Nutrition is often seen as a belief system. In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on real evidence or the scientific method. Until we fix this, nutrition will get more confusing, not less.

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Imagine the Google search by someone who wants to eat better.

They might want to lose weight. Or build muscle. Or stay a little healthier so they can play with their grandkids longer.

So they might look for terms like:

Healthy eating.

Healthy diet.

Good nutrition.

The result? Well…

“Healthy eating” gave me 63.6 million options.

“Healthy diet” gave me 188 million options.

And “Good nutrition” gave me a whopping 213 million options.

When I check out some of these search engine results, I notice something.

Each of these websites has a story to tell: A story about which diet, supplement, food, or nutrition practice someone believes is best.

Many of these stories completely contradict each other.

But they have one thing in common: The authors treat nutrition like it’s a set of beliefs, there for their own picking and choosing.

Unfortunately, “nutrition” is often seen as a belief system.

But beliefs don’t necessarily have anything to do with facts.

When we believe something, we choose to accept that it’s true, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This approach of “believing” is frequently applied to nutrition.

As in:

“I believe that sugar is poison.”

“I don’t believe that humans were meant to eat grains.”

“I believe in only eating foods that are natural and organic.”

In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on science.

Yet nutrition is not a belief system.

Nutrition is a science.

I’m a strength coach and Precision Nutrition Certified nutrition specialist.

(I completed the Level 1 Certification in 2013 and I’m now in the middle of the Level 2 Certification Master Class).

Most of my work is with professional and amateur athletes. And my job is to use nutrition (plus strength and conditioning) to get my clients the results they want.

When your meal strategy can be the difference between getting a multi-million dollar contract and not, there is no room for “hoping” the nutrition will work.

I can’t go on faith alone. My clients’ careers literally depend on me doing my job well. Which is why the scientific method, not beliefs, govern my practice.

For example, my client Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial artists, model, and actress, doesn’t care about what I believe about food. She only cares about what I know about nutrition’s effect on her body and performance.

That’s why I need to ensure that my nutrition recommendations are based on measurable, accurate reality. On science. On the best evidence that we have right now.

And physiology is physiology.

Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true.

Physiology (like chemistry, like physics) follows certain known principles.

That’s why we research things like macronutrients, hydration, and/or supplementation. That’s why we try to understand the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism. That’s why we learn about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

It’s why we ask questions like these:

And we use a particular method for determining the answers.

These are just a few examples, of course. As you can imagine, scientists have thousands of questions about optimal nutrition, and they’ve answered some questions more thoroughly than others.

But, in short, we’re trying to understand as much as possible about the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism, so we nerd out about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

Knowing the science behind the field allows us to make evidence-based recommendations to create a known physiological effect.

Will honey and cinnamon “rev my metabolism”?

Some people believe this (or want others to believe it).

But nobody knows.

Will creatine monohydrate improve my power output?

Now we’re talking.

We know some things about creatine monohydrate and its effect on the body, because it’s been scientifically studied.

Creatine monohydrate has a known chemical structure.

Creatine monohydrate has a known mechanism of action. It increases the phosphocreatine stores in your muscle. This can then be used to produce more ATP (energy), which is a key source of fuel for power, heavy lifting, and anaerobic events.

We know this because we have carefully experimented and objectively measured what happens. We’ve also reproduced those findings over and over.

See how that played out?

One claim is speculation based on, perhaps (I’m guessing) rumors about blood sugar and metabolism along with a few studies about cinnamon as an antioxidant?

The other is fact based on a documented physiological outcome.

The big problem:
Most people start with the internet.

Wondering what to put in your smoothie? What to eat before you work out? How much bacon you should eat?

There are all sorts of answers on Google, not to mention Facebook and Instagram.

You don’t have to look far to discover a charismatic person with an excellent body and sales pitch offering up their own beliefs as a “protocol” or “system”.

These systems tend to include:

  • A set of certain foods and/or supplements to eat. (Like acai berries hand-picked at sunrise.)
  • A set of certain foods to avoid. (Nothing a caveman wouldn’t eat. Nothing that isn’t “natural”. Nothing that’s been sold, bought or processed.)
  • Rules about how much to eat, when to eat (or not eat), and possibly even where to eat. (No food after 6:30 pm!)

If the belief system (or the person who invented it) is compelling or “truthy” enough, it can be pretty tempting to believe them.

After all, many of these “systems” come with lots of reasons to believe, including:

  • Irresistible promises
  • Clever branding
  • Photos, graphics, and other visual “evidence”
  • Testimonials and/or celebrity endorsements
  • Powerful personal stories (“If this guy did it, I can too!”)
  • Sex appeal
  • Scholarly citations pointing to studies that turn out to be poorly designed, fatally biased, or not yet replicated (a hallmark of — you guessed it — actual scientific fact)

Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you didn’t put honey and cinnamon in your oatmeal…and yogurt…and tea.

We’re not bad for wishing something were true.

Just like Fox Mulder, sometimes we want to believe.

It’s very human, actually.

Belief systems can bring us comfort. Following a clear set of rules can be a huge relief to those of us that find nutrition confusing or overwhelming.

Belief systems can also make us feel like we’re part of something: A community that shares our values, aspirations, and desires. We may feel a sense of importance, identity, and belonging.

Bonus: We’re closer to our goals… together!

Not to mention, these beliefs usually promise the things we desire the most, whether it’s sparkling clean health, glowing skin, freakishly awesome performance, the body we’ve always wanted, or all of the above.

When we buy into a belief system, we’re looking for help. We want to make a change, or finally find a solution to a problem that’s bothered us for a long time.

That’s completely normal and natural.

The people who start or share a belief system aren’t bad, either. Most of them are good, genuine, positive people just trying to make other people’s lives better.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to believe.

Or wishing some things were true.

The problem happens when we base our own health decisions on emotional bias or the rules of a certain philosophy… and either ignore what science has to say about the facts, or perhaps have no idea whether such facts even exist.

Science is anything but simple.

It would be great if there was a single ingredient to cure cancer, or a single exercise to get you ripped.

But physiology isn’t simple, and neither is science. Especially nutrition science.

You might be able to find a study to support nearly any nutrition-related belief you want. This is especially true if the study was small, or sponsored by a particular interest (like a supplement company).

People who read research understand this. They understand the weight that the particular evidence holds, and where it is placed in the hierarchy of nutritional importance.

But a new trainer in the industry, or a mother looking to get back in shape, or a dude who just got a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, may not know the difference. They may assume that if it was demonstrated in one study, it is a fact.

This isn’t how science works, and it’s not how the truth is discovered.

Did you know that drinking alcohol increases muscle tone?

Don’t believe me?

Well, imagine I’m telling you this while shirtless, smiling shiny white teeth, and sporting a six-pack:

“In 2013, a double-blind clinical trial found that men increased testosterone 17% after a low dose of alcohol. In 1987, another study found similar testosterone-increasing results. Finally, a 2000 study showed that alcohol also increases testosterone levels in women.

Understanding that alcohol increases testosterone, and knowing that as testosterone goes up, so does our muscle mass and strength, I conclude that we should all get drunk to get jacked! (Results may vary.)”

Of course this isn’t true though, right?

Because that would be ignoring:

  • Other data that suggest alcohol actually lowers testosterone, and the two studies that show it has no effect.
  • Data on how alcohol can harm our health and fitness.
  • The fact that alcohol contains 7 kcals per gram, which adds up quickly when you get drinking (especially if you add mixes), and then normally increases appetite shortly afterwards, which leads to further snacking. (Street meat anyone?).
  • The fact that I am always fully clothed when telling clients stuff.

Instead of picking just one study, you have to look at all studies on that topic to see where the overall weight of the evidence lies.

But let’s get real.

People are busy.

Health and fitness clients don’t usually have the time, the experience, nor the interest to pore over research. They have jobs and lives.

So it can be easy to fall into the trap of taking one or two studies as gospel — especially if those results are delivered to you by a charismatic speaker with a great body. Enter my new supplement: Buff Booze!

What’s the harm in believing?

In the Precision Nutrition’s Certification programs, they talk about scope of practice. It’s crucial for health and fitness pros to:

  • Know what they know, and what they don’t know.

In other words, to make appropriate, evidence-based recommendations about nutrition, it’s not enough to simply:

  • Have made a big change to your own body (such as losing weight, or succeeding at a new sport).
  • Follow some blogs.
  • Have a stack of health and fitness magazines on the back of the toilet.

These are a great way to begin. I didn’t know stuff when I was new to the field, either. That’s why we learn and practice… and practice and learn… and then practice and learn some more.

But leaning on those methods of “research” — aka believing instead of knowing — can be dangerous.

There’s an old saying:

You know just enough to be dangerous.

For starters, beliefs without evidence can cause physical harm.

Nutrition can affect the human body’s systems dramatically — that’s the amazing power and opportunity, and it’s why we coaches love this field.

The downside is that doing the wrong things can change our bodies in ways we don’t want.

Back in the mid-to-late 1800s, a man named Wilbur Atwater had a Ph.D. from Yale in agricultural chemistry.

He measured the calories and macronutrients in hundreds of foods to eventually come to the conclusion that the only two elements that humans needed to be concerned with when creating their diet were:

  • protein, and
  • total calories.

He wrote newspaper columns, lectured, and told anyone who would listen about his beliefs. He truly believed that this was the solution to human nutrition and even poverty.

He was a well-respected scientist doing real research in a lab. Yet he didn’t have all the knowledge he needed to make the right recommendations.

Instead, he told everyone to eat fewer vegetables (because they were low calorie and low protein), while eating more fatty pork.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, can’t it?

Atwater’s diet eliminates:

Thanks to research, we now know that all of these play their own unique role in health. Cutting out all of these nutrients is downright dangerous.

Now, this is an extreme example, perhaps.

But some of the most popular belief-based diets today have adherents alter their nutrition choices in strange and/or misguided ways. They:

  • Completely give up grains, beans, and legumes
  • Swear off all fat
  • Eat only raw food
  • Base their intake on a single food (e.g. grapefruit, cabbage)
  • Eschew solid food
  • Only drink “detoxing” juices
  • Hold their daily calorie intake to some “magic” number, like 600
  • Replace all carbs with bacon

These diets either selectively use research (for instance, a study in rats showing that grape juice prevents tumors — time for the magic anti-cancer grape juice diet!) or get stuck on small details while missing the big picture.

Also, beliefs without evidence can prevent the health and fitness industry from making progress.

Most people working as health and fitness pros chose this industry to help people change their lives for the better.

Confusing the crap out of ourselves (and clients) with these weird belief-based “systems” does not support that goal.

When we choose belief over fact, we don’t just hold ourselves, and our clients, back. We hold the entire industry back.

Let’s commit to improving everyone’s nutrition knowledge.

Our collective job as coaches is to create the healthiest and happiest people in the world.

How do we do that?

Treating nutrition as a science, instead of a belief system, is a strong step in the right direction.

As is constantly pushing to improve our own knowledge, and thinking critically about our convictions.

Nutrition science is a big field. We can’t know everything, and certainly not all at once.

But we can commit to putting the beliefs away and embracing a lifelong process of learning, studying, thinking critically, and applying evidence-based analysis to every decision and recommendation we make.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition.

1. Practice having an open yet critical mindset.

“Because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person.

Be curious. Ask questions.

Explore the evidence that supports a given position. Be aware of why nutrition science is so complicated. Ask for scientific references, and then scrutinize those.

And, by all means, experiment on yourself (in Precision Nutrition Coaching, we call this writing your Owner’s Manual).

Try different things. Document the effects.

Over time, that’s as legitimate a way of knowing. (Make sure you’re always tracking and revisiting, though — bodies do change!)

2. Live in the middle ground.

Biology rarely operates in extremes. Only in very specific contexts (for example, actual diagnosed Celiac disease) do “always” and “never” have value.

So be suspicious of “always” or “never” language in nutrition talk.

Instead, try “some people” and “sometimes” and “it depends”.

For example, a coach might insist that everything should be “100% natural” or else it’s bad. But just because something has been processed in some way does always not make it inferior.

In some cases, processing can actually improve the desired effect and/or nutritional profile. For example, in 2011 the Journal of Nutrition published a report showing that without supplements or enriched foods:

  • 100% of Americans would not get enough Vitamin D.
  • 93% not enough Vitamin E.
  • 88% not enough folate.
  • 74% not enough Vitamin A.
  • 51% not enough thiamin.
  • 46% not enough Vitamin C.
  • 22% not enough Vitamin B6.

Sure, maybe there’s some “perfect” diet floating around out there, but for most of us, having a few fortified foods and even synthetic vitamins in the roster is probably a good idea. A diet full of processed, fortified foods and synthetic vitamins, not so good.

3. Notice when words and concepts trigger emotions.

Most belief-based nutrition systems are couched in marketing that purposely gets you worked up, maybe by poking at your traumas, insecurities, or ego (the current “clean eating” craze is a good example).

Recognize when you feel “pulled” by a certain idea.

Ask yourself, am I considering this “system” for the right reasons? Am I looking for an “easy” solution because I feel sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today?

4. Scrutinize claims that are tied to financial gain.

For example:

“Eat as much as you like and still lose weight!”
(A real-life claim aimed at selling a diet book.)

“Ripped abs in 1 minute!”
(Real claim. Workout DVD this time.)

“Control insulin levels, decrease blood sugar, speed metabolism, lower LDL cholesterol, burn belly fat and suppress appetite!”
(Real claims from the makers of a cinnamon supplement. That’s right, cinnamon.)

In my teen years, I spent unthinkable quantities of my hard-earned McDonald’s money on ineffective testosterone boosters and nitric oxide products.

Trust me bro, I was getting “jacked”.

In this marriage between beliefs and profit, science didn’t show up to the ceremony.

5. Be skeptical of one-size-fits-all approaches.

Trying to use the exact same macronutrient ratio (for example) serve every human’s needs and goals is a telltale sign that a coach needs more knowledge and/or has an emotional connection with the plan.

Humans are unique, complex systems. They should be treated as such.

There is no one best diet. Any plan should be a system that’s based on evidence, and truly reflects the client’s unique lifestyle, goals, and needs.

6. Get qualified coaching.

If you don’t feel confident reading research or understanding the science, consider finding a Precision Nutrition Certified coach or enrolling in the Certification yourself.

Knowledge is power.

Passionate about fitness and nutrition?

If so, and you’d like to learn more about it, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Our next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the industry’s most respected education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how nutrition influences a person’s health and fitness.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of nutrition and fitness pros in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready to boost your education, and take your nutrition game to the next level, let’s go down the rabbit hole together.

References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

The post Nutrition is not a belief system. Why wishful thinking won’t get you results, but science might. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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To get great results with the people who turn to you for advice, it’s important to learn how to talk to them in a way that increases their likelihood of change. Master this and you’ll become a legit client (or patient) whisperer.

Here we’ll teach you Precision Nutrition’s method for doing just that, adapted from our newly updated Level 1 Certification program.

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When first starting out with a client or patient, things can feel a little uncertain.

Especially if you’ve had this experience before:

Client shows up, you work hard on them, they disappear (no closer to their goals), you scramble to find another client, they begin, and the process repeats.

What’s gone wrong?

Well, it’s probably not your program.

It’s probably not that people are “lazy” or “unmotivated”.

Often, the problem is “coach talk”.

To achieve better, faster, lasting results — and a thriving coaching practice — you have to learn how to talk to people in ways that help them change.

(By the way, this applies whether you have paying clients/patients or not. When people come to you for advice, good “coach talk” is paramount.)

If you can’t do this now, it’s not your fault.

Almost nobody in health, fitness, and wellness learns this skill in school, or through certification programs. The people who are good at it are often either “naturals” or they develop the skill through trial and error over decades.

Don’t get discouraged.

There is a formula for success.

Learn and practice this formula, and you’ll start:

  • connecting better with clients and patients,
  • keeping those clients and patients longer, and
  • getting better results, reliably.

In this article, we’ll teach you the formula.

We’ll cover:

  • How to know which coaching style to use.
  • How you can be a more engaged and active listener.
  • How you can help people change by changing the way you talk to them.
  • How you can incorporate this in your coaching… starting today.

Of course, this article is just a start.
There’s so much more you can learn.

That’s why we’ve included an entire unit — 300 pages, 9 chapters, and 9 comprehensive video lectures — on these practical aspects of coaching in our newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program.

(In case you’re wondering, the other 300 pages, 8 chapters, and 8 video lectures are devoted to the most up-to-date scientific findings in cell physiology, digestion, energy transfer, nutrient biochemistry, and more.)

So…

If you want to learn, we’re here to teach.

If you feel excited and inspired by what you learn today, and you’d like to learn more about the program, please put your name on our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification presale list below.

We’re excited and inspired too.

We recently updated the program with the latest research, and enhanced it with a new workbook/study guide, over 35 new client assessment forms and questionnaires, and 17 brand-new animated videos.

There’s a lot of awesome new stuff here that you can start using right away to help others eat, move, and live better. So make sure you stock up on reading glasses, coffee, and highlighters. This is a hefty learning experience.

The program opens up on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

Since we only take a limited number of students, and the program sells out every time, we recommend adding your name to our presale list below. When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you’ll save up to 33% off the general price of the program.

Double win.

For now, onto the coaching techniques…

Avoiding Awfulness-Based Coaching

The health and fitness fields are full of scary-looking, arms-crossed disciplinarian-type coaches: men and women who look like they’re more ready to punch you in the face than pick you up when you’re down.

Their favorite phrase is “No excuses.”

These types of coaches aren’t really meanies.

They’re just trying to do the right thing. They genuinely want to help.

If you’re working in one of these fields yourself, maybe you’ve occasionally slipped into this mindset, or gotten it from someone else.

We call it Awfulness-Based Coaching.

Awfulness-Based Coaching is built on the idea that people are broken and have to be fixed.

That they’re lazy and weak. That they need a real ass-kicking to be motivated and strong.

This style of coaching focuses on what’s wrong with the person — and how to purge it.

It hunts down “flaws” and “failures”, and focuses on “fixing” them.

It views good nutrition, movement, and health habits as something people have to be shamed into. It tells people to get into the gym and work off sins. It tells people that they deserve to feel bad.

An awfulness-based coach is a drill sergeant and an unrelenting ass-kicker.

With all the yelling-in-the-face and booting-in-the-butt, folks don’t know which direction to run. They just know they need to get away.

Fear of an authority figure — or a constant obsession over fixing what’s broken — can motivate some people… but only briefly.

Extreme approaches and drill-sergeant-style coaching sometimes produces impressive results in the short term, but they almost never work over the long term.

As human beings, we resist being pressured into new decisions. We resist being told we suck, or are broken (no matter how nicely someone says it).

Coach Hardass may try to use coercion. But along the way, he or she will destroy the change process for the people turning to them for advice.

No evidence shows that feeling bad creates lasting behavior changes.

(And honestly… Awfulness-Based Coaching is exhausting. Coach Hardasses usually walk around frustrated and annoyed all the time, because almost no one is doing what they want.)

Embracing Awesomeness-Based Coaching

Awesomeness-Based Coaching, on the other hand, believes that people already have the skills and abilities to change.

That they’re already awesome in some areas of their lives.

That they can use this existing awesomeness to succeed.

This kind of coach helps people find what’s fun and joyful in their lives, and then do more of it. They view nutritious eating, movement, and health habits as a path to living life with purpose.

They talk to folks about getting outside to play. About using what they do well in other aspects of their lives to do well here. They talk about feeling good in their bodies and in their lifestyle, not ashamed or exhausted.

An awesomeness-based coach is a guide, not an authoritarian or expert.

When people are hesitant, the coach empowers by helping them find their superpowers and leveraging them to achieve health and fitness success.

You don’t want people scared of you. You don’t want them to feel like you’re constantly judging them unacceptable, inadequate, weak, or broken.

You want them to feel like you’re on their team.

You want them to feel like working with you is a celebration of health and fitness. You want them to feel stronger when they’re with you.

And the best place to start is with how you use language, ask questions, and provoke gentle self-discovery.

Unlike Awfulness-Based Coaching, Awesomeness-Based Coaching feels great.

It feels exciting. It feels inspiring. It feels energizing.

You are a team and you celebrate successes and joys together.

Even better, people get great results, and they stick with you. That feels great too.

If you want to be an effective coach, here’s how to start: Listen and learn.

As a coach, you want to help people:

  • become aware of what they are doing, thinking, and feeling,
  • examine and analyze their habits and behaviors,
  • explore what’s holding them back, and
  • try some new and better choices.

You also want to help them discover their own existing strengths, resources, abilities, and problem-solving talents, which they can then use to help and motivate themselves.

One of the simplest ways to do that is just asking the right kinds of questions.

Exploring questions:

Open-ended questions help people explore options, values, and possible outcomes, without judgment. They also help the coach learn more about what matters to the person.

  • “What things are most important to you? How does your exercise and eating fit into this?”
  • “What sorts of things would you like to accomplish in your life?”
  • “What would you like to see change?”
  • “If things were better with your eating/exercise, what would be different?”
  • “What have you already tried? What worked/didn’t work?”

Imagining questions:

Imagination (yes, just like in kindergarten) helps folks visualize a new way of living and acting.

  • “Imagine you can X (your goal). Describe your experience.”
  • “Imagine you are already doing more of X. What would that feel like?”
  • “Imagine that you have the body and health you desire. What did it take for you to achieve it?”
  • “If you weren’t constrained by reality — let’s imagine for a minute that absolutely anything is possible — what might you…?”

Solution-focused questions:

Solution-focused language emphasizes how people have already succeeded and helps them expand the awesome.

  • “In the past, when were you successful with this, even just a little bit?”
  • “How could we do more of that?”
  • “Where in your life have you been successful with something like this?”
  • “Did you learn any lessons that we can apply here?”
  • Where is the problem not happening? When are things even a little bit better?

Statements that sense into problems:

Non-confrontational, reflective observations and intuitions help folks explore a problem and feel understood, without fear of judgment.

  • “I get the sense that you may be struggling with…”
  • “It seems to me like you’re feeling…”

Statements that evoke speculation:

Open-ended, speculative statements get people thinking and responding to possible choices.

  • “I wonder what it would be like if you…”
  • “I wonder if we could try…”
  • “I’m curious about whether…”

Questions that evoke change talk:

With these kinds of questions, you get the person talking about change on their own terms.

  • “In what ways does this concern you?”
  • “If you decided to make a change, what makes you think you could do it?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”
  • “How would things be better if you changed?”
  • “What concerns you now about your current exercise and eating patterns?”

Questions that assess readiness:

If a person isn’t ready, willing, and able to change, they won’t change — no matter how awesome you are as a coach. So, assess their readiness with these kinds of questions (and recognize that sometimes, they may not be ready… yet).

  • “If you decided to change, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that you could change, when 1 represents not at all confident and 10 equals extremely confident?”
  • “If you wanted to change, what would be the tiniest possible step toward that? The absolute smallest, easiest thing you could try?”
  • “Tell me what else is going on for you right now, in your life. What else do you have on your plate besides this? Let’s get a sense of what you’re working with.”

Questions that help plan next steps:

These are questions that have folks generate their own solutions as opposed to you telling them what to do next.

  • “So, given all this, what do you think you will do next?”
  • “What’s next for you?”
  • “If nothing changes, what do you see happening in five years?”
  • “If you decide to change, what will it be like?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”

Careful advice-giving:

These are ways of giving advice without assuming you have permission (and without it feeling like you’re pushing an agenda).

  • “Would it be okay if I shared some of my experiences with you?”
  • “In my work with clients/patients, I’ve found that…”

Use the 80 / 20 rule.

Notice how we’ve given you over 25 ways to actively listen, and only 2 ways to talk about what you think.

You should try to spend about 80-90% of your time listening, understanding, observing and exploring, and only about 10-20% of your time guiding, directing, and offering information.

How might this look in a real situation?

Scenario 1: Use a “change talk wedge”.

1. Validate and affirm the opposite of what they should be doing.

When someone is expressing ambivalence about change, you might start by reflecting on why they might NOT change. (Yeah, it sounds weird.)

You might say something like:

“Wow, it really sounds like you have a lot on your plate. I can see how it’s tough to schedule exercise time.”

Or:

“I know it can be hard to resist those homemade brownies. They’re so good.”

Note: Be sincere here. Genuinely empathize. Sarcasm usually backfires and creates hostility.

2. Then wait.

After validating and affirming the opposite, be quiet.

Don’t be afraid to open up the space and let them fall into it. No rush. Be patient, empathetic, and attentive.

Let the person speak first.

This will feel like forever, but might only be a couple of seconds.

3. Listen for “change talk”.

When folks do start talking, they’ll often start telling you why they should change their behaviors.

Client:

“Yeah, I know I do have a lot going on. But I really should do XYZ. I know I would feel better.”

Or:

“Honestly, I don’t think I really need three brownies. I’d probably be happy with just one.”

4. Drive the wedge into that “change talk” opening.

Once you hear them suggesting change on their own, you’re getting somewhere.

Using their language, reflect and imply (but don’t push) a next action. Focus on concrete to-dos.

You:

“It sounds like maybe you think you’d feel better if you did XYZ?”

Or:

“It sounds like maybe 1 brownie would be enough for you?”

Position this in the form of a question. Look inquisitive.

You’re simply reciting what they just said, as if to make sure you heard them right.

5. Wait again.

Stay quiet.

Wait for the person to speak again.

Listen for further change talk.

6. Repeat as needed.

Keep wiggling the “change wedge” in farther and farther, slowly. Go at their speed.

And, once you feel like they’re ready for a next action, you can go there by asking them:

“So, given all this, what do you think you’ll do next?”

But not too fast. Let them arrive there at their own speed.

Scenario 2: Use “the continuum”.

You can use this after listening for change talk. But be sure you understand the situation first.

With this strategy, have people imagine a spectrum or continuum of behaviors from worse (i.e. eating fast food for every single meal) to better (i.e. replacing just one fast food meal today with good quality protein and vegetables).

Then:

1. Help them move a “notch”.

Highlight the benefits of doing so.

Coach:

“OK, so it sounds like you want to do X (i.e. eat less fast food). But going all the way to Y (i.e. eating no fast food) feels like too much, which makes sense. What if you could just move a tiny, tiny bit towards Y instead of all the way? What could you do that would be X+1 (i.e. eating one non-fast food meal tomorrow)?”

Now, scale back as needed:

Coach:

“X+2 (i.e. eating no fast food tomorrow) is awesome — we’ll get to that. But what about X+1 instead? That seems even more manageable.”

2. Follow up with a strategy for immediate execution.

Since X+1 will be something they proposed, you can validate that it’s a good idea. And then turn it into a next step.

Coach:

“X+1 sounds like a great idea! How are you going to make that happen today? And how can I help?”

3. Once an action is assigned, book a follow-up.

Now that you’ve agreed on the action plan, make sure there’s some accountability built in.

Coach:

“OK, text me tomorrow to tell me how you did with X+1. If you try another option, send me a photo! I’d love to see what you chose.”

Scenario 3: Ask “crazy questions”.

If a person is struggling with change, you can also ask a few questions they may not expect.

1. Listen, validate, affirm.

Preface with “I know this is wacky but…”

Coach:

“It sounds like [reiterate what they just said about their understanding of what they’d like to change].

“OK, I’m going to ask you two crazy questions, and I know this is going to sound really weird, but just humor me…”

2. Ask your questions.

  • “What’s GOOD about X behavior [where X behavior is the problem behavior they want to change]? In other words, what purpose does it serve in your life? How does it help you?”
  • “What is BAD about changing? In other words, what would you lose or give up if you got rid of X?”

3. Normalize and empathize.

You can begin by normalizing and empathizing with the unwanted behavior first, using the seemingly weird technique of first arguing (slightly) in favor of not changing.

Coach:

“Wow, yeah, it sounds like there’s lots going on there for you. I think we’d all want a few cookies in that situation!”

Not always, but the client’s natural response will often be the opposite.

Client:

“Yeah, but I really should find a better way to deal with this…”

Hey lookee here! They proposed change, not the coach!

4. Allow space/time to grieve the loss of the status quo.

Coach:

“Well, tell you what. There’s no rush to do this. When you’re ready, why don’t you try…”

  • …moving one “notch” along the continuum?
  • …doing the behavior you proposed?
  • …thinking about how you could more effectively live the values you describe?

5. But don’t let them off the hook.

Follow up in a few days as needed.

Scenario 4: Have them propose their own solution.

1. Affirm, validate, “hear”, normalize.

Coach:

“Yes, I hear you and understand what you’re thinking/feeling/experiencing, and it’s quite normal. Lots of people go through this.”

2. Ask leading, rhetorical questions.

This isn’t a dialogue invitation; it’s a “tell yourself what to do” question.

Coach:

“It sounds like you already have a good sense of what some of the key issues are. Knowing this, if you were the coach, what would you recommend?”

In other words: How would you, the client/patient, solve your own problem?

3. Rank confidence.

After they’ve proposed a solution, have them rank their own confidence in doing the solution.

Coach:

“That’s a great solution, I really like it. Just wondering… on a scale of 0 to 10, zero being ‘no way I can do that every day’, and 10 being ‘of course I can do that every day’, how confident do you feel about X?”

4. Affirm and book follow up.

If they rank 8, 9, or 10 out of 10, tell them you think they’ve come up with a good solution and then ask them to check back in a few days to share their success.

If not, work on shrinking the next action to something they’re confident they can do every day for the next few days. The continuum exercise above is a good approach for this.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

As you can see, in all of these scenarios, the coach’s job is not to play all-knowing expert. (This goes for anyone trying to help others — like friends and family — eat better, too.) Instead:

Awesomeness-based coaches are confident, supportive guides and change facilitators.

A good coach helps folks propose their own solutions — solutions that line up with their values, and that they genuinely believe they can do. Solutions they’re ready, willing, and able to commit to, today.

And this all begins with language.

1. Recognize where you need to grow.

Ask yourself how much time you actually spend…

  • actively listening to people (versus interrupting or waiting for them to finish so you can talk next)?
  • exploring their perspective and trying to understand their point of view (versus assuming you know what they need)?
  • asking them to generate their own potential solutions or next actions first (versus just giving them advice right away)?
  • asking them what they think they could realistically try (versus just giving them instructions to follow)?

How could you move one notch along the continuum toward client/patient-centered, awesomeness-based coaching?

What’s your “X+1”?

2. Practice using some of the questions and ideas in this article.

Now you have a few sentences and phrases that are proven to help you connect with folks and unlock their potential. Tuck them in your back pocket and start using them when new opportunities present themselves.

After each session, make notes on how it’s going:

  • What changes are you seeing in how they communicate with you?
  • What seemed to resonate most?
  • What really got them talking and opening up?
  • What do you want to talk about in your next session, and — most importantly — how?

By practicing and documenting results, over time you will develop the communication skills of a successful, thriving coach.

3. Observe a coach you respect.

Practicing on your own as often as you can is essential.

But just as with athletics, in order to be the best, you probably need a coach.

Working with an expert coach will fast-track your development. So ask to sit in on a couple sessions a month, and buy your mentor a coffee afterward so you can ask follow-up questions about how they communicate effectively with their clients or patients.

Ask them to share stories. Ask for advice on how to talk to a client or patient who’s struggling, but who you really want to help.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes — including helping them with meal transformation — is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post Level 1: How to talk to people so they’re more likely to change. Master this coaching skill to achieve better, lasting results. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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I’ve finally found a fitness-focused New Year’s resolution that’s worth making. And here it is, along with 10 client-proven ways to reach your own health and fitness goals this year.

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If you’re reading this, it means you survived the holidays.

It’s the most wonderful (crazy, stressful, awesome, magical) time of the year.

You know the drill: Kids and toys everywhere. In-law invasions. And get this: My 6-year-old daughter and I found reindeer tracks in the backyard on Christmas morning again this year, ha!

Berardi Family Christmas

The Berardi Family with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Amid all the craziness — in fact, because of the craziness — my wife and I decided to break tradition and actually make New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Ordinarily it’s not something we would do.

In fact, it’s not something we would ordinarily suggest you do either. Especially if your resolutions typically involve detoxes or juice cleanses, or chasing an unrealistic level of leanness.

Stats on New Year’s Resolutions — especially fitness ones — are abysmal. Packed gyms on January 2 are ghost towns on March 2.

I thought about this the other day while driving home from a family function (and while trying to keep Kid #1 from punching Kid #2).

At Precision Nutrition, we often use the phrase:

“Fitness in the context of a real human life…”

What does “real life” actually mean?

It means something like this:

  • All 4 kids are sick (at the same time), so you’re getting virtually no sleep…
  • Your mother-in-law is going through cancer treatment and you visit daily…
  • It’s Christmas/Thanksgiving/Passover/Diwali/Eid or the long weekend…
  • Because of the holiday, you’ve got a tight deadline at work…
  • When you’re stressed your lower back acts up…
  • And just as you’re about to head out for the blessed 30-minute workout you’ve been looking forward to all day, your dog drops a diarrhea poop on the living room carpet.

That, my friends, is fitness in the context of a real human life.

So, is it any wonder most fitness resolutions fail?

If you think about it, most health and fitness plans live outside the context of a real life:

“Here’s a 30-day detox diet to follow… and a new hardcore workout DVD…”

“Why not do a fitness competition in April… and a triathlon in August…”

“It’s time to go all-in… it’s the only way to win!”

Except that it’s not. Because all-or-nothing thinking rarely gets you all. It usually gets you nothing.

That diet plan, or workout DVD, or one-size-fits-all training program you pulled from Triathlon magazine was never built to accommodate sick kids or cancer treatment or your co-worker’s two-week vacation.

Yet when the insane idea that you have to do all things perfectly takes hold, it’s pretty hard to shake loose.

Sure, we can play make-believe. We can imagine a life where everything is peaceful, calm, and totally in our control all the time. But that’s a surefire recipe for failure.

Real human lives are messy and complicated. Real human lives are unpredictable. 

When we learn to accept this, they can also be dynamic and exciting. They can push us to grow.

Therefore, this year’s resolution.

With 4 children, aging parents, active social lives, and thriving businesses — my wife and I really did make New Year’s Resolutions this year.

As we always do, we plan on continuing to prioritize our health, build strength and fitness, and maybe even maintain our abs.

But this year we’ll do it flexibly and honestly in the context of our real human lives.

Our children will be fevered, snotty, and barfy. Our time will be limited. And we’ll miss last call at the gym because of doggie poo.

Yet this year we’ll plan for all that in advance.

After we’ve cleaned up the poo, we might work out in that same living room. With no weights or machines, maybe we’ll jump around like maniacs so we can move our bodies while keeping an eye on the kids.

Or maybe we’ll be stuck eating nasty hospital food. If so, we’ll make the best choice we can within the spectrum of choices. And then do push-ups and air squats in the cafeteria, or walk laps around the cancer center.

And on those rare days we’re not dealing with emergencies?

Maybe we’ll soothe our control-freak souls with a luxurious, 2-hour, relaxed, well-rounded workout. Or a weekend of cooking healthy food to prep meals before a busy week. (Even though neither is actually required.)

It’s not easy. But at least we have a plan.

You know, all this got me thinking…

How are our clients doing it?

I run a nutrition and fitness coaching company, so when it comes to figuring out health and fitness in the context of real life, I’m sitting on a virtual pot of gold.

Clients go through our coaching program for a year, and with the help of our expert coaches, sort out just that: How to make their health and fitness goals a reality, even as the chaos of life continues.

So I decided to ask them which new strategies they’ve developed to make it all work — nutrition + snotty kids + work deadlines… all of it.

They responded with dozens of great tips for real-life healthy living. Here are some of the most common (and awesome) ones we heard.

1. Check in with yourself every morning.

“I start my day with reading my Precision Nutrition Coaching lesson. It’s essentially plugging into myself first thing every morning. By doing the program work when I wake up, I remind myself that when I am healthy and happy, I have more to give to the world.”

2. Eat protein at breakfast.

“I include protein at every breakfast. My favorite: breakfast meatballs. Turkey + shredded veggies (zucchini, carrot, celery and onion), quick oats, egg whites and spices made into balls and cooked in muffin trays in advance. Then I heat ‘em up in the morning.”

3. Bring a lunch you’re excited to eat.

“I bring a lunch that is a simple salad with (quality) lunch meat for protein. Adding little extras like seeds and nuts to my salad along with avocado makes it something I look forward to eating, instead of leftovers that I would rather leave behind when others are going out.”

4. Pre-prep dinners.

“PREP! This has been huge for me. I come home late and I’m often rushed to get food in me. Now I just take everything I’ve already cut up or cooked (in advance) and put it in a pan. It’s a much less ‘rush-y’ situation, which carries over into eating… so I’m eating slowly and not inhaling food right past my full point.

5. Eat at the table.

“In the past, I ate dinner in a rush, then ran off to the next activity (soccer, coaching, etc.). I have been making a conscious effort to sit down and slowly eat the meal, so I can actually remember tasting and enjoying it.”

6. Exercise whenever, wherever, and however possible.

“I never choose the closest parking spot. This way I can get in a little more walking. Also during the school day (I’m a teacher), I walk as much as possible around my classroom as students are working, and around the building.”

7. Aim for “a little better” instead of “perfect”.

“It’s not about being perfect. It’s about gradual and continuous improvement. I used to get really down on myself if I ate unhealthy or missed some workouts and felt like I had failed. Now I feel that I’ve put in some great work, and I can do even better tomorrow and next week.”

8. Get all sorts of support.

“I use a meal service for healthy meals, which are pre-portioned. I commute an hour each way to/from work and I work long hours as an attorney, so having the ingredients there with recipes has helped immensely.”

9. Find accountability.

“My coach consistently reaches out to me, and the PN lessons remind me to move daily and claim the day for myself.  Doing those things before I head out to work keep me focused. It reminds me this is my life and my choices can be life-affirming in every moment.”

10. Show up again the next morning.

“Show up each day and do what you can on that day. Don’t jump ahead. This is not a race. It’s not a diet. It’s your life.”

What could your “real life resolution” look like?

My wife and I have no clue what life will bring us this coming year.

But we’re committed to doing the best we can, when we can, with whatever we’ve got. Day in and day out.

I hope you are too.

With the New Year around the corner, it’s an interesting time to make (or renew) your commitment to health and fitness.

Why not do that while considering the context of your own unique, interesting, and (no doubt) challenging life?

What to do next

1. Consider your health and fitness goals for this coming year.

What does a renewed commitment to health and fitness look for YOU — in the context of YOUR own unique, interesting and challenging life?

How could you aim to make things “a little bit better” this year, instead of “perfect or nothing”?

2. Celebrate your accomplishments from the past year.

Even if there’s lots you want to change, think back and call out at least two or three things you did well this past year.

Give yourself a pat on the back for any and all signs of progress, no matter how small.

3. Plan for things to go wrong.

What challenges do you anticipate might interfere with the progress you want to make?

Think about those roadblocks now. Consider some adjustments and workarounds in advance.

Accepting the messy “real-life” stuff will be key to your success.

4. Start small.

What is one little thing you could do today to help you prepare for success this year?

Maybe it’s researching a healthy meal delivery service for busy weeks, downloading a relaxing meditation podcast, or booking a babysitter one evening a week.

Take one small action now, and you’ll already be on your way.

5. Take inspiration from PN clients.

Do any of the strategies above intrigue you? Pick one and give it a shot.

If you usually eat dinner on the go, try sitting down for a meal at the table. If you want accountability, find someone to check in with.

Remember, you don’t have to get it “perfect”. Not now, not ever.

All you have to do is make an effort, and keep showing up every day.

Want help overcoming your health and fitness barriers?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Precision Nutrition Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness, and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

The post A fitness-focused New Year’s resolution that’s worth making. Plus 10 real-world ways to actually keep that resolution. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if embarking on a health and fitness journey meant a straight line to success? For better or worse, that’s not real life — but there is hope. Here are six true stories from Precision Nutrition Coaching clients who faced major obstacles on the road to weight loss, overcame them, and used what they learned to become better and stronger people than ever before.

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It’s become a quintessential question of the modern age: Why is it so hard for people to lose weight and get fit?

The answer is, well, life.

Demanding jobs. Fear of change. Plummeting self-confidence. Social lives that revolve around beer and bar food. Starting a family. Caring for a sick loved one, or maybe even grieving a loss.

These health and fitness barriers can feel insurmountable to those facing them.

Sometimes, for a period, hopelessness will have its way. You might feel like no one understands and no one can help you. You might feel like there’s nothing beyond the bottom.

In the course of coaching over 100,000 clients, Precision Nutrition coaches have heard ALL the stories of struggle — nail-biters and gut-punchers and heartbreakers. And if we’ve learned anything from these stories, it’s that people are strong.

It seems somewhere inside us all there’s a little voice that says: Keep going.

The following six stories are from people who kept going.

Despite the major obstacles they faced, these Precision Nutrition Coaching clients managed to keep moving forward and crest the top of their personal mountain.

These stories are from real people just like you.

Which means, if you’ve hit a seemingly immovable rock, whatever that looks like for you, the story isn’t over.

You just have to keep going.

Meet Bob.

At just 59, Bob Miller had experienced several brushes with death due to serious heart and kidney problems. But a desire to meet his someday grandkids pushed him to enroll in coaching, and he achieved what once seemed impossible. Now, with a healthier body and significant weight loss, Bob is embracing a future full of possibilities.

Meet Nivi.

Nivi Jaswal was a high-performing senior executive with a relentless drive to succeed — until one day she woke up on a hotel room floor having passed out from exhaustion. At 37 years old, she learned that self-compassion, not perfectionism, was the way to achieve her full potential.

Meet Daniel.

Daniel Hayes, a dedicated marathon runner, came close to suffering a fatal heart attack at age 38. After surgery and metabolism-slowing meds, Daniel just couldn’t seem to find a way back to his fit, healthy self. Precision Nutrition Coaching helped him find the path to sustainable habits that will keep him healthy for the long term.

Meet Sheila.

Before Precision Nutrition Coaching, going to the gym was terrifying for 49-year-old Sheila Brooks. After years of believing she wasn’t cut out for exercise due to a disability, she got comfortable picking up heavy barbells — and redefined herself as capable and strong in the process.

Meet Dan.

After the unexpected loss of his wife, Dan Hibbert was left with a tremendous amount of grief and five kids to care for. He made the powerful choice to step up for his family, and through Precision Nutrition Coaching, the 45-year-old has discovered that fitness could be one of his greatest allies in coping with loss.

Meet Alana.

When Alana Wylie-Reeves, 54, started Precision Nutrition Coaching, she could barely bend over to pick something up off the floor. After a year with the program, she shed the extra weight that was slowing her down, and gained the knowledge that she’s more resilient than she ever imagined.

Want help overcoming your health and fitness barriers?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Precision Nutrition Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness, and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

The post True stories: How these 6 people overcame huge health and fitness barriers (and you can too). appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, brain fog: Menopause can make you wonder if your body is totally cuckoo. But what many women don’t realize is that they do have some control over these symptoms. Here’s what’s going on, plus six lifestyle strategies to feel your best during menopause.

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Mood swings. Weight gain. Waking up to sweat-soaked pajamas and bedsheets every… darn… night.

Menopause can feel weird, uncomfortable, and downright scary for many women.

Your body is suddenly doing all this stuff you don’t recognize.

Sometimes it feels like your body and brain are no longer under your control.

You ask yourself…

Is this normal?

Is my body against me?

Is there anything I can DO?!

When you look to the internet for advice, you’re confronted with headlines like this:

“8 sneaky symptoms of perimenopause — Do YOU have it?”

“Rare jungle herbs to cool your hot flashes & heat up your libido!”

“Fight biology and battle your meno-belly with this celebrity diet.”

This is not that kind of article.

We won’t prescribe a “to do” list so you can “overcome” menopause.

No “life hacks”, “cool tricks”, or “quick fixes” either.

Instead, we hope to help you:

  • understand your body;
  • appreciate the intelligent adaptations it makes with age; and
  • embrace change, with all the possibilities that come with it.

Because if you’re a woman (or if you coach women), understanding what’s changing during menopause, why it’s happening, and how to deal with it can make the whole process a lot less confusing, uncomfortable, and frustrating.

While you might feel like your body is all over the place, you actually do have control over your mindset, your lifestyle, and your environment — all of which also affect the symptoms that come along with menopause.

You have the power to affect your hormones.

Yep, really.

There are things you can do to ensure you feel healthy, strong, and — yes — sexy during menopause.

  • If you’re a woman going through perimenopause or menopause, you might find recognition and relief in this article. You’ll learn exactly what’s going on with your body and what you can do about it.
  • If you’re a woman who hasn’t yet reached perimenopause or menopause, you’ll learn about what lies ahead. That way, when it happens, you’ll know (or at least have some ideas about) what to do.
  • If you’re a coach who works with women, you’ll gain insight into what your female clients or patients in midlife may be experiencing. Understanding what’s happening on a biological, psychological, and social level will help you sharpen your coaching superpowers.

In this article:

  • We’ll outline and examine the different hormonal phases of a woman’s life.
  • We’ll explain what causes menopause and its warm-up act, perimenopause.
  • We’ll explore how menopause can affect the body, the symptoms women commonly experience, and what can help.
  • We’ll suggest lifestyle habits and strategies that can help you feel empowered and in control of your hormones during midlife.

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First, a disclaimer.

Of course, not all women will experience what we’re describing.

We’re speaking here about bodies that have female reproductive systems and a hormonal environment that’s within the statistically “normal” range.

But some people with female reproductive systems don’t identify as female.

And just as there is no single standard experience of menopause, there’s also no single standard way to be a woman (or, for that matter, a man).

People are diverse, and that’s a good thing.

Take what’s useful for YOU from this article, and leave the rest.

A woman walks into a medical office…

Yes, menopause often starts like the first line of a bad joke.

It might begin with your period getting a little wonky.

Maybe it starts showing up late (or early). Or it’s longer (or shorter), more painful (or less painful), heavier (or lighter). And sometimes it doesn’t show up at all.

And it’s not just your period.

Whatever your “normal” is starts changing.

Sleep deceives you.

Like a fickle ghost, it visits only at random points in the night.

Your temperature is weird too.

You might find yourself going for a walk in the middle of winter and having to tear your scarf off and unzip your jacket, your neck literally steaming.

You might be a little moodier than usual.

Yesterday at the drugstore, you became enraged because you couldn’t find the toilet paper brand you wanted. I can’t use this sandpaper! you howled at the confused clerk, and stormed out.

Maybe you’ve heard about these symptoms before. From girlfriends, from your older sister, from Googling late at night when you can’t sleep… again.

So you make an appointment with your doctor.

You sit down with your doctor and tell them about your symptoms:

“Hey doc, my vagina is chafing and feels like fire… just kidding… unless you know what to do about that?”

“Hey doc, let’s say someone bled for 17 days last month. Is that normal? I’m asking for, er, a friend.”

“Hey doc, yesterday at the gym, mid-squat, I peed a little. It also happens when I cough, laugh, orgasm, jump, or yell at my dog in a sudden fit of fathomless rage.”

Your doctor tells you these symptoms are consistent with perimenopause.

Wait, what? You’re only 38! You thought hormone stuff was for, like, your mom.

There’s no single start or end point for menopause.

You might look back on one moment in your life as “the time I realized I was a grown-up”.

Holding that first retirement fund receipt. Buying clothes for quality stitching, not style. Keeping an orchid alive for more than 8 weeks.

But biology operates on a continuum. That means there’s no single moment when menopause (or perimenopause) begins.

In general, physiological processes and systems are complex and ever-changing.

They ebb and flow from moment to moment, and year to year.

That means:

Menopause is a dynamic and responsive process, not a single event.

And it may show up when you’re not expecting it.

Just as we go through puberty at different ages, perimenopause and menopause kick in at different times, too. Usually, perimenopause begins in a woman’s 40s (although it can happen as early as her 30s), and menopause can happen anytime between a woman’s 40s and 60s.

The exact timing varies for each woman. It’s is kind of like a repair person who says they’ll be there between 9am and 8pm — a bit hard to predict.

That said, there are some district hormonal stages, which generally work as a linear process. Our first major hormonal event is that zit-sprouting, growth-spurting, heart-palpitating time — puberty!

When we hit puberty, our hormonal factories open for business.

In our reproductive years, a complex symphony of hormonal feedback loops occurs approximately once a month.

Our brain sends a signal to our ovaries, which respond by increasing production of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone and other related hormones. We ovulate, build a uterine lining, shed it, and begin the cycle again.

Over and over, these hormonal feedback loops carefully coordinate to ensure that the uterus can support a fetus.

Hormones are pulsatile (meaning they’re released in bursts), and strongly affected by a variety of factors.

Hormones levels rise and drop at varied points during each monthly menstrual cycle.

At some point, the feedback loops start to change subtly.

Perimenopause is the time before menopause.

As women age, their ovaries gradually start producing less estrogen, progesterone, and other related hormones.

However, this isn’t a linear or steadily progressive process.

Just like during reproductive cycles in the years prior, hormone levels vary throughout menopause.

Hormone levels don’t drop all at once; they fluctuate throughout mid-life.

Just like within a reproductive cycle, in perimenopause there are hormonal ups and downs, which create (or contribute to) the seemingly random and unpredictable physical and psychological manifestations we experience.

This stage can be as short as a few years, or longer than a decade.

Menopause marks the end of menstrual cycles.

“Officially”, menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. But there are different ways menopause can occur:

“Natural” menopause: When estrogen, progesterone, and other gonadal hormones (our reproductive / sex hormones) decline on their own as a result of aging.

Premature (or early) menopause: When menopause occurs before the age of 40. Sometimes, we don’t know why this happens. Other times, there are known risk factors, including medical conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism; certain medications; pituitary damage from brain trauma (e.g. a history of concussions); smoking; or genetic inheritance.

Artificial menopause: When menopause occurs when ovaries are removed or damaged (for example, by some types of cancer treatments). Because of the sudden drop in hormones, menopause symptoms begin abruptly and may be more severe than other versions of menopause.

In women without a uterus, menopause can be identified by very high levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which shows that the brain is telling the ovaries to increase production, but the ovaries aren’t listening. High FSH occurs in all women during menopause.

Postmenopause describes the phase after menopause.

At this point, hormonal fluctuations have leveled out, gonadal hormone production has shut down, and levels of most reproductive hormones are now relatively low.

Hormonal changes drive these shifts.

But what does “hormonal change” even mean? And what do hormones do?

Hormones signal our body to do stuff.

Most hormones act widely throughout the body. So, our reproductive hormones don’t just affect our reproductive organs.

Hormones impact how we feel, behave, function, and more.

When hormones change, we change too.

Hormones are complex, and everyone’s are a little different.

When we say “hormones”, what we’re really describing are dozens, if not hundreds, of bioactive chemical compounds that make up complex signalling networks in our bodies.

For instance, “estrogen” is more accurately “estrogens”:

  • estrone (E1);
  • estradiol (E2);
  • estriol (E3); and
  • several other molecules that have estrogenic activity (in other words, that act somewhat like estrogen does).

And along with our gonadal hormones, we also have many other key hormonal systems, such as:

  • thyroid hormones;
  • neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin);
  • gastrointestinal hormones such as insulin;
  • adipose (fat) tissue hormones such as leptin.

Then, there are other cell signalling molecules, known as cytokines, which play with hormones.

All of these molecules interact with each other, and all are governed by our genetic and epigenetic expression, as well as various other factors.

Each one of us has a unique, ever-changing “hormone fingerprint”.

This means that menopause is not as simple as flipping an estrogen on-off switch, and everyone’s hormones are affected by their unique genetics.

That’s part of why menopause is such a different experience from person to person.

Hormones change for many reasons.

While all of the interactions of our reproductive systems are far too complex to predict, one thing is clear:

The hormonal phenomena and experience of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are all strongly affected by other factors.

We have the power to influence our hormones through our mindset and lifestyle.

Some things, like what we choose to eat, how we work out, or what meaning we make from our experiences, we can control. Others, like our genes, or how often our bedmate disrupts our sleep with their snoring, we can’t.

Here are the changes you may notice during menopause, plus what can help.

Symptoms of hormonal changes might show up consistently, intermittently, or rarely.

They might be intense or barely noticeable.

But remember:

  • Each woman’s experience is unique.
  • These changes aren’t “just” biological. They’re also closely linked to our thoughts, feelings, relationships, and environments.
  • Many of these symptoms aren’t inevitable. Your environment and behaviors can, to some degree, affect the outcome.

There’s only one given: Endogenous (self-generated) sex hormone production will decline. Everything else is like that randomly appearing repair person: Don’t plan your day around it.

Bladder

Decreased estrogen can lead to a reduced ability to control the urinary tract. You may have to pee more often, get more bladder infections, and have trouble controlling your bladder as pelvic muscles weaken due to aging.

What can help:

  • Exercises from a pelvic physiotherapist to rehabilitate and prevent stress incontinence (when physical stress — such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing — causes an involuntary loss of urine)
  • A vaginal pessary (a removable device that you insert into the vagina that supports pelvic organs) recommended by your doctor, especially if you have uterine prolapse
  • Staying hydrated, peeing after sex, and supplementing a simple, safe carbohydrate known as D-mannose dramatically reduces bladder infections

Body composition

Changing hormones also lead to changing shape.

Lean mass (muscle, bone, and connective tissues) goes down while body fat goes up, a phenomenon known as sarcopenia.

You might notice more fat around your middle and lower belly in particular.

What can help:

Hormone replacement therapy

About 15 to 25 percent of women find their menopause symptoms so severe that they need hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which usually involves some combination of prescription bioidentical (i.e. just like the molecules our bodies make) estrogen and progestogen pills, patches, creams, or injections.

Most menopause symptoms are triggered by a sudden drop of estrogen, rather than a lack of estrogen overall. HRT that includes estrogen may stabilize levels and alleviate symptoms of menopause.

Because HRT has some risks, choosing it as a therapy depends on a woman’s personal medical history, family medical history, age, and symptom severity. All of these factors should be discussed with a doctor.

Benefits of HRT include relief from symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and thinning, sleep disruption, and low libido. Increased estrogen also means a better chance of preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis and fractures.

Unfortunately, HRT may also increase the risk of cancer (especially breast cancer) as well as heart attack, stroke, and blood clots.

For now, both the medical community and the research support short-term use of HRT to treat moderate to severe symptoms in healthy women in early menopause. Short-term use of low-dose HRT in healthy women (who have no specific contraindications) does not show increased risk of coronary heart disease, clotting disease, or specific cancers.

As an alternative to HRT, regular exercise, calcium, and vitamin D also play protective roles in maintaining healthy bones.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and phytoestrogenic foods such as soy and omega-3 rich flaxseeds may help to alleviate the severity and frequency of hot flashes.

If you’re suffering from moderate to severe symptoms of perimenopause / menopause, discuss your options with your doctor or another trusted healthcare practitioner.

Brain function

Hormones can affect thinking, reasoning, perception, and memory. Many women notice “brain fog” or trouble remembering things with declining hormones.

What can help:

Breast health

Breasts and nipples may become more lumpy and tender. You’re also now at a higher risk for breast cancer.

What can help:

Digestion and bowel function

We tend to make less of our digestive enzymes and stomach acid as we age. Our smooth muscle tissue and intestinal absorption isn’t as peppy as it used to be.

This means you may notice changes in appetite, digestion, and bowel function. Heartburn, gas, and constipation might become your dinner companions more and more.

You may notice new food intolerances and sensitivities. Red wine?! Avocado? Really??

What can help:

Disease risk

“Female hormones” typically lower our risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and so on… at least, until they run out. Then, our risk of these chronic diseases becomes greater.

What can help:

Dizziness / vertigo

Dizziness can occur with changes in how your brain regulates blood pressure (see temperature regulation below).

Women may also notice cyclical benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a sensation of spinning or dizziness occurring when their head is in particular positions, or when lying down or turning over. While we don’t completely know why this happens, researchers think that declining estrogen weakens the protein matrix that makes up our vestibular (balance) system in our inner ear.

Dizziness can also be related to migraines.

What can help:

  • Staying hydrated, as changes in hydration and sodium levels can affect dizziness and vertigo
  • Discontinuing medications that contribute to dizziness and vertigo, such as sedatives
  • Balance training

Hair

Hair may grow more in some places (like on the face), and less in others (scalp, lower legs, armpits, pubic region).

What the heck, biology?

What can help:

Menstrual cycles

Obviously, menstrual cycles change. They may become more or less frequent, heavier or lighter, more or less painful. Sometimes, they may be astonishingly heavy, like “Hahaha, Super Plus tampon, I will take you DOWN” heavy.

While you can’t do much to affect menstrual frequency or duration, nor the eventual end of menstruation, you can often improve related symptoms, like cramps.

What can help:

Migraines / headaches

Migraines can be stunningly painful or completely painless. For example, with “aura migraines” or ocular migraines, you might see the characteristic sparkling or flashing visuals of a regular migraine without pain. These are typically harmless and resolve in about 20-30 minutes. Other times, a migraine can make you want to submit yourself to a guillotine.

Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause can exacerbate headaches and migraines, although these seem to settle after menopause.

What can help:

  • Quality nutrition
  • Keeping a “trigger diary”, which may help you notice that certain things (such as what you eat or your stress levels) make a migraine more likely
  • Hormone replacement therapy or hormonal birth control (for those in perimenopause) may also affect headaches / migraines

Mood and mental health

Mental health covers a wide range of feelings, experiences, and domains, but in general, you might notice:

  • More depression, “blahs”, emotional flatness, trouble “getting motivated”
  • A sense of overwhelm or “it’s all too much”
  • Feeling more irritable or less able to deal with small hassles
  • Feeling more anxious, worried, fearful, or risk-averse
  • Feeling distracted and/or preoccupied, having racing thoughts
  • Crying or other emotional outbursts that happen more often, more unexpectedly, and/or more intensely
  • More mood swings, and/or stronger swings
  • More intense emotions, positive or negative
  • Everyone around you has suddenly turned into a jerk

These mood changes can be attributed to not just variation in hormone levels, but also all the other biopsychosocial shifts that happen during menopause.

For instance, you may have good reasons for those mood swings. Maybe it is all too much, and this is a signal to make some important changes in your life choices, relationships, workload, etc.

What can help:

  • Managing stress
  • Counseling and/or coaching
  • A good social support network
  • In consultation with your doctor, medication like antidepressants

Pain and inflammation

Progesterone and estrogen are linked to pain and inflammation.

As sex hormones decline, you may notice changes in muscle pain, arthritis, other types of joint pain, pelvic pain, or flare-ups of other chronic pain concerns.

What can help:

Sexual function

As estrogen and progesterone decline, the vaginal and urethral epithelium (lining) thins and becomes less elastic. Additionally, lubrication decreases, so the vagina will be drier.

This means that penetration can cause burning, itching, and a feeling like sandpaper on a sunburn.

Libido fluctuates. You may feel more liberated and sexy at midlife — many women say they’re having the greatest sex of their life, because they’re so much more confident, experienced, and assertive.

Or, you may feel like you don’t want anyone touching you, and would give up sex for sleep or chocolate 100 percent of the time.

What can help:

  • Managing stress
  • Doctor-prescribed estrogen creams or lubricants that you can apply to the vaginal area in order to reduce chafing, dryness, and tissue thinning
  • For a non-hormonal option, one study showed that a vaginal gel containing hyaluronic acid (a natural compound involved in tissue repair and moisture regulation) was nearly as effective as estrogen cream at reducing symptoms of vaginal dryness
  • Although vaginal tissue atrophies as a result of declining estrogen, the clitoris shows no such signs of stepping down from its position of pleasure glory. Just sayin’.

Skin

You may notice your skin getting drier or oilier as hormones shift. Perhaps you’re even getting some teenage-style acne.

Protein synthesis slows, so you’ll start to wrinkle, heal slower, and have less collagen. You’ll also likely lose fat from your face, and things will start to sag (because, gravity). You may notice changes in skin pigment.

What can help:

Teeth

Your dentist might start making tsk-tsk noises about gum disease, receding gums, dry mouth, and so on.

What can help:

  • Quality nutrition
  • A good oral health routine (Make your dentist happy!)
  • Not smoking

Temperature regulation

Hot flashes are one of the most puzzling and annoying experiences of menopause.

About 85 percent of North American women report having hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause, and 10-15 percent of them say these temperature changes are so severe that they interfere with daily life.

On average, hot flashes persist for 3-5 years.

Most women describe a hot flash as a feeling of extreme warmth, usually in their upper body and face and lasting a few minutes. Night sweats, as the name implies, are hot flashes that happen at night — you wake up flushed and sweaty, often enough to soak through clothes or bed sheets.

Hot flashes and night sweats seem to be triggered by a sudden dips in estrogen levels, rather than declining estrogen overall.

Body temperature can also be affected by changes in the brain’s vasomotor center, which regulates your blood vessels, making them tighter (vasoconstriction) or more open (vasodilation). However, we still don’t know exactly how the change in estrogen levels affects the vasomotor center.

What can help:

  • Quality nutrition
  • Paced breathing exercises. Try it: Breathe in from the belly while slowly counting to 5. Then, release the breath while slowly counting to 5. Practice this every day for 10-15 minutes. When a hot flash hits, start paced breathing and continue it for 5 minutes. Bonus: Paced breathing may also help lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and promote relaxation.

Aging is part of life.

In biology, cells senesce — they naturally deteriorate and decline with age.

We can speed this process up, or slow it down, but (for now) we haven’t quite figured out how to stop it altogether.

One thing we do know?

The changes that come with aging — like menopause — are not just in a physiological vacuum.

In other words, the changes we experience during menopause are not just tied to what’s going on with our bodies. Our mindset, the people we spend time with, and the life changes we’re experiencing matter, too.

Life changes are biospsychosocial.

When we experience life changes, they’re due to a complex interaction of the biological, the psychological, and the social dimensions of our lives.

For instance, many of our female nutrition coaching clients are tireless workers and caregivers — whether that’s at work, home, school, or out in the world.

The women we speak to are trying get their kids to school AND write their thesis AND deadlift with proper form AND visit Aunt Ruby who’s recovering from her hip replacement AND remember to vote AND stir the pasta sauce that’s about to bubble over on the stove.

So, if a woman feels fatigue or mood swings — two symptoms of perimenopause or menopause — what’s the “real” reason?

Hormones?

Stress?

Other people?

Not chanting enough positive affirmations?

The answer may be “several of the above” (but probably not the last one).

Often, menopause coincides with other life changes.

These can include:

  • The “empty nest” phase. If you have kids, they usually move out (eventually). Suddenly, your focus shifts from offspring-rearing to… what?
  • Relationship adjustments. If you have a partner, they’re getting older too. Or maybe you’re grappling with divorce, coming out, or starting to date again.
  • Aging parents. If you have parents (or older relatives) who are alive, they may be dealing with health problems or need more attention.
  • Work burnout. You gave at the office… and gave, and gave. What was an inspiring career path at 30 now feels like a joyless death march at 50.
  • A desire for change. You may not have the feverish energy that you used to, but you may find yourself thinking about beginnings: new careers*, new relationships, new places to live.

*Fun fact: Nearly 10 percent of our Precision Nutrition Certification students start a new career at midlife. In fact, one of the authors of this article, Pamela Ruhland, went back to university at 45, did her PN Certification at 48, and was then hired to be an in-house coach with PN on the eve of her 50th birthday!

All these shifts in identity, responsibility, and interest may feel a little disorienting.

But they also create openings for positive change.

Menopause is a great time to build new healthy habits — and maintain current ones.

Many women say middle age is a time of empowerment.

During this period of life, some things die (such as our simplistic youthful illusions, or any desire to wear a crop top).

But new things will grow — fresh identities, opportunities, possibilities.

Women say they feel:

  • More authentic: They care less about what others think and feel more free to be themselves.
  • More courageous: They’ve been through it all, so why not?
  • Less willing to tolerate BS: They’ve put up with crap long enough. They reclaim their time.

Experiences, even difficult ones, bring insight, wisdom, and resilience.

By midlife, we’ve built a nice set of life skills, and we’re looking to use them in new ways.

If you’re going through perimenopause or menopause, you probably won’t like all the changes you’re experiencing.

But remember that that bidirectional relationship between your hormones and the rest of your body that we described earlier?

Just as hormonal changes can affect your sleep, body composition, mental health, and more, your daily habits can impact how strongly you feel the impact of those hormonal shifts.

You’ve got power, lady.

6 lifestyle strategies that can help alleviate menopause symptoms.

Strategy #1: Prioritize quality nutrition.

At this point in life, you may be ready to say goodbye to 10-day cucumber cleanses, fad diets, and get-fit-quick plans. We say: Right on!

And here’s some very good news:

Good nutrition can ease or even alleviate much of the discomfort of midlife physical changes, plus it’ll help you maintain a healthy body composition.

Many of our clients find that through quality nutrition, they can manage their appetite and improve their digestion and bowel habits. (‘Cause no matter how old you are, a good poop is still terrific.)

Prioritizing good nutrition can also decrease disease risk, help manage symptoms of changing menstrual cycles, reduce inflammation (and inflammation-related pain), improve skin quality, and promote dental health.

How to do it:

Most of us are busy, rushed, and hovering over our keyboard as we eat our tuna salad. Slow down and pay attention. This will help you know when you’re truly physically hungry, and when you’ve eaten the amount your body needs.

It’ll also help to alleviate digestive upset like bloating and heartburn, which are really just your body’s way of avenging that spicy calzone you just ate in 17 seconds.

If good nutrition is a goal, consider:

  • Protein: Evidence suggests that our protein needs go up, not down, as we age. More protein means more lean mass and better bone density, especially if you’re also doing resistance training. Shoot for at least 1 palm-sized portion of protein at most meals. More protein can also help with skin quality as we age. Here’s more advice.
  • Phytoestrogens: The research on phytoestrogens in food (such as soy) suggests that they may help with hot flashes… or they may not. In other words, it’s not entirely clear. Feel free to experiment with adding soy to your diet, especially more traditional versions like fresh edamame, miso, and tempeh. These are consumed in Japan, China, and other Southeast Asian countries, where women have much lower rates of hot flashes.

If you have a family history of breast cancer and/or the BRCA gene, check with your doctor before adding estrogenic foods.

  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water and keep your salt intake moderate. This can help with water retention and breast tenderness, which can fluctuate over your cycle, as well as skin quality.
  • Vitamin D: Some evidence suggests that vitamin D can lessen perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Get your D levels checked, and if they’re low, either book that tropical vacation you’ve always wanted (hey, it’s for medical reasons), or supplement. Vitamin D is also important for maintaining bone health.
  • Caffeine: Notice whether caffeine in coffee, tea, energy drinks, dark chocolate or medications (such as painkillers) triggers or exacerbates any symptoms you have, such as breast tenderness or migraines. Experiment with reducing or avoiding caffeine to see if it’s worth the trade-off.
  • Flaxseed: Flaxseeds are rich in plant compounds called lignans. With the help of intestinal bacteria, lignans can be converted to weak estrogens (enterodiol and enterolactone) which may help reduce menopausal symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids:  Omega-3 fatty acids (2-6 grams a day) may help with some symptoms, like hot flashes, depressive symptoms, and memory decline. There also may be added benefit to starting supplementation before the onset of perimenopause, although the research is unclear. Including high-quality fats in your diet may also help with skin changes.
  • Iron: If you’ve stopped menstruating, you’ll need less iron (down to about 8 mg a day), unless you’re doing something else that increases iron needs, like Ultimate Fighting. (Pfff, after 30 odd years of monthly bloodshed, a nosebleed doesn’t even make you blink.)
  • Calcium: For bone health, calcium needs increase during menopause to about 1200 mg a day, preferably from food sources such as quality dairy products; cooked dark leafy greens; bone-in canned salmon or sardines; or calcium-fortified foods.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is important for calcium metabolism and also helps preserve bone health. Supplemental magnesium (200 – 400 mg / day) may also help alleviate hormone-related cramps and migraines.

Strategy #2: Approach alcohol intake mindfully.

The image of middle-aged women who love wine has become a cultural cliché.

You’ve seen the t-shirts at those tacky souvenir shops. “Wine is for women what duct tape is for men: It fixes everything!” they read in bold pink letters.

But although a buttery Chardonnay goes nicely with fish, it doesn’t necessarily pair well with our bodies, especially as we age and our livers become less efficient at processing it.

Limiting alcohol consumption may help reduce inflammation, as well as your risk of breast cancer and other diseases.

How to do it:

Notice where, when, how, and with whom you drink. Are there certain triggers — like work functions, or your friend Marie — that always seem to end with you having a strong urge to dance on (or lie under) the table?

Notice what happens if you think about (or actually do) stop drinking for a week or two.

There’s no “right” amount to drink. You may choose to drink less for your health, or you may drink more because you genuinely enjoy it and want to prioritize pleasure.

Either way, drinking should always be a calm and conscious choice, rather than an obligation or compulsion.

Strategy #3: Commit to regular exercise that you truly enjoy.

Exercise (moving at moderate intensity 2-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes per session) seems to help with menopausal symptoms like cramps associated with changing menstrual cycles and inflammation, though it varies from woman to woman.

Women who have lower fitness levels going into exercise sessions may be less likely to see a benefit, which has made interpreting the impact of exercise more difficult.

Still, regular exercise is your best shot at having a healthy, strong, functional body composition. This means lots of protective lean mass (like strong muscles and bones) and less body fat (especially the more risky stuff around your internal organs, called visceral fat). It also means a lower risk of disease, including breast cancer.

How to do it:

You may have less time to exercise right now, which means you’ll have to get creative about squeezing in movement when you can.

Or maybe you have more time. Your 20-year-old son may still live at home but it’s time he does his own laundry… because you’re off to Zumba.

Here are some guidelines to consider for exercising during menopause:

  • If you still love intense workouts, recognize that you’ll need more recovery. And have a good physiotherapist on speed dial.
  • Whether it’s a full yoga routine or simply a 5-minute mobility warmup, make sure to include regular joint mobility / injury-prevention type movements to keep joints lubricated and flexible.
  • Do some weight-bearing movements / resistance training at least 2-3 times a week. This tells your bones, muscles, and connective tissues that you need them to stay dense and strong.
  • Start where you are. If you’re just picking up an exercise habit for the first time in midlife, start gently. In women who are sedentary, yoga may be a good activity to start with and has been shown to improve quality of life in menopausal women.
  • Consider making it social. Many of us are more likely to stick with things if we have accountability, support, and community. Join a class or group, or find a workout buddy. Or get a dog. Their toilet is outside, so they’re always motivated for a walk.
  • Keep cool. Your body is having a tough time regulating your temperature, so exercise in a cool place and drink cool fluids.
  • Consult with a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic rehab if you’re noticing you’re peeing during squats, jump rope, or other movements, or if you’re having pelvic pain under load.
  • If you use a trainer / coach, make sure they understand how to train a body at midlife. They should be able to balance challenge with respect for any limitations you have.
  • Have fun. That’s an order.

Strategy #4: Practice self-compassion, especially when it comes to your body.

When your sleep is disrupted by a hot flash that rivals the fires of Mount Vesuvius, or when you’re urging your hips into jeans that used to feel roomy and now feel like sausage casings, it’s understandable to feel angry and frustrated. Or even sad.

At midlife, you will put on more body fat. As ovarian production of estradiol (a type of estrogen) shuts down, our body relies on our adipose (fat) tissue (along with a few other types of tissue) to produce similar hormones.

We actually need that extra bump in our rump to keep us healthy as we age.

And it turns out, there’s a “sweet spot” for our body composition.

While having enough body fat will maintain hormonal health, too much body fat increases our risk of estrogen-dependent cancers (e.g. ovarian and breast cancer) as well as other metabolic diseases.

So, it’s important for your health to be conscious of your body composition, but it’s also key to make peace with your body as it is now.

How to do it:

Forget about the celebrities that somehow look 25 when they’re 55. They pay a team of surgeons, personal trainers, stylists, and magical wizards to keep them camera-ready.

Define what “fitness” and “health” mean for you.

Decide what you value, in terms of your physical self.

Maybe you value strength more than aesthetics, and maybe you don’t. (Although it does feel good to know you can open any pickle jar life throws at you.)

Your body will change. You will look different. Whatever you feel you’ve lost, mourn it.

Punch and cry snottily into your pillow. Burn an effigy. Do whatever you need to do to herald the end of the old and the beginning of now.

Then, consider what a sane, realistic, and achievable set of expectations and goals for yourself look like right now. (If you aren’t sure, check out The Cost of Getting Lean.)

Approach these goals with self-compassion rather than self-criticism.

Strategy #5: Prioritize and schedule recovery and sleep.

When things don’t go the way we want, most of us do more and push harder.

For example, if your waistline has changed despite being a regular exerciser and mindful eater, you may (understandably) think it makes sense to add more and higher intensity exercise, combined with less food on your plate.

Grrr, that should do it.

But it doesn’t.

While you may not think of exercise as a stressor, it is.

Exercise requires your body to work harder. And work = stress (even when it’s “good” stress.)

With every stressor you add on, you also need proportionate recovery from it.

Restricting food is also a stressor. Women who worry about limiting food intake to manage body weight tend to have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, than women who don’t.

Add that to the sleep disruptions so common in menopause (between 40-60 percent of women going through menopause have poor sleep quality or insomnia), and your “stress bucket” is getting pretty full.

Lower estrogen levels also means your body has a decreased capacity to deal with stress. That bucket fills up quicker than it used to.

Even though many stressors are good for us (like exercise, learning, and change), they only make us stronger if we give ourselves the chance to recover from them.

Not getting enough recovery and sleep can also contribute to pain, inflammation, and age-related skin changes.

How do to it:

Check in with yourself. Are you exhausted? Are your workouts feeling like a heavy slog?

If so, try this radical idea: Take a week off from the gym. Focus on activities that are less intense and more pleasurable. Like taking your dog for a walk in the park, or paddling around in the pool.

When you go back to the gym, notice how you feel. Do you have more energy? Or a renewed sense of interest? Are your muscles feeling stronger or less achey?

Play around with exercise frequency and intensity. Try reducing the number of sessions a week or decreasing the intensity of a few sessions. Replace some higher intensity weight training or cardio sessions with lower intensity sessions like yoga or long walks.

Every month or so, schedule a “recovery week”. For that week, decrease exercise volume, or skip the gym altogether and just engage in gentler movement like stretching, foam rolling, tai chi, or quiet hikes in nature.

Sleep is also a key part of recovery. If you have difficulty sleeping, here are some things to try:

  • See what you can do to reduce hot flashes, which can disrupt sleep.
  • See a therapist who specializes in sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnosis designed specifically for insomnia can be effective.
  • Try exercise like yoga, weight training, or brisk walks, which can improve chronic insomnia in perimenopausal women.
  • Experiment with natural remedies like valerian root, tart cherry juice, and isoflavones (from soy), which may improve sleep.
  • Talk to your doctor. Certain prescription medications, such as hormone replacement therapy or low-dose SSRI’s can help.
  • Get a massage. Because anything that makes you drool from bliss and relaxation is good.
  • Many women even opt for a separate bedroom if they have a partner whose flailing and snoring is making their already-fragile sleep unworkable.

Strategy #6: Take steps to manage your stress.

You may find that, compared to your younger years, you just don’t care as much about what people think of you. This can be hugely stress-relieving.

But thanks to all the changes you’re going through, you may also be dealing with feelings you’re not used to, sometimes swinging wildly.

Unmanaged stress can have a negative impact on your sex life, brain function, pain and inflammation, and overall disease risk — not to mention your overall quality of life.

How to do it:

Coaching or counseling, mindfulness or relaxation practices, and other mental health strategies can dramatically improve your existing mental health or preserve the wellbeing you have. Mindfulness and relaxation practices can also help manage pain.

If the mood fluctuations or psychological distress are severe and causing problems with your daily-life function, consider consulting a mental health professional. For instance:

  • You might consider getting coaching or counseling.
  • You might consider speaking to your doctor or psychiatrist about antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
  • Also discuss these feelings with your doctor or psychiatrist if you’re on hormone replacement therapy.

Your mental state also affects your sexuality.

Setting aside time for yourself, learning to have healthy relationships, and practicing good “intimacy habits” can also help you feel juicy and sexy. Consider looking at other factors in your life and relationships to see if you can bring some calm, joy, and ooh-la-la back.

Speaking of relationships, consider which ones are serving you right now. Are there any relationships that you need to let go of, or adjust so that they feel healthier?

At this point in life, it’s helpful to be willing to let go of (and grieve, if necessary) old patterns and identities. Maybe your primary identity used to be “Mom”, and that doesn’t fit as well anymore now that your kids have moved out and you’re itching for adventure.

Be open to stepping into new versions of yourself and new ways of relating.

Menopause can be a gift… it kinda means you “made it”.

Many of our prehistoric ancestresses didn’t survive past the age of 40.

In some ways, making it past the childbearing years and into the “wise elder” years is a luxury.

While men can theoretically reproduce until they die (um, not that we’re recommending that), menopause signals the end of a woman’s ability to have children.

It’s kinda like nature is telling us, “Nah, it’s time for you to do you now. The rest of your life is for you.

Hm. Why thank you, Mother Nature.

What will you do with that gift, that wide open space of possibility?

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

Don’t worry about fixing everything… or anything.

Remember, you aren’t broken.

Menopause is a normal, inevitable, adaptive stage of womanhood.

You’re totally allowed to sink into the hammock of biology and let your body work this out without intervention.

If you are considering positive changes to feel better, pick one small thing at a time.

Practice that change consistently, then add on more if / when you feel ready.

Keep a journal of your experience.

Write your own Owner’s Manual. You’re the expert on you.

If you have a symptom that’s especially vexing, consider tracking it and notice any patterns. For example, you may notice that when you have coffee, your cramps are worse. Or every time you watch CNN, you get a hot flash.

Get to know the natural rhythms of your body over time by gently and non-judgmentally noticing and recording what comes up.

Use your emotions as tools (instead of being possessed by them).

Just like puberty, menopause is a time of intense hormonal flux, and corresponding emotional and physical changes.

But unlike your 15-year-old self, you are now a grown-up ladyperson, and you can choose to make use of the feelings that come up, instead of being owned by them.

When sadness comes up, you might look at what you need to grieve or let go of. When anger comes up, you might look at what needs to be protected or spoken up for. When fear comes up, you might look at what needs to be reassured or supported.

Use your emotions as tools to learn more about yourself, and to create a life that feels good for you.

Talk to other women.

Whether it’s a coach, a wise mentor, your mom, a friend, or that lady at the gym who just seems friendly and healthy, find and talk to older women about their experiences.

Not only will this give you practical advice (“Always dress in layers; never wear a pleather unitard”), it will also give you a feeling of support, normalcy, and sisterhood.

Several Precision Nutrition coaches have personal experience with perimenopause / menopause, or at least have coached hundreds of women through it.

Distribute your “craps given” wisely.

Perimenopause and menopause, with all its changes, may feel a little overwhelming for some.

Which is why you’re allowed to take some things off your plate.

Maybe you don’t give a crap anymore about “always being polite”.

Maybe you don’t give a crap anymore about fitting into a size X dress.

Maybe you don’t give a crap anymore about achieving “eternally youthful skin”.

You’re allowed to not care about whatever you don’t want to care about anymore.

Leave your caring for stuff you really care about.

Assemble your support team.

Think of the kind of support you need to be your best self at this stage of life.

You’ll probably want some loving friends or family members to talk to or reassure you.

A good family doctor or OBGYN you feel comfortable discussing all the gory bits helps too.

Add on whatever else you need, such as:

  • A physiotherapist to help your pelvic muscles perform.
  • A trainer to help you move safely and joyfully. (Maybe a boxing coach who can help you channel that pent-up rage healthily.)
  • A coach or therapist to talk through difficult feelings.
  • A naturopath, nutritionist, or dietician to help you figure out what foods will support your health.
  • A “menopause mentor” who will remind you that you’re not going crazy.
  • And so on.

Gather your posse, and conquer.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes through all life stages — including menopause — is an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

The post ‘What’s happening to my body!?’ 6 lifestyle strategies to feel your best during menopause. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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As a health and fitness coach it’s easy to feel frustrated when clients share deep concerns that go beyond eating and exercise. It’s easy to think: “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” However, you’re more therapist-like than you think. And, in this article, we’ll help you turn clients’ emotional pain into meaningful change without going outside your scope of practice.

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Sooner or later, all coaches experience a certain uncomfortable moment.

A client lays some really heavy duty capital-I ‘Issue’ on you.

Perhaps they just started a new job and are completely overwhelmed at work. Maybe they have a not-so-great relationship with their mom, who has always criticized their weight, and that’s why they’re struggling now. Or maybe they disclose something super serious, like trauma or childhood abuse.

Your client looks at you, expectantly, through tear-clouded eyes.

Can you help them?

Suddenly the room seems small. Your mouth goes dry. Your brain blank. You feel those uncomfortable, difficult, do-not-want feelings start to blossom in the depths of your gut. Anxiety. Panic. Dread. You. Have. NO. Idea. What to do.

This is the moment that new coaches fear. The moment your client expects you to stop being their health/fitness/nutrition coach, and start being their therapist.

Of course, you’re not a therapist.

But…

You’re more like a therapist than you want to believe.

“I’m a coach, not a therapist.”

I’ve heard this refrain thousands of times from coaches. No matter their country, culture, or exact profession, all coaches would like to hereby remind us all that they Are. Not. Therapists.

And coaches, I hear you. It’s uncomfortable when someone lays their problems on you. When they ask for help outside your area of training and expertise.

And you’re right. You’re not a therapist.

(Nor should you try to be. Unless you are, of course, an actual therapist.)

But sometimes, you do need to be therapist-like.

Because therapists don’t let the deep, dark, troubling confessions they hear all day affect their inner lives. Even better, they empower the person who is struggling to do something about it. On their own.

You can’t change the fact that your clients are going to share their issues with you. Everyone’s got ‘em. But you can change how you respond to the issues — and use them for good. And that shift is what can turn you into a supercoach.

That’s why, in this article, I’ll show you:

  • How to turn these awkward, uncomfortable moments into an opportunity to do your best work as a coach.
  • A powerful two-step process for navigating serious problems with clients — and techniques to handle them with skill.
  • How to stop letting clients’ “crap” affect you (without firing them or losing your job).
  • What to do when you’re in over your head.

To begin, see uncomfortable moments for what they are.

When clients come to you with their gut-wrenching dilemmas and emotional car crashes, they’re actually coming to you with an opportunity for change.

Psychologists refer to this dark moment of despair as “creative hopelessness”. This is the moment when things suck so badly, your normal coping mechanisms no longer cut it. You’re forced to try something new.

Therapists and counselors are in the business of helping people work through creative hopelessness to create change. And so are you.

As a coach, change is your game, baby. In fact, while less experienced coaches tend to dread these awkward moments, supercoaches love them.

Take my client who had a high-powered law career.

Her job was amazing — according to everyone else. But what I saw as her coach was that her job was making her miserable. She was incredibly stressed. She was binge eating and drinking. She wasn’t sleeping.

One day, she broke down during a session. The truth came out: She could no longer handle her life.

It turns out, she really wanted to be a landscape designer — something her professional-minded family didn’t exactly approve of.  But she needed this deeply uncomfortable moment of creative hopelessness to realize that something had to change. The overeating and constant stress weren’t working for her anymore. It was time to try something new.

Eventually, she realized she needed to ditch the job she hated to open the door to the life she really wanted to live. Suddenly, what other people thought didn’t matter so much. She knew what she needed to do.

And I stuck with her during that tough, messy period, which only strengthened our coaching relationship.

So remember that the messy moments and emotional breakdowns, when handled properly, can actually become breakthroughs.

Turning points for something new and better.

And opportunities to do your best work.

Great coaches have a system for handling “the stuff”.

When faced with clients’ “stuff”, coaches may want to turn and run.

Shake it off! Get back to squats! Turn up the music to drown out the weeping!

(I call this the DRIP method: Deny, Repress, Ignore, and Pretend. Maybe you recognize it from painfully awkward family dinners?)

Or your default response may be to do everything you can to cheer your client up. Help them see the bright side. Even better, solve their problem for them. Start listing off solutions!

Or maybe you’re so put off by this client and their problems that you’re thinking about firing them. Ugh. Why did they make you “go there” with them?

But none of these actions will actually help your client change.

Great coaches — the ones who lean into these raw and difficult moments gracefully and skillfully — have a better process.

You might be surprised how simple it can be to turn a seat-squirmingly uncomfortable conversation into a powerful change moment.

To do that, you’ll want to do two therapist-like things:

1. Identify and help the client notice this “change moment”.

2. Develop an action plan, once you have fully explored the problem.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1.
Identify and help the client notice this “change moment”.

Your goal in this step is to help your client see the opportunity for change, and move toward action. This doesn’t require a lot of special skills. It does require some basic “human skills” that you probably already have.

Here are some techniques to help you facilitate Step 1.

Stay with the discomfort

We often want to run away from uncomfortable moments. Don’t.

Stay present. Stay checked in. Breathe. Let the moments unfold.

Often, simply staying present and aware of yourself and the situation is the bravest and most effective thing you can do.

Say to yourself:

“Man, this is pretty freaking weird / icky / uncomfortable right now.”

And maybe:

“I have no idea what to do here.”

Acknowledge that reality. And stay in it.

Notice and name what you’re feeling, thinking, and experiencing.

Help your client do the same by being present and sticking with them. They don’t know where to go next, and it’s okay if you don’t either in this moment.

Empathize and connect

You may not identify with exactly what your client is saying, thinking, experiencing, or feeling. But you’re both human. Find the common ground.

Empathize and let the client know you’ve heard and seen them without judgment.

Reflect back:

“Wow. That sounds really tough.”

“I can only imagine what you’re dealing with.”

“That really hit you hard, huh?”

Practice using nonverbal signals such as body language that say: “I’m paying attention, and I recognize this is an important moment for you.”

Listen and observe carefully

Gather information. Ask thoughtful questions to better analyze and grasp the situation. Probe for understanding.

Don’t rush to react. Wait, process, and respond thoughtfully.

Listen for the client’s “scripts” and stories — the ways they explain themselves and the events of their lives.

For example:

“I’m a really selfless person. That’s why people take advantage of me. That’s how I wound up taking on too much, and now I’m a ball of stress and anxiety.”

Your client may, in fact, be a selfless person, but it’s unlikely that that personality trait is the only factor at play.

Also observe your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings as you work through this situation. This is a chance to learn more about your own coaching processes and responses.

Simply listen, to help your client talk it out

Right now, what does your client need?

At this stage, clients often just need us to listen, hear them, and empathize.

As a coach, you’ll eventually want to come up with an action plan. (We’ll talk about that in a second.) But let the bad stuff be heard and understood first before you move on.

Why? If your client is able to talk about their concerns openly and get all of their thoughts and feelings out, they’ll feel safe, supported, and reassured that you’ll stick with them through this difficult time.

You see, when you don’t immediately list potential solutions or jump to how you would solve their problem, you’re actually giving your client a vote of confidence.

When you allow them to truly be heard without immediately talking “next steps”, you’re showing your client that they don’t need you to “fix” them. They’re not broken. They’re just going through something tough.

When you give them this space to sit with their problem without judgment or “fix it” suggestions, you’ll find that clients often start solving it on their own before the session is over.

Even if they don’t, you can simply let them know that you recognize what they’ve given you, and you’d like them to start thinking about potential strategies — which don’t have to be put into action yet.

For example:

“That’s definitely a lot to think about, Rick. I can tell that balancing act between crazy-long work hours, spending time with your family, and making time for your health has really been weighing on your mind. Thanks for trusting me with this.

“Tell you what — right now, let’s not worry about fixing anything. I just want to make sure I really get where you’re coming from. I’m going to ask a few questions here to explore this a little more, if that’s OK.

“Then over the next few days, before our next session, let’s both think about where we can go from here.”

Trust your gut

Don’t just think. Feel. Feel what your Spidey sense and instincts tell you. Yes, some instincts may be yelling “Run away!” but other instincts may be helping you gather information.

You know how sometimes you can just tell someone is lying to you? Not based on any one particular thing they said, but that little tingle of intuition?

The same idea applies here. Gather information not just through what you’re told, but also through what you perceive.

Watch for nonverbal cues such as body language and intonation. Observe their behavior holistically. Notice where things seem “off”, or where the scripts and stories don’t add up (or conversely, where it all makes perfect sense).

Step 2.
Develop an action plan, once you’ve fully explored the problem.

Your second objective is to get to action.

Again, don’t rush this. But once you — and the client — are ready, work on creating an action plan to help the client move forward.

This process takes some exploration.

You and your client will want to consider:

  • What things the client has already tried to improve the situation
  • Whether those things have actually, measurably worked
  • What other options may be available to them
  • What next steps you can develop together

Here are some techniques to help you facilitate Step 2.

Look for patterns

Feeling stuck or hopeless often comes from feeling mired in our old patterns — except we’re often not aware that these are patterns.

So, point out where you notice common themes.

For example:

“As I listen to your description of what happened when you went to CrossFit every day for three weeks, then ended up on the couch eating an entire package of Oreos, I’m struck by the fact that this seems like a recurring theme for you. Does it sound like a familiar pattern to you? What elements here seem to repeat themselves?”

Simply bring the client’s awareness to the pattern itself.

Don’t try to change the pattern yet.

Right now, you just want the client to notice and name their own tendencies, and reframe “bad” individual choices as part of a larger context of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

Name the monster

Feeling stuck or hopeless is often like being in a tug-of-war with a monster. The monster is always stronger, no matter how much we resist.

And you know how the monster in a horror movie is way scarier when you haven’t seen what it looks like yet? The same applies to real-life monsters.

Have clients identify just what their “monster” is. You can ask:

“What bothers you the most about this situation?”

“What feels like the absolute worst part of this?”

“Weird question — if the problem you were dealing with were a monster, what kind of monster would it be? Could you describe it?”

Noticing, naming, and giving voice or form to the monster is simply an imaginative way of developing a hypothesis that can ground your action plan. It identifies, describes, analyzes, and prioritizes what the foundational issue is.

Drill down till you get a good clear picture of the monster.

If you have a right-brain or visual client, have them draw the monster or the problem, or describe it visually, as if it were a thing.

I even had a client who got one of those “ugly” stuffed dolls to symbolize her monster. She named it Plunky.

This is a counter-intuitive step. It feels like you’re “focusing on the negative”. But by asking clients to identify and describe the sharpest pain point, you’re zeroing in on what is truly bothering them.

Interestingly, you’ll often discover that by simply naming the monster out loud, the client’s perspective starts to change.

“The worst part is this need I have to always be perfect. [pause] But having said that, I now realize I could ease up on myself.”

Help them let go

By trying to exert control, the client is pulling against a monster that will always be stronger.

Let’s say the client’s monster is a strict calorie counting habit, and it’s making them stress over every food choice, maybe even bringing up past issues with disordered eating.

Ask the client what would happen if they just let go. What would it be like?

You might say something like:

“This situation you’re describing is sort of like a tug of war with the problem — the monster, if you will. And the monster will always be stronger. You’re exhausted from struggling.

“Let me just float a possibility here. What if you just let go of the rope? So for example, if you stopped focusing on counting calories, what would happen?”

Letting go can happen incrementally.

This is especially a relief to clients who struggle with all-or-nothing thinking.

“Let’s say you don’t have to let go of everything. Is there something very, very small that you could let go of? For example, what about not counting calories for just one meal a day?”

Envision the worst-case scenario

We are often distressed and anxious because we imagine all kinds of awful outcomes, and deep down assume we couldn’t deal with those outcomes. So we try to control things in order to avoid those outcomes.

Get the client’s fears on the table and test whether they could, in fact, survive it.

“Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you stop counting calories. Let’s imagine you never count calories again.

“What is the worst thing that could happen? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad would that be? What would you face or have to deal with? Could you survive that worst-case scenario?”

Chances are, they’ll realize they could and would survive, even if the worst case scenario played out. This takes power away from the monster they’re fighting.

Being therapist-like doesn’t mean you take crap from clients.

So to recap: When things get weird you show up and empower clients to navigate their way through the tough stuff.

But that doesn’t mean your clients’ problems are your problems.

When coaches complain they’re not therapists, sometimes what they really mean is they’re tired (quite rightly) of carrying clients’ emotional baggage.

But remember: Taking on other people’s baggage isn’t therapist-like. In fact, it’s actually the opposite of being therapist-like.

If therapists absorbed that pain and suffering themselves, they wouldn’t be very good at their jobs. And they probably wouldn’t live past 35.

Don’t take on clients’ pain.

Clients have pain. Pain is an inevitable — and arguably essential — part of life.

Pain is what brings them to coaching. And as we’ve already covered, as a coach, you can guide a client to use their pain to create positive change.

But things go wrong when you take that pain from them.

You “take the pain” when you try to “fix” or change what they’re going through.

When you try to solve their problems for them. When you take on their “stuff” and hold it, rather than being a witness to it, or a companion on the journey.

You take the pain when you feel responsible for their growth, change, and development.

Taking their pain means you make it about you:

“Clients are supposed to check in every week, and mine don’t. That must mean something about my coaching skills.”

“My client isn’t progressing, so I must be a bad coach.”

Or even:

“My client is so unhappy. I need to fix that.”

Creating rules about the universe and taking responsibility for your clients’ emotional wellbeing won’t make you a better coach. Letting clients keep their pain for themselves will.

Don’t take their poop, either.

Clients give you crap when they’re in pain. We’ll call that “poop”.

You can think of poop as not-so-fun-to-deal-with behavior that is caused by pain — or fear of experiencing pain.

Poop can be:

  • Passive-aggressive type resistance: doing nothing
  • Active resistance: negativity, “this sucks”, “I can’t…”, “I already know that…” etc.
  • “Drama”: frequent problems and negative vibes
  • “Baggage”:  unintentionally taking out whatever is going on in their life on you with harsh words or a bad attitude

People with pain and poop aren’t “bad” or “screwed up”.

They’re probably quite normal.

Indeed, many clients are lovely people who give you their pain and poop simply because they don’t know what else to do.

Having pain and poop inside you sucks. Isn’t it nicer to hand it over to someone else? Of course it is!

(And you’re probably also a lovely person who wants to help! So you grab their bag of painful stuff like an avid poop collector. And at the end of the day, you wonder why you smell so bad.)

But if you “take” their pain and poop — if you internalize the pain, if you let them fling poop at you without calling them out on it — you’re going to exhaust yourself.

And you’ll miss the opportunity to alchemize pain and poop into change.

With the right strategies, you can help clients move toward improved pain/poop processing and greater self-sufficiency.

Start by understanding for yourself whose pain and poop is whose. Clients’ “stuff” stays with them.

Once you have it straight in your own head, you can look at the situation (calmly, objectively) with your client and agree it stinks… but ultimately, it’s theirs.

The key to accomplishing this is to make sure that whatever happens next is determined by the client.

Here’s how.

Poke the pain and poop.

If you live in a big city, you know about pigeons. They nest in crevices and dark places. Their poop is corrosive and can destroy building materials.

So city officials often have a simple solution: pigeon spikes. They line comfortable nesting ledges with little spikes that poke pigeons in the bum so they have to keep flying.

The same concept kind of applies to clients.

Don’t let them nest in their dark places. Poke them a little bit. Let them flap and figure out another, better, sunnier place to go. Keep them moving.

When we see a client resisting a habit, struggling, being upset, or asking “What should I do, coach?” our initial reaction will most likely be to “take their pain” from them.

We might rush to make them “feel better” immediately or give them a solution that will help them avoid discomfort. (Or just get ourselves out of the grossness.)

Don’t.

Change comes when the pain of not changing is bigger than the pain of changing. We need pain for growth and development.

Let them work through the pain.

Again, poke a bit. Explore. Be curious. Invite reflection.

Play around the pain and poop a little, but don’t keep it for yourself.

Offer some gentle, caring prodding that helps your client move forward, instead of letting them settle comfortably into the old familiar place of non-growth and stasis.

Watch their reactions, and be flexible. When you change your approach to dealing with poop, you will change their reaction to you. You control the interaction.

Here are some techniques that can help:

Beware the professional pain and poop dispensers.

Now here’s a more cynical point.

Most clients are, again, normal and good people.

They’re just muddling through the best way they know how.

But, a very small proportion are *professional* pain and poop givers.

They are experts at handing off their poop and pain to others. They smell your kind heart and good intentions, and they exploit those. Sometimes, they are skilled manipulators.

But even if they’re not doing it on purpose, at the very least, they just can’t handle their own shiz. Ever. They NEED to give it to someone else.

Signs you might be dealing with a pro pooper include:

  • They don’t ever seem to be doing well, but rather moving from crisis to crisis.
  • They ask you to go outside the scope of your practice (they want you to help them fix their marriage, for example).
  • Every conversation with them feels like TMI-overload. You know more details about their life than some of your closest friends.
  • You feel like you’re being sucked into a breathless black hole every time you see them.
  • When you decline to solve their problems for them, they say or do things that make you feel like a bad person.

You see, regular, run-of-the-mill, non-professional poop can be resolved by using the techniques outlined above. Being there for the client, empathizing with them, exploring their problem, and maybe moving onto a few actions steps will be enough.

But if you’re dealing with a pro pooper?

Nothing is enough.

They won’t stop at one little turd. They’ll fill up bag after bag of crap for you to carry, draining you of every last ounce of empathy, compassion, and hope you’ve got.

Important: You can’t change professional pain and poop givers. You have to change your own response to them.

Don’t absorb any of that pain or poop for yourself by trying to “fix” them. Instead, use two simple strategies to protect yourself and coach them at the same time.

Set boundaries

Remind them what’s outside of your coaching superpowers. And be extremely. Freaking. Clear.

“Well, marriage counseling is outside of my powers, but what I can speak to is building an action plan to help you eat well during this time.”

“We have half an hour here today, and I have a hard stop at 10:30.”

Do this as frequently as necessary. Stand your ground.

Notice how you’re communicating, and call it out

Coaches are often empathetic people who get confused when other people don’t have the same social skills.

You probably know how to ask for what you want, as well as how to respond when you don’t get it. You also can probably gauge whether something is an appropriate “ask” or not. Many pro poopers lack these skills.

And while pro poopers will often ask you to deal with problems that are “out of bounds”, you will probably find that there are one or two things out of the many issues they bring up that you can actually help them with.

So, when a pro pooper is doing what feels like a never-ending monologue about every single thing going on in their life, just get to the point:

“Do you want to do something about the problems you’re having getting enough sleep, or do you want to just keep talking? Either way, you can pay me, but it’s much more useful if we come up with some actions to help you fix this.”

When you directly call out the fact that a pro pooper is resisting reason, and show them clearly what you’re willing (and not willing) to help with, you provide the best possible outcome for both coach and client.

When is it time to call in an actual therapist?

Most coaches really want to help. It can be tempting — oh, so tempting — to go above and beyond the call of coaching duty.

This is where the border of coaching ends and the Land of Inappropriate Heroic Individual Action begins. It’s an OK place to visit occasionally, but stay only briefly, before handing off your client to a qualified tour guide.

How do I know when I’m in over my head?

What can you handle and what is outside your limits?

When is it time to refer out?

Perhaps despite your best efforts at talking your client through the problem, giving them space to come up with solutions on their own, and supporting them through that process, things just aren’t getting better for them.

Maybe they’ve been feeling down in the dumps for a couple of months, and despite trying a few different coping strategies together, they’re starting to wonder if they might be depressed.

Or even after encouraging them to “let go” of calorie counting little by little, they’re exhibiting disordered eating behaviors like intense restriction, bingeing, and overall preoccupation with food.

Maybe their “monster” is anxiety, and they’re having panic attacks regularly. They expressed interest in learning some breathing exercises, but they’re not making a big enough difference.

These are all situations where you’d want to get an actual therapist involved.

And here’s what you may be feeling if the client’s needs are truly outside your scope:

  • Distracted, preoccupied, and consumed by client dilemmas
  • Anxious about or dreading your email
  • Like you are constantly “putting out fires”, “fixing things”, and “dealing with issues”
  • Constantly overwhelmed or like you’re “in over your head.”

If you recognize these signs, it’s time to call someone in your support network, and/or refer your client to a specialist from your roster.

And remember, there’s no shame in not being able to do it all. Everyone gets stumped sometimes, even supercoaches.

Great coaching is a team effort.

Who’s on your team?

As you develop your coaching practice, you should build a support network. Have a group of trusted professionals to whom you can refer clients when appropriate.

This will ensure that you don’t feel obligated to deal with everything, and that your clients will get the help they need.

Here’s a sample “team roster”:

  • Psychologist and/or psychotherapist (especially one who specializes in body image issues and disordered eating, but who can also handle other common mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, etc.)
  • Sports medicine practitioner
  • Massage therapist and/or soft tissue therapist (such as an ART or myofascial release therapist)
  • Physiotherapist
  • Medical nutrition therapist (MNT) or registered dietitian (RD)
  • Chiropractor or osteopath
  • MD as well as women’s or men’s health specialist (depending on your client base)

Make a list. Have it ready. Try our referral worksheet.

Think collaboratively.

Some coaches may worry that by referring out to other professionals, they “lose business”. In fact, the opposite is true.

When you get your clients the help they need, they’re more likely to succeed.

They’ll truly feel like you’ve got their back.

And when your clients are well-supported, they’re more able to stick to your coaching plan.

It goes something like this: They feel better. They’re now able to do the work they need to do. They improve. And they think you’re awesome.

Plus, other professionals can refer back to you.

It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

So think collaboratively. Always be on the lookout for well-qualified and like-minded practitioners who have a good track record, and who are willing to work cooperatively.

You can even hold social or educational events where you get together with a few of your professional collaborators, to present a united “dream team” to your clients.

Just remember: You are not alone.

Look for support anywhere and everywhere. And refer clients who need it.

Support yourself first.

You know that saying, “Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting someone else”? Well, that holds true here too.

Your support team doesn’t just help your clients. Your support team can help you too.

Maybe you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the demands of coaching, and could use some anxiety counseling.

Maybe you’re getting into a weird space with your own eating habits, and could use some help working through disordered eating behaviors.

Maybe your low back is killing you and you can barely tolerate sitting down with clients.

Maybe you just need a trusted colleague who can help you bounce some ideas around.

Coaching is amazing but tough work. You can’t do it alone. Whatever you need to be an awesome coach — get that support before you wind up burned out.

Keep your coaching superpowers in good working order.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

1. Pay attention to your own discomfort.

How do you typically react when a client comes to you with a personal problem? Do you run for cover? Try to cheer them up? Take on their problem as if it was your own?

What is it that’s making you feel uncomfortable in the situation?

See if you can simply stay with the discomfort. Sit with it a bit. Be there, with the client, without trying to fix, dodge, or gloss over the problem.

The more you become aware of your own patterns and reactions, the better you’ll be able to help your clients move through the change process.

2. Help clients recognize their change-moments.

Uncomfortable, hopeless-feeling moments are a great opportunity for change. Your first step is to help clients recognize the possibility for that change within their challenge.

Practice asking questions that can help unearth an “A-Ha! moment” in your client’s mind. Try out one or two of the strategies listed in this article.

After you’ve thoughtfully explored the problem, then work together with your client to create an action plan.

Take your time. Resist the temptation to rush through the process.

Remember that pain is a necessary part of change.

3. Sniff out the poop.

Do you have a client that keeps bringing you their pain and poop?

What’s your go-to response when this happens?

If you think you might be taking on clients’ pain and poop, review the table above. Could you try swapping out of one your standard responses for one of the more therapist-like techniques?

Try making one or two swaps and see what happens.

4. Build your referral list.

Put together a list of professionals that you can refer clients to when their needs are out of your scope. This can include therapists, specialized counselors and doctors, registered dietitians, and more.

Actively build your list and don’t be afraid to refer.

If you haven’t already got a list started, try our handy worksheet.

5. Tune into how you feel.

If you’re feeling burned out, constantly frustrated by clients, or perpetually overwhelmed, you might need some added rest and recovery time for yourself.

Pay attention to what you need. Reach out to someone in your support system if you need to: a coach, mentor, paid professional, or good friend.

Taking care of yourself is necessary in order to care for others. The best coaches don’t try to go it alone.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” 9 ways to help people change while staying within your scope. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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A lot of men struggle with food, eating, and body image… but don’t talk about it. Are cultural or individual beliefs about “being a man” to blame? In this article we explore how “acting like a man” can hold men back. Plus we offer 5 ways to challenge male stereotypes and coach men through change.

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As a piece that explores gender, this content may be sensitive for some. With that said, we believe it’s important to examine how traditional male stereotypes can negatively influence men’s experiences with food, fitness, and body image. Of course, there’s no such thing as a “stereotypical male” because men have such a wide spectrum of experiences. At the same time, we’re convinced that the same principles of compassion, acceptance, and authenticity are useful across the entire spectrum of “maleness” and “masculinity”.

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Maybe you recognize this client.

He came to you because his doctor warned him about his blood pressure. Or his spouse urged him to investigate his chronic digestive issues. Or his buddies have been razzing him about his extra “insulation”.

He’s a nice dude, but he’s a little… tense. You can see it in his hiked-up shoulders and clenched jaw. He always greets you with a handshake, but avoids direct eye contact. He doesn’t smile a lot.

He’s briefly mentioned that work has been crazy for him lately, and that he’s going through some family “stuff” too.

You suspect he’s strugglingBut he doesn’t look like he wants to “talk”.

Your conversations tend to be emotionally flat. Your questions about his diet, his exercise, his sleep, his stress, are met with a poker face and one-word answers. But you wonder:

Is this really the whole story?

Talking about our lives can be messy, confusing, and personal.

This may be especially true for men.

Ugh, vulnerability.

Truthfully, being vulnerable is hard for everyone, not just guys. Many women feel they need to manage hectic lives full of careers, caregiving, and keeping it all together. They’re not supposed to show their untidy parts, either.

But men are particularly prone to being stigmatized for being, well, soft.

Cry??!

Nuh-uh. Be a man.

Talk about your feelings??!

Show me the exit door.

Admit your weaknesses??!

Over my dead body.

However, in order to move past our struggles, we need to acknowledge pain points, explore what’s not working, and often, (squirm) ask for help. (And then we need to be willing to fail. Over and over again.)

All of that involves getting incredibly vulnerable and transparent.

Yuck.

For many guys, old gender ideas die hard.

Think of all the male role models you can.

How many of them can you imagine hashing out their feelings about their body, or their fears about becoming frail and old?

How many of them can you see humbly asking for help, or admitting that much of their life isn’t working anymore?

How many of them can you picture crying?

(And no, not the “crying” of the championship winner as he sings his national anthem, and one stray tear drips down his clenched, square jaw.)

Lots of guys believe that being a “good man” means “keeping it in”.

If you’re a guy, think about the number of times you’ve heard variations of the following phrases in your own life.

  • “Be a man.”
  • “Man up.”
  • “Men don’t cry.”
  • “Grow a pair.”
  • “You ____ like a girl.”

If you’re a coach or trainer, you might even have used these phrases as “motivators” or “light-hearted jabs”.

Although they’re often spoken casually, they penetrate our cultural consciousness and prime our expectations of what “appropriate” male behavior is.

Further, these messages may discourage some men from being vulnerable and talking about important things in their lives.

And so, these messages perpetuate the following kinds of beliefs:

  • Men aren’t supposed to burden others with their problems. They’re supposed to figure it out on their own.
  • Men aren’t supposed to open up to others, especially not other men.
  • Men aren’t supposed to ask for help, directions, or show signs of weakness.

As a result, even when they have a lot going on under the surface, many men will fight to keep up appearances.

“Everything’s fine”, they say. Even when it’s not.

We’re also taught that certain problems and solutions are “gendered”.

For instance, culturally speaking, especially for straight guys, it’s not traditionally “manly” to:

  • Struggle with eating habits*
  • Have a complex emotional relationship with food*
  • Worry about how your body looks*
  • Be limited by pain, injuries, chronic illness or disability
  • Be overwhelmed by stress
  • Ask for help

* These topics are especially prone to gender-bias. Almost all materials about disordered eating and body image are by and for women.

Of course, each person has a different relationship to gender norms.

Some people stick closely to their culture’s script for what it means to be male or female.

Some people enjoy actively opposing and smashing cultural gender rules.

Some people do whatever they like, and are only barely aware that gender is a thing in the first place.

Yet despite individual differences, to some degree:

Gender norms and expectations shape many parts of our lives.

This includes things like:

  • Our sense of who we are
  • Our behaviors, mannerisms, and language
  • The roles we choose to play (such as “provider father” or “supermom”)
  • How we are in certain environments (such as gyms), and
  • How we relate to others (like our friends, partner, coach, co-workers, doctor,  etc.)

Getting in shape is gendered.

Free weight areas in gyms are still mostly filled with men grunting and flexing.

Yoga and Zumba classes are still mostly full of women.

Coaches may expect that men want to bulk up, and that women want to slim down. Supplements aimed at guys have names like Berserker or Extreme Something-or-other that sound more like Bond villains than nutrition products.

Among Precision Nutrition Coaching clients*, lots of guys don’t seek help until they’re in dire trouble — after a major injury, health scare, or other crisis that leaves them little choice but to start making changes.

* Even PN Coaching interest is gendered as we see a 2:1 ratio of men:women on our coaching presale lists and that same ratio persists at registration.

What we eat is gendered too.

Who do you imagine wolfing down steak, beer, wings, and chili-cheese fries?

Who do you imagine delicately picking at kale, yogurt, smoothies, and fruit?

In North American culture, we have particular ideas around which foods are traditionally masculine and which are feminine.

For example, there’s a “Hungry Man” dinner, in both regular and XXL size… but there’s no “Man Watching His Waistline” or “Hungry Woman” dinner.

How and why we eat is also gendered.

A recent study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that men eat up to 30% more food when they’re in social situations. The same study found that women eat slightly less food when around others.

Culturally, eating a lot is often part of traditional heterosexual masculinity.

This works for guys who want to gain weight, but not so much for guys who want to lose fat and/or make healthier choices.

According to Kevin Kniffin, one of the Cornell study’s authors:

“Even if men aren’t thinking about it, eating more than a friend tends to be understood as a demonstration of virility and strength.”

Eat an epic portion lot of steak and potatoes?

You da man!

Opt for a salad instead of fries and leave half your burger untouched?

Bro, what?!

Plus, men are socialized to ignore pain and discomfort.

Stomach cramps and heartburn?

Throw down some antacids and walk it off.

Choosing food consciously, checking in with appetite, noticing feelings and — ugh — engaging in “self care”, is seen as something only women do.

Many men can feel that these habits are “unmanly”.

They might not say it that way. Instead, they might say they’re “too busy”. Or they “don’t have time”. Or, “Listen, my boss is on my case right now and I really can’t deal with this health crap.”

Of course, men still have feelings, even if those feelings aren’t culturally accepted.

Just because it’s not considered culturally OK to feel, think, or do certain things, it doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t happen.

  • Men may feel insecure when they stand in front of a mirror, poking at their love handles, or critically inspecting their pecs.
  • Men may compare themselves to fitness magazine cover models, and feel inadequate and ugly.
  • Men may have dreams of feeling confident in a swimsuit.
  • Men, after a stressful day at work, may just want to lie on the couch and eat a pint of peanut butter swirl.
  • Men may have feelings of uncertainty, overwhelm, shame, and grief, that they struggle to handle.

But men, particularly heterosexual guys who have more traditional gender ideals, may also feel that these things aren’t “supposed” to happen or be felt.

Problem is:

To change our outsides, we need to face our insides.

In PN Coaching, clients learn to work on their “inner game” (thoughts, feelings, and automatic behaviors) so they can change their habits and bodies.

(Even in our Level 1 and Level 2 Certifications for professionals, PN shows students how to manage that inner change process as they evolve as a coach).

This means, at some point along the journey, whether coach or coachee, people have to face [cue dramatic music]… their feelings.

To change, you have to believe different things.

As a health and fitness professional, you might start with practical matters: what foods to eat, how many reps, how many hours of sleep, etc. But eventually you’ll need to talk about less surface-level matters, like beliefs.

For many, unhealthy beliefs about food, exercise, and their bodies are major limiting factors towards progress. This might include gender-biased beliefs like: “Men don’t eat salad” or “Women shouldn’t have big muscles”.

These beliefs might sound trivial, but they influence a person’s behavior in powerful ways. If a man holds beliefs about food or his body, you can bet those beliefs are showing up in his life, shaping his behaviors and his results.

Often, beliefs have been around for a long time, and may be reinforced by a person’s environment or relationships. When they become aware of the beliefs that shape them, they might not like what they see. They might be immature, prejudiced, and unforgiving.

Therefore, exposing our beliefs can be uncomfortable. But…

We often need to feel uncomfortable in order to change.

Coaching can help ease this discomfort.

When clients or patients are in this (often necessary and unavoidable) “awkward phase” of change, a coach can help them:

  • identify underlying beliefs and assumptions about “being a man”;
  • be creative and come up with different, more helpful beliefs;
  • affirm and reinforce new beliefs;
  • be a healthy role model of someone who rebels against harmful gender stereotypes; and
  • identify additional sources of support, whether it’s a spouse, a trusted friend, or the services of another qualified professional, like a therapist or medical doctor, if needed.

Having a role model or a non-judgemental witness during this uncomfortable phase can help a person feel less alone and more capable of change.

How to coach men to change.

So, what does it actually look like to coach a man?

And how can we shape the coaching experience into something that goes beyond grunts and surface-level stuff, to something that’s meaningful and transformational?

1. Put yourself in the client’s shoes.

Let’s use a hypothetical male client, Gary. Thanks to a recent life crisis and an aching back, Gary’s decided it’s time to change. He’s just signed up to do a consultation with you.

Gary arrives at the gym… and is instantly reminded of why he hasn’t worked out since college.

The place smells like the inside of a hockey bag. The music is loud. A part-man, part-gorilla wearing a “CRUSH IT” t-shirt stares him down before ripping 400 lbs off the floor and dropping it with a smash. Clearly his back doesn’t hurt.

Everyone at the gym seems to live here. Why are these people even working out? Gary wonders. They’re not fat and old like me.

His blood pressure is going up, and he’s barely made it past the front desk.

Then he meets you.

2. Use coaching skills to help put clients at ease.

In this situation, there’s a lot you can do to make this process more comfortable for Gary, therefore making it more likely he’ll eventually trust you, open up, and explore change with you.

You can help by:

  • creating a safe, welcoming atmosphere;
  • building rapport immediately;
  • recognizing and empathizing with your client’s discomfort (if it’s there);
  • normalizing the fact that people are often nervous, insecure, and/or intimidated when they start anything new.

So, you come out to the gym floor to greet him. You shake his hand politely, and introduce yourself. You are warm and welcoming.

You guide him to your quiet office. You can sense his nervousness. You smile and lean forward, to let him know you’re giving him your full attention.

“Thanks for coming in today, Gary. I’m glad you’re here.

“From what I’ve been told, sounds like you haven’t really been to a gym before.

“I know it can be pretty intimidating. When I first started coming I remember feeling self-conscious. Do you feel that way at all?”

Gary is surprised. The coach is… like him?

“Well, yeah. This is all new. I definitely feel… out of place.”

You reassure him, and point out what a courageous step this is.

“That’s completely understandable. It’s not easy to be outside your element.

“So really, kudos to you for coming today.

“Hopefully by the time we finish up you’ll feel a bit more comfortable.”

Gary visibly un-clenches. Smiles a little.

This is gonna be OK, he thinks. I can do this.

3. Allow the process of revealing what’s inside to take time.

Men often won’t drop their emotional barriers and open up about their relationship with food, eating, exercise, or body image right away.

You might have to spend a long time getting to know and understand your client before they feel comfortable enough to tell you what’s going on inside.

For instance, you soon learn that Gary grabs beers and wings with his buds every night. If you immediately start lecturing him about liver health and sodium levels, you might miss the chance to understand what’s really going on.

However, a few weeks of building trust and rapport, you might be able to inquire a little, “Gary, this wings night thing… do you just really love barbecue sauce that much, or is there something else this habit gives you?”

Gary tells you he doesn’t care about beer or salty snacks. The real reason for his habit is that he’s fending off the tremendous sadness he’s felt since splitting from his partner, and his bros are keeping him from going cuckoo.

He wasn’t ready to dive in right away. However, now that you know why he’s attached to the nightly ritual, you have a better shot at helping him change it.

A new way to coach: Compassion, vulnerability, and active listening.

Showing compassion, being vulnerable, and listening actively and respectfully are good coaching principles for clients of any gender.

But these coaching behaviors may be especially important for men, who are less likely to get them from other people, especially other men.

“Soft skills” aren’t traditionally associated with men.

Stereotypically, dudes are supposed to reject all this mushy stuff.

Feelings are for wimps.

Talking about feelings… even worse.

Traditional Manly Coach Hardass won’t empathize with you about portion control (because he always eats an extra helping of steak, then eats the silverware.)

Hell will freeze over before he shares a time he felt insecure in the gym.

If you’re in pain, he’ll hand you the surgical tape and tell you to wrap up and get back in there. “Try harder.” “Stop bitching.”

However, qualities like compassion, vulnerability, and good listening need to be part of a healthy, long-term coaching relationship.

When coaches improve, clients are more likely to change.

Elite level compassion and vulnerability from a coach can:

  • help clients feel more courage when trying new or uncomfortable things,
  • make clients more willing to persist in the face of obstacles,
  • encourage clients to talk about painful or sensitive topics, and
  • help clients be more resilient, more able to bounce back from setbacks.

These qualities are central to the coaching process — for all clients. But for some male clients in particular, who might not be used to this type of interaction, such coaching qualities can make a huge impact.

It could be the difference between an “okay” coaching experience, and a life-changing one.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

If you’re a guy trying to get a little healthier:

1. Have real conversations with other men.

Talk about subjects that are difficult, sensitive or uncomfortable.

Avoid getting stuck in the “bro talk” trifecta of weather, traffic, or sports. Branch out and talk about meaningful stuff like family, goals, and (gulp) struggles.

Don’t have other guys to talk to? This is a perfect opportunity to get a coach.

If you do have other guys to talk to, this is a perfect opportunity to learn more about them as people.

2. Connect over food in a different way.

Invite a male friend (or potential partner) over for a healthy dinner.

Cooking and eating together is a great way to build a friendship or relationship, and will be a lot more nutritious than going out to a bar for wings and beer.

PN’s co-founder Phil Caravaggio (left), PN’s videographer, Alex Cimino (center), and Dr. JB enjoy an espresso at a café in Montalcino, Italy.

3. Re-think what it means to “be a man”.

If you notice your ideas about “being a man” are kinda rigid, notice that.

(If they’re more open and flexible, notice that too. Just notice whatever you think and believe about “being a man”, and be curious about how that might show up in your daily-life choices.)

Notice if you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself, or making poor choices because you’re afraid to look weak, or ask for help.

Avoid phrases like “man up”, “be a man”, “real men don’t _____”.

These are powerful phrases that force men into hyper-masculine behaviors, and prevent them from getting the support they need.

4. Be brave… really brave.

It’s not brave to hide or keep doing the same old thing, especially if that’s a habit for you.

What’s actually brave?

Reaching out to others.

Doing something different.

Asking for help.

Admitting you don’t know — or can’t fix — everything yourself.

Be brave. Define your gender identity — and your path towards growth, fitness, and health — for yourself.

5. Practice self-compassion.

The traditional culture of heterosexual masculinity teaches men they should be in control at all times, and if they’re not, they’ve failed or they’re weak.

It’s OK to struggle with change.

With health, fitness, and nutrition, that struggle can be particularly difficult.

Treat yourself like your good mentor, friend, or coach would treat you.

Like: “I’ve got your back, man.”

If you’re a coach with male clients:

1. Spend time building rapport.

Many male clients, especially older or more traditional ones who’ve learned some pretty specific gender norms, may not talk about deeper stuff right away.

Allow this process to be a little uncomfortable — for you too! Revealing deep stuff might be uncomfortable for your client, and sitting with your client’s discomfort might feel a little itchy for you. That’s ok.

Put in time building trust, connecting, and creating a foundation of support.

2. Be a role model.

Break some macho stereotypes and model a little vulnerability. Something as simple as “Yeah, I’ve felt insecure about my body too” can be hugely powerful.

Of course, don’t puke your worldly troubles, or ask clients to endure 10 minutes of your self-flagellation.

Just “go there” briefly with a quick human anecdote, enough for him to understand that other people feel what he feels, and that he’s normal.

You can also point your client to other examples of dudes breaking down stereotypes – whether it’s a group of buff celebs talking openly about their body image struggles, or the guy at your gym who wears a “CRUSH IT” t-shirt — but also volunteers with the elderly.

3. Think about how you frame your instructions.

Some male clients will feel more comfortable if you use guy-specific language.

For instance, many guys respond better to things like “projects” than “exploration”, and may prefer the concept of “thinking” to “feeling”, as in, “What goes through your mind when you have trouble slowing down your eating?”

Note: You don’t have to live in Stereotype Land (“Bro!” “Dude!” “Arm punch!”). In fact, if you serve a client population with a wide range of male-identified gender expression and sexuality, that might be the wrong approach.

Consider what language and ideas are relevant to each client, and speak to them as unique people.

4. Encourage slow change.

Maybe your male client has thrown out gender norms years ago and is ready to rap about emotional eating on Day 1.

Cool.

Or… maybe you’re working with a Vietnam War vet who believes you should only talk about feelings when they describe a flesh wound.

The second guy will probably require a slower, more gradual approach to change. That’s OK.

Slow down, start with smaller, more superficial changes, get to know him gradually, and keep offering that kind, compassionate vibe.

5. Remember: Clients are whole, complex individuals.

Human beings are complicated and unique. They have many rich stories. Gender is just one dimension of many.

Don’t stereotype or reduce people to a single factor, but do notice how particular social norms and scripts might shape your clients’ belief systems.

Want to coach individuals, regardless of their gender, with more sensitivity, awareness, and competency?

All clients are unique — each have their own histories, beliefs, and habits.

As a coach you don’t have to know first-hand what it’s like to be someone else. But compassion, active listening, and awareness of gender norms / stereotypes can help you better understand, connect with, and help the people you serve.

Want some help with this? Consider the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification.

It’s designed specifically for Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification students and grads who realize that knowing about the science of nutrition isn’t enough.

Part master class, part grad program, part mentorship, it’s the only course in the world designed to help you master the art of coaching, meaning better results for your clients and a better business for you.

And here’s some great news: Our next Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class kicks off on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

Since we only take a limited number of professionals, and since the program sells out every time, I strongly recommend you add your name to our VIP List below. When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you get a huge discount off the general price of the program.

[Note: The Level 2 Master Class is only for students and grads of our Level 1 Certification. So if you haven’t yet enrolled in that program, please begin there.]

Interested? Add your name to the VIP list. You’ll save up to 37% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following VIP list which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to get started and ready to gain mastery in their coaching practice. So we’re offering a discount of up to 37% off the general price when you sign up for the Master Class VIP list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the PN Master Class twice per year. Due to high demand and a very limited number of spots, we expect it to sell out fast. But when you sign up for the Master Class VIP list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready to take the next step in becoming a world-class coach, we’re ready to share our knowledge and help you master the art of coaching.

References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

The post Don’t act like a man: 5 ways to challenge male stereotypes and coach men through change. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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To get great results with the people who turn to you for advice, it’s important to learn how to talk to them in a way that increases their likelihood of change. Master this and you’ll become a legit client (or patient) whisperer.

Here we’ll teach you Precision Nutrition’s method for doing just that, adapted from our newly updated Level 1 Certification program.

++

When first starting out with a client or patient, things can feel a little uncertain.

Especially if you’ve had this experience before:

Client shows up, you work hard on them, they disappear (no closer to their goals), you scramble to find another client, they begin, and the process repeats.

What’s gone wrong?

Well, it’s probably not your program.

It’s probably not that people are “lazy” or “unmotivated”.

Often, the problem is “coach talk”.

To achieve better, faster, lasting results — and a thriving coaching practice — you have to learn how to talk to people in ways that help them change.

(By the way, this applies whether you have paying clients/patients or not. When people come to you for advice, good “coach talk” is paramount.)

If you can’t do this now, it’s not your fault.

Almost nobody in health, fitness, and wellness learns this skill in school, or through certification programs. The people who are good at it are often either “naturals” or they develop the skill through trial and error over decades.

Don’t get discouraged.

There is a formula for success.

Learn and practice this formula, and you’ll start:

  • connecting better with clients and patients,
  • keeping those clients and patients longer, and
  • getting better results, reliably.

In this article, we’ll teach you the formula.

We’ll cover:

  • How to know which coaching style to use.
  • How you can be a more engaged and active listener.
  • How you can help people change by changing the way you talk to them.
  • How you can incorporate this in your coaching… starting today.

Of course, this article is just a start.
There’s so much more you can learn.

That’s why we’ve included an entire unit — 300 pages, 9 chapters, and 9 comprehensive video lectures — on these practical aspects of coaching in our newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program.

(In case you’re wondering, the other 300 pages, 8 chapters, and 8 video lectures are devoted to the most up-to-date scientific findings in cell physiology, digestion, energy transfer, nutrient biochemistry, and more.)

So…

If you want to learn, we’re here to teach.

If you feel excited and inspired by what you learn today, and you’d like to learn more about the program, please put your name on our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification presale list below.

We’re excited and inspired too.

We recently updated the program with the latest research, and enhanced it with a new workbook/study guide, over 35 new client assessment forms and questionnaires, and 17 brand-new animated videos.

There’s a lot of awesome new stuff here that you can start using right away to help others eat, move, and live better. So make sure you stock up on reading glasses, coffee, and highlighters. This is a hefty learning experience.

The program opens up on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

Since we only take a limited number of students, and the program sells out every time, we recommend adding your name to our presale list below. When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you’ll save up to 33% off the general price of the program.

Double win.

For now, onto the coaching techniques…

Avoiding Awfulness-Based Coaching

The health and fitness fields are full of scary-looking, arms-crossed disciplinarian-type coaches: men and women who look like they’re more ready to punch you in the face than pick you up when you’re down.

Their favorite phrase is “No excuses.”

These types of coaches aren’t really meanies.

They’re just trying to do the right thing. They genuinely want to help.

If you’re working in one of these fields yourself, maybe you’ve occasionally slipped into this mindset, or gotten it from someone else.

We call it Awfulness-Based Coaching.

Awfulness-Based Coaching is built on the idea that people are broken and have to be fixed.

That they’re lazy and weak. That they need a real ass-kicking to be motivated and strong.

This style of coaching focuses on what’s wrong with the person — and how to purge it.

It hunts down “flaws” and “failures”, and focuses on “fixing” them.

It views good nutrition, movement, and health habits as something people have to be shamed into. It tells people to get into the gym and work off sins. It tells people that they deserve to feel bad.

An awfulness-based coach is a drill sergeant and an unrelenting ass-kicker.

With all the yelling-in-the-face and booting-in-the-butt, folks don’t know which direction to run. They just know they need to get away.

Fear of an authority figure — or a constant obsession over fixing what’s broken — can motivate some people… but only briefly.

Extreme approaches and drill-sergeant-style coaching sometimes produces impressive results in the short term, but they almost never work over the long term.

As human beings, we resist being pressured into new decisions. We resist being told we suck, or are broken (no matter how nicely someone says it).

Coach Hardass may try to use coercion. But along the way, he or she will destroy the change process for the people turning to them for advice.

No evidence shows that feeling bad creates lasting behavior changes.

(And honestly… Awfulness-Based Coaching is exhausting. Coach Hardasses usually walk around frustrated and annoyed all the time, because almost no one is doing what they want.)

Embracing Awesomeness-Based Coaching

Awesomeness-Based Coaching, on the other hand, believes that people already have the skills and abilities to change.

That they’re already awesome in some areas of their lives.

That they can use this existing awesomeness to succeed.

This kind of coach helps people find what’s fun and joyful in their lives, and then do more of it. They view nutritious eating, movement, and health habits as a path to living life with purpose.

They talk to folks about getting outside to play. About using what they do well in other aspects of their lives to do well here. They talk about feeling good in their bodies and in their lifestyle, not ashamed or exhausted.

An awesomeness-based coach is a guide, not an authoritarian or expert.

When people are hesitant, the coach empowers by helping them find their superpowers and leveraging them to achieve health and fitness success.

You don’t want people scared of you. You don’t want them to feel like you’re constantly judging them unacceptable, inadequate, weak, or broken.

You want them to feel like you’re on their team.

You want them to feel like working with you is a celebration of health and fitness. You want them to feel stronger when they’re with you.

And the best place to start is with how you use language, ask questions, and provoke gentle self-discovery.

Unlike Awfulness-Based Coaching, Awesomeness-Based Coaching feels great.

It feels exciting. It feels inspiring. It feels energizing.

You are a team and you celebrate successes and joys together.

Even better, people get great results, and they stick with you. That feels great too.

If you want to be an effective coach, here’s how to start: Listen and learn.

As a coach, you want to help people:

  • become aware of what they are doing, thinking, and feeling,
  • examine and analyze their habits and behaviors,
  • explore what’s holding them back, and
  • try some new and better choices.

You also want to help them discover their own existing strengths, resources, abilities, and problem-solving talents, which they can then use to help and motivate themselves.

One of the simplest ways to do that is just asking the right kinds of questions.

Exploring questions:

Open-ended questions help people explore options, values, and possible outcomes, without judgment. They also help the coach learn more about what matters to the person.

  • “What things are most important to you? How does your exercise and eating fit into this?”
  • “What sorts of things would you like to accomplish in your life?”
  • “What would you like to see change?”
  • “If things were better with your eating/exercise, what would be different?”
  • “What have you already tried? What worked/didn’t work?”

Imagining questions:

Imagination (yes, just like in kindergarten) helps folks visualize a new way of living and acting.

  • “Imagine you can X (your goal). Describe your experience.”
  • “Imagine you are already doing more of X. What would that feel like?”
  • “Imagine that you have the body and health you desire. What did it take for you to achieve it?”
  • “If you weren’t constrained by reality — let’s imagine for a minute that absolutely anything is possible — what might you…?”

Solution-focused questions:

Solution-focused language emphasizes how people have already succeeded and helps them expand the awesome.

  • “In the past, when were you successful with this, even just a little bit?”
  • “How could we do more of that?”
  • “Where in your life have you been successful with something like this?”
  • “Did you learn any lessons that we can apply here?”
  • Where is the problem not happening? When are things even a little bit better?

Statements that sense into problems:

Non-confrontational, reflective observations and intuitions help folks explore a problem and feel understood, without fear of judgment.

  • “I get the sense that you may be struggling with…”
  • “It seems to me like you’re feeling…”

Statements that evoke speculation:

Open-ended, speculative statements get people thinking and responding to possible choices.

  • “I wonder what it would be like if you…”
  • “I wonder if we could try…”
  • “I’m curious about whether…”

Questions that evoke change talk:

With these kinds of questions, you get the person talking about change on their own terms.

  • “In what ways does this concern you?”
  • “If you decided to make a change, what makes you think you could do it?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”
  • “How would things be better if you changed?”
  • “What concerns you now about your current exercise and eating patterns?”

Questions that assess readiness:

If a person isn’t ready, willing, and able to change, they won’t change — no matter how awesome you are as a coach. So, assess their readiness with these kinds of questions (and recognize that sometimes, they may not be ready… yet).

  • “If you decided to change, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that you could change, when 1 represents not at all confident and 10 equals extremely confident?”
  • “If you wanted to change, what would be the tiniest possible step toward that? The absolute smallest, easiest thing you could try?”
  • “Tell me what else is going on for you right now, in your life. What else do you have on your plate besides this? Let’s get a sense of what you’re working with.”

Questions that help plan next steps:

These are questions that have folks generate their own solutions as opposed to you telling them what to do next.

  • “So, given all this, what do you think you will do next?”
  • “What’s next for you?”
  • “If nothing changes, what do you see happening in five years?”
  • “If you decide to change, what will it be like?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”

Careful advice-giving:

These are ways of giving advice without assuming you have permission (and without it feeling like you’re pushing an agenda).

  • “Would it be okay if I shared some of my experiences with you?”
  • “In my work with clients/patients, I’ve found that…”

Use the 80 / 20 rule.

Notice how we’ve given you over 25 ways to actively listen, and only 2 ways to talk about what you think.

You should try to spend about 80-90% of your time listening, understanding, observing and exploring, and only about 10-20% of your time guiding, directing, and offering information.

How might this look in a real situation?

Scenario 1: Use a “change talk wedge”.

1. Validate and affirm the opposite of what they should be doing.

When someone is expressing ambivalence about change, you might start by reflecting on why they might NOT change. (Yeah, it sounds weird.)

You might say something like:

“Wow, it really sounds like you have a lot on your plate. I can see how it’s tough to schedule exercise time.”

Or:

“I know it can be hard to resist those homemade brownies. They’re so good.”

Note: Be sincere here. Genuinely empathize. Sarcasm usually backfires and creates hostility.

2. Then wait.

After validating and affirming the opposite, be quiet.

Don’t be afraid to open up the space and let them fall into it. No rush. Be patient, empathetic, and attentive.

Let the person speak first.

This will feel like forever, but might only be a couple of seconds.

3. Listen for “change talk”.

When folks do start talking, they’ll often start telling you why they should change their behaviors.

Client:

“Yeah, I know I do have a lot going on. But I really should do XYZ. I know I would feel better.”

Or:

“Honestly, I don’t think I really need three brownies. I’d probably be happy with just one.”

4. Drive the wedge into that “change talk” opening.

Once you hear them suggesting change on their own, you’re getting somewhere.

Using their language, reflect and imply (but don’t push) a next action. Focus on concrete to-dos.

You:

“It sounds like maybe you think you’d feel better if you did XYZ?”

Or:

“It sounds like maybe 1 brownie would be enough for you?”

Position this in the form of a question. Look inquisitive.

You’re simply reciting what they just said, as if to make sure you heard them right.

5. Wait again.

Stay quiet.

Wait for the person to speak again.

Listen for further change talk.

6. Repeat as needed.

Keep wiggling the “change wedge” in farther and farther, slowly. Go at their speed.

And, once you feel like they’re ready for a next action, you can go there by asking them:

“So, given all this, what do you think you’ll do next?”

But not too fast. Let them arrive there at their own speed.

Scenario 2: Use “the continuum”.

You can use this after listening for change talk. But be sure you understand the situation first.

With this strategy, have people imagine a spectrum or continuum of behaviors from worse (i.e. eating fast food for every single meal) to better (i.e. replacing just one fast food meal today with good quality protein and vegetables).

Then:

1. Help them move a “notch”.

Highlight the benefits of doing so.

Coach:

“OK, so it sounds like you want to do X (i.e. eat less fast food). But going all the way to Y (i.e. eating no fast food) feels like too much, which makes sense. What if you could just move a tiny, tiny bit towards Y instead of all the way? What could you do that would be X+1 (i.e. eating one non-fast food meal tomorrow)?”

Now, scale back as needed:

Coach:

“X+2 (i.e. eating no fast food tomorrow) is awesome — we’ll get to that. But what about X+1 instead? That seems even more manageable.”

2. Follow up with a strategy for immediate execution.

Since X+1 will be something they proposed, you can validate that it’s a good idea. And then turn it into a next step.

Coach:

“X+1 sounds like a great idea! How are you going to make that happen today? And how can I help?”

3. Once an action is assigned, book a follow-up.

Now that you’ve agreed on the action plan, make sure there’s some accountability built in.

Coach:

“OK, text me tomorrow to tell me how you did with X+1. If you try another option, send me a photo! I’d love to see what you chose.”

Scenario 3: Ask “crazy questions”.

If a person is struggling with change, you can also ask a few questions they may not expect.

1. Listen, validate, affirm.

Preface with “I know this is wacky but…”

Coach:

“It sounds like [reiterate what they just said about their understanding of what they’d like to change].

“OK, I’m going to ask you two crazy questions, and I know this is going to sound really weird, but just humor me…”

2. Ask your questions.

  • “What’s GOOD about X behavior [where X behavior is the problem behavior they want to change]? In other words, what purpose does it serve in your life? How does it help you?”
  • “What is BAD about changing? In other words, what would you lose or give up if you got rid of X?”

3. Normalize and empathize.

You can begin by normalizing and empathizing with the unwanted behavior first, using the seemingly weird technique of first arguing (slightly) in favor of not changing.

Coach:

“Wow, yeah, it sounds like there’s lots going on there for you. I think we’d all want a few cookies in that situation!”

Not always, but the client’s natural response will often be the opposite.

Client:

“Yeah, but I really should find a better way to deal with this…”

Hey lookee here! They proposed change, not the coach!

4. Allow space/time to grieve the loss of the status quo.

Coach:

“Well, tell you what. There’s no rush to do this. When you’re ready, why don’t you try…”

  • …moving one “notch” along the continuum?
  • …doing the behavior you proposed?
  • …thinking about how you could more effectively live the values you describe?

5. But don’t let them off the hook.

Follow up in a few days as needed.

Scenario 4: Have them propose their own solution.

1. Affirm, validate, “hear”, normalize.

Coach:

“Yes, I hear you and understand what you’re thinking/feeling/experiencing, and it’s quite normal. Lots of people go through this.”

2. Ask leading, rhetorical questions.

This isn’t a dialogue invitation; it’s a “tell yourself what to do” question.

Coach:

“It sounds like you already have a good sense of what some of the key issues are. Knowing this, if you were the coach, what would you recommend?”

In other words: How would you, the client/patient, solve your own problem?

3. Rank confidence.

After they’ve proposed a solution, have them rank their own confidence in doing the solution.

Coach:

“That’s a great solution, I really like it. Just wondering… on a scale of 0 to 10, zero being ‘no way I can do that every day’, and 10 being ‘of course I can do that every day’, how confident do you feel about X?”

4. Affirm and book follow up.

If they rank 8, 9, or 10 out of 10, tell them you think they’ve come up with a good solution and then ask them to check back in a few days to share their success.

If not, work on shrinking the next action to something they’re confident they can do every day for the next few days. The continuum exercise above is a good approach for this.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

As you can see, in all of these scenarios, the coach’s job is not to play all-knowing expert. (This goes for anyone trying to help others — like friends and family — eat better, too.) Instead:

Awesomeness-based coaches are confident, supportive guides and change facilitators.

A good coach helps folks propose their own solutions — solutions that line up with their values, and that they genuinely believe they can do. Solutions they’re ready, willing, and able to commit to, today.

And this all begins with language.

1. Recognize where you need to grow.

Ask yourself how much time you actually spend…

  • actively listening to people (versus interrupting or waiting for them to finish so you can talk next)?
  • exploring their perspective and trying to understand their point of view (versus assuming you know what they need)?
  • asking them to generate their own potential solutions or next actions first (versus just giving them advice right away)?
  • asking them what they think they could realistically try (versus just giving them instructions to follow)?

How could you move one notch along the continuum toward client/patient-centered, awesomeness-based coaching?

What’s your “X+1”?

2. Practice using some of the questions and ideas in this article.

Now you have a few sentences and phrases that are proven to help you connect with folks and unlock their potential. Tuck them in your back pocket and start using them when new opportunities present themselves.

After each session, make notes on how it’s going:

  • What changes are you seeing in how they communicate with you?
  • What seemed to resonate most?
  • What really got them talking and opening up?
  • What do you want to talk about in your next session, and — most importantly — how?

By practicing and documenting results, over time you will develop the communication skills of a successful, thriving coach.

3. Observe a coach you respect.

Practicing on your own as often as you can is essential.

But just as with athletics, in order to be the best, you probably need a coach.

Working with an expert coach will fast-track your development. So ask to sit in on a couple sessions a month, and buy your mentor a coffee afterward so you can ask follow-up questions about how they communicate effectively with their clients or patients.

Ask them to share stories. Ask for advice on how to talk to a client or patient who’s struggling, but who you really want to help.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes — including helping them with meal transformation — is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post How to talk to people so they’re more likely to change. A sneak peek at PN’s newly updated Level 1 Certification. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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