As adults talking to adults, we assume our clients, who have paid for our advice and instruction, are ready to take heed of it all. When that doesn’t happen, we would do well to try and find out WHY our words are falling on deaf ears.

Some key points:

1. They may be keeping secret eating habits from us

2. There may be medical issues they have shied away from disclosing

3. They may not agree with our advice

4. They may have anxieties that hold them back

A lot of this is about keeping it real and being honest and open with the trainer. Looking at the first point, it could be very difficult for an overweight client to admit to their eating habits entirely, especially if they are ashamed or in any way feel inferior to people who manage their weight more successfully. A lean, muscular trainer, in tight fitting training gear, might be the last person that client will feel like confiding in. However, the matter is sometimes even more basic: they are not ready to admit it to themselves. We can help them get over that first hurdle by talking through the idea of “forgotten” food.

A couple of years back, I had a weight loss client who was not losing weight despite faultless food diaries and a robust training programme. She was adamant that her diaries were an honest reflection of her food intake. However, when we got chatting, she said that she didn’t snack – except the muesli bars she kept in her bag for when she ” felt faint”. It turned out that she had been told she needed to keep her blood sugars level by never feeling hungry, and always keeping “topped up”. She was rather apologetic for not having mentioned these bars sooner, so I said that was fine, we can all forget things, especially if we eat while doing something else, such as watching TV, or in the car. “Oh”, she said, ” I do eat in the car as well.” I said not to worry, we can adjust the food diary, when did she eat in the car? “Every day,” she said, “because I don’t want to take them in the house.” The “them” she was referring to turned out to be a daily addition to her diet of three family size pork pies, which she didnt want to admit to herself that she was eating, so she ate them in the car, and threw away the wrappings when out. That way, her diet at home was ” clean”, and the muesli bars, pork pies and the boiled sweets (for a very persistent sore throat) were all conveniently kept out of the picture. I thought it was an interesting subconscious ploy to please others, but it was no help to her weight loss!

What I took from this was to learn to ask my clients

1. Do you think these questions about your nutrition are important?

2. Do you know why it’s important to tell me about any medical issues – even if they’re a little bit embarrassing?

3. What will you do or say if you don’t like the advice I give you?

4. Will you try to tell me how you feel, and give me honest feedback during training, so that we can understand each other please?

It may not work every time, but generally I have found these questions get us talking, and it helps me gauge how receptive my client is to the task ahead of us.