I hope you don't mind me messaging you, but I'm looking for a little advice. I've been working as a trainer for one year now and I've spent that year soaking up every bit of knowledge I possibly could (with lots of help from the PTDC!) and I'm finally starting to really 'settle' into my career and feel confident in what I do. The biggest issue I have is with getting my clients to follow the advice I give them to use outside of their sessions, such as nutrition, stretching and additional workouts...but mostly nutrition. I know that they all could get incredible results if they would buckle down and change their eating habits. I give them all the tools I can to help them do so (recipes, weekly plans, helpful articles, constantly checking in with them) but I still struggle to get them to make changes. Any tips??
Thank you so much,
-Erika H.


It's an uphill battle and will be all the way but there are some definite habits that you can employ which have personally helped me deal with the issue.

Before I get into the 4 habits I'd like to emphasize how important it is for you to be honest. They need to know what to expect working with you if they don't change their eating habits. Don't lie and tell them that weight will shift -- Instead tell them that body composition will change but weight loss won't happen without nutritional intervention. For some that's fine but unrealistic expectations will hurt the relationship and your reputation.

4 Ways to help clients with nutritional modifications

1. Have options: At all times I have a naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, dietician, sports specific dietition, and bodybuilding/physique model nutritionist on hand. What this allows me to do is present options to any client that walks through the door.

2. Food monitoring: I get clients to fill out food diaries. The first time a client meets with me they get 3 sheets to fill out (2 during the week and 1 on the weekend). I don't give them any advice. From these sheets I analyze 5-6 habits I want them to change and itemize them. What's the most important? Or what do you think will allow the client to get success the quickest?

For example, adding in a multivitamin and fish oil should lead to 1-2 inches within a week purely due to the anti-inflammatory effects. Clients become more open to listen to you when they've had prior success. Beyond that you decide what's important but only move onto the next step when the client has successfully completed the previous task and maintained it for at least a week.

What I've also done from time to time is taken in the food diary from a client and asked them what they want to change. Basic nutrition isn't complicated -- almost everybody knows the basics. My guess is that your client will pick out exactly what you were going to say. The difference? Now they have ownership over the decision. It's theirs. That's powerful. They also now have somebody to hold them accountable.

Some example steps may be:
1. Multivitamin and fish oil
2. Bigger breakfast / eating a breakfast (teach them about super shakes)
3. Healthy snacks (nuts / seeds)
4. Protein at every meal
5. Pre/post workout nutrition
6. More fiber

If somebody follows all 6 steps they're following a great nutritional protocol and will feel and look more fit in addition to have more energy.

Note I never speak to clients about alcohol intake at night (which has been a huge issue with a lot of my clients). My opinion is this:

Alcohol at night during the week serves as a crutch for somebody who's stressed out or needs to separate from their anxieties etc. Everybody knows it's bad for you so you telling your client alcohol is bad doesn't help. Once they follow all the other habits with your exercise plan they'll start to feel better and will stop drinking on their own. It's empowering for them.

3. Green Face: I use 2 simple words to check up on my clients. "Green Face". If the food isn't green (vegetable) or has never had a face -- don't eat it with the exception of first thing in the morning and pre/post-workout. This allows me to take 2 minutes to check up on a client before their training session:

When they walk into the gym I ask "how's your nutrition been these past "X" days?" They respond "green face" we move on with the workout.

My client knows that I'm checking up so they keep to their diet and valuable workout time isn't taken up. It's also a great and simple reminder for them everyday. If all they have to think about food is whether it's green face or not life becomes more simple. We confuse clients way too much about nutrition. It's really pretty simple when we boil it down. So keep it simple for them. Teach them about the law of diminishing returns. Yes all of the complicated nturitional protocols may work a little better but for 99% of the populations purposes the basics work great and will leave them happy, healthy, and good-looking.

4. Stay at the front of their mind:  If a client grocery shops poorly then stay in their head while they're at the store. I'm reminded of a story with a client of mine who would eat great if she had good food in the house but always shopped for junk. On a whim I tore off a piece of the program sheet and wrote "Buy Veggies -- Not junk!" and signed it. That client kept that grungy piece of paper in her pocket for 2 years every time she went grocery shopping. At 67 years of age with two knees that were supposed to be operated on she lost 53lbs and was told her knees are now fine.