flow” or “the zone”.
In fact, too much left brain action creates what he calls Self 1: a critical, nattering know-it-all bean counter whose exclusive job is to point out errors and dissect our performance to death.
When we are Self 1, we can become paralyzed by analysis.
(Sound familiar? This would be the client who likes super-complicated fitness programs or meal plans, but never does them because she’s overwhelmed by getting the details just right.)
Although it seems, well, logical, over-emphasis on Self 1 and the left brain actually inhibits learning and neuroplasticity. In other words, when clients feel anxious and self-critical about performing, there’s never going to be lasting change.
Conversely, what Gallwey calls Self 2 is the self that “flows” – the self that calls up the best aspects of our whole brain, and puts them to work in a harmonious whole.
What inspires Self 2 and inhibits Self 1?
- Bringing awareness to simple tasks.
- Focusing on one basic thing at a time.
- Emphasizing behaviors rather than goals or outcomes.
- Feeling good about meaningful accomplishments.
- Shaping the environment so that clients can’t or don’t have to over-think.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 2 of Cutting Edge Fitness and Nutrition Coaching.
For now, here are some key points.
- Our environment shapes most of our choices, often on a subconscious level.
- This environment is full of fast food, personal stress, and sedentary work.
- Under these conditions, it’s no surprise that many clients struggle.
- The best coaching focuses on clients’ harmonious selves, not their analytical selves.
For more on supporting your clients’ rider, guiding their elephant, and shaping the path around them, check out part 3 of this series.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.
If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.