Compliance: One of the major roadblocks often experienced throughout the dieting process. For some clients maintaining compliance is a challenge upon onset of nutrition coaching. A client finds it difficult to hit numbers consistently, fit their diet into their lifestyle, or are battling some unhealthy eating behaviors and a fixed mindset. For other clients, issues with compliance come to the surface months into their protocol. Perhaps they’ve been dialed in for months but hit a plateau which causes them to derail. Or they may be transitioning into a new phase of their protocol and lose sight of their “why”. Regardless of the reasoning behind non-compliance, it’s a major obstacle that can cause progress to halt immediately. This becomes frustrating for both the nutrition coach and the client; without compliance a client will not only see stagnancy, but a coach is unable to make changes or suggestions due to lack of consistent data to consider.

When talking compliance, we are referring to an individual’s ability to yield to a plan and remain adherent in following the protocol. This is why the Nutritional Coaching Institute treats coaching as an art-while a macro prescription or any other dietary protocol is based on science (as well as individualized biofeedback markers), an individual’s mindset and compliance to the plan must be considered. Even the most perfectly formulated plan will be a flop if not executed properly. A client who is unable to successfully hit their numbers, remain consistent, trust the process, and stay the course will be unable to see success, regardless of how scientifically sound and well thought out the plan is.

As dietary compliance continues to create obstacles for clients, as well as a challenge for the coaching process, it is the responsibility of the coach to explore ways to increase client cooperation and consistency. When identifying ways to further understand why compliance has waned, build stronger bonds with clients, reduce extraneous variables that may blur data, and increase longevity with any plan, coaches can consider the 4 E’s of creating compliance:

1. Empathize
2. Explore
3. Educate
4. Empower

1. Empathize: Empathy is the process of relating to another human being with the knowledge that you’ve shared a similar experience, thought, or feeling. As coaches it becomes easy to take ourselves out of the process. We view a client’s process logically, and focus on how to direct a client towards success. However, in the process of guiding, we forget to identify with our clients. We’ve all been less than perfect in our diet, or been faced with situations that leave us non-compliant. Instead of simply directing your client, relate to them. Communicate with them. Share with them. But note, the goal is empathy, not sympathy. Clients don’t need for you to feel sorry for them, they need to know you’ve been in their shoes too.

2) Explore: It’s one thing to observe that compliance is an issue, it’s another thing to be willing to dig deeper and explore the root of the problem. Motivation comes and goes, but really addressing the underlying issue can create more long-term compliance. When faced with non-compliance, practice compassion and curiosity instead of exasperation. Ask questions such as, “what’s going on with your mindset at this time?”, “why is compliance an issue?”, “what does your inner narrative sound like?”, and “what roadblocks are you coming up against?”. However, exploration doesn’t stop at figuring out why compliance is an issue, it continues into finding ways to decrease the risk of future difficulties with compliance. Questions may include, “can we further explore ways to circumvent these roadblocks?”, “what is your ‘why’ in this process”, and “how have you dealt with past obstacles that limited progress forward?”. Having clients write down the answers to these question as well as tangible goals they hope to achieve can help them create a visual guide to moving forward.

3) Educate: If you know nothing else about Nutrition Coaching Institute, you know that our motto is: Education Drives. Compliance. It is your RESPONSIBILITY as a coach to provide education. This not only includes education on the reasoning behind their dietary protocol, but also as to why repetitive episodes of non-compliance can be so disruptive to long-term progress. It is inappropriate to expect a client to trust in a process that they don’t understand, and it is equally negligent to not provide them with the tools to continue moving forward.

4) Empower: The dietary process can be daunting, especially when clients have a complicated diet history and aren’t seeing results. While some clients benefit from tough love, many are already hard enough on themselves without needing to be lectured by their coach. (And don’t forget, even tough love is still love.) Once you’ve identified how your client hears feedback best, be a true coach! Encourage your clients to constantly work towards a growth mindset. Remind them they are capable of compliance and success. Build them up, push them further and challenge thoughts that aren’t in line with reality. For some this may mean a serious conversation and reassessment of goals, and for others it may mean a weekly celebration for their progress. Learn your clients and appreciate them for their individual efforts. And above all else, don’t dismiss them for being human.

Compliance to a dietary protocol, or lack thereof, remains one of the biggest indicators of client success. While each client will be unique in what allows them to move through times of non-compliance, it is vital for coaches to have a toolbox of techniques that they can implement with clients in an effort to dig deeper, break barriers, and provide support. Nutrition coaching is about creating an individualized experience as much as it is an individualized protocol. Creating a coaching-client relationship built on empathy, exploration, education and empowerment can allow for a significant decrease in client attrition, as well as long-term success when it comes to a client’s long-term physical, metabolic, and mindset-related goals.