Once you have gathered all of your information you are able to formulate a plan to coach your client. You will have already been coaching during the information gathering process, as you are involved in open 2-way conversations. However, the plan is a formal step-by-step approach that the client will follow to achieve their goals.
The client is the driving factor, you can only guide. It is your job to understand the client and their needs to make sure that the plan is achievable and addresses their goals. It is the client’s job to make the changes and take responsibility for their health.
- do not judge
- do not let your preferences/habits influence the plan
- to refer to other practitioners when you need to. Never make suggestions or put anything in the plan which is out of your remit. Be aware and recognise your knowledge and limitations.
The plan should;
- address the client’s goals
- have priorities and timescales
- be clear and understandable for the client
- be achievable by the client
- offer an appropriate level of information and support
- explain why the changes are necessary and the consequences of not making change
- outline clear expectations. Be clear about reporting back to you and how and when they may contact you for additional information/support
- explain clearly what you want them to record in terms of successes/problems/changes they need to make
- be discussed with and agreed by the client. The client should have already guided you in the formulation through your discussions so that you ensure it is achievable. You as the coach are there to suggest the appropriate plan but it is the client’s plan that they need to agree to in full and take responsibility
- motivate the client to make behavioural changes.
Tips for developing the plan to ensure patient compliance;
Ensure that you have fully understood the client’s goals, needs, dietary preferences, limitations, etc. This should have been assessed adequately in the information gathering process.
Focus on what is already good in the diet.
Focus on the client’s strengths. For example, if they are a very organised person you may use that strength to help them organise and prep the week’s lunches.
Build on past successes. For example, if they found past success in batch cooking or maybe cooking extra at the evening meal to use as lunch the next day then build that into the plan.
Look for and include easy changes for the client. There are always some. Look out for them and ensure they are included.
Remember the limiting factors; time, family, money, lack of cooking skills, etc. Whatever they are you should have highlighted them during your information gathering process and be aware of them when developing the plan. If they truly don’t have time to cook breakfast don’t put that in the plan – instead suggest a breakfast that can be prepared the previous evening and simply eaten e.g. overnight oats or cold frittata, etc. Some things clients won’t have control of so ensure the plan is not asking them to make changes in those areas.
Provide the appropriate level of detail and explanations based on their existing knowledge of healthy food and nutrition. Don’t be scared to explain the science but put it into layman’s terms and only explain what is relevant. There is no need to show off your knowledge. What is important is the client, not you!
Take into consideration the client’s cooking ability. We want our clients to ideally cook real, fresh food but that may not at this stage be within their capabilities. When you are providing recipes provide those of an appropriate level. For some people, it needs to be as simple as scrambled eggs on toast. That is still an improvement over cocoa pops and skimmed milk!
Motivate your client. Here are a few suggestions to include;
Explain that a healthy lifestyle is a journey and we can make one change at a time. We are not perfect. We are all on a journey and just because you enjoy birthday cake one day doesn’t mean you need to then eat it for the rest of the week as you have ‘failed the plan’. If there are 7 roses in a vase and 1 dies you do not throw all 7 out but instead remove the 1. It is no different with our dietary intake. Just because you have a celebration and one day eat and drink foods that aren’t part of your regular eating plan it doesn’t mean you eat like that for the rest of the week. History is history, it can’t be changed but today can.
If you only have healthy food in the house you are not tempted by the unhealthier foods. Also if it is in the house eventually other members of the family might eat it, therefore, making change easier and the whole family healthier.
You are changing your lifestyle for a healthier one, for life, so that you can feel better, have more energy, etc. This is not a diet plan. You should not be hungry or deprived. You should enjoy your food and love the health benefits that you are rewarded with .