The answer may seem pretty obvious—it’s someone who helps you lose weight, right? Actually, there’s a little more to it than that.
Let’s back up. Why do people want to lose weight in the first place? There are two important reasons for most of us—to be healthier, and/or to be happier. Let’s start with health. There are some health concerns that simply shedding the pounds alone will help to address. But for the most part, real health is more holistic than that. Being healthy is not the same as being thin. Skinniness can be achieved just by cutting down on calories—and there are weight loss coaches who advise their clients to adopt low-calorie diets. But the perception that health is just a ratio of calories in to calories out is false. To truly be healthy, we need to give our bodies the nutrients they need—and that means, we need to eat a balance of whole, natural foods. In addition, a genuinely healthy lifestyle is sustainable—it doesn’t make us feel deprived. Most crash diets fail to meet that description, and a good weight loss coach will understand that.
Now, let’s turn to happiness. It’s easy to feel like your worth as a person is dependent upon the approval of others. So it’s no wonder a lot of us try to lose weight, thinking that dropping x number pounds will make other people like us more, and will therefore give us happier lives. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. In fact, you have to be happy with yourself if you’re going to be able to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Crash diets and punishing workouts are the result of the desperation we feel when we think we must lose as much weight as quickly as possible in order to become individuals who are worthy of love and acceptance. But when we realize that we are inherently valuable, we’re more likely to adopt lifestyles that truly nourish our bodies and support long-term health. Great weight loss coaches make this the ultimate goal of their work with each client.
So what do coaches need to do to support their clients in this way?
Really pay attention to what your clients are telling you. This may require some reading between the lines. If a client comes to you wanting to lose weight, but she says she is already religiously counting calories and working out for two hours every day, that’s a red flag that could signal underlying emotional concerns, which will need to be healed before she can lose weight and keep it off. Try to see the bigger picture of your client’s life—don’t just focus on the dietary minutiae.
See each client as unique.
The idea that there is one weight loss plan that works for everyone is a just a false belief used to sell diet books. Something that works famously for one client may be totally ineffective for another. Appreciate the unique physiological, nutritional, and emotional needs of each client. Keep your mind open and be willing to try new approaches. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the rut of making the same handful of suggestions to every client who walks through your door.
Determine the best weight loss strategies.
Because great weight loss coaches understand the importance of tailoring their approach to each client—and because they authentically listen to what their clients tell them—they usually have a better understanding of what is needed for a particular individual. It’s not just about dietary changes. There’s a whole range of factors that can impact someone’s ability to lose weight, and many clients will benefit from starting an exercise routine, putting in place behavioral changes, beginning a new supplement regimen, or working on personal and emotional struggles. Good coaches do the work to figure out which path is best for each client—and they don’t give up if a particular option turns out not to be a good fit.
Help clients love their bodies!
This is possibly the most important thing weight loss coaches can do for their clients. In the words of the wonderful and hilarious actress Melissa McCarthy, “Even when someone gets to looking like she should be so proud of herself, instead she’s like, ‘I could be another three pounds less; I could be a little taller and have bigger lips.’”
If we don’t believe ourselves to be inherently worthy, regardless of our external appearance, no amount of weight loss is going to make us truly happy. And if we approach weight loss as something that will, on its own, bring us deeper happiness, we’re only setting ourselves up to fail. Great weight loss coaches help their clients see that losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle should be done from a place of self-love, not self-criticism.
See how you can implement a few of these tips into your own practice, whether you specialize in weight-loss coaching or are seeing your first client who wants to shed a few pounds. Remain supportive, receptive and encouraging, and your client will open up to you and grown in ways she never thought possible.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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