What Kind of Nutrition Coach Are You?
“I need some help with my nutrition.”
When a client approaches you interested in digging into their nutrition, what is your response to that question?
- Dive into macros?
- Tell them to sign up for your upcoming six-week nutrition challenge?
- Or shy away from the subject entirely, because you’re not that confident that you can help them anyway?
As a Registered Dietitian and the founder of Prosper Nutrition Coaching—a company that offers a nutrition coaching certification designed specifically for CrossFit coaches—I have been able to determine four distinct nutrition coaching styles most coaches seem to adopt, one of which (spoiler alert) is more effective than the rest.
How does $13K/month in nutrition revenue sound?
When Zach Lewandowski, the owner of Fortified Strength & Nutrition in Pennsylvania made the change, he jumped from having five nutrition clients paying $160 a month to generating $13,000 a month in ongoing nutrition revenue. Woah!
He switched his nutrition coaching style under the guidance of Prosper Nutrition.
Zach learned what to say and do with his nutrition clients to truly transform their behavior, and gained the confidence he needed to step into high ticket nutrition coaching.
So, what type of nutrition coach are you?
You might be a Parole Officer Coach if you say things like:
- Are you hitting your macros?
- Are you walking 10,000 steps/day and sleeping 8 hours/night?
- Drinking your water?!!!
- Or grumbling in your head: They aren’t seeing results, because they don’t listen to me.
The Parole Officer Coach is someone who prescribes (aka assigns) what they think is best for the client and expects the client to comply, because, well, coach knows best, right?
Pros and Cons
- Pro: If the client complies, they’ll probably have success.
- Con: Most people aren’t willing or able to comply long-term.
No more excuses
The Parole Officer calls BS on the client’s excuses—to stop blaming their busy work schedule, or their lack of sleep because they have three young kids, for their inability to stick to the program you know is going to work for them. If you want results, do the work.
These clients usually fizzle out within 3-6 months, as you’re not giving them sustainable, long-term prescriptions that work for THEM.
Because the Parole Officer Coach doesn’t take into consideration the client’s entire lifestyle—their priorities, schedules, wants, needs, goals, relationship with food etc.—nor does it take into consideration where the client is now. Instead, the coach dictates to the client what they think is the ideal way for them to improve.
Further, this approach fosters good food vs. bad food thinking; creating black and white, all-or-nothing, pass/fail mindsets.
If your client is dodging your texts and emails because they don’t want to face you for their next nutrition “accountability session”, you’re probably a Parole Officer Coach.
You might be a Best Friend Coach if you say things like:
- It’s OK, it’s OK!
- Awww, don’t worry about it! (to everything)
- Poor you, that’s terrible! (enabling the victim mentality)
- Let’s hang out this weekend.
In some ways, the second type of nutrition coach—The Best Friend Coach—is the polar opposite of the Parole Officer Coach.
The Best Friend Coach also has good intentions, but their approach is to be the cheerleader, or the BFF, which sounds great and supportive in theory, but often comes with being afraid to hurt the client’s feelings or give the helpful honest feedback that they need to hear.
Pros and Cons
- Pro: The coach demonstrates abundant empathy and compassion.
- Con: This approach hinders solution-focused thinking and honest self-reflection, and the client avoids taking ownership of their choices and patterns.
Just a venting session?
If your sessions with clients feel like an hour of venting and complaining, or going around in circles, where you nod and listen supportively, you might just be the Best Friend Coach.
Your nutrition clients might really like you, but chances are they aren’t seeing great results. Unintentionally, you might even be enabling their victim mentality, keeping them stuck.
You might be an All-About-Me Coach if you say things like:
- I cut out gluten and did HITT workouts and lost 30 pounds.
- Going keto made all of my sugar cravings go away.
- I feel amazing since going vegan! You should be eating plant-based too.
“In my experience…”
The All-About-Me Coach has good intentions, but their approach is to try to relate to the client by sharing their own nutrition experiences.
Often times, because these coaches achieved personal success going keto, or counting macros, or whatever it may be that worked for them, they tend to be quite dogmatic in their approach, as opposed to considering the very unique human being in front of them, who may not be at all interested in, for example, intermittent fasting or cutting out red meat.
Pros and Cons
- Pro: The coach can easily share nutrition tips and relatable experiences, as well as healthy recipes tested in their own kitchen.
- Con: Off-putting, forceful nutrition coaching, centered around one “right way” to eat healthy that matches the coach’s current lifestyle.
The client might try what worked for you for a while, but inevitably they quickly fall off as what worked for you isn’t likely to work for them, nor is it even a prescription they’re excited about or willing to follow.
You might be a Wise Guide Coach if you say things like:
- What is already working well for you? How can you do more of that?
- Hmmm. Tell me more.
- What feels realistic right now?
- With curiosity, let’s explore the challenges you’ve been facing. Is there a pattern that stands out to you?
- What might a small step in the right direction look like for you?
Finally, the Wise Guide Coach is the one we promote at Prosper Nutrition Coaching, as it’s the style that is most conducive to long-term success.
Motivational interviewing: a true superpower
The Wise Guide coach, or the client-centered coach, focuses on motivational interviewing (MI) to help clients make small but steady, long-term, lifestyle and nutrition changes.
MI is all about asking thoughtful questions to help their clients explore their goals, motivators, and obstacles in the context of real life. This allows them to feel supported and in control of the direction they want to go with their decisions and habits.
Pros and Cons
- Pro: The client feels heard and supported, there’s more buy-in, they stick around for longer, and word-of-mouth referrals start pouring in!
- Con: It takes time, training, and confidence to skillfully navigate these client interactions, and hold back sharing the ‘correct answer’ of what to do next.
The Wise Guide Coach doesn’t necessarily get the client the most dramatic results the quickest, but it does put them on a long-term, steady, and consistent path to success; a path where the client is autonomous and in charge of their destiny.
When a skilled nutrition coach helps their client map out a realistic and enjoyable action plan versus assigning a “perfect plan”, what results is a much more committed client who is able to stick with it long-term and consistently improve their lives and reach their goals.