In the opening post of this series, we started by defining nutrition, it’s function, and established a beacon. If you didn’t get a chance to read that one, you can catch up here: How to Coach Nutrition Better, Part 1
Today’s post is all about how to assess your client’s nutrition. A quick point about scope of practice: unless you’re a Registered Dietician, Nurse Practitioner, or Medical Professional, you should steer clear of speaking about medical nutritional therapy or coaching through diseased states. For more info, check this out.
With that said, here’s how to assess this pillar:
During your initial consultation, you should be gathering enough information to adequately inform your upcoming design. Below you’ll see a series of twelve questions that are very effective in doing so. In my experience, clients will not simply respond with short answers, but rather provide lengthy context and reasoning for why they answered as they did. This is important, so be sure to record it. In the cases where clients may not expand on their answers, it is your job as a coach to do this. As a side note, your intake process should be set up to allow for lengthy conversations; gone are the days of 15-minute sprints to sign someone up. You should plan for these consultations to take 60-90 minutes.
Beyond general body language, appearance, and energy levels, casual conversation provides great opportunity to see how clients are doing with their nutrition. They key with this is to dig a bit deeper than simply asking “So what’d you eat last night?” Bridging back to a specific action item you gave them works wonders here. For example, you could say, “You mentioned that you’ve been drinking a glass of water a few extra times each day. How has that been going? What are you noticing with that?”
Apps and Technology:
Many apps these days make it easy to integrate short, effective surveys for clients to answer quickly. Something as simple as a prompt upon opening the app that asks, “Did you hit your water goal yesterday?” can work well. There is no need to get hung up on adding in more complexity like an app though if you don’t already utilize one; you could just as easily schedule texts from your website (or CSM) to go out at 7am each day asking the same question. If you wanted to go really old-school, you could have clients drop a green (for nailed it!) or red (for failed it!) post-it with their name and date into a bucket each day they come to the gym.
At Routine Check-Ins:
These private, 1:1 conversations provide the necessary space and time for stretching out this topic. You should be talking about what they’ve been doing, what is working, and what may need refinement. In a perfect world you’d schedule these on a monthly basis, but definitely don’t do go more than 90 days without sitting down 1:1 with every client at your gym.
While the assessment of nutrition can seem like a daunting task because of the emotion surrounding eating habits, the relationship people have with those habits, and body image, it must be given its rightful place of importance if the client ever expects to make meaningful, sustainable progress. Thankfully YOU, the coach, controls this with your words and actions around the topic of assessment. Without this crucial step, how do you know where to begin your program design?
Spoiler alert – YOU DON’T! Might as well start assessing today.
In our next post, we’ll spend time unpacking the consequences of a lack of getting enough good nutrition.