3 Steps to Solve the Tomato Problem

Guest Post by Jeff Jucha, Certified Two-Brain Business Mentor and Gym Owner of West Little Rock CrossFit.


What your client isn’t telling you could kill your relationship early.


The tomato effect, a concept introduced in our First Degree Course, is a term used to describe a phenomenon whereby highly efficacious therapies are either ignored or rejected. Generally, the reason for this is that the therapies don’t seem to make sense in light of popular beliefs or common understandings. 


The name refers to the fact that tomatoes were rejected as a food source by most North Americans until the end of the 19th century, because the prevailing belief at the time was that they were poisonous.


The clients who I’ve trained and interviewed have all had goals they knew they could attain by working with me. They had an excitement about training with me, but they have also had concerns about training with me. Your clients do too.


“I’ve always failed in the past, I don’t want to do good for a few weeks just to fall off the wagon and fail again.”


“I don’t want to get on the scale in front of someone, especially a fit person.”


“I don’t want to make my bad knee worse.”


The bad news is, that these fears and beliefs were made before your client met you so, their motivation to share them with you is initially low. Looking at the fears above (real fears stated by my clients,) all of them are things that will definitely happen. 

  • No path to success comes without setbacks.
  • You’re likely going to have weigh-ins (or another objective measure) unless you uncover their preference beforehand.
  • You can smartly train around injuries, but only if you know the nature of them beforehand.


These are inevitable moments and unless we uncover and address them, your client will be facing them without your guidance. The lack of sharing and addressing these fears and beliefs can pre-maturely end your client-trainer relationship.


The key to solving the tomato-issue for your client can be broken down into three steps.


  1. Build rapport.
  2. Ask questions to uncover fears.
  3. Build a plan together to include the addressing of those fears in your training.

Then, set a reminder to follow up later and check-in. 


  1. Build Rapport: There are entire books on building rapport. All of them have useful bits of wisdom. If you feel you lack in this skill, a place to start is How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. A tried and true way to start building rapport is to share a past struggle of your own and how you overcame it. This allows your client to see that you’re human, but this also shows them that you know the way while remaining authentically you. 
  2. Ask questions to uncover fears: Do this after you’ve built rapport and your client has become comfortable with you. ” Ok Jill, we’re going to work out three times per week together and improve your sleeping and eating habits. I can tell you’re excited, but do you have any concerns about starting a new program like this?”
  3. Build a plan together: This is where your collaboration skills as a trainer can shine. 
    1. If scales are a no-go for the client, would they prefer a different way to track progress? Some options are tape measure, moving through belt notches, or picking out some old clothing they want to fit into and trying them on every couple of weeks.
    2. If they fear failure, could you establish a Bright Spot Friday ritual with them? First, share both of your wins from the week. Now, what didn’t go as planned? This shows that wins are happening alongside the setbacks aka “failures” that are also occurring. Could you assign the client homework to bring you their setbacks through the week? “Ok Jill part of your homework is to bring me your struggles during the week so we can extract the lessons out of each one together and apply it going forward. Our goal is to get as many mess-ups out of the way, early so we can have smoother sailing later on.”
    3. If it’s about injuries for them, acknowledge and address that. “Jim, the goal for us these next two months is to try a lot of different exercises with low risk. This way, we can find the ones that your knee can handle well and even be strengthened by. We’ll also cross off the ones that don’t feel good so we don’t repeat them. We’ll run into some no’s, but that’s how we’ll find the yes’s. “


Just like any relationship, communication goes a long way. Thought-out communication goes even further. Chris Voss says ” Negotiation is the process of uncovering information and learning about the person across from you.” 


Negotiate for a longer, and more productive relationship by uncovering your client’s suppressed concerns, bringing them into the light, and building a plan to address them, together.


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