American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Dig in Deeper

Get registered dietitian Dr. Natalie Digate Muth’s breakdown of popular diets:

Learn the nutrition basics that all fitness professionals should know with ACE's Fitness Professionals' Guide to Sports Nutrition and Weight Management

It’s inevitable that clients will ask you about weight loss. After all, it’s one of the most common health and fitness goals. And with the diet industry’s heavy marketing efforts out there, you can be sure you’ll have to answer questions about popular fad diets, too.

Though you may not be a registered dietitian, your clients will rely on you to help them meet their weight loss goals. “You’re part of your clients’ motivational systems, especially initially,” said Todd Galati, ACE Fitness Expert & Director of Credentialing.

So it’s also important to be able to field nutrition-related questions and educate clients about healthy eating.

Here are facts and steps that can help you.

Step 1. Share the truth about fad diets

Fad diet advertisers may boldly allege, “guaranteed to lose 30 pounds in 30 days,” but what happens on day 35 or 80? The marketing efforts don’t ever seem to show long-term, sustainable weight loss.

“Fad diets provide Band-Aids without a long-term solution because they cause short-term loss that creates a long-term problem [of weight gain],” Galati said.  “All fad diets work in the short-term because they decrease caloric intake generally by having a person change their diet in a manner that cuts out entire or most of a food group, which isn’t always healthy. What they don’t do and where they fail is they don’t teach people how to eat healthy and how to eat the right quantity for themselves.”

When people go back to their normal eating habits after losing all that weight, most will regain the weight they lost – and more.

“What comes off fast, comes on fast,” said Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, ACE Senior Consultant – Nutrition.

Citing research on popular diets like Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and the Zone diets, Muth said that many people struggled with long-term adherence – most likely because cutting out entire food groups is not realistic.

Step 2. Help clients rid “quick fix” mentality and set realistic weight loss goals

In an impatient society that demands fast results, clients may still want that easy solution. But this may help them shift their perspective:

“If clients want to lose 35 pounds, for example, help him or her understand that it might have taken  15 years to gain all that weight,” Galati said. “So it’s going to take longer than 15 days to lose it.”

You will definitely be able to help clients see results in less than 15 years, but posing actual numbers may help them see that it will take longer than a mere 30 days to see that number on the scale go down – for good. 

A more realistic timeframe will involve a weight loss plan that helps clients lose one to two pounds (more if obese) per week.

Step 3. Ask clients to keep a three-day food journal.

Have your clients record everything – items and quantities -- they eat and drink. One of the three days should include one over the weekend since eating and drinking habits tend to be different then. 

This will help your client visualize what he or she is actually eating, and will provide a starting point for conversation.

Step 4. Review food journals with clients and provide long-term solutions.

Sit down with your client and look at their dietary habits. You might find areas that are sabotaging their weight management efforts – too many sugary coffee drinks, lack of fruits and vegetables or large portion sizes.

When reviewing the journal, be sure to work with them and give positive encouragement, too. Commend them when they’re making healthy choices and educate them on the unhealthy ones.

Step 5. Help provide long-term eating solutions for weight loss.

It’s not in a personal trainer’s scope of practice to lay out a specific eating plan, so if clients want this, definitely encourage them to work with a registered dietitian. You can, however, educate them on healthy eating.

“Some people don’t prepare food at home. So if there’s a type of food the client is choosing that is really high-fat or high-sugar version, help him or her brainstorm where they could go to get healthier or slightly less caloric choices,” Galati said. “If they are preparing their own food, send them to additional resources for more healthier recipes.”

To help build sustainable eating habits, ask your clients what healthy foods they do like to eat. What fruits, vegetables, protein and calcium sources do they enjoy? Encourage them to build a diet based on these foods and to reduce their portion sizes.

Fitness Professionals' Guide to Sports Nutrition and Weight Management To get a more in-depth view of fad diets and how to help clients with weight management, check out ACE's Fitness Professionals' Guide to Sports Nutrition and Weight Management

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