I often hear the shame from a client’s voice when they tell me that they had a drink over the weekend or indulged in some lesser valued foods. They feel embarrassed to tell me their weekend or vacation details. Clients often view fitness as an “all-or-nothing” journey when in fact it’s the very opposite. If you’re looking for a sustainable lifestyle then having that “all-or-nothing” mentality won’t last very long. Instead, we need to allow our clients to have a moment(s) of enjoyment without them feeling like they went off the rails so they might as well keep going down the rabbit hole.
Helping your clients ditch the shame around their “off moments” will help them stay on track and here’s how:
1. Create a program for them that has flexibility
When clients are on a specific meal plan, even if it’s sustainable calorically it may trigger fear if they waiver from their plan. If you offer your clients a macro plan instead, it helps them decide what they want to fill their days with. Now, I understand some clients may need more guidance than others on a macro plan but this will at least allow them to enjoy a treat here or there without fear of going over their calories or disappointing their trainer. This will allow them to plan for those foods they enjoy or need in their days to get by and still moving forward towards their goals. They may need some education on portion control but allowing those foods nonetheless.
2. Don’t use the words “cheat meal” or “cheat day”
These words have a negative connotation to them and cause your clients to have a poor relationship with the foods they eat these days. Instead, having an untracked day allows your clients to enjoy the foods while still encouraging them to be mindful and not go completely into the black. Use words like “fuel” and “energy” instead of “good” or “bad”. When you educate your clients on which foods provide more or less fuel and energy for the body they can begin to take those negative associations out of their relationships with food.
“I see in your food log that you chose to eat “food x” for dinner. If you feel a little lethargic for your workout tomorrow it could be because “food x” won’t provide as much fuel as say “food y”. You can see there is nothing negative about the statement I gave to my client, I’m simply educating them on where they could be more effective in their eating if they are struggling to reach their goals.
3. Be transparent as a trainer
Even we need breaks in our routine. We enjoy moments with our spouse, friends, or company by consuming foods and drinks that are less efficient. We take time off from workouts when we are sick, tired, on vacation, traveling, etc. Show your clients that you too are just like them. They will feel less pressure to uphold such high standards when they know you too may fall short.
Remind your clients that a fitness journey is never a straight line from A-B, it can be much like 2 steps forward, 1 step back situation and although the 1 step back might be a hard mouthful to swallow, you can still achieve your goals in the long term if you have the right mindset around each step.
Lyndsay McIntyre – SIMPLY STRONG