As health and exercise professionals, we are aware of certain truths related to physical activity, fitness, and overall well-being. Our clients, however, may not be. As a result, they may experience frustration, feelings of defeat, and body image concerns. You, as the pro, are uniquely positioned to share uncomfortable truths about the process of change with your clients. In doing so, you can help them plan for high-risk situations and focus on the process, not the desired outcome. The outcome (or outcomes) will come if the process is embraced and respected.
7 Hard and Uncomfortable Truths
1) Recovery is necessary. It is tempting for clients, especially those who are highly motivated and want to believe in fast results (don’t we all?), to ignore the need for rest and recovery. If rest and recovery are not just as respected as the time in the gym or the attention in the kitchen, progress will not happen. In fact, it might cause the client to regress and experience injury.
The Truth: If you are serious about your progress, you need to be serious about recovery. Plan for it.
2) Stress makes fat loss harder. Stress is one of those odd feelings that you don’t always see as an outward physical sign. However, we all experience it, and clients can underestimate how it can interfere with fat loss. Stress intensifies feelings of hunger and cravings for comfort foods and interferes with sleep and drains energy/motivation. Stress can also slow metabolism by suppressing thyroid production. All of this makes it difficult for clients to keep their long-term goals at the forefront of their attention.
The Truth: Managing stress is just as important as participating in activity.
3) You don’t need to eliminate carbs or cycle carbs. Carbs are our friends. They are the body’s primary and preferred source of fuel. Undereating either calories or carbohydrates may interfere with performance and potentially affect the body’s ability to build muscle tissue and sustain fat loss.
The Truth: Carbs help the body perform and function optimally. Eat a balanced blend of carbs, starchy and nonstarchy, as well as optimal proportions of protein and fats.
4) The scale is unreliable. Adding muscle tissue might mean the scale goes up before it goes down (if it ever goes down). The scale is an unreliable tool to measure progress and, ultimately, define health. Body composition is not always visually observable and your standard scale will also be blissfully ignorant to its changes.
The Truth: Energy levels, sleep fitness, mental attitude, and how a person feels internally are greater measures of progress than using the scale.
5) Sustainable fat loss takes longer than 30 days. Thanks to the dogmatic messages of diet culture promoters, individuals are tricked into believing “significant” fat loss can occur in a month. There is no research that says “in 30 days X amount of fat loss is possible.” It is not that simple nor that prescriptive.
The Truth: Sustainable fat loss could take 6 months; it could take a year. It depends on the individual and their metabolism (as well as health status and numerous other variables). It is more important (and effective) to focus on developing consistent health behaviors that support fat loss than it is to aim for a specific weight loss (which is not fat loss) in a 30-day window.
6) HIIT training is not suitable or sustainable for beginners. HIIT training has its benefit, for sure. But it is not for everyone and if a client chooses not to participate in this type of activity, their progress will not be threatened. HIIT is intense and challenging. It is not a place to start for beginners.
The Truth: Starting slow and building up to a reasonable, individualized intensity will do more for progress than struggling through a HIIT workout three times a week because “Trainer Joe” said it works.
7) Walking is an underrated form of activity. Walking does not get the credit it rightly deserves. What we hope to promote with all clients is moving more throughout the day and sitting less for extended periods of time. A walk break every hour increases NEAT calorie expenditure, which supports long term weight loss (and fat loss).
The Truth: The number of calories burned in a single workout session is minimal compared to overall metabolic rate. Participate in NEAT movement more often for the greatest benefit.
What do these truths mean?
Progress takes time. It is not the message most clients (or most of us) want to hear, but it is the truth. The sooner clients understand that immediate results won’t happen, and if they do, they are temporary, they can set the stage better for long-term success. Be open and honest with your clients about how progress occurs and the tough truths that lead to the results they desire.