You may be educated, experienced, and give great advice — but giving advice isn’t enough.
To be a life-changing fitness pro, you need to take responsibility for both the advice you offer, and your client’s ability to follow that advice. Yes, even those “difficult clients.” The ones other fitness professionals tell you to fire.
Here at Precision Nutrition, we don’t fire our clients. We take a completely different approach.
In this 4 part video series – filmed live at the 2011 Perform Better Summit in Long Beach, California – we’ll share that approach with you. And, by the end of the series, you’ll be better equipped to get unbelievable results with every type of client you work with. Even the challenging ones.
Using change psychology to drive success
For the past four years now, Precision Nutrition has coached over 10,000 clients to lose over 180,000 pounds of fat. Weight is lost, behaviors are slowly modified, and lives are changed for the better.
The really cool thing is, our coaches rarely meet clients in person — all coaching is done online.
Now these results wouldn’t have been possible without understanding the power of change psychology to help clients modify their daily practices and get past common stumbling blocks. To be honest, we were only doing OK… until we harnessed the power of change psychology. And then our success rates skyrocketed.
Our data support this approach. Compared to our earlier example — in which only 55% of patients are compliant with their life-saving medications – our coaching system yields, on average, over 70% compliance.
In other words, for every 10 workouts or nutrition habits prescribed, our clients do about 7 of them.
Think about it. Our clients are more prepared to eat their broccoli and work out for an hour a day than the average person is to pop a magic life-saving pill.
How do we get these kinds of results? Well, there are four key lessons I’d like to share with you over the course of the next few videos.
Lesson #1: Coach to both sides of the brain.
You may have heard that the brain can be split up into two sides: a left side (or hemisphere) and a right side (or hemisphere). You may have also learned that everyone is dominant in one side or the other. While things are a bit more complicated than that, we can use this as an interesting model for coaching change.
According to the hemispheric model, the left brain is the logical side and it’s responsible for:
- Logic and analytical thinking
- Rationality and reason
- Forming strategies and creating structure
On the other side is the right brain, and it’s responsible for:
- Intuition and emotion
- Holistic thinking and pattern recognition
- Creating art, beauty, and using imagination
Unfortunately, most of us spend all our time appealing to the left side. We talk sets and reps, calorie expenditure, disease risk rates, macronutrients, target heart rate, and nutrient timing.
It’s a lot like math. And when clients fail to understand and appreciate a subject we think is especially important, we give them an equally left-brained handout or website to read.
The problem? Most of our decision making (whether we like it or not) is more right-brained than left. So, by appealing to reason alone, we get the classic situation where clients think they know exactly what to do. But they simply feel like they can’t do it.
The solution? Start speaking to their right brain.
In the great book Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath use the metaphor of a rider with a whip, steering an elephant.
- The elephant is the emotional brain.
- The rider with the whip is the logical brain.
- The path they’re walking is the environment.
As with any new change scenario, the elephant (emotional brain) may be scared, especially when it perceives the change to be difficult or uncomfortable. And fear brings resistance.
Of course, the rider (logical brain) has the reigns and a whip. So the rider can steer, prod, and lash that frightened elephant. However, that never lasts long. The rider always gets tired and, after that, the elephant goes where it wants.
The rational brain can only control the emotional brain for so long, and that’s exhausting. As a coach, it’s far more effective to get the elephant and the rider going in the same direction by minimizing fear.
In addition, the Heath brothers introduce another concept called “shaping the path” — adjusting the client’s environment by clearing away temptations and roadblocks before they become an issue. It means helping make daily practices automatic so that they’re habitual and don’t use up our precious willpower reserves.
Here are just a few examples of strategies for shaping the path:
- To stay committed to a morning workout, pack your workout clothes the night before and put them by the front door.
- To avoid food temptations, get rid of the cookie jar and candy bowls around the office; stock the fridge with healthy treats.
- To avoid skipping workouts, pay for training sessions in advance, and/or book an appointment to meet a friend at the gym.
There are hundreds of other examples we could use here but the point is this: most fitness professionals have spent their careers focusing exclusively on their own left-brained learning. And while their heads are full of interesting physiology, biochemistry, and mathematics, they’re poorly equipped to help real people make meaningful change.
To overcome this problem, it’s essential to spend some time doing some right-brained work. As a professional, this time spent will mean a huge leap forward in client results.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 2 of The Compliance Solution.
For now, here are some key points.
- Switching from a focus on exercise physiology alone to a balanced focus on physiology and change psychology is an important first step to getting remarkable client results.
- As a coach, you must focus on both sides of the brain. Taking a strictly rational/logical approach to behavior change will create clients who think they know what to do, but feel like they can’t do it.
- By working with deep motivation and recognizing the role of the emotional brain in decision-making we can prevent rider fatigue and better facilitate change.
- We can also go one step further by helping clients shape the path to health and fitness. For more on this, 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.