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Imagine that your client just saw a recent documentary on a diet fad, and they’re super excited to try it out. They can’t wait to go all in and finally see the results they’ve always wanted. What do you do? If you put the kibosh on their new diet plan, they could get defensive or upset. If you keep quiet, you feel like you’ll be letting your client down. Fortunately, our partners at Precision Nutrition have some helpful tips on how to navigate this tricky situation. Keep reading to find out more.
How to speak with your clients about fad diets
1. Aim to be helpful, not right
There isn’t a trophy for being right all the time. Trying to win an argument with your client will likely interfere with your ability to connect with them. Unless you take the time to discuss the “why” of their interest in a particular diet (“why does this specific diet appeal to you?”, “why do you feel like you need to try something new?” etc.), you’ll miss out on a fantastic opportunity to understand them and their deeper goals.
2. Accept that knowledge is constantly evolving
What we know as nutrition and fitness “facts” is constantly changing with time (e.g. the low-fat era circa the 80’s and 90’s). It’s unlikely we’ll discover the ultimate nutrition bible anytime in the near future. So it can be helpful to simply strive to be less wrong rather than be dogmatic. All you can do is make decisions with the best of the information available to you. Keeping this in mind can help you approach your client with a sense of humility, curiosity, and thoughtfulness.
3. Emphasize the basics
Remember how we just said that science is evolving and we don’t have all the information just yet? That’s still true, but there are a few basic principles that we’re fairly confident about. Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition’s Director of Nutrition notes some of the foundational elements that most people agree with:
- Eat more minimally-processed whole foods and fewer highly-processed foods
- More vegetables are better than fewer vegetables
- Eating enough protein is crucial for health, performance, and body composition
- In the long-term, learning to manage your food intake based on your body’s hunger and fullness cues works better than weighing and measuring everything you eat.
Presenting these facts to your client will hopefully give them the tools they need to make an informed decision about their diet of choice. Which leads us to the next point.
4. Remember: you can only help so much
In the end, your client is in charge of the food they consume. Your role as a coach is to give them the tools to do better, not to control them. Focus on being their ally on the road to improvement, not their enemy in an impossible pursuit of perfect.
5. Stay supportive
Stay supportive regarding your client’s goals. There’s a good chance you don’t know everything that’s going on in their lives, and feeling like they have a teammate in you might mean the world to them. Let them know that you won’t judge them, even if their goals don’t perfectly align with yours, and that you’d love to help them collaborate on an action plan.
As a coach, your priority is always helping your clients achieve their best selves. By being helpful, humble, and educated, you’ll be able to assist them in making the best decision possible. Put the ego away, and try to view this as a challenging but ultimately positive experience.