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The Confidence-First Approach to Weight Loss

Helping a reluctant client find mastery in movement.

client: Erick | personal trainer: Ethan Kopsch, owner, Bird Rock Fit | location: La Jolla, California

Benefiting from family ties. When 20-year-old Erick first met Ethan Kopsch, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Bird Rock Fit in La Jolla, California, Erick was less than eager to start a training program. Kopsch had been training Erick’s mom for some time, and she was so pleased with her progress that she encouraged Erick and her daughter, Michelle, to work with the trainer.

“Erick wasn’t very motivated in the beginning,” Kopsch says. “But he trained with his sister, so it was easy for him to make the commitment. They enjoyed training together.”

He also didn’t have a goal, Kopsch adds, so they decided on an initial plan to help Erick to move more easily.

Building the base. Kopsch recalls that, in the beginning, Erick lacked confidence and had a hard time getting through the workouts. With that in mind, Kopsch kept the program simple and worked on improving physical aptitude, comfort and enjoyment.

“We had a basic program,” he says. “Erick had quite a few muscular imbalances, so the bulk of the program was focused on body-weight and functional training that emphasized optimal form.”

Erick had difficulty with the body-weight training because of his weight, however.

“At first,” says Kopsch, “training was tough for him, but after he built strength and muscle with a proper strength training program, we started to implement exercises that he enjoyed, and he thrived from there.”

As Erick’s physical ability increased, he shifted his focus to weight loss.

Rewiring old habits. Though the client’s motivations and efforts in the gym continued to improve, the weight was slow to come off. Kopsch was certain that there were other factors inhibiting Erick’s success.

He explains, “I spent a lot of time talking with him about nutrition, especially because he had poor eating habits. The struggle was getting him to understand a balanced diet.”

Their discussions proved impactful, and Erick was inspired to eliminate fast food and replace it with more vegetables, lean proteins, and a vegetable-based protein shake after each workout.

Gaining momentum. With a solid training and nutrition structure in place, Erick’s body began to change at a faster pace, leading to more progress in his physical abilities.

“Once he had lost 80 pounds, he was able to do things he couldn’t do before,” says Kopsch. “He was able to do pushups and pullups, squat heavy weight, and tackle more advanced calisthenics exercises.”

Kopsch adds that as Erick’s body began to shift, so did his self-esteem. For the trainer, seeing this change in his client was one of the most rewarding aspects of their work together.

“I felt proud when I noticed his mood completely changing,” Kopsch smiles. “Erick started to come in with complete confidence and was a lot more outgoing with everyone in the gym.”

Trusting the process. It took Erick—now 23 years old—2 years to drop about 130 pounds. Since then, he’s switched gears to emphasize hypertrophy—he’s added 15–20 pounds of lean mass to his frame—and healthy weight maintenance.

“He now moves like an athlete and spends much of his spare time engaging in things that involve movement,” says Kopsch, who trusted the process and relied on tried-and-true tactics.

He advises other trainers to follow suit.

“Be patient,” he says. “Have confidence in the training programs you provide. A solid base is key to building strength. Don’t skip corrective exercise training, and always focus on form. Too many trainers worry too much about calories burned. We focused more on learning the proper technique and grew from there.”

Finally, he adds that it’s important for clients to surround themselves with supportive people.

“Erick, his sister and his mom are on my list of favorite clients that I still train today,” he says. “Having people in your life that promote healthy habits and help motivate [you to keep them] will ultimately allow you to thrive.”

CALLING ALL TRAINERS! Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected], and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of Fitness Journal.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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