I was spurred into learning about Nutrition when I became a mother. Due to the overwhelming anxiety of being responsible for another being other than myself, I simply had to understand the nuts and bolts of what happens inside our bodies and how food affects our well-being. My husband has always called me a small chunker, notably for the attention to detail that I require in most of the things I do or come across. Annoying for some who come into contact with me, I know, particularly my husband at times but he does see the relevance when it is important.
In order to instil good habits in my children from an early age to do this I needed to educate myself about nutrition in depth so that I could make the right dietary choices for them whilst they were young and hope that what they learnt from me stood them in good stead for the future.
So, I enrolled on a part time degree course with Thames Valley University and set about the next five years learning everything I could about Nutritional Medicine. It is a fascinating subject and there is a plethora of information to learn but I finally achieved my Bachelor of Science in February 2012, so armed and ready to change the world I set up my clinic two months later.
Since then I have seen many clients with many different ailments, conditions and symptoms. All of them have come to me because they are not happy with their current situation and would like to make a change, why else would they be there? They are paying me their hard earned cash to find a solution to their problem. However, it really is not as simple as I was led to believe. My course focussed on teaching us to understand how the body functions and where our family history, diet and lifestyle choices can interfere with this. We were to become a “Health Detective” and aim to link our client’s symptoms to what was happening within the mechanics of their body and why things were malfunctioning.
I realised after my experience with clients that inspiring and motivating your client to make changes is key to compliance and success, however, the art of motivating and inspiring was not taught to us at university. So how does one learn to inspire and motivate someone? I needed some inspiration and motivation myself!
One evening after receiving an email from a client, who had not even got off the starting block for six weeks after her initial consultation with me, I had a melt down! This client was due to see me for her follow up consultation the next day and she had not followed any of my recommendations. This resulted in my total lack of confidence in my ability as a practitioner. I felt I had let her down. I was full of self-doubt. Were my initial recommendations too rigid? Did I not read the signs that she had not understood me? Did I not listen properly to what she wanted? I was obviously not cut out for this? I can’t do this any more?
My husband Mark watched calmly and then said “ask her what she has done towards her goals?” Looking horrified, I replied “what if she says nothing”. Mark said “ask her why not? It is the client’s responsibility to initiate the change and if there has been no change we need to understand with them why not? So…. not collapse in a heap on the floor and feel like a complete failure then?
These are the days when I thank my lucky stars that I am married to a Life and Business Coach who knows how to motivate and inspire people. After talking through the type of questions that a practitioner can ask in order to make your client own their problem. It sounded so simple but why did it feel so difficult. The reason? Because as practitioners we are taught the mechanics of finding out why something is wrong with our client but that is just it, mechanical…. Emotions do not come into it, but they should as emotions drive eating patterns and dietary choices. Eating IS emotional. Everyone tends to bury their head in the sand when it comes to change, we have all done it. At some point in our lives we all want to see a change of some description but knowing how to achieve that change can be the hardest part. My client wanted to lose weight and she got as far as my clinic to seek help with that but as a practitioner I fed her a set of recommendations that were not congruent with her beliefs. In order for her change to start to take effect she need to touch it, see it, feel it not just understand it.
Let me explain what happened at the Follow Up…. After asking her the set of open questions such as
- What have you done towards your goal?
- What have been the obstacles?
- What has made this difficult for you?
- How have you managed this?
- What options have we got?
- Are you serious about this?
- What could you do to change your situation?
I found out that she had lost weight in the past using the Weight Watchers formula. Initially I had ignored this important point and tried to change her to following a low GI diet. This caused confusion and made the whole experience seem hard work so she did not even start it, as she had never bought into it.
I met resistance from my client when trying to negotiate on the exercise front. She had osteoporosis in her knees and said that walking made it worst so I suggested swimming which was met with “I can’t wear a swimming costume looking like this”. To which I replied with a deep breathe, “are you serious about losing weight? I felt extremely nervous about challenging her by stepping out of my comfort zone but to my surprise her response was “yes I am serious about losing weight”. I responded with “on a scale of 1-10 tell me how serious you are” and she said “11”. To this I replied, “if you want to get different results, you have to do things differently. You need to bite the bullet, put on your swimming costume and take action”. She then had tears in her eyes and I knew that I had stirred up her emotions. The key learning point for me here is that if you stir up people’s emotions and feelings in relation to the issue at hand, you have a far greater chance of getting them to do things differently and take action.
So, at this Follow up consultation I devised a simple 3 point goal plan.
- Firstly, I realised my client preferred a weekly format similar to Weight Watchers to keep on track so we agreed she would come in to see me every week and she would follow the Weight Watchers diet that she was already familiar with.
- Secondly, she felt embarrassed about her body and did not want to wear a swimming costume or walk due to knee problems. I challenged this and she agreed swimming three times a week
- Finally, we discussed how she felt about her life at home (as she was retired). She was unhappy because the house was disorganised and a mess because she had let everything go, she wanted to get organised but did not know where to start. So her third goal was to have that conversation with her husband about clearing one of the rooms together in the house so it looked good and they would feel better about socialising with friends which ultimately would lift their mood.
Twelve weeks later my client has lost the excess weight she was carrying and has a spring in her step. The change that she has experienced has been huge for her and her family life. Her relationship with her husband has improved, her home is clean and tidy and she now feels in control of things. On my side of the fence, I have learned from this situation that sometimes we need the confidence to challenge our clients to get the best action from them; after all they approached me and wanted my help. By guiding my clients through a model using Goals, Reality, Options & Wrap Up I am able to provoke emotive responses to give them the push they need to take action.
Alternatively, join Nutri’s seminar “Coaching your Client to Success with the CAM Coach” on Wednesday 23rd October in London. Please call Nutri to book your place on freephone 0800 212 742 (option 1) quoting code S0813