If a client asked you the question: “What’s the most important thing I should do to lose weight?”, you could bet that “be in a calorie deficit” would be one of your first responses. For good reason too, because fat loss cannot happen unless the body is in an energy deficit.
This answer is over-simplified. Working with clients will see a number of things pop up that are preventing them from losing weight and telling them to just make sure they’re in a calorie deficit won’t help the issue.
Here are some factors that as a trainer, you need to consider in order to help your client achieve the best weight loss results possible.
Some clients wouldn’t even know where to start. Many can’t tell you what a calorie is, or where they come from (watch the surprise on clients faces when you tell them alcohol has calories in!).
If you tell a client to be in a calorie deficit, and they haven’t got a clue what you’re on about, then it’s safe to presume not much will happen for their weight loss.
Education therefore, becomes an important component to your training of your client. Educating them on what foods they’re consuming that are higher in calories, and any potential swaps/meals you’d suggest to them to start trying to help bring their average calorie intake down.
This sounds obvious at first. If your client is non-adherent to being in an energy deficit, they won’t lose weight/body fat.
I want to break to it down further into two types of adherence:
Type 1: Knowingly Adherent / Non-adherent
Knowingly refers to the awareness your client has, whereby they know for sure they’re either being adherent, or non-adherent. You could ask them how they’re week is going and they may tell you that all they’ve eaten is takeaway meals and chocolate, so they’re not surprised their weight has gone up.
For these clients, we need to find a method/routine that works for them whereby they can stay adherent even through times where they would normally go off the rails.
Type 2: Unknowingly Non-Adherent
But what about clients who didn’t realise they weren’t being adherent?
(We needn’t worry too much if a client isn’t aware they are being adherent, because they’re getting the job done. But over time it would be good to educate them on what habits of theirs are helping them achieve great results, so they can make those stick).
You may experience clients that are trying to eat “healthier than ever” and are still not losing weight/body fat. They may have cut the takeaways, chocolate bars and pick ‘n’ mix in favour of pasta’s, fruits and green smoothies.
The client here has seen themselves make better food choices, and expects to get results by virtue of their food quality improving. Without realising (& more than likely not understanding), they could still be overconsuming calories, and therefore not adhering to their energy deficit.
Education for these clients into portion control could be a great way helping them build on from their food swaps. Try to help your client be able to choose better quality foods/meals whilst consuming them in quantities that keep them full and within their energy deficit remit.
Previous Weight Loss History
During your consultation with clients you’ll undoubtedly have formed a picture of their past, both training and nutrition. All of their efforts from the past to lose weight, whether they’ve been overweight before or if this is their first real attempt to lose weight.
It’s important to know your clients background because it can have implications for their next weight loss effort. It’s been seen in research that individuals who have been previously overweight and lost weight, will have slightly lower metabolic rates compared to someone (who is the same weight) that hasn’t been overweight.
So if you calculate a calorie intake for your client that theoretically should have them in a calorie deficit, but you do not see weight/fat loss, your clients history could be important to consider.
Clients Stress Levels
Stress makes it much harder for your client to stick to a diet for weight loss, and emotional eating can lead to over-consumption of foods that are high in calories, potentially leading to weight gain. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22254109/)
Further, cortisol, a hormone in the human body (often referred to as the stress hormone) increases when you are stressed and results in water retention. This doesn’t actually inhibit your clients ability to lose body fat because if they’re in their deficit, they will. What high levels of cortisol does is potentially mask this fat loss when your client steps on the scale, i.e. your client may weigh the same despite having lost body fat, due to the water being retained whilst stressed.
As a trainer, although you are not a psychologist, you could suggest to your client to find some ways to relax and unwind on a more regular basis. Popular options are meditation, reading, evening baths.
Your Clients Sleep
Getting a good night's sleep regularly is important for normal functioning of the body. With poor sleep, water retention can be affected (by the kidneys this time) and similarly to when cortisol is high your client may be retaining more water and masking the results of their fat loss.
Again, you do not need to be an expert in sleep, but being able to offer some advice on how to improve sleep could be a game changer for your client. Things such as trying to set a regular sleep & wake time, staying off devices 1-2 hours before bedtime or even blue-light blocking glasses.
Many of our clients have them, and they can’t be ignored. Yes, you’re working specifically with your client for their fat loss goals, but when it comes to dinner time (& many other things, guess who takes priority.
Clients may not want / have the time / have the energy to cook meals for their kids, and then focus on cooking another meal just for them.
For those with younger children, their sleep may be affected by being woken up through the night. This, as previously mentioned earlier can affect your client in many ways that can mask weight loss.
For your client, you may need to provide them with meal ideas and nutrition tactics that can be used for dinner time that not only get the children fed, but can allow for them to have a good quality meal themself, whilst not wasting extra time cooking a brand new meal, allow them to enjoy their dinner time with their family and keep time-costs low.
Having an artillery of easy-to-cook recipes that are family friendly could be a game-changer for your client and their results. Further, to make your clients' lives even easier at times, having meals that require no cooking whatsoever is a perfectly valid tool. Supermarkets will have many ready meal options that can be put in the microwave and be cooked in a short space of time, with little to no effort.
Ready meals have had a bad wrap in the past, but with a little bit of research you’ll realise there is an abundance of calorie friendly options out there, so have some of these ready for your clients too.
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