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How to choose the best diet for your clients

From all those years of personal training I found this the biggest challenge. When we train our clients, we can guide, motivate and coach them right there right then.

Unfortunately this is not the case with their nutrition plan. This is something they have to do on their own. Although we try to educate them by giving them the information they need, a lot of clients just don’t follow the plan.

Many Personal Trainers make common mistakes when it comes to planning our client’s diet. Most of us try to show them what we do, what works for us, because we get results from it. But most people are not like us, they are not as fanatic about exercise and nutrition as we are and therefore lack the discipline.

It might be difficult to comprehend for personal trainers how exercise and nutrition is not everyone’s top priority. It is for us and should be for the rest of the world. We all know this is not how things are.

So, what can we do about it? There are plenty diets out there, for example: Intermittent fasting(my favourite), Paleo, CR(calorie restriction), Macros, Vegan/Vegetarian, Atkins, Slimfast, Herbalife, Body by Vi, Juicing, the Coffee diet, the Soup diet etc….

Understandably we have our reservations about most of these. Some are not even healthy! But I say does it matter? In the grand scheme of things most people do things that are bad for their health: some drink alcohol, some drink excessive amounts of coffee, some drink too much diet soda, some eat too much meat, some have too much salt and so on. We just need to improve their health, not make it ideal or optimal.

The challenge we have is to get the balance right and find something our clients can work with and adhere to. How do we do that?

Asking the right questions:

  • In the past have you experimented with a diet successfully?
  • If so what did you do and why did you stop?

From my experience most people have tried a diet at some point in their lives.

It is very important you listen to their story and take notes at the same time. The most important question is: “Why did you stop!”. This will give you an indication what their barriers might be. Determining or discovering barriers is very important. Here is a list of barriers a client might have:

  • time constraints, doesn’t have enough time to prepare the meals
  • allergies
  • religion
  • partner has a different outlook on food and nutrition
  • hasn’t recieved enough information
  • hasn’t recieved enough coaching or guidance
  • stopped the diet because they reached their goal

Your job is to find a way to overcome these challenges. Always be diplomatic and ampathatic about it, nutrition is a sensitive matter to most.

Once you have an insight of what your client likes, dislikes or can manage you need to come up with a plan. Make sure your client is with you during this process. Have your client feel like it is their idea, they are more likely to stick to it if they do. You can do this by asking questions like these:

  • Which diet do you like the sound of the most?
  • Is there anything about it you don’t like? (If so find an alternative and overcome this barrier)
  • How would you implement this in your daily routine?
  • Do you feel this is manageable? (If not, come up with a compromise eg: a cheat day)
  • Is this something you can stick to for the rest of your life?

The last question is probably the most overwhelming one. People usually think a diet has an expiration date. We know this is not the case. It’s a matter of changing their lifestyle. If you make too many changes at once, they will give up. If the changes are too hard, they will give up. Always be considered and find a momentum of changing a client’s lifestyle they are comfortable with.

I remember helping someone by simply replacing 1 cup of coffee with a 500ml bottle of water a day. She drank a lot of coffee and although coffee has many health benefits, too much can have a detrimental effect on our health. In this case she was mildly dehydrated on a daily basis, but needed the coffee to cope with stresses at work and family life. Coffee was very important to her. If I would have suggested to simply give it up, she would have retaliated. But replacing 1 cup a day with a bottle of water was manageable. After just one week she felt like a new person and was motivated to carry on with cutting back on the coffee, knowing that she didn’t have to give it up but simply moderate her consumption.

One more thing, hold them accountable for their own actions. On a weekly basis ask them how they are coping with the plan, if they are doing well, happy days! If not, ask them why they are struggling and come up with a different approach.

As soon as they see results they are motivated to continue and find it a lot easier to manage.

It is a lengthy process and can be a lot of hard work but we are “Personal”-Trainers and it’s one reason why people employ us.

Stephan Konrad

Managing Direct of www.directexercise.com