People are going to ask. So how do you describe your eating choices, your exercise habits, and your healthy lifestyle…without sounding crazy?
Maybe you’ve been the “healthy one” in your social group for a long time. Or maybe you’re new to fitness and making healthier choices.
Either way, people are bound to ask you how you maintain your energy and focus.
Meanwhile, you might be struggling with a few questions of your own:
- How can I explain this in a way that will actually help people?
- How can I help them move forward, instead of turning them off?
In this article we’ll describe a few strategies that have worked for us (and our clients). They might just work for you too.
You step in to the elevator with your co-worker. She says, “Hey, you’re looking great these days. What are you doing?”
You haven’t seen your brother in a while. You drop by for a visit, and he asks for help moving furniture. You grab the heavy oak table by yourself and haul it up the stairs, barely out of breath. His jaw drops. “Hey Bones, what happened?”
(He’s called you Bones since you were six.)
You gather around the holiday table with relatives you haven’t seen in forever. Auntie sighs, and shifts uncomfortably. Her hips hurt. “I have got to lose this weight. My doctor says I’m pre-diabetic.” She looks over at you. “OK, tell me, how did you lose all your fat?”
I changed my daily practices, you start to say. Or, I signed up for coaching.
And then you stop.
Because… how do you explain it?
How do you explain to Shavonne from Accounting, and Big Brother Sanjay, and Auntie Esther — in a way they understand, before they lose interest — what you’re up to?
And how do you describe what you’re not up to — which includes following another diet, making yourself crazy, restricting your intake, eating weird foods, yo-yo dieting, or having some boot camp instructor yell in your face?
How do you describe your choices to friends, family and strangers?
(In a way that will move them forward instead of turning them off?)
Since you know that nutrition is the cornerstone of health, it’s tempting to start here:
“I don’t follow a fad diet.”
That’s accurate. At least we hope so.
But if you’ve ever tried it, you’ve probably noticed your listener’s eyes glaze over. Because, let’s face it, everybody says this. Even the people who do follow fad diets!
“I don’t eat pre-packaged pre-portioned meals. I don’t weigh myself every day. I don’t spend half my days in the gym.”
Yet how can you express a thing only by what it’s not?
That’s like saying your car isn’t a turtle, or that your eyeball isn’t your fingernail. It tells you nothing about driving or seeing.
And it leaves your listener no further ahead than when you started.
This is where you might start feeling bogged down.
Maybe you even worry that you’ve set your listener back. Because when somebody reaches out for help and doesn’t get it, discouragement is pretty much inevitable.
And if your goal is to help others lead better, richer, healthier lives — frankly, that sucks.
Luckily, there’s another way.
Because here’s something we’ve noticed. To move forward, people don’t need to hear too much about what they shouldn’t do, or don’t have to do.
To move forward, people need to hear about what they can do — and then they need some practice.
Let’s make that idea real for you, right now.
“This is tough to explain.”
Here at Precision Nutrition, we start with straight-up honesty. We know we’re about to say something that might sound a bit surprising.
This disclaimer buys us time and audience generosity. People give us a few extra moments to grope for words. Now, they don’t expect perfection.
Because here’s a secret:
Whether family, friends, coworkers, or strangers: They’re struggling too.
They’re yearning for something that they can’t put into words either.
They want to feel better. Look better. Perform better. Get out of bed better. Digest better. Live better.
This desire that we all feel for a better life and health is deep and often inexpressible.
It comes out in rudimentary, primal, barely-conscious thoughts in our brain.
Me want hurt not so much.
Me want feel pretty.
Me want boy or girl like me.
Me want make strong.
Me want be OK.
Me want change.
These aren’t exactly the rational thoughts we’re hoping for. But they’re real thoughts. Primal. Emotional.
That’s why starting with honesty is so good. It taps in to this secret part of people that dreams this big dream too.
And once you contact a big dream, you can make a big claim.
Then, we say something outrageous.
“This is tough to explain… but it’s deeper than diet or exercise. It’s about life change.”
We go big on this. Look our listener in the eye. Full commitment to this utterance.
For a moment, they think we’re crazy. As in: Huh? Did they just say “life change”?
Yet if we deliver the line just right, with a pause after dropping this coolness bomb, they start to believe it’s possible.
(After all, you just tapped into their change-wanting brain place.)
“You know how people try to change everything at once, all by themselves? This is the opposite of that.”
That comes next. And they’ll get it. They’ve done it, just like you have.
They’ve fantasized about the 5 a.m. runs, the all-broccoli diet, the late-night infomercial ab device.
And never done it. Just like you. Just like all of us.
Because not only was the plan obviously unworkable, they were trying to do it alone.
“It’s about daily practices. Changing little by little. Small — but strategic — stuff.”
Then give them an example.
“So, for instance, you know how before I would do X?
Well, over a few weeks, instead, I slowly adjusted things so that I do Y instead.
My coach gave me lots of ideas for making Y happen. S/he was awesome!
Doing it that way was super-easy.
By the end of those weeks, I didn’t even notice I was doing Y instead!
Now I do them without even thinking about it!
Once I got the hang of Y, PN just gave me another habit to try.”
And here’s where you can deliver the mathematical punchline. Sit back and look wise.
“If you think about it, let’s say you change one small habit every 2 weeks.
There are 52 weeks in a year, so you’re changing 26 things, easily.
Let that sink in.
Let that roll around in their brains.
Then hit them with the last shot.
“Let me ask you, just for fun: What would YOU try changing?”
Now it’s over to them. Let their imagination run wild.
“Let’s start with something small. Really small. What would YOU do?”
Look for the far-off look in their eyes that tells you they’re imagining a healthier, better, fitter, more awesome version of themselves. Considering that maybe it’s possible.
Let them dream a little.
It doesn’t matter what they say, or whether they think they can do it right now. (In fact, they probably won’t think they can. Just like you didn’t think you could, way back then.)
It only matters that you’ve unlocked the dream itself.
They won’t “get it” right away. That’s OK.
There’s no rush. Change takes time. (Remember?)
They can see you being awesome. Now the seed’s been planted.
You don’t have to argue, persuade, convince, or coax.
You don’t have to be an “expert” or even give suggestions or solutions of any kind.
In fact, telling people to change won’t even work.
(That makes your job easy. You don’t have to tell people to change.)
Just be the change you want to see.
For example: if you’re a PN certified coach, keep doing your magical work. Help people, one habit at a time.
If you’re new to PN, stay patient and persistent. Try some stuff, like one of our free courses. Have fun. Drop in to our Member Zone and meet the locals. Pick up a copy of Gourmet Nutrition and experiment. Smile and say hi to someone in the gym.
If you’re a client in one of our coaching programs, keep showing up. Keep doing your habits. Keep talking about what you’re learning with your loved ones. (We find many lessons are great conversation-starters!)
If you’re a coaching program graduate, consider developing your interest further. Enroll in our PN certification. Offer to support someone else going through coaching.
Just be the change you want to see.
Because whatever and whoever you are, wherever you’re at in your own journey:
You can make a difference. You can help people too.
Spread the word. Pay it forward. Reach out. Be generous with your time and goodwill. Share your experience, whatever that is.
Ignore others’ protestations about why they currently can’t or won’t change. If they’re talking about change, it means on some level they’re considering it.
Help them dream. This is where change starts to sprout.
Your friend: “I’d love to X, but I can’t.”
You: “Oh yeah, X would be cool. What is it about X that you like?”
Your friend: “Sure, Y is easy for you. But not for me.”
You: “I totally understand. I never thought I could Y either. Not in a million years! You should have seen me when I first tried Y.”
Your friend: “I really want to start Z but nobody will go with me.”
You: “I’m free on Tuesday, and there’s a class down at the rec center. Wanna try it with me?”
Your friend: “Hey, you’re looking great these days. What are you doing?”
You: “Oh, just some small changes, one thing at a time. I’m getting some coaching too, and it really helps!”
Your friend: “I have got to lose this weight. My doctor says I’m pre-diabetic.”
You: “Wow, that’s gotta be a little scary. I know a lot of other people in my coaching group were in the same boat. It was actually really cool to see how the PN habits helped them without even necessarily addressing it directly. Some of them even got off their meds.”
Your friend: “Hey Bones, what happened?”
You: Flex and smile. “That’s right buddy. Ima kick your ass in a few more months. You better step up your game.”
You are the change.
One habit at a time, one person at a time. It’s up to you.
It’s fun to dream big. And it’s fun to help others do the same.
Your cheat sheet
Here’s a quick checklist of how to talk about lifestyle change, and about PN coaching in particular:
Set the stage: “This is tough to explain, because it’s not like what you’d expect.”
Focus on behavior change rather than “a diet plan” or “a workout”: “It’s about changing lifestyle and habits.”
Embrace “the opposite” of what’s expected: “Instead of changing a bunch of stuff at once for clients, they change one little thing at a time. You practice one small habit until you get it. And it’s not a one-off thing. It’s a system.”
Help them dream, just a little: “I’m curious what you might change if you had one small change to make.” It’s always fun to ask people this!
Empathize, listen, and be compassionate: “I understand. It was tough for me too.”
Build the tribe: “It really helps to work with a coach / bunch of other people doing the same thing. I’m happy to give you a hand with getting started, if you like.”
And, of course, if you’d like a hand yourself, consider PN Coaching. Click the link below for details.