What do I do with a client who refuses to conform to healthy eating?
I've had a male client for about 4 months now who came to me wanting to lose some weight. Of course, I explained the importance of diet/nutrition and how big a role it plays in losing weight. Additionally, I emailed him several documents and articles on diet guidelines, healthy eating tips and weight loss lifestyle management. Over the course of then next month and a half, I reminded him, at least once a week during sessions (I see him 3 times a week) to keep eating well, and continued to text/email him more tips on eating healthy. He repeatedly admits to me that he absolutely loves to eat the "bad food" and just can't get into the habit of eating healthy. He even went as far as telling me that he often goes out for drinks after work with his co-workers, given the stress of their job. As a result of this, the weight loss results have been very minimal and at this point I don't know what else to do with this client. How else can I motivate him to eat well? I refuse to continue to remind him of healthy eating when he clearly knows he needs to and admits that he drinks/eats unhealthy. In the past I've often fired clients like these who waste my time and make my job difficult as a result of their lack of commitment. Should I fire this client? Also, this client is up for package renewal in a few weeks. Should I ignore this behavior of his and continue to train him (an of course get paid) or tell him I can no longer service him because of his refusal to commit to healthy eating? Have any of you ever had this kind of issue with a client before? Help me out IDEA trainers!!
This client has already made an important decision by recognizing the value of exercise. He goes to you three times a week and should see results by now in terms of improved strength and endurance and also body composition even in the absence of weight loss. And who knows about cholesterol and blood pressure which may also have benefitted.
As you realized, you can only do so much to control all the other hours of the week when you are not with your client. You gave him all the information you had.
If I were you, I would praise for improvements made and back off on the nutrition question. When he is ready, he will appreciate the information. Just be content right now that he exercises regularly. If you keep nagging, he may end up associating exercise with negative feeling and stop. Then you have accomplished nothing at all.
You mention in the narrative about your client everything that YOU have done to motivate him. Do you know your client's motivating reason to change?
You might have been able to determine this during your subjective assessment. If so then you should be able to cycle back and remind your client what he/she mentioned in their initial assessment. Remind him/her why he/she chose you. Remind them of how passionate he/she was about changing and try to determine if they are committed to do all that the said they would do.
Once you revisit your notes regarding the subjective assessment you will be better able to assess where your client is HIGHLY AROUSED as far as changing his behavior is concerned. Perhaps it is not nutrition and it something more related to movement.
Whatever you do, don't emphasize the negative. Focus on what he is achieving and applaud him. Ask questions like:
1. How could you have done things differently?
2. What did you learn from this or that?
Behavior change takes some time. We can't expect our clients to change because we tell them to. Change must come from within. Seek to find ways where you both work together to brainstorm ideas to help him learn new behaviors that will help him achieve his wellness and fitness goals.
This is the first time in his life that he's had "normal" blood panels, he has increased his energy level, he works out daily for 60 minutes.
I used to confront him and question him and quiz him but now I praise how far he's come, I focus on what he's done that's been a positive force in his life. I have him write down the Pros and Cons of Exercise and guess what? The Pro list is 2 pages long...
He weighs himself everyday which keeps him focused and attuned to what he needs to do.
You can't take on your clients battles but you can be their biggest cheerleader.
I've had one client turn in his weekly food log every week and specifically told him to cut out the diet soda, chips and pizza ... and yet every week those things appeared on the log.
I would put gigantic red "x"s on the log and unhappy faces. I wanted to be sure he told me the truth about what he was eating so I tried not to reprimand.
I explained to him that he wasn't just wasting my time but his own and jeopardizing any improvements he may be making by his poor eating habits.
And so I continued to draw those "x"s each week and unhappy faces - until one day I saw water in place of diet soda and PB& J's in place of pizza. He was clearly trying because it wasn't about wasting MY time it was about wasting HIS.
I've had clients that workout so as they can eat what they choose ... their workouts become more or less a wash being able to maintain. But that is what they choose to do.
Clearly you need to sit down and ascertain your client's goals and get that red pen out and maybe one day he'll surprise you!
What is his thought process? Is he a person who rationalizes his bad eating by reasoning, "Well, I just burned 500 calories so I deserve a treat!" If so, you can suggest he look at it from a different perspective; "I just burned 500 calories so I don't want to undo it with junk food!"
Nevertheless, you're doing what you can for him, but until he's truly ready nothing will change. If you're determined to stick with him, you might suggest very small steps, like adding an extra serving of vegetables each day. Otherwise, it might be time to let him go, because HIS success is YOUR success.
I congratulate you on your valiant efforts with this difficult client. I have had clients like yours in the past and I tried a few methods:
A) Set smaller goals.
B) Journal their daily food intake and review every session.
C) Make a wager ie: Lose a specific amount of weight and give free sessions or attach a monetary value.
D) Dont train this person until a specific amount of weight is lost.
E) Be upfront with your client, you can only do so much and you need their cooperation and comittment or you will refer them to another trainer.
I certainately would not continue training this client only for the money...their success is your success!
Hope This Helps!
I hope that this helps.
I'm sorry to hear about your issues with your client. The fact of the matter is that a client will not start to eat healthy until they are ready. Usually that means figuring out what causes them to eat they way they currently do.
This is one of the main reasons I'm studying to be a health coach. I can see where as trainers we are very limited in how we can help our clients with nutrition, but if they don't eat well, then we are wasting our time and their money because, as you have seen, there will be no results to speak of.
So, if this were my client, I would not renew the client. This is one client you need to "fire." It would not be good to keep taking his money when he is unwilling/unable to do the work. It doesn't mean he can never be your client again, but there are things you just might not be able to help with right now.
I think of it this way....where did this client start from? For my client, this is the first time in her life that she has made a commitment to regular exercise and stuck with it. That's a huge improvement in her health and her decision making process to live a healthier life.
Does your client give you 100% each time you meet? If the answer is yes. Then your client is committed to the process. The nutrition piece will just take more time. One step at a time. If the answer is no, then your client may not be ready to make a change yet.
Is your client happy with their current results? My client is, although she's frustrated that its taking so long. I used this as an opportunity to discuss why that might be. And although she knows "junk in, junk out", she'll take the slower progress and continue eatting her candy and ice cream.
What is your client's motivations to get healthy? If you know this, you can help them along with their progress. I always bring it back to why they hired me in the first place. I can give them all the tools in the world, but they need to use them.
How do you feel about working with this client and their progress? If you're frustrated, they'll sense that. If you can see where progress is being made and that, maybe, eventually they'll come on board with nutrition than stick with it.
And never underestimate the value of an honest conversation about the issue. I sometimes lay it all out for my clients. If they want to see results, they have to do the work. How can I support them better? What do they need from me? Can we give it a try for just a week? Can we try just one meal? Brainstorm different ways to make it work. And then understand, that right now, he may be giving you all he can.
1. Get together with him and show him that healthy food can be fun and easy to make, as well as satisfying to eat. Have him look at "needing bad foods" as a craving, and ask him what he can eat to satisfy those cravings. May take some push and pull.
2. Sounds like youre holding up your part of the bargain. Trainers are with clients 1-5 hours a week. They need to hold themselves accountable as well or they'll go nowhere. Gym once a day? You eat 3+ times a day. Health and fitness is earned in the kitchen.
If he wont listen, keep seeing him in the gym and hope he has a change of heart.
Or heart attack. That could help motivate them.
Start by making small changes in the things they enjoy. If it's pizza, reward a hard (but enjoyable) workout with a trip to a healthy pizzeria, a grocery store trip to buy healthy pizza items, or similar. I love this recipe site from ACE http://www.acefitness.org/healthyrecipes/default.aspx
Look for healthy cooking classes in your area. Perhaps their are some social groups your client could join on the topic. The more "eating well" fits into other areas of his life (financial/cost, environment/access, social, intellectual/knowledge/ability, cultural/familial, nutrition, etc.) the more ease they will have with such a transition.
I also believe that if we tell clients to "eliminate" certain foods from their diets then that is the food they will want to eat. We need to remember this is a lifestyle change. So thinking a client will never eat pizza or a hamburger isn't realistic. My suggestion would be to encourage him to eat more fruits and veggies and making small changes to his current eating plan. We shouldn't be looking for perfection, but encouraging healthier choices.