Why Habit based coaching is the future
How would you say you improve anything in your life? Is it with hard work and dedication? Is it with a focused plan of attack, or just by pure luck?
What’s something that you’ve wanted to impact or make progress on? Have you been wanting to finally ditch the diets and enjoy food and life again? Have you been wanting to find more energy and be able to keep up with your kids?
Change sometimes seems overwhelming and the glorious finish line always seems like it’s getting further away from us. Change requires some sort of action that is outside your comfort zone - in order to change an outcome you need to change your behaviors that impact those outcomes.
This is where my approach to change and habit-based coaching comes into play.
Today I want to shine some light on the magic of habit based coaching, and specifically what I do with my clients to help them achieve results that stick for the long-term.
What the mainstream coach looks like
If you have been scrolling through instagram posts from “fit influencers” you will probably see one of two things.
A barrage of self-absorbed shirtless and butt pictures that talk about what their workout is and show you pictures of what “I eat in a day”.
Advice to eat a specific way and restrict particular foods (ie. here’s the magic of keto, try going vegan!)
Both of these instances get something wrong when it comes to promoting actual change. It’s focused on the individual coaches themselves and what they do to get the body that you see on the feed.
This really hurts our industry on the whole because it makes it seem like all coaches/trainers are self-absorbed, ego-centric ideal examples of the human body and mind.
When in fact, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite.
As a coach, I know it’s not about what gives me success but what gives others success. If I had a client tell me that they love to go for multiple mile long runs on a weekly basis to stay fit, I’ll do nothing but support them in making that a more programmed and effective method of exercise.
However my own opinion about running multiple miles per week would urge people to stay away from such an exercise and opt for something that serves as a less impact driven exercise. (For example swimming, or rowing)
Getting back to the mainstream coach: you can probably envision the type A-personality who is driven, harsh, and yells to motivate people to work harder or make changes in their diet.
This type of coach is someone who is perceived to have all the answers and will tell people what to do. If you’ve ever worked with someone who has told you the following...
“You need to eat x grams of protein everyday”
“You need to foam roll at least 15 minutes before your workout”
“You need to mix butter into your coffee and eat no carbs!”
“You need to do 100 burpees everyday to get ripped!”
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with each of the above, if you did 100 burpees each day...yeah you’d probably be ripped. (But who wants to do that, that’s miserable!)
However the whole point of a coach is to meet you where you are at. A coach is supposed to be a guide, not an all-knowing super star.
How coaching can be damaging to you
It’s tough for me to put this down on paper because I myself am a coach. So for me to “attack” coaches it seems a bit counter-intuitive.
But because of this fact - you know that this is the true harsh reality and that I’m opening up to be vulnerable for judgement!
Now with that said...coaches can do a ton of harm.
I’ve heard of many, many stories of current clients of mine describing a past experience with a coach. Both for fitness and nutrition - coaches have berated, pushed too hard, and forced into uncomfortable change.
I’ve heard of nutrition coaches who have made their clients feel bad about eating a dessert that they said they wouldn’t eat. Literally berating them and thinking that that negative feedback will all of a sudden spur up motivation in their client to start eating better!
Let me ask you - how would you feel if every time you “admitted” that you ate some cookies after dinner that you would get an earful from your coach?
There might be some of you out there that would think this is helpful. But I would urge you to really think about what this is communicating to you.
When coaches make their clients feel bad about their choices - are you now more or less likely to be open and honest?
Will you want to tell this coach that you are having struggles with your relationship with food? Would you feel open to telling this coach that you are worried that you won’t ever reach your goals?
If a coach has shown you that they operate with a brash tongue, I’d imagine you would want to save the “yelling” and just avoid opening up about particular issues that are going on.
When this happens, when you aren’t able to open up about issues surrounding food and fitness - you’ll never be able to push past those feelings...or at least not with the help from your coach.
And at the end of the day - isn’t a coach supposed to be on your side….?
How does a good coach operate?
So if being berated and talked down to about why you suck at fitness and nutrition isn’t the answer...what is?
Well, to me coaching is very simple.
The most important aspect of a coach is in their ability to listen.
Now coming from a psychology background and having ideas of becoming a therapist - being able to listen and hear people is the most basic and most important aspect of providing support and help.
Think about it: do you feel better after you hear someone reflect back to you that they heard exactly what problem you are dealing with?
OR would you rather have been told to get over it, and focus on the task at hand?
I think this is a very important distinction because we are looking for long-term results. In building relationships with each other, we as people need to know that the relationship is safe, trusted, and respectful.
I won’t go into all the aspects of what a good coach is, but if you want you can check out a popular blog that goes over the 10 ways you know you are working with a super coach!
For the purpose of this post today - just know that a dialogue between client and coach is the most important piece of making changes.
Now what exactly is this habit based coaching…
What is habit based coaching?
Think about any habit you have...for example let’s think about brushing your teeth.
This is a daily habit that is reinforced by
Presenting a mouth full of pearly whites
Getting rid of morning breath
Making sure nothing gets stuck in your teeth
A feeling of freshness in the mouth
Now would you argue that brushing your teeth is something that benefits your life?
I would hope that everyone would have a resounding “YES!” for this one.
Brushing your teeth is just a habit that you’ve been able to include in your life in which you don’t really need reminders to do it everyday.
The reminder is within your everyday schedule - it’s part of your life.
Now why can’t good nutrition and fitness habits also fall into this?
Or rather, how can we include good nutrition and fitness habits into a daily routine?
Habit based coaching focuses on bringing new changes into an already hectic and packed life, with the goal of making it easy to implement and remember each day.
When things are easy they become repeatable for the long term, and therefore give you the most results and the biggest change.
And this is the core of habit based coaching - fitting something new into your schedule that doesn’t require a total life shift.
How I’ve used habit based coaching to help clients
I want to give you a realistic view of what it looks like to work with a coach that focuses on habits. (OR really to work with me!)
Let’s take a fictional client, John, who has been on multiple diets over the past few years and has become an expert at counting calories, measuring food, and restricting desserts. He is about 20 pounds overweight and goes to the gym 3 times a week. He works at a high stress corporate job where he works 50 hour weeks.
He might have had a great deal of success on one diet for a few months only to slide back into “old habits” after they “completed” that diet program.
Lost 10 lbs, gained 12 back, lost 20 lbs, gained 15 back, lost 5 lbs, gained 15 lbs back. The cycle is all too normal these days…
Let’s also say that John has been feeling guilty about not making changes that stick and he’s worried that if he can’t get his weight and health under control, he’ll be a burden to his wife and kids.
Let’s paint the picture of what habit based coaching would look like..
After first going over a very detailed assessment intake - I’ll speak with John about what feels like the most important thing for him to change.
And specifically, this will be one singular thing to change...this can be surrounding
his portions of food,
one specific meal (ie. breakfast, lunch, dinner),
how much water he’s drinking,
how much sleep he gets, or
how much physical activity he gets.
We will decide on one aspect together (guided by John himself) to work on and set a goal for the next 2 weeks.
Let’s assume that John is happy with his physical activity at the moment, drinks a decent amount of water but tends to eat a little too much at his meals.
I might ask John which meal he feels he struggles the most with. John tells me it’s his lunch that he tends to opt for 2-3 slices of pizza, a big deli sandwich, or take out from Chinese. (typical for the office worker!)
I’ll ask John how he thinks he can make this lunch into a better meal, and to lessen the amount of food on his plate.
I educate him on the fact that eating more whole foods will fill him up more quickly, and having a variety of carbs, proteins, veggies, and fats is ideal when putting together a full meal. (There’s room for the coach to educate at the proper time!)
John tells me that he rarely eats vegetables with his lunch and that he’d like to try and get more everyday. Okay perfect : I ask John which vegetables he likes and what it would take for him to include them in his lunch.
He tells me he likes spinach, broccoli, and peppers. (See how I’m asking him what he likes best, not what I think is best for him!)
From then we set up a plan of attack : how can he include those vegetables into these lunch meals?
John says that he can add spinach to his pizza, add in peppers on his sandwich and opt for a side order of broccoli with his typical Chinese take out order.
We set a goal of him adding 1 extra vegetable to his lunch for 4 out of the 7 days each week. He feels this is realistic for him and he feels confident he can achieve this.
In 2 weeks time, we’ll go over his progress with this new habit and adjust anything that is necessary. We’ll reflect back on if he was filling up faster with an added vegetable or not, ultimately impacting his goal of “eating a little less” at each meal.
Now that might sound like a ton of work to just add 1 extra vegetable in hopes of eating less at lunch.
However do you think John, after successfully accomplishing this goal, will continue to do so?
Do you think that him making the plan to eat more vegetables and then succeeding at that, will leave him feeling super confident and excited for the next change?
Hell yeah it does - I’ve seen it so many times!
Why habit based coaching is the future
When you break down change into small daily tasks you take control of your behaviors. When you can control your behaviors and start to shift your reality - you’ll be more open to change and have better success with it.
I hope that the above example with my made up client John can be of help to you - that is exactly how I’ll go through an initial habit goal with someone.
Breaking it down into a very “easy, attainable” goal. For John, he wanted to eat a little less and by adding an extra vegetable at his lunch, he was more satiated and noticed he didn’t need as much food.
Over time, he will lose weight and be able to consistently stay down in weight because he now has the habit of adding peppers to his sandwich!
This is the beauty of setting up those habits for change.
It’s not as glorious as “lose 10 lbs in 2 weeks” or “drop 5 inches on your waist in 30 days”.
However it does WORK.
And isn’t that what you want?
Something that works not just for the next 2 weeks, not just for the next 30 days...but for the next 30, 40, 50 years?
The fitness and health coaching field needs a drastic change and I think we will start to see this more and more over the next few years.
Gone are the days of crash dieting, restrictive plans, and yo-yo weight gain and loss.
Gone are the days of the super fit person telling you what to eat. Gone are the lies of the fitness industry telling you that you can get abs in 30 days.
A great coach is someone who can meet you where YOU are at, help to guide and support you to the next step up that feels right for YOU.
If this has peaked your interest and you want to learn more about how I can help you make life long changes, Schedule your free clarity call here!
It’s time to start laying brick by brick to build that giant wall of change. Focus on the habit, and you’ll surpass anything you’ve done in your life before!