Post-Pandemic Nutrition Coaching: Dealing With Emotional Baggage

Jen Broxterman

Josh (00:02):

What are the trends that you are noticing right now, just around nutrition and clients, where they’re struggling?

Chris (00:08):

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Josh (00:47):

So we’re back on Two-Brain Radio. And on today’s episode, we have Jen Broxterman, creator and mentor for the Two-Brain Nutrition Coaching course. Of course, if you have listened to Two-Brain Radio at all, you’ve heard Jen, she has been a guest with me, a number of different times, but today we’re going to do something a little bit different. So one of my favorite things to do, which has paid big dividends for me in my career, is to sit down with people that are way smarter than me and have a conversation where I get to ask them about the problems that they’re seeing in the world and how they’re solving them. So most of the time, the problems we all see as coaches are pretty much the same, but it’s in the unique solution that these coaches like Jen share where I find that I learn the most and a stretched-out conversation like we can have in a format like this is the perfect opportunity to solve a few problems for coaches around the world. So I think now I’m officially going to name this new segment coaches having conversations, and to prepare for this Jen and I identified a few topics that turned out to be quite timely in light of what has transpired with the pandemic across the world over the past 18 months. So we hope you find it valuable and without further ado, let’s get into it. Jen, it’s nice to talk to you.

Jen (02:07):

Thanks for having me back.

Josh (02:09):

Very much so. I’m excited about this today. So, you know, I kind of want to just get right into it because I think the things that we decided to pick out in terms of topics to talk about are super timely with, you know, like we said, what’s going on with the pandemic. And when it comes to expertise in an area and nutrition is certainly yours. You still work with clients on a daily basis, nutritio, coaching, what are the trends that you are noticing right now, just around nutrition and clients, where they’re struggling?

Jen (02:43):

I have almost like a funny phrase I’m going to use, which is a lot of my clients are about 10 pounds heavier, but they’re carrying about 50 pounds of emotional baggage just in light of what’s happened in the last year to year and a half. So they’ve been challenged with, you know, to go online with their jobs and businesses, full on pandemic, lockdown and closure, homeschooling kids, you know, many small business owners trying to find a way to fight and survive. So I understand why people have not cooked, you know, healthy meals from scratch and take out is way up in Canada. Like the amount of clients I see that just have spent hundreds of dollars a month on Uber Eats and some of those meal delivery services. And then with, you know, kids being home and not in our education system and trying to work a full-time job and educate your kids, just people are stretched, and stressed.

Jen (03:37):

So their bandwidth is down. Their capacity to push themselves is way down. They are deconditioned, they’re out of shape. Like our gyms are still struggling to open up up here. So I’m just seeing clients that have neglected their physical health, their mental health or emotional health, because they just try to get up and get to the end of each day. And that’s a win for the day. So yeah, to say it another way, there are about 10 pounds up in weight, but 50 pounds up in emotional baggage. And when we coach we talk about it’s about the food, but it’s not about the food. I mean, I’m not really here to educate someone on the value of adding leafy greens to their dinner plate. It’s really about, I think our role as nutrition coaches is we’re behavior change facilitators. We help people take what they have up here in their minds and put it into action in their everyday life. And that has never been more true in the year and a half of coaching that I’ve seen up here. And even in the gyms that I mentor with nutrition coaching, they’re seeing the same thing.

Josh (04:40):

Something that I have always admired about you is you have a extremely high level of empathy. I remember just in working with you, just the level of, I know something that you say in the course is like not being judgmental and it’s just, you’re gathering facts and things like that. Now granted you have an extensive, you know, career in being a nutrition coach. So I think you have a lot to pull from. What are some of the things that you are telling these clients when they’re sharing with you these problems and you boiled it down to that phrase, it’s like, I’ve gained 10 pounds, but I feel like I’m also carrying 50 pounds of emotional baggage.

Jen (05:25):

One of the phrases I like to remind my team to use with client coaching. And I say all the time is there’s no such thing as failure. There’s only feedback. And what I like about that, and my other phrase I use, and this is actually like taped to my office wall is the three words, curious, kind, honest. So can we look at the situation? And I actually will sometimes like physically motion to be like, if there’s an inner bully sitting on your shoulder, like kick it out. It’s not allowed to sit in the empty chair beside you. It can exit this room right here, right now. It’s just you and I being curious and kind, but with honesty, looking at the situation and just like you said, all that we’re doing is we’re gathering data and facts and information that will then educate what our next decision or step is going to look like.

Jen (06:15):

And there’s no such thing as a bad step. So I’m thinking to a call I had earlier this week with one of my clients and we were, you know, having an exercise that I use in the course, which is something that we call the step back tool when someone feels like they’ve had a major life low, and they’re not on track with where they want to be. And I said, I want you to let go of any textbook answer of what you think you should answer. And let’s just examine what’s been going on. And ultimately our conversation using motivational interviewing led us to two practices. She would needed to be more consistent with taking her antidepressant meds and omega threes and some hormone based supplements. And she needed to just drink more water. And she’s like, I know I should probably say like exercise and vegetables.

Jen (07:00):

And I said, I heard the word should, which means we shouldn’t actually select that goal. What feels really attainable? And like, you’re going to win the day with this as a piece of homework? And she was like, you know, what, if I can get back on my antidepressant meds, which I know make me feel better, I’ve just been so terrible, feeling so terrible, even that’s been a struggle. And I said, let’s just track consistency with that. And if we get that first piece in place, we can get the next piece in place, but the next piece in place. But I said, if we look at the data, trying to eat more veggies, hasn’t gone very well. So let’s find a way for you to win the day. And I talk a lot about getting clients to vote for their healthiest self, but the vote has to be something they could actually check off at the end of the day that it got done. And if us coaches were picking that is beyond where the client’s ability, life circumstances allows them to succeed, it doesn’t matter how right it is on paper. It only matters what’s right for that client. So there’s no such thing as failure, just feedback.

Josh (08:01):

So I’ve heard you use the curious kind of honest thing just a number of times, and it just dawned on me. I think as coaches, it’s in our nature to be curious, and especially if you’re going to have any sort of success in this profession, you should probably be kind because if not, you’re going to get found out eventually and probably just not get any more work. But I want to hear a little bit more about honesty because this is something I know that I struggled with as a coach for a long time, because I think I was probably confusing being polite with being honest. And they’re not the same thing. So can you give me an example of what that looks like? I mean, cause I know you and it’s not like you’re being rude, even if you’re being quote unquote honest, but what does that look like from an honesty perspective?

Jen (08:55):

Glad you dove into that because politeness obviously is part of good rapport and a positive relationship, but what I really do carry the weight that I’m here to serve my clients and I’m not being a very good coach if I’m being nice and afraid to talk to someone about a subject that’s hard to talk about. And that might mean opening the can of worms and addressing disordered eating behaviors, that might mean addressing that we’re seeing difficulty with the consistency of a healthy behavior. And again, there’s nothing wrong with the clients if they’re struggling with consistency, but delivering that feedback of this goal right now just doesn’t seem like it’s clicking or working for you. Do we need to shrink the steps? Do we need to change the steps? Do we need to go in a slightly different direction? And I think when I was a younger coach, I erred on the side of being polite, of not wanting to hurt people’s feelings.

Jen (09:50):

So as I delved deeper into motivational interviewing, something that I really learned that was helpful with this honesty piece is asking for permission. And so when I do feel like I need to deliver, something that, you know, might be hard to hear, but it is honest and in their best interest, I might phrase it as you know, I’ve had a few observations and I’m wondering if it would be OK with you if I shared with you from my coach’s perspective what I’ve been noticing, and again, this isn’t to hurt your feelings or anything like that, but I’m here to help you get your goal. Would it be OK with you if I was frank or was honest and I actually might use some of those words and then you wait and like, most people will say yes, andif anything, you’ve piqued their curiosity of like, OK, well, what is this?

Jen (10:39):

What are they going to say? Right, exactly. You can say, you know, from my unbiased perspective as a coach, because I’m not in your life and in your circumstances, I’ve noticed, and then you just state facts or data or behaviors that you’ve noticed, but they’re not value judgements on the person. So you do a lot of reassuring of their worth, their value, their goodness, a lot of bright spots, but you’re not just sugarcoating things with the bright spots. You can also be transparent and honest. And so like that client, I said who said, she felt like she should pick an exercise goal or should pick a vegetable goal. I said, can I be really honest with you? One of the things I noticed as you were kind of evaluating what goals you might pick next is whenever you talked about, you know, vegetables or exercise, I noticed you always sort of paused and put a should in front of it.

Jen (11:33):

But when we were talking about ideas around, you know, your medication schedule or just being better hydrated through the day, there wasn’t any hesitation there. And that actually seems something like you were more excited to do, or you felt really confident in. Am I sensing that correctly? So you’re just doing a lot of confirmation of, am I noticing this right? Does that sit right with you. And I correct to assume. But you start with asking permission and notice how I wasn’t mean about how I delivered that. And so I think that’s what I mean with honesty is asking my clients to be really honest with themselves, to explore, you know, difficulties that they’re having with behavior change. It sometimes mean asking them to be really honest with themselves, their past their patterns and facing those patterns head on in a really mature conversation of, you know, maybe the pattern might be every time you buy ice cream and it goes in the freezer, you eat a bowl of ice cream every night at nine o’clock.

Jen (12:33):

So if we’re being honest, that’s maybe a really difficult food to keep in the house. And maybe we might explore the idea of going out for ice cream once in a while. And there’s no such thing as a bad food or it’s off limits, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, and if we notice the pattern of, if I bring this home from the store, I struggle to, you know, take a long time to consume this food. I might point out with honesty, but kindness that where we maybe need to apply a little bit of that push or that discipline or that willpower is that the grocery shopping level to then have better results, you know, when we’re at home. So I think that’s why I always chose to keep that word in that list of three of curious, kind and honest.

Josh (13:14):

Have you ever had it back fire, like go poorly?

Jen (13:17):

What I would say to be prepared for the coach is when it’s not a backfiring where it’s bad, but emotions boil up. It often makes people cry. And I’m not like a bad dietician where like, oh my gosh, you made your clients cry. Like I buy like a really nice brand of Kleenex with the lotion in it. And I actually tell the mark of a great year is how many Kleenexes that I get through. And for those coaches that are maybe listening and nervous about like, oh my gosh, like I’ve made someone really emotional. Like I thought I’m supposed to talk to them about their food. What I always say is when I can tell tears are kind of bubbling up, is I say, don’t be embarrassed. Tears are actually a really good sign. It means that we’re talking about something that really matters to you. It means we’re getting to the right, the right avenue. We have to go down and explore, ultimately help make this a little bit better. So don’t be embarrassed about tears. It means actually we’re on the right track.

Josh (14:13):

I was going to say, I’ll share it. And then in my mind how I kind of rephrased it. I was initially gonna say, if you haven’t made anybody cry yet, you just haven’t been coaching long enough. But I think that sounds a little harsh, but that’s the mission. And I would say to your point, when there are tears, it means we’re getting deep. Like we need to with our clients, like it’s not just the surface level. Oh, I want to do X, Y, Z. We’re asking the right questions, to really get to the root of like, why are we sitting here having this conversation.

Jen (14:49):

Right. So I just say there’s meaning behind the tears. So tears tell us, we’re talking about something that matters close to your heart.

Josh (15:00):

You know, what do you think coaches should be doing to really support clients in these like stressful times, but especially, I think you’ve got a really unique perspective that I want to hear from you on like the places like Ontario that are still in lockdown, you know, what are the best things that coaches can be doing?

Jen (15:19):

A couple of tips I would distill it down to is take a lot off the plate for your clients and simplify things down. And then number two is set them up to win. So I’ll talk a little bit about simplification and winning. What I mean by simplification is a mark of a really great coach is they know just how to lay out the next step or two that needs to be done and focused on, but they don’t give anything more than that because anything more creates overwhelm and distraction. So a really good coach keeps it simple. Beginners complicate, experts simplify. So a good coach can see just that next step or two, they can be client centered. They can help the client sort of piece together the next step or two. And then they’re very good about shielding the client from themselves most of the time from being overwhelmed, distracted, and biting off more than they can chew.

Jen (16:14):

And I think if anything, through the pandemic, the trend I’ve seen is people’s level of overwhelm and distraction outside of them has never been higher. Right? We’ve got the news, we’ve got changing schedules, businesses, open, closed, vaccination stuff going on. Like it’s just been a lot of noise. So our job is to be almost like the protective mama or Papa bear around her client being like, I’m going to shield you from all this noise and we’re going to simplify it down to be key behaviors. And then the second thing is really around I’m don’t want to lose my train of thought on this, the simplification, and then essentially, what was the second thing I said? The winning. So I have, when I do goal setting, I do it both like physically pen to paper or digitally. You can have a habit tracker and I let clients pick which most, you know, best serves them.

Jen (17:06):

But I think as a coach, I want to send them off so that they can win their day. They can win their habits. And so humans do really well in this optimal zone of growth where they’re not stagnant. They are at the edge of their comfort zone, but I want to get them to a point where it stretches them, but they will basically a hundred percent be able to do, you know, 90%, 85% at the lowest, be able to do what I ask of them. And I wish I could show this, but it’s obviously verbal. So I’ll have to describe it. Our goal sheets, I actually hold up an example and I use it in our mentoring calls and we want to see goal sheets full of check marks or stars or happy faces or whatever little symbol they picked. And I want it to come back nice and full.

Jen (17:49):

And I learned this principle early in coaching about kind of the ratio of focusing on wins to fixing flaws and failures. And the sweet spot tends to be about 80 to 90% strengthening strengths and making wins, you know, and about 10, no more than 20% really harping on failures or struggles or things like that. And so to me, it’s simplification and helping the client win. And I just call it, getting them to vote for their best self. So what goal, what action, what habits can they focus on with, you know, blinders for this next few weeks that they can come back in like an excited student, show me a report card where they have an A to an A-plus on their homework. And if we’re sending them home with work that we think they might end up with a D or an F, we’re not coaching, you know, in the right level of growth and success for the client. So I would say that would be my advice. And especially in light of the pandemic and clients that have a lot of stress, a lot of that emotional baggage is put on blinders for them and keep it simple and then help them wi.n people like to come back to places where they win, where they feel like they’re succeeding, right?

Josh (19:05):

So I want to kind of toss something back your way, this a little bit more focused on the coach now, because I’ve heard this a lot. And we just came off the Two-Brain summit a couple of weeks ago. And one of the overarching principles on the coaches side is making sure that they, number one, understand their value as coaches and can over time increase their value.

Chris (19:26):

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Josh (19:53):

Something that I often hear, that they struggle with is the idea that, well, if I’m only giving my client this one thing to do, and I’m simplifying it so much, like it doesn’t seem like that’s worth anything. Why would they continue to pay me as much as they are? If all I’m doing is saying, oh, chew your food 25 times, do you get where I’m at?

Jen (20:17):

I totally get where you’re going. I think this comes from fear of not having enough value for new coaches. So a way that a new coach makes themselves feel better is they often I call it like information vomit all over someone, right? Let me show you that I’ve gone to school. I’ve taken certifications, I’ve studied this. I know this inside and out, and I’m going to wow you with my level of knowledge on this topic, that’s actually the sign of a coach that hasn’t quite learned. They know the material, but they haven’t maybe mastered the art of coaching. They might have the material, but not the art of coaching yet. A really good coach is fully focused on the client and knows that they need to know all that information. And they might need to pull it from their index file inside their brain at the right time to possibly share some of those facts.

Jen (21:14):

But ultimately our job as coaches is to facilitate change for the better, facilitate the achievement of a client’s goal. So if I remember that my job is to help a client reach their goal, the best way I can do it is by not overwhelming them. And by giving them just the next appropriate step or two. And I mean, think of this as fun, a funny analogy like who here, hasn’t built Ikea furniture. It’s an overwhelming process. Imagine if you had someone reading all the instructions at you, lightning fast, and you’re like, what’s the first screw I have to pick up to put the first board together, go through this, like, step one, do this. And you don’t give them the next instruction until the right screw is in the first board in the right place. And then you move on. So as a coach, I think about having that instruction list in my brain, but I’m helping someone build something amazing in their own life. And it’s better if you give them less. So I think for the coaches that get, you know, that tendency or that, oh, I’m not showing value unless I tell them all of this, don’t shout Ikea building instructions at someone when they’re trying to find that first screw or two or three, give them just the next step, let them complete the steps successfully. Then you get to move on to the next one.

Josh (22:37):

Yeah. I mean, because at the end of the day, value is really in the eye of the client, right? So to take your Ikea analogy and extend it further, it’s like, OK, as a coach, you know, I’m doing all these things. I’m telling you all these steps and the client’s trying to put this thing and they finished and it’s looks nothing like that stupid picture that you saw at the store. Versus if you just one at a time, the value is no, this is a finished piece of furniture that my family could sit on without it falling apart.

Jen (23:06):

Exactly. Yeah. Helping people build something that lasts and you have to go at the pace it’s going to take to go, you as a coach, can’t rush that.

Josh (23:15):

  1. So that’s, you know, I like that because it’s like, you’re talking about a singular coach for one client, you know, one at a time. What about just from a broad program, full-on nutrition program at a gym where, you know, the coaches, maybe they are coaching one-on-one maybe it’s in a, you know, they’re doing sort of like a kickstart where they’re working with multiple people. So the ones that have really had success during the pandemic, cause I know they’re out there, we hear about them all the time. What are you seeing that they’re doing right?

Jen (23:56):

Yeah. I’m so glad you actually brought up the kickstart concept because I’m going to build on that and talk about the gyms that have really transformed their nutrition program. So for the gyms that want kind of the efficiency of one program, that they can put many people on at the same time or to maybe spark some interest in their gyms, what Lindsey VanShoyck and I, so she’s on the Two-Brain Business side of things and we kind of are two peas in a pod that coordinate very closely together. We talk a lot about teaching the gym owners and the nutrition coaches, communicating expectations. And so if you will, we’re going to zoom out and take the 10,000 foot view. Lindsey and I both approach these kickstarts as like the laying that foundation of the fundamental or the basics. So when we’re talking to these gyms, going through the new Two-Brain nutrition course or through mentoring with Lindsey, for nutrition, business coaching, we kind of explained that a kickstart is a way to almost like a little sampler platter, introduce just some good nutrition habits to your members.

Jen (24:56):

So kind of like an appetizer board where there’s a few different snacks on there. And so we’re giving everyone a little taste of the fundamentals. And as the kickstart starts to wind down, what we ask coaches to do is to start to communicate expectations of next steps. So now that this three months, six weeks, four weeks, whatever the length is at the gym decided to follow. You explained to your members that this was just a general introduction to the fundamentals. And the phase two is where we go deeper and we start to individualize to you and your life. So the people that see the greatest success in their nutrition, aren’t the ones who just do the kickstarts. The kickstart gets everyone kind of off the ground with good healthy principles. Then they start to meet one-on-one with their coach and that’s where they get to go.

Jen (25:45):

Do we need to spend more time on meal planning and recipe ideas? Do you need a little bit more coaching and accountability and help with stress eating at night? Are you struggling with packing great snacks for the workday? Do you need kid friendly stuff? Are you dealing with a medical challenge? So the phase two is where we get to make it all about you and go deep and individualized until phase three is where we’re ready to kind of let you go on your own. And then we do more maintenance check-ins, but maybe further apart because we’re through the deep, hard individualized coaching where the change is really taking place. And phase three is about giving more like support, but a little bit less, but more from a distance. And so now these gyms can sort of see, ah, this is how our nutrition program is really going to grow.

Jen (26:35):

We can do kickstarts for like mass intake at one time, kind of have a spike in revenue. We know not everyone on a kickstart will to convert one-on-one, but it’s a very high conversion option. Then we do a period of time where we go months to a year plus of going really deep in an ongoing monthly subscription or package idea. And then we give a phase three idea, which is you’re doing great, but we’re still there on the side to make sure that you’re maintaining these good habits. We’ll kind of put you on more of a maintenance plan, but maybe not so weekly, biweekly, monthly, and until you’re at a point where either you can graduate out and you’re great on your own, or maybe you go back to stage two, which is easy to go deeper again. So I’ve seen the gyms that have taken that approach, A, have the happiest clients and B, do the best financially.

Josh (27:27):

So I want to put you on the spot because you touched on something there at, towards the end. And this came up, in a couple of the question and answer sessions during the summit is this idea that eventually you kind of made this motion. I know people that are only listening. They can’t see it, but like you kind of made this motion, like you’re just letting the bird fly free. And that really freaked a lot of coaches out because a number of us Two-Brain coaching mentors said something about this idea that you don’t always want the client to be beholden to you or dependent upon you to actually sustain change. And that freaked them out because we talk a lot about like, how long do you keep your clients and how much are they potentially worth? I’ve got a couple of questions for you, but the first one is like, how do you know when somebody is ready to kind of be let free versus somebody who maybe is just not getting it.

Jen (28:26):

There is a big difference between the two. So I’ll start with the person that’s like little birdie you’re ready to go out of the nest. Generally speaking that most of the time in nutrition coaching, it’s going to take at least a year, sometimes even 2, 3, 4 or five years to get to that point, but normally not much faster than a year and how you kind of know that they’re ready is as you’ve kind of had a few sessions and they’re like, they’re just, they’re very, very consistent in the core things that matter. So they’re eating their vegetables. They’re including lots of lean proteins for the day they’re making wise and smart carbohydrate choices. You know, they’ve managed to maintain or get down or, you know, in maintenance mode with a healthy body composition, the SEMM model, you know, they’re eating, they’re sleeping, they’re managing stuff, they’re moving well.

Jen (29:15):

And it’s, you almost start to feel, this is my coach’s perspective. You almost start to feel awkward to have an appointment with them because you’re like, what am I going to talk about now? And when someone’s in the throes of behavior change, it’s like, it’s an endless well, and there’s like nothing else. You know, you’re never going to run out of stuff to cover and talk about with them and how I know I’m starting to get to that point of, I think we need to talk about graduation is you actually, like, I actually feel a sense of like, not anxiety, but just like, oh, like, how am I going to show my value in this appointment as a coach, I really can’t think of anything else I need to challenge them on and push them on, you know, help them grow. And they kind of sense it too.

Jen (29:56):

And that’s also why like the three phases of like maybe a group or a, like a fundamental and then a very individualized intense period. And then we start to move more to maintenance, which is like maybe less frequent touch points, but we’re still, you know, that support there, but you’re going a little further on your own. And then there’s this kind of very natural place of, I feel really good. And I feel like this is just my normal. And then the second piece I want to talk about is it’s a little bit of psychology and a little bit of business wrapped into one. I think the coaches that get freaked out are thinking from a place of scarcity, oh my goodness, if I lose this reoccurring monthly payment, my monthly payment’s going to go down. There are so many people in the world that need our help with nutrition coaching, fitness coaching.

Jen (30:45):

And by graduating my clients, I’ve now made room in my roster for someone that needs my very intense support and I’ve never run out of. And in fact, you kind of want the people that need that intense support because they actually act as your biggest fans. They are getting so much transformation every single time they meet with you. They’re telling their friends, their coworkers, their family members. So I actually think by hanging onto someone that’s ready to graduate, in a way you were actually stunting your marketing and your raving fan base, because they’re not really going to glow about you as much. I would imagine they’d glow about you less because they’re like, oh, I don’t really, whatever I see them, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot for me anymore. But my loudest fans are the ones transforming and seeing the big change appointment to appointment to appointment.

Jen (31:36):

So from a scarcity mindset, by letting people graduate out, and then I have clients that come back four or five years later and they’re like, I need a little bit more help again. But I feel like every appointment is a perfect day because it’s never awkward and there’s lots to work on. And then they just, those active clients bring in so much new business where the ones that I’ve been with for a long time, they’re not talking about me to their colleagues anymore because yeah. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Josh (32:07):

It totally does. And there’s two things I know we didn’t intend on talking about this, but I’m so glad that we do. We are. So you used the word graduation two different times and both times, I don’t know if you’d noticed this, but like my eyes lit up and I know you can’t see this, but like the hair on my arms stood up because that’s such, I’ve never heard it described like that, but that is such a unique kind of exciting concept to bring to the client that like, Hey, you’ve crossed this bridge, you’re ready to walk on your own. And you’re graduating to this. Like, I can imagine if my coach came to me and said that, there would certainly be equal parts of like, I’m a little bit scared, nervous, am I ready for this? But there’s also a sense of pride that, oh my gosh, I did all this work and you know what? I can do this on my own. So I just wanted to point that out. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it in those terms, but it’s like, that was super powerful.

Jen (33:04):

Well, it’s kind of like we built the Ikea bookshelf, we’ve stress tested the bookshelf, he shelves aren’t falling down. We did it. We’re here. We got you to where you want it to be. And so I do some checks and balances too. So I use a lot of, it’s like humanized, but automation. So I will write a check-in message of, Hey, it’s been about three months since our last appointment. The last time we talked, I was sending you off with this, this and this as our final thoughts to focus on. How is that going? I’m curious, fill me in. So I still absolutely check on clients that have graduated. And it’s just a very gentle way that if things haven’t gone well, or they’ve had a, you know, there’s no such thing as failure, there’s just feedback. But if they had a point where things kind of crumbled a little bit, it’s a very welcoming invitation to come back. And so I think, you know, graduation is not something to be afraid of. It’s actually something like you said to be celebrated, you and the client worked together. And I think it’s a great mark of a great coach that you brought someone all the way over across the bridge to the other side.

Josh (34:08):

So my kind of elementary novice coach brain says, no, that can’t be possible. The client hasn’t like, you know, done all the things, they haven’t weighed and measured their food. And I’m smart enough now almost 20 years coaching later to recognize that what that novice coach is looking for is some idea in their head of perfection, right? Like thinking that like the Mona Lisa is never done. Right. How do you get over that?

Jen (34:42):

The best way as a coach is to get in the client’s head of what is good enough? What does done look like for the client? And coaches sometimes are like, well, what does done look like for me? Maybe done is 8% body fat with six pack abs and a huge monster snaps. Well, maybe my client that’s, you know, 58. And I met her three years ago when she had a heart attack and she wanted to work with me for weight loss counseling, and she’s lost 22 pounds. And she’s maintained that. And is she like a little soft and overweight, like maybe, but does she want to kill herself to lose more? No. When she walks, you know, on her lunch every day and she takes an after dinner walk and she’s eating like half plate veggies with lunch and dinner and quality protein sources. And she’s just a happy, healthy person with a clean bill of health from her doctor and her cholesterol numbers are back in the normal range.

Jen (35:33):

Well maybe when I’m 57, that’s a great day. That’s done. There’s nothing more that needs to really happen. And so this is actually someone I’m like in the process of graduating. We have one more check at the busy season of her work, in November when things kind of get a little bit hairy with her work schedule and her eating. But we basically said at the end of this year, we’ve been together three and a half years. You’re doing it. All those great habits are in place. And anything more creates, it’s a trade-off, she’s not willing to make. It’s a burden she has to carry that she’s not willing to. And we have all the markers of success in her definition of a successful healthy, happy life. You just have to be very unattached as a coach and take it back to what the client defines as done.

Josh (36:22):

One of the terms I’ve heard a number of times from other coaches in this space recently is a detached caring. It’s like, I care about your success, but not so much that it’s mine that defines whether or not like you are successful and content.

Jen (36:39):

Right? Yeah. I’ll give my metaphor. I use in the Two-Brain mentoring calls I do with the people on the nutrition course. I picture it like a field with a long fence down the center. As a coaching relationship, you’re only responsible for 50% and the other person is responsible for 50%. As a coach, I give a hundred percent on my 50%. So I will get right up to that fence. And I’m there to use motivational interviewing, be client centered, be supportive, a step at a time help with simplification implementation. I’m going to be focused, turned on, prepared, ready. I’ll do the homework. And that’s all I can do. I can’t care more than you. I can’t do the work for you. I can’t come into your life and come into your kitchen and like chop the food for you. At least I don’t offer that service. From a caring perspective.

Jen (37:33):

If I end the session of, I did the very best I could to be a client centered, good coach that met that person where they’re at, they’re allowed to approach the fence at whatever speed they want. They can charge at the fence. It could take one step forward. They could stay where they are and just be like, I need to feel this out a little bit longer before I take a step forward. I can’t be attached to whatever percent they want to give on their side of the fence. So that’s how I go to bed at night when I have like eating disorder clients that are really struggling with, you know, making positive progress. And I know that their life is actually in the balance because all I can do is be my best version of me on my half of the fence. And if I try to go over the fence and get into their territory, I’m actually not letting them work through the ambivalence. The trade-off, the decision-making the ownership, the accountability I’m actually taking that away from them. And I’m going to make it harder for them to get to their goal in the long run. So I go to my side of the fence, but I don’t cross over the fence.

Josh (38:37):

Yeah. And so first I hope that this whole last little bit of the conversation has been super valuable for coaches. I think that it’s the psychological piece that is so scary, right. Because, I can speak from an ownership standpoint, like a gym ownership standpoint is like, if you see people dropping off, it’s like, Hey, well what happened? What was the conversation? Like, why did they leave versus, and so then like, as a coach, you know, it’s like, oh man, did I fail this person? Did I do something wrong? And it could be that, or it could be that you’ve graduated your people and that’s a mark of success. And, I know that you’re too humble to say this. So I’ll say it for you, for coaches that are like, oh man. Yeah. But like, if we graduated all of our nutrition clients and like, who are we gonna, I don’t know that I’ve ever spoken to you when you don’t have a book of clients on a wait list. And that’s pretty unprecendented.

Jen (39:41):

I don’t have, I guess it’s a great thing to sort of brag about. Not that I would want to brag about it, but sometimes I’m like, oh, is there a week where there’s one opening in my calendar? Because it has been probably five, six years where like every single appointment slot I offer there’s someone’s scheduled in that appointment slot. And then I have at any given time, 20 plus people on a wait list, excited to move forward. And so it’s a wonderful problem to have, a really good problem to have. And I think that’s where, when I talked to the coaches that are like, no, I need that reoccurring monthly thing. It’s a scarcity mindset. And so I know that there’s just so many people out there needing our help, wanting our help, that it may, it’s a little bit of trust. And just a little bit of like, experience that I know there is someone that is so excited to slide right into that new position, that new opening and like a good therapist, I would hope that a great therapist helps someone get to a point where they’re fine to be independent and don’t have to see their therapist every single week or every single month the rest of their life, or that therapist has created a really unhealthy codependent relationship.

Josh (40:54):

That’s a really great place to go and to kind of get your mind in the space that it needs to be to understand you’re not, your job is not to keep these people indefinitely. Right. Totally random but I know you keep data on everybody that you’ve worked with. Do you know what percentage of clients at any time, like have stayed with you for an extended amount? Or do you know what percentage you graduate or do you ever look at things like that? Does that make sense?

Jen (41:26):

Yeah, it does make sense. I actually don’t have like an exact statistic to give because one of the ways I just sort measure, like how is the health of the business is I look at, these are how many appointments we offer a week. How full are we as a percentage of our appointment offerings? And then what happens is every time we start to max out our appointment offerings and I’m like, like we had a week where I had 69 clinic appointments happen. Now this isn’t all with me. I have a team, but I was like, we’ve done almost 70 appointments this week, just in one week for nutrition coaching. And then once I started to notice a pattern of like, oh my gosh, my other team members, now she’s looking out to the end of August.

Jen (42:06):

Like she has no availability for the next eight, nine weeks. I have another team member that has maybe like three spots left this summer over 10 weeks. So that gives me a warning bell of, OK, I’m fully booked up. My second dietician’s fully booked up. My third dietician’s fully booked up. I now have a fourth dietician on staff. And as soon as I see her maxed out for the number of clients really then that’s my impetus to grow and bring on more people. So I don’t necessarily track, OK, this percent are in graduation, I’m kind of always looking at the flux of how at capacity is the business on a day or week. And generally, like, I know I’m always at a hundred percent or 120%. I sometimes work at a hundred to 120%, but now I have another dietician whose schedule is 100% at capacity, a third dietician who’s scheduled at a hundred percent capacity. And my newest dietician’s probably at like 80% capacity. So I just look at the capacity load of like, what is we as humans like the labor piece can take. And then when that capacity is well above 80% for everyone, it’s time to grow again, time to bring in more.

Josh (43:21):

I know we’re kind of coming up to the hour. Do you have time to answer one more question? Because I think it could dovetail nicely from this previous conversation. And I don’t want to, you know, maybe bias the answer or anything, but I can’t help, but wonder if people that have nutrition programs are not graduating their clients and they always have this to your point, this codependent relationship, do you think that that’s a trend that’s holding a nutrition program back and if not, what else is there?

Jen (43:57):

Yes, absolutely it is. I think there’s the best of intentions. So I want to start off by saying for the gyms that do this, this isn’t to like hate on you or make you feel bad. So as you learn more, you can do better and grow. But in the mentoring calls I’ve done the gyms that have kind of really tried to hang on to, I’m going to meet you every single week or biweekly or every single month for accountability. If you think about that, that language, even of accountability, and I’m going to hold you accountable, it almost feels kind of like you have to go to the principal’s office because you’re bad kid and the principal needs to check in, or like your parole officer.

Josh (44:36):

It makes me think of your fence analogy. Like I’m going to jump the fence and come grab you and bring you back.

Jen (44:43):

Who needs accountability? People that are out on parole who have to meet with their parole officer, right? No offense to anyone on parole. So I think the gyms that are trying to hold on to people, they’re doing it, I think first and foremost, for financial reasons, and that doesn’t come from a place of client centered, as it might have been in the beginning intended to be, I’m here to support you. I’m here to be very available to you. I’m here to help you. So very good intentions. And then it gets to this line where it crosses over where maybe your client doesn’t need you biweekly or monthly or weekly or whatever the system was that you set up. And so I like having the option of letting my clients meet with me on the frequency that works for them. So usually it’s more bunched in the beginning and more intense, and then it starts to spread out and then sometimes it spreads out more.

Jen (45:33):

Other times we like around the holidays, we might crunch it in and it’s like an accordion that can go in and out to support the client with however much support makes sense in their life. And again, the idea of not scarcity mindset, there are always people who need your help. So if you think about that therapy analogy, wouldn’t it make sense for the therapist to work with someone who is actively depressed or suicidal who really needs more help right now than the person they worked with two years ago, who was depressed, but their depression is now resolved and you’ve taught them amazing coping skills to go out and manage life or to ask for help when they need the help, if it’s starting to come back. So I look at it as I’m available for the people that really are in that active phase of behavior change, who need a coach in their corner, you know, meeting with them often. And that graduation is a celebration of, we did it. We built the Ikea bookcase together, like way to go high five. And if you want to build another piece of furniture down the road, you give me a call. I’m really good at helping you put that together.

Josh (46:37):

That’s such a such a great way to think of it is they might not ever want to put together another piece of furniture. They’re happy with the one they’ve got, they know how to do that one, but in the event that they do, you’re there to help, but it’s not like, oh no, no, no. We built this chair. Now we got to get this bookshelf and then we’re going to get the couch. And then it’s like, no, they just wanted this. And now they know how to do that. And that’s fine.

Jen (47:04):

And then remember for the coaches that are listening, you’re available to do that again for someone’s like has a fallen apart bookcase, can you help me put it back together?

Josh (47:14):

I really like the way that this ended up going today. Cause I had no intention to your use your word earlier, like of talking about this idea that, you know, one day your client graduates and it might be a year from now. It might be five years now, but I do, as you hit on that, I do remember that being like it was almost like we touched a nerve with a handful of people at the summit that were like, oh, whoa, wait a minute. You’re telling me that this client might not be here a year or two or three years from now. And it was like, yeah, you know, that might be it. And that’s OK.

Jen (47:50):

Or they may come back at year six and that’s great too.

Josh (47:55):

Any other thoughts today?

Jen (47:56):

No, this was such a fun conversation and I mean, it’s kind of about the trends that we’ve seen in the pandemic, but I think this is just such a great circle back to being what a truly client-centered coach, there’s so much you can do for clients when you make it all about them and you kind of remove yourself or the finances from it. And then what’s so great is when you’re a better coach, the finances and the client success come along for the ride. So I look at them as these like really happy outcomes that just sort of tag along because maybe you can see from my face, lighting up the joy is in doing the work with the clients and helping them achieve whatever it is that they hired you to help them achieve.

Josh (48:37):

Well, I think that’s a great place to leave it. Thank you for your time. I look forward to the next time that we can have a conversation amongst coaches.

Jen (48:45):

Yeah. Always a fun chat. Thanks Josh.

Josh (48:48):

You’re welcome. Take care.


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