Point blank: I wouldn’t hire an obstetrician to repair my knee. Would anyone?
…No? No takers?
Closer to home: I wouldn’t hire a certified nutrition consultant to write my strength training program.
So why would you hire a trainer – or other non-nutrition-certified individual – to write your nutrition plan?
It happens all the time. And don’t get me wrong - plenty of legit fitness trainers exist who offer smart advice. But if I’m being honest, it burns my tail.
As someone with over 25 years in the industry, I’ve seen too many people come to us with shot metabolisms, unnecessarily-angry digestive systems, and damaged food relationships…even when their previous “nutrition consultant” meant well.
From a health coaching perspective, I cannot underscore just how many times we have seen new clients who have been previously coached by others and have had unfortunate experiences like these:
Extreme amounts of dairy (if you don’t already have a sensitivity to it, you don’t want to risk developing one);
Boatloads of protein powder – up to three servings per day (yes, for most people, multiple servings per day is not a good idea);
Repeat, repeat, repeat of the same meal day in and day out…so much that I have seen individuals ruined on some really quality foods for life, such as seafood or even chicken;
800-calorie diets and two hours of cardio each day;
Lack of psychological direction with a known history of poor food relationships (ex. bariatric surgery);
Improper supplement direction, often in specific amounts (sorry, if they aren’t a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, they aren’t qualified to prescribe).
At the very least, this direction was misleading and irresponsible. At the worst, it’s harmful.
Case in point: did you know that…
"…CLA may not be as harmless as you might think? Often promoted to help retain lean mass, support weight loss, and help control type 2 diabetes, it may drop cholesterol too low.?"
" …L-carnitine, while intended to support healthy metabolism, may increase cardiovascular disease risks in individuals with high TMAO blood levels.”
…certain foods and even single-ingredient supplements may interfere with the medications you already take and/or conditions with which you’ve been diagnosed? Timing, amounts, and even the foods themselves all matter!
Yeah. We’ve done the research. And in the instances when we really don’t know, we are fortunate to have a team of 15 coaches on whom to lean.
I often say that even with multiple degrees in this field, “I am not Jodi of all trades.” I’ll pass along a plan or client to another coach with more expertise on our team in a heartbeat. Why? It’s the responsible thing to do.
And after 25 years in the industry in corporate wellness, running my own consulting business, and being part of a unique, privately-owned company, I’ve learned a bit about the nuances that make the difference between mediocrity and magic with your results.
First, the coaching relationship must be the right fit. Your proposed coach may be an expert, though in the initial meeting or call, keep in mind that it’s a two-way street:
You are assessing him/her as much as s/he is assessing you.
It is very much a “hiring” process for both parties – and should be. Therefore, I’m sharing *Five Questions You Should Ask Your Nutrition Professional Before You Hire Them*…beyond the obvious: degrees/certifications, years of experience, & professional background:
1) “What is the scope of your practice with regard to nutrition, fitness, and psychology?”
For effective behavioral change to occur, nutrition experience and certifications are critical. Nutrition is worth 80% of one’s physical changes, and while fitness training is a nice-to-have, it isn’t necessarily a nutrition coaching component unless (a) the company or individual is including both in their service menu, and (b) your proposed coach is certified – legit certified, not just a weekend nutrition certificate! - and has expertise in both areas.
With regard to psychology, yes, many coaches must possess at least a basic understanding in order to guide clients effectively. It’s necessary in order to support clients with, for example, effective alternative behaviors to deal with stress other than food.
At the same time, quality behavioral and nutrition coaches will suggest a therapist or counselor when a client presents more significant issues beyond the scope of their specialty. Consider this situation like visiting your primary healthcare provider; s/he may be able to provide a steroid to reduce shoulder inflammation, but should the shoulder require surgery, the right next move involves referring the patient to a specialist.
Therefore, look for a coach who will refer you to the right professional, should that situation arise.
Also, do not be fooled by the individual who lost a significant amount of weight and hung up a “now coaching” shingle. While I am always thrilled for those folks who have figured out the “sustainable weight loss” equation, it is not adequate to prepare them to handle all of the different individuals and scenarios that nutrition coaching presents. If you come across that individual with that history, terrific! Just be sure that s/he possesses the educational backing that can thoroughly help others.
2) “May I see some of your other client transformations?”
Any successful coach should have a reasonable profile of success stories. If that coach is fairly new to the game, you could give him/her the benefit of the doubt, and it would be fair to expect a fee less than the industry average. You may also compromise your rate of results by risking hiring someone who’s inexperienced.
Along with this request, I suggest asking for other clients who approximate your circumstances, body type, and/or goals. What do their transformation photos look like, or would they be willing to share their testimony with you? Similar to checking references for childcare for your kids or a contractor’s previous work, it’s reasonable to ask for previous results.
3) “How hard do you tend to hit the gas pedal for your clients?”
To me, the right answer is, “It depends on the individual.” An experienced coach will let you know that the same blanket approach will not work well for everyone.
Think about the person who beats herself up for poor nutrition choices and inflates the five percent of the time that happens as a monumental failure; personally, that’s the type of client where I let off the gas pedal. She’s already beating herself up to the nth degree, and my fueling that fire will not help her.
Instead, the correct coach approach would involve helping her (a) put those behaviors into perspective, and (b) find more peace with her decisions long-term. On the other hand, take an individual who has low fidelity to her plan and falls into “excuse mentality”repeatedly; certain clients tend to require more of a direct delivery to help them past their own BS.
4) “Who’s your mentor?”
A seasoned coach may have seen a lot, though a truly expert coach likely won’t say that s/he’s “seen it all.” I don’t care how many years, clients, or pounds lost a coach may list; when one stops learning and receiving new information, s/he stops evolving. And who would want a coach who is past his/her potential?
Part of this question involves asking your proposed coach whose help and support s/he seeks when outside of his/her comfort zone or expertise. The truth is, every coach, whether in a company of one or 100, should and likely will have moments where they:
question whether they are doing right by their client;
encounter a client with significant/complex medical issues and can use an extra set of eyes;
encounter a client issue outside their area of expertise (truly, we’ve all had a first ____ [PCOS client, Hashimoto’s client, post-partum client, etc.])
Do you want the coach who has encountered a client “first” and overconfidently assumes that they can roll the dice and handle it? Or, do you prefer a coach who is humble enough to seek a second opinion or defer to another professional?
Again, as a professional with multiple certifications and experience running her own consulting show, I assure you: the power of team is, well, incredibly powerful. It is a relief to know that you have a coach who has access to the breadth of resources and backing that your situation may require.
5) “When I’m feeling discouraged and may even prematurely want to quit coaching at some point, what is your coach approach?”
At some point in the process, many clients question, “Should I quit?” They have either stalled with results, are unsure of next steps, are afraid about some future part of the process, or fear not ultimately winning their journey.
All of those feelings are normal! It is wise to anticipate that time in the future when the “honeymoon phase” is over and the work may even seem insurmountable.
Change is hard! You will want to know at the outset how your coach intends to bring you back to your authentic self’s true “why;” it is the reason that you are hiring him or her in the first place!
In summary, there’s a time to go to the Dollar Store, and there’s a time to go to Nordstrom. When it comes to something as impactful and all-encompassing as nutrition, and when you want your results to be truly sustainable, trust me: you want the latter!
Coach Jodi Sheakley-Wright, PhD, is one of the lead behavioral coaches at KK Wellness Consulting. She has also achieved pro status as a natural bodybuilder, is a living kidney donor, and appreciates each day to help clients achieve more than they thought possible!
She stated, “I am incredibly fortunate to work amongst an expert group of professionals who are certified and degreed in multiple areas; we have registered nurses and several with advanced psychology degrees, not to mention our owner, who is certified by the Virginia Board of Medicine.”
Request a consult or related service with Jodi or anyone on our expert team at https://www.kkwellnessconsulting.com/services.