Think about the last time you hired a professional. What qualities did you assess to make your decision? Did they have the proper certifications or knowledge? What about commitment and timeliness? Did you check reviews and assess prior projects they had completed? And, more importantly, do you suppose clients will consider that same criteria when they're searching for a good nutrition coach?
We all have our own preferences, but there are certain factors that ring true, whether we want to be a good nutrition coach or want to hire one. So let's take a look at six qualities that will help you rise to the top of that search. Or, if you're a client, the factors that will help you select a good coach.
Do you want to work with a professional who has just read about the work they're about to perform, or someone who has actually done it before? Clients want a coach with knowledge and experience. Build up your skills not just by reading about nutrition, but also by practicing good nutrition, working with a coach yourself and building up your experience. Just as they say, practice makes perfect!
The more you can work with clients and figure out what works best, the more efficient and skilled you will become. The process starts with knowing the basics of good nutrition.
Then, be vocal about your passion for nutrition and a healthy life. Good coaches believe in what they're doing and share that vision with the people they work with. This in turn inspires others to believe in your methods and support your vision. A shared vision increases motivation — on both sides — and promotes a successful partnership.
Get to know you're the people you work with and use that knowledge to their advantage. Coaching your clients isn't just telling them what to do, it's about motivating them to want to do it. While you, as the coach, have knowledge to share, it's also important to be a good listener. Take the time to understand the emotions motivating goals and actions. Once you understand a motivation, you can use it to coax and push others along.
Before developing a nutrition plan, start asking questions and go beyond the basics. It's about more than just what their goals are, or how much do they want to weigh when they're done. A good coach gets down to the "why." Why is losing weight important to you, or why are you ready to start eating healthier? The better your questions, the more information you'll uncover, and the better you'll be able to get people to their goals and see the weight loss results they're looking for. Establishing a personal connection makes clients feel important and is a great way to keep them motivated. Consider relying on reminders like this: "Don't forget to meal prep, Gloria; we're focusing on a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle to help you lose weight so it will be easier to play with your kids and to help you make better meals for your family's health."
The psychological aspects of good eating play a key role in successfully transforming a poor diet, and there are ways to help your client manage any negative thoughts that come into play.
As you begin working with clients, remember that we all learn a little differently, so the same approach won't necessarily work for everyone. Ask your clients how they learn best —reading, cueing, demonstration, etc. If they don't know, try a few different methods to see how they respond. A good nutrition or health coach will be able to tailor sessions to each individual.
For example: You know your client does better when you show him or her an exercise rather than talking through it, so consider that same approach when you're focusing on choosing healthier food. Instead of talking through it at your office, meet the client at his or her grocery store to point out the healthy choices that are available.
And remember to have patience — not everyone learns at the same pace, and not everyone needs to know everything all at once. Regulate the amount of information you deliver to clients to accommodate their learning speed and to avoid information overload. Break things down to the essential pieces. Make sure they understand the essentials of a healthy diet (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) before getting down to specifics.
Why are clients going to believe that eating healthy food is the way to go if they see you constantly snacking on chips and candy? When clients see you thriving in a healthy lifestyle, they want to know what you did to get that way. You are your own easiest proof of concept! Your own health success shows that you really know what you're doing. This can be some of the easiest motivation you provide.
It's also important to set high standards when it comes to your commitment. Being a good nutrition coach also means your clients can rely on you. If you start missing sessions, reschedule a lot, or always seem to forget to prepare, how can your clients trust that you'll be able to help them reach their goals? If you can't commit to them, why should they commit to having you as their coach? But if you're routinely on time and consistently have their sessions planned before they arrive, they know you're taking them seriously. With a nutrition coach so invested in their goals, they'll be more likely to mimic that commitment and stay motivated to succeed.
Nutrition coaching doesn't always involve a straight path to success. People don't always progress as fast as expected, and sometimes the process can stall. If your clients start struggling, blaming them for not working hard enough or eating unhealthy food won't help the situation. Take control and accept some of the responsibility so they don't feel like they're in this all alone. Work together on ways they can improve their efforts and ways you can improve yours.
Just because something has always been done one way doesn't mean that's how you have to keep doing it. If a client always caves at the end of the workday and chooses unhealthy meals, maybe you meet him or her after work to pick out healthy options together. Or just because your gym closes early on Sundays doesn't mean you can't meet your client elsewhere if that is the time that works best for both of you. Being willing to try something new and go beyond the "normal" methods opens up more opportunities to support your client.
It is important to continue to educate yourself. Keep up with the current trends and do your best to be aware of any new research that has been completed that relates to fitness and nutrition.
Support the long-term success of your clients by focusing on their skills rather than just their goals. Developing skills will enable clients to move beyond a basic goal and keep their hard work relevant to other portions of their life. They're not just learning how to eat better to lose weight, but also to support a long-term healthy lifestyle and long-term program that can be passed on to their family.
Keep your clients motivated and excited about their progress by celebrating their improvements along the way. A win is a win, no matter how small. As their nutrition coach, you're an important part of their life and your recognition — even for something small — can go a long way in keeping them motivated and committed for the whole process.
Becoming a good nutrition coach doesn't just happen overnight. There is a lot to learn, both through education and experience. So, keep these six qualities in mind as you work to improve your coaching, or if you're looking for a good nutrition coach.
Click HERE for a downloadable list of these nutrition coach qualities to keep you at the top of your game.
Remember, you don't have to be a registered dietician to help people plan their healthy meals. So, if you're interested in learning more about becoming a nutrition coach, then check out the ISSA's comprehensive course on Fitness Nutrition or to learn more about what this credential does for you, read this article.