You’ve created the perfect weight loss plan for your client that will help get the body he’s always wanted. But we both know that this nutrition plan is only half the battle. The other half depends on your client: how well he’s going to manage his hunger and stick to the meal plan, and it’s up to you to help him deal.
The common enemy of weight loss is hunger, which is inevitably part of being in a calorie deficit. Your task here isn’t to watch your clients like a hawk and swat away food, but to teach them strategies that promote satiety, or feelings of fullness. The end goal is to empower your clients to be in control of their hunger, not the other way around. And it all begins with understanding one thing:
Hunger is more than a physiological response.
Unless our client is a physique competitor, hunger is not something she may be used to and does not help her stick to a nutrition plan. This is especially true for our clients who have previously just eaten whatever, whenever they were hungry.
What’s more, we know that calorie restriction is necessary for fat loss, but it can also lead to increased cortisol which can negatively act on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area responsible for rational thinking. So if self-control were the only thing that separates hunger and eating that muffin, your average client acts on emotion more than rational thought.
But while there are strategies for learning self-control, the better and easier place to start for your client would be to minimize his hunger levels in the first place.
1. Your client might not be eating enough protein to keep them feeling satisfied.
Protein plays a big role in the development of massive guns, but there’s a strong possibility that this won’t be of any interest to our weight loss clients, whose primary concern is to fit better in their jeans. Rather, for these clients, the benefits of protein lie in its highly satiating properties.
Studies have not only shown that a high-protein meal can help clients feel more full, but if 20-30 percent of their calories come from protein (based on your client’s body weight) they tend to feel greater overall satiety over the course of the day.
In other words, more calories from protein means they would inadvertently eat fewer calories total because they’re less hungry! Easy, but how much is the right amount?
The first thing here is to make sure your client can actually eat adequate amounts of protein on a daily basis. The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for sedentary individuals isn’t enough for your active client who wants to look great naked.
Protein intakes of up to 2 grams per kilogram (g/kg) are safe for active individuals, which means that your client has a very broad range to experiment with and determine what works for him based on personal preference and results. In some cases, your clients may experience the satiating effects of protein at more moderate intakes (1.0-1.5 g/kg), whereas others may require (or just prefer) greater quantities (1.5-2.0 g/kg) to experience the same effect.
Remember that personal preference (along with results, obviously) is extremely important when it comes to nutrition recommendations. If your client isn’t used to a high-protein intake and struggles initially, then begin on the lower end and work up as, and when, they’re able to.
Obese clients, on the other hand, should base their protein recommendations on lean body mass, not total body weight; or else they may end up eating far too much protein than is necessary.
Of course, we’d be remiss to neglect helping clients actually eat enough protein. Start by looking at the portions of protein they’re currently eating. Instead of introducing a bunch of different protein sources from the get-go, encourage them to simply change their current serving sizes to manipulate their protein intake accordingly.
This way, you’re working with their current eating habits and making things as easy as possible for them. (That’s always the goal!) If they ask for a bit more guidance, then provide a list of protein options along with appropriate serving sizes. Show your client how to track their food intake with MyFitnessPal (or something similar) so that they can see how much food and protein they’re actually eating. Plus, they can share their intake details and you can offer advice, if needed.
Use example meal plans to provide a useful reference point. For example:
* Breakfast: 300g yogurt
* Lunch: 200g chicken breast
* Dinner: 250g tuna steak
* Post-workout: 40g whey protein
Some people just don’t want to track their food and that’s absolutely fine. If that’s the case, setting rules may be an easier method. Using the above meal plan as an example, it would simply be rephrased as the following:
* Breakfast: 2 150g containers of yogurt
* Lunch: 1 medium to large chicken breast
* Dinner: 1 large tuna steak
* Post-workout: 2 scoops of whey protein
It provides around the same quantities, yet may be much less confusing for the client.
2. Introduce your client to the magic of high-volume foods that actually help them feel full.
You should give this advice only after your client still complains of hunger, despite already eating more protein. Otherwise, if you tell them to eat “satiating foods” from the very beginning, they probably won’t listen. (It’s just human nature to resist advice if they feel like their freedom is being threatened.)
More filling and satiating foods emphasize total volume (amount), without all of the calories, and fiber. As you know, fiber here plays a big role in controlling hunger and appetite; and the perception of eating a lot of food benefits your clients psychologically.
Which foods are highly satiating? In 1995, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the level of satiety that certain foods could induce, which led to the development of the satiety index, a measure of a food’s ability to satisfy hunger. For example, these five non-protein foods rank at the top of the satiety index:
* Boiled potatoes
* Brown pasta
You can’t simply just tell your clients to “eat more fibrous foods.” You have to be specific. Here’s how a conversation between you and a client might work:
Client: I get very hungry in between mealtimes and it’s causing me immense discomfort.
Trainer: Are you hitting your protein target? (Always a good idea to check that the client is following the basics first.)
Trainer: Do you like apples?
Trainer: Then feel free to eat an apple in-between mealtimes to help curb your hunger.
Client: Thank you, you’re the best trainer in the world.
Trainer: I know.
In this example, not only does the client have a very specific instruction, but he also helped come up with the solution to his problem, which helps reduce the threat to his freedom and encourages adherence.
3. Show your client how to trick himself into eating more slowly.
If your client just eats everything without pause or thinking, there’s going to be a long delay between the brain getting the “I’m full” signal and actually putting the fork down. This time means the client is likely going to keep noshing.
One oft-repeated trick is to tell your clients to eat slowly and enjoy their food. Putting down their knife and fork in between bites of food is a great way for the client to slow down and focus on chewing their food, which can also help induce satiety faster. If your client is currently a fast eater, here are two tips to slow him down:
1) Suggest that he drink water during the meal. It can help slow down the speed at which your client eats and force him to put down his knife and fork. The water also speeds up the onset of satiety cues in the client’s brain.
2) Encourage your client to eat with other people and focus on enjoying conversation during meal times. Besides, talking and chewing at the same time is pretty rude and gross.
One helpful way to encourage these behaviors would be to take your client out for lunch yourself and go over some of the main points during your meal. This style of teaching may stick more in the client’s mind when you’re not there at subsequent meal times. Not to mention, it’s a great way to bond.
4. Help your client get in control of their sleep.
When your client doesn’t get enough quality sleep, he is going to reach for a lot more calories in the form of junk food.
During times of calorie restriction, sleep deprivation can amplify feelings of hunger which can lead to overeating, as evidence by this study. In it, two groups of subjects--one that had 5.5 hours of sleep and the other 8 hours--were fed an equal amount of calories. The subjects who slept fewer hours per night displayed greater hunger and elevated levels of hunger hormones. As we know, these conspire to make sticking to a nutrition plan an uphill struggle.
As personal trainers, it is in our interest to be mindful of our clients’ sleeping habits, especially if we want to help them get weight loss results.
Inquire about their sleep habits as part of a weekly review. Once a week, you simply ask your client to review his or her sleep for that week on a scale of 1-10 (1 - poor, 10 - fantastic). If it’s great, then great! If your client is struggling with sleep issues, we need to work with your client’s current bedtime routines.
After all, most clients already have a routine they are very familiar and comfortable with, so telling them to change everything can be a bit of a battle. Some examples include:
1) Use ‘Night Shift’ mode on mobile phones and tablets, and installing software such as ‘F.Lux’ on computer if they use these devices before bed. By doing this, they can be less disruptive to their natural sleep cycle and promote the onset of sleep.
2) The final "main meal" should be eaten at least two hours before bedtime. If there’s going to be less than two hours, then opt for a small and light snack (make sure to provide the client with suitable examples so there’s no confusion).
3) Use a sleeping eye mask if there’s too much light in the room.
4) Open the windows and/or use a fan if the room is too hot. Some studies find that sleeping naked might even be the best solution.
5) Use earplugs if the room is too noisy.
Remember, we have to make things as simple as possible for the client and work with them, their needs, and their lifestyle. You’ll notice that the tips discussed herein made things as straightforward as possible to give the client the feeling of freedom, which in turn, encourages greater client compliance.