Written by: Kevin Cann
Coaching is a skill. As a strength coach, nutritional coach, life coach, or any other kind of coach, it is important to understand this. It is not enough to just understand the science in your field. It is just as critical, if not more critical, that you can relay that info to your clients in a manner in which they can understand it, and also in a way that gets them to follow what you are preaching and get the results you expect.
One of the biggest parts in knowing what is right for our clients is in doing a thorough assessment. It is important to look at all areas of your client’s lifestyle and find the most glaring weaknesses. Now I am a paleo guy all of the way, but if I have a client who eats oatmeal in the morning, but meat, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats the rest of the day and their sleep is terrible, I am going to fix their sleep before I take away their oatmeal. The lack of sleep is the biggest glaring weakness in that situation.
Health and disease are placed upon a spectrum and contingent upon many different factors. For example, let us look at weight gain.
- Lack of sleep leads to weight gain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2723045/ ).
- Sugar leads to weight gain (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/2/274.full.pdf+html ).
- High fat diet leads to weight gain (http://www.andsonmenezes.com.br/artigos/Dietary%20Fat%20Intake%20and%20Regulation%20of%20Energy%20Balance.pdf )
- Vitamin D plays a role in obesity (http://www.nutritionj.com/content/12/1/89 ).
- Increased stress can lead to increased weight (http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/170/2/181.abstract ).
As you can see there are a number of factors that can lead to us gaining weight, and this list could go on and on. The truth is there will never be one solution to this obesity epidemic, and as a coach we need to understand this. All too often I have a client come up to me and tell me that they want to lean out a bit more and they ask if they should cut carbs even more. As a coach this discussion can go in a number of ways.
First, how lean is lean enough? All too often men and women come to me attempting to get leaner when they look to be at a healthy body fat. As a coach it is our job to educate them when this is a bad idea. On the other hand they may still have a little extra padding in the midsection after losing 50lbs on a paleo diet. The first thought that comes to many people’s minds is we should cut carbs even more.
Depending on what their intake level of carbs currently is, their health history, and activity level this may be a good idea, but it may also be a terrible idea. As a coach it is our job to assess our clients and determine where they need the most improvements. As a coach you need to develop an assessment protocol that can let you get a good look at all aspects of their life.
My initial intake assessment is 17 pages long. Most clients upon receiving this think it is the biggest pain in the you know what. However, once I explain to them the importance of all of these aspects in reaching their goals they are more than willing to oblige.
Once we receive the information from the client we need to be able to rank it in order of importance. What I like to do is score each category on a 1 to 10 basis. 1 being they have complete control over this area of their lives and 10 being they need some serious help here. From there I will rank them in order of importance.
You may be asking “Why don’t you change everything all at once?” The reason for this is because most people will not stick to a program that completely upends their lives. The idea is to make them stick with the program. Your advice to change everything may be strong and warranted, but if they do not follow it, that is somebody that you did not help.
The other part is knowing your client. Some people can be pushed more than others. I have had some clients that will change everything right off of the bat and succeed. I have also had other clients that need just one change at a time and to be eased into a different lifestyle. I determine this when we speak and I get a feel for their personality. This is where having the ranks of lifestyle behaviors to fix comes in handy as well. Based upon our conversation I get a feel for how far down the list I will take them.
It is also important to tell them they do not have to be perfect and completely deprive themselves of some of the things they love. Of course there are situations where this is necessary, but for the majority of us the 80/20 rule applies. 80% of the time make good decisions for your lifestyle behaviors, for the other 20% of the time have fun. Sit around and have a few beers and wings watching football with friends on a Sunday. There are many positive things happening here for our health. Social relationships are also important.
As coaches, keep all of this in mind with your clients. You will be far more successful with your clients when you take a holistic approach and help turn their lifestyle weaknesses into strengths. It is ok to refer them out when you do not feel you have a solution. We all got into this field to help people, and sometimes that is what it requires. For now take a look at your current assessment protocols and make sure you are identifying all the areas of the client’s life that may be holding them back from reaching their goals.