How to Handle Clients with Aggressive Goals -
Written by Nina Wilder (@itsanina)

As a trainer, I love when I see a prospective client come to me fired up and ready to go. Being motivated is a wonderful thing so I feel slightly sheepish when I tell them that it won’t last.

The reality is that most people don’t feel motivated all the time, heck, we don’t feel it most of the time. So, when it comes to having an eager client with an ambitious weight loss goal, we might be tempted to give them an aggressive program but ultimately, we need to be realistic with what they can actually sustain. We come up with a program that they can do when they won’t feel motivated.

This might be hard for this type of client to digest because they want to see change - and see it NOW! How is just starting with a daily walk going to have them look like that woman they saw on Instagram? Maybe this 30-pounds-in-30-days challenge will be better instead!

I feel for this client because instant gratification is tempting. When someone tells us that we can have the body we always wanted in just 4 weeks, we want to recklessly jump in with both feet, but having an extreme result in a short time comes at great cost. No matter how motivated we feel at the start, it is highly unlikely we will commit to the trade-offs. The trade-offs are having our time suddenly dominated by training, food prepping, as well as putting our bodies under duress with a steep caloric deficit. Suffice it to say, it is very overwhelming and not just mentally, but physiologically as well.

It can be difficult enough to mentally adjust to tracking nutrition, preparing unfamiliar food, learning exercises, and navigating gym life (working out around other people can be tricky for some). However then we have to appreciate how all of this must be balanced with stuff that we are already dealing with: family, work, obligations, etc. These are things that the client often doesn’t consider because all they can see is their ambitious goal. As their trainer, we want them to reach their goal of course, but keeping in mind their overall health and wellbeing is important too. So how do we reconcile this?

Before we lock in the client’s goal, we start by evaluating their current circumstances. We ask ourselves:

  1. Is this client set up to take on this aggressive schedule?
  2. Do they know about macronutrients, measuring, or even just basic cooking?
  3. How confident are they that they can commit to a workout schedule?

It’s great to have aggressive goals, but if the client is a beginner or even intermediate, if they don’t have the fundamentals down, then we are setting them up for failure. To see a dramatic body transformation in only 30 days, we would be asking a client to take on the regimen of an experienced bodybuilder. That’s like asking someone who just started running to train for an Ironman right out of the gate.

To gauge whether a client is ready for such a regimen, we can look to their exercise and nutrition history. Have they consistently stuck to an eating or activity routine? Do they consistently get the basics such as water, sleep, and stress management?

A client may think they are ready to take this on, particularly when they have followed such extreme regimens before, but it’s these types of clients especially - the ones that have gone hard and subsequently fallen hard - would benefit the most from slow, incremental changes. It may be difficult for the client to embrace that style, but it can help to reframe it in this way: If they lost weight quickly, is it worth feeling exhausted, hungry, and irritable? Would they prefer losing weight more slowly if it meant they could achieve their goal, feel healthier and still enjoy their life?

We must remember that weight loss puts stress on the body in a multitude of ways. So, if our client is already maxed out, we are doing them a disservice by adding in an aggressive program. However, that is not to say we can’t help our clients even during stressful times. By prioritizing what they need - stress management, sleep, hydration, a more well-rounded diet of whole foods in caloric maintenance - we can set them up for more success. By having a strong foundation in healthy habits and a body that is functioning optimally, they will be more set up for their initial weight loss goals.

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