We’ve all encountered it – the client that swears until they’re blue in the face that they really don’t eat that much and it’s a complete mystery as to how and why they haven’t lost weight. For a persistent minority, there are genuine and plausible medical reasons for this somewhat difficult reality for them. However many will acknowledge that the simple truth is they underestimate the amount they eat.
So how do we, as the Personal Trainer, respond to this complex situation?
Putting aside the minority, who have a valid medical reason, let’s focus on the more common occurrence of the client who truly perceives they eat far less than they actually do. Obesity researchers say this gap between perception and reality is not due to conscious lying. These clients truly believe they’re in energy deficit when it comes to their food consumption combined with their activity. Therefore, we need to tread lightly in our approach.
The first thing we should do is to acknowledge our client’s pain, showing empathy and concern. Their frustration is real and our job is to work with them to find a solution, without making them feel judged or ridiculed. Say things such as, “I understand your concern and know how important it is to you to achieve this weight loss goal because…”.
The next step is to help provide a solution. For example, the suggestion of: “Sometimes all it takes for us to achieve weight loss is the elimination of the incidentals that can so easily go unnoticed, like the extra coffee in our day or the glass of juice with our breakfast. Taking away some of these overlooked components can lead to a deficit of 1000kilojoules a day, which can be an extra ½ a kg per week in weight loss!”
The best way to help our client know what and how much they are truly eating is to keep a food diary that reflects EVERYTHING they eat AND drink! Encourage them to take ownership, and download a food app such as My Fitness Pal or provide them with a food diary journal to fill in hardcopy. Make sure that, whichever method you deem more appropriate for the client, it is reviewed weekly so that you can check progress and make specific recommendations. And use the trust you have built with them to implore them to be 100% honest.
Additionally, our clients need to log WHEN they eat. Skipping meals detrimentally impacts the balance of blood glucose levels, and therefore will lend itself to fluctuations in energy levels and higher frequency of sugar cravings. A minimum of three balanced meals needs to be consumed to assist with blood glucose level balance and to help achieve a more active metabolism.
Another common challenge our clients face is in understanding how much they should be eating. In discussion with our clients, we need to help them gauge appropriate serving sizes. Visually show 1 cup of food, 150g etc. so that they can start to put this into practice themselves. You can use the palm of your hand as a tool for the size of steak portions. Simple things like dividing a dinner plate up into appropriate portion sizes for lean protein, vegetables and grains can also assist and always encourage the use of smaller dinner plates.
Dedicating a PT session to education in this manner is likely to be more beneficial than 10 sessions of activity should the outcome be positive dietary change and awareness! You may even like to take your client to the supermarket, helping them shop with the provision of an essentials shopping list that they can use and provide them with some easy, tasty and healthy recipes!
Lastly, our client’s sleep and stress levels need to be monitored. Don’t estimate the importance of ensuring these two lifestyle factors are kept in check!
These are some very basic, yet practical approaches to help Personal Trainers in this client scenario. If a food diary, exercise frequency and lifestyle are all looking exemplary, you should refer your client to an accredited Dietician as there may be a medical challenge that is beyond your scope of practice.
The Australian Institute of Fitness provides training for personal trainers and fitness instructors. We offer a wide variety of personal training course options. You can choose from:
The Australian Institute of Fitness also provides training for prospective Nutrition Coaches. The Australian Institute of Fitness’ Nutrition Coach course has been designed to empower fitness professionals to be better equipped to provide current nutrition information to clients within their scope of practice.