I agree with Danielle.
Assist your clients in developing SMART goals and never forget that if your clients are changing their behaviors self-efficacy in the new behavior will be low.
Keep in mind that you are asking your client to adopt a new behavior that they’ve never engaged in before and that past experience with a behavior is correlated to self-efficacy.
Hope this is of help to you.
Often drastic changes are unsuccessful when it comes to eating habits. I will ask the client what one thing they could work on this week that will get them to their goal. Then we build on the wins. If they have been challenged that week we work on fractionating the goal into more managable bites or take a look at S.M.A.R.T ness of that goal.
You are absolutely right; small changes that become second nature are a great way to go about it. I often find that people start training with me and have the grandiose idea that they will now also exercise every day on their own (or eat no more junk food …. you name it). I try to tone it down by saying something like: “That is a fabulous idea, and it would be a wonderful end result. If you can manage it: great. What I would like for you initially to do on a daily (weekly) basis is ………” I then suggest a goal that seems realistically achievable.
Then, when they express frustration, you can get back with a diplomatic version of ‘I told you so’ but are also able to point to the progress made against the goals that you suggested.
This keeps the conversation on a positive note.
I wish you good luck.