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.
Coaches, we’re talking to you
As part 3 of this video series tells us: Spend less time coaching the logical brain and more time working with the emotional brain.
You can do that in many ways. Taken altogether, all those strategies can seem overwhelming.
That’s because trying to do all nine of them at once is too much to take on at any one time.
Despite our misconception that humans are good multitaskers, most folks can only focus on and properly do one thing at a time.
Too many demands at once creates stress. And stress shuts down learning, growth, and change.
So, if you want to improve as a coach, do less.
Adopt only one new coaching action for a month or so. Only add in another action once you’ve mastered the previous step.
Your goal for each client should be the same: to lead them progressively towards the desired change.
One habit at a time for clients
It’s far too easy to give clients too much information and too many tasks in the beginning. After all, good nutrition and fitness habits are seamlessly integrated into your life.
It’s easy to forget that clients will take many self-conscious, hesitant, difficult steps in the beginning.
As Leo Babauta argues in his book The Power of Less, give out one clear task, and 85% of clients can stick to it. Add a second task, and adherence drops to less than 35%. Three tasks – no chance. Now you’ve got less than 10% success.
So start with one habit that’s small, manageable, and as practical as possible.
When in doubt, simply take your one assigned task and reduce the difficulty by half. If you want clients to eat 2 vegetables a day as their first task, start with 1 vegetable instead.
Any tasks you assign must also be clear and specific. “Eat better” is no help at all. Even “eat more fruits and veggies” is too nebulous. So put a number on it. For example:
- Instead of “Work out more”, say, “Do 5 minutes of interval exercise today”.
- Instead of “Eat more vegetables”, say, “Eat 1/2 cup of vegetables with each meal today”.
- Instead of “Improve your posture”, say, “Get up from your chair every hour today.”
Ask, don’t tell
Health care providers and nutrition pros alike often don’t ask – we tell:
- Take two of these a day.
- Eat 2 servings of this every day.
- Exercise 5 hours this week.
How well do you respond to being told what to do? (I’m guessing not well.)
Research in both animals and humans shows that when we perceive a strong threat to our freedom of choice, we react defensively. And deeply forbidden things are more appealing.
Tell a client “Don’t do that!” and you’ll get a primal-brain-fueled rebellion.
Luckily, however, we humans will tolerate a mild threat to our choice as long as we feel it was our idea, and/or that it matches our own priorities.
So begin with identifying what is truly important for your client – it may not be what you assume. And keep asking, because often the first answer your clients give you is a thoughtless one.
The “5 Whys” exercise
To get into our clients’ heads, we like to use the “5 Whys” exercise, which was developed originally for the Toyota production process.
It’s a way to get at root causes and effects, by asking “Why?” until you get to a deeper understanding . For example:
Client: I just can’t eat healthy.
Client: I don’t feel like I was cut out for it.
You: Really, why so?
Client: Well, um, it’s just hard for me to do, with all the planning…
You: Why is the planning hard for you?
Client: I guess the thing is that it seems hard to juggle with all my work demands and stuff.
You: Why so?
Client: It feels like there’s no time to go shopping, with my commuting, and the kids, and Bob working longer hours…
Now you’re getting somewhere. You can start to see a place where you as the coach can intervene at critical junctures: for example, time management, food preparation strategies, and healthy meals on the run.
You can also get a sense of other priorities (e.g. work and family) that are competing for the client’s attention.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 4 of Cutting Edge Fitness and Nutrition Coaching.
For now, here are some key points.
- Asking clients to do too much at once shuts down learning, growth, and change.
- Keep things simple by introducing new habits one at a time, every few weeks.
- Make sure habits are small, clear, and measurable.
- Instead of telling clients what to do, engage them in the process by asking.
- Use strategies like the 5 whys to get at deep priorities and critical coaching points.
And check out part 5 of this series. In the final video, we’ll cover one more critical step in the coaching process: building confidence.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
You can help people build sustainable nutrition and lifestyle habits that will significantly improve their physical and mental health—while you make a great living doing what you love. We'll show you how.
If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.