nutritional communication

Posted on March 9, 2011. Filed under: Nutrition |

Communication is key.

You hear this statement made often in talking about successful relationships.

Open communication, two-way communication, active listening.  I have often felt with all this new technology for communication, we have actually brought ourselves further apart, but that’s a blog for another day.

What I wanted to talk about is the communication between a coach and a client or athlete.  Communication is so important because a fitness coach at best is only with a client 3 hours a week.  The other 165 hours are up to them.

The mistake I find trainers make, is not always in exercise instruction, but the counseling of eating habits.

I have seen trainers recommend supplements for new clients, before they even asked them what they ate for breakfast.  Handed out meal plans, with no conversation on whether the plan fits the client’s schedule.  And in all completely ignored the clients position as something to be worked with, merely taking the approach of something that must be dictated to.  Call it a trainer’s disconnect.  It unfolds in their mind something like this:

If the client saw results, it’s because the trainer is brilliant, and it’s all thanks to them.  If the client does not see results, it’s because they didn’t follow the program.  And it’s all the client fault.

This is one of the main differences between a trainer and a coach.  Many interchange the names, but you can’t hide from the simple fact.  Training is what you do to someone.  You train a dog, or a horse.  You potty train a child.

Coaching is what you do with someone.  You coach a team.  Recognizing the individual goals of performance and needs to get the most out of each player or client and apply accordingly.  Yes there will be similarity in certain approaches.  But it will never be exactly the same.

This is the problem I find when it comes to nutritional information.

Once you filter through all the media hype, celeb diets, and whatever else, the base fact is if you don’t eat healthy you’re not going to see results.  If a client does not stick to a proper nutritional program, it does not matter what kind of workout you give them.  The results will be mediocre at best.

Simple things I use, are a food journal which I put together for convenience and open conversation between myself and my client, without judgement.

I add the without judgement portion because I think we as fitness professionals tend to forget what it was like when we started out.  Learning to eat properly, learning to lift properly, the trials and errors, we forget what it’s like to think this way.

I have had a debate or two (or 10+) with a colleague about this.  The criticism I get the most is being to lenient in the beginning in regards to eating habits.  My explanation is I try to give people a nutritional goal they can stick to.

Some clients I can tell cut out breads and junk, focus on eating veggies, protein, and fruit.  Drink water only.  And they do it  And they see rapid amazing results when combined with my coaching programs.  Other clients, I have to start slow.  First let’s try to eat 4-6x a day.  Next let’s increase our water intake.  Next let’s up the protein intake.  And so on and so forth.

All these steps are outlined in my journal, but for many they need to hear it from me directly.  They need to be able to ask why they need to eat so often, increase their protein or increase the caloric intake in order to lose fat.  And they need to be able to ask this without being made to feel ignorant or like they should never have asked.

Benefit of being a nerd growing up, you never really forget what it was like being considered outside the ‘cool kids.’  So when I discuss anything with a client I want them to know they can ask me about anything health or nutrition related.  Anything they hear on the news or a friend they can come to me and have their question answered with respect.

This is what I see as the flaw in many a nutritional conversation.  People don’t see outside their own perspective.  How can they unless they really take a step back and think about it.

So if you have a friend or family member who you want to help with their eating habits.  Stop and think, how do they see the situation.  What emotions are connected to these views or habits?  Shame?  Pride?  Joy?  Stress relief?

Are you talking to them or preaching?  Are you listening to the emotions and feelings behind the words they share, or are you just waiting for your turn to talk and tell them how wrong they are?

Are you making yourself open to communication, or are you presenting an image that they feel they can’t approach you?  This last one tends to be more common I find if they are taking a specific eating approach.  For example, if I’m thinking of doing an Atkins diet, I’m not going to feel to comfortable talking to my vegetarian friend about it.  Unless I know they will respect my choices

Nutritional communication takes work.

But it’s the kind of work that benefits the health of my clients.  And I am sure can help you benefit those you care about.

Best Health

Coach W


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