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November 25, 2011

You’ve come a long way, baby

It’s not my style to be a militant trainer or a nutrition zealot for my clients. Partly because I believe that everyone has their own unique fat loss journey and no negative motivation on my part will really help them with lasting change (“you can’t have that!” or “it’s all about will-power, just stop eating that” or “fat people are just lazy and have no self-control” etc etc). Negative motivation is a lot less effective than positive motivation anyway. Motivation to change really needs to come from within and a coach that guides a client to find their own way–a way that works for them–without setting up strict rules based on fear–like, “do it this way or else!”–is ultimately the kind of coach that can help a client make lasting change.

[Side note: I can see this post (now that I am done with it) takes on a little bit of a rant-ish tone at the beginning–not my usual style, but I have just been a little hot lately about insensitive know-it-all fitness enthusiasts who have no compassion and are just plain rude to people.]

I have heard a lot of trainers complain that their clients are just lazy or non-compliant or “don’t want it enough” and while that may or may not be true, the worst thing we can do–IMO–is use these excuses to dismiss their efforts. These tactics don’t work and are frankly, insensitive. It is as if out of resentment for the small group of lazy, non-compliant clients, we approach nutritional counseling or training for ALL as a black-and-white, self-righteous thing: Don’t eat that, it’s bad! or I would never eat that! or Have some will power! or I can’t believe you would even think of eating that! etc etc.

I think many trainers and coaches understand that empathy is a critical part of their job. To be able to see where your clients are coming from, to put yourself in their shoes–if you do that, you will know that is it not as easy as it seems. It is unfortunate when I come across professionals who have a lot of knowledge but can’t communicate it effectively because they lack empathy.  Insensitive remarks and the “just suck it up” mantra might work to keep themselves in line, and maybe they really would never eat x, y or z. But for the average person looking for body change, there are going to be ups and downs, 2 steps forward/1 step back and they are not going to get it right every time, or even every 10th time. Does this mean people are uncoachable? Of course not. It is all about accepting where a client is and working on ways to make the intended change just as easy or easier than what they are currently doing–and this has a lot to do with behavioral coaching and lifestyle changes.

As coaches and trainers, more than anything, I believe it is our job to meet clients where they are, congratulate even small successes with positive motivation and give tough love only when needed. I know to some this may sound too nice or too accommodating or babying clients, but I personally feel that there is NEVER an excuse for rudeness and insensitivity with clients who are coming to you for help. With that said, it is important to foster small changes over time and congratulate them. One of the key tenets of Metabolic Effect is to realize up front that we will never get it completely right…it is a life long practice of making BETTER decisions, BETTER choices and getting better, leaner, healthier and more fit over time.

With that said, it is time to congratulate small successes. I was thinking back to previous Thanksgivings and remembering an old email I wrote to Jade many years ago. We were each lamenting the amount of sheer CRAP we had ate on Thanksgiving and laughing/crying about how badly we felt. Of course mine was followed up with 90 minutes of penance on the stepmill, as per usual back then :-( Wellllll, for all of your reading pleasure, I FOUND THE EMAIL and here is what I ate at Thanksgiving 6 years ago :)

“…ate a million crackers and cheese, chips and salsa, and other apps, a huge glass of eggnog and then I took a nap, woke up just in time for dinner around 5pm, ate turkey, stuffing, potatoes, corn, greenbeans, 2 glasses of wine and then like 3 peanut butter bars, a piece of birthday cake (two of my brothers had birthdays this month) and a few cookies.”

(hangs head in shame :))

Here was my day yesterday:

8am: Coffee with half & half plus sweetener
10am: Cardio & lifting
11am: Omelet (3 yolks, 6 egg whites), more coffee
1pm: Think Thin bar
3:30pm: 1 glass vodka tonic, several slices of cheese from a cheese plate
5pm: 1 glass vodka tonic
6pm: 1 glass red wine, 6 oz strip steak, caesar salad, asparagus (yes, we opted for a non-traditional Thanksgiving)
6:45pm: Walk
7:30pm Slice low-carb cheesecake
8:00pm 1.5 L plain water
9pm: Bed

Should I celebrate the fact that today I could not imagine eating the meal I ate 6 years ago? Absolutely! 
Did it I get it perfect yesterday? Nope. But better? Yes! And I am right back on my tight nutrition plan today.

So in this week of gratitude, I urge both trainers and clients alike to throw yourself a bone. If you are actively engaged in the fat loss process, you are already on your way. There is no expectation of when you have to get there. There is no hard & fast rule for how long it should take. There are no consequences for not getting it right every single time, for not making the right choice every time. And a trainer that slaps the wrist of a client who “messes up” is ultimately setting them up for an all-or-nothing approach, which, in the end, does not create sustainable body change, nor help the client to learn. I love this quote from Paulo Coelho: “The pain of yesterday is the strength of today.” The mistakes that we make, the messing up we do and the falls we take ALL serve to guide, teach and steer us through future struggles and situations that come up–all we have to do is have our eyes open to learning those lessons.

Here are some example of “small wins” that perhaps you can appreciate from your journey too (I have personally heard every single one of these comments from actual clients). Showing gratitude for how far you have come is a very important part of staying the course to even bigger improvements:

  • “My cheats used to be so huge, last all day and make me sick. Now I am satisfied with something less/smaller.”
  • “I used to have a hard time motivating to exercise, now I love it and it’s just part of my day.”
  • “I used to beat myself up so much if I slipped up, I would feel so bad and just say “screw it” and eat everything. Now if I go off plan, I just realize it’s one thing and I get back on my plan ASAP and don’t “wait until Monday” anymore”
  • “I used to beat myself up and feel like I was a failure if I ate less than perfect. Now I have a more moderate, but still clean, approach and have a healthier relationship with food and it’s no longer all-or-nothing.”
  • “Before, whenever I went out to dinner, I felt like I had to go all out because I was at a restaurant, by getting pasta or pizza. Now I can feel satisfied with protein and veggies or a big, yummy salad at a restaurant, it still feels like a treat!”
  • “Before, whenever there were sweets around, like at an office birthday party or dinner party, I felt like I needed to eat it because ‘how could I pass up free food?’–now I know there will always be birthday cake, I don’t NEED to have it right then.”

Perhaps you can relate? I obviously can, based on how far I have come in the last 6 years. And I love that. I am no better than someone who is still eating that way, I have simply spent more time on the journey. Anyone can do it. You can literally start right now making better choices. It is on you. You get to decide. If I am your coach, I will not chastise your bad decisions, I will only encourage you to find the lesson. Besides, my criticism does not prove to be lasting motivation in the end. It is your own inner dialogue, personal decisions or conviction that ultimately makes the difference. Are you ready to make the decision for yourself and begin to take ownership of your fat loss journey??

I would love to know how you guys feel about your own coaching and what motivates you. Contact me here :)
Happy holidays! Love, Jill

Related: Self-acceptance and why it doesn’t mean giving up

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