nutrition coaching

How to Run a Successful (and Fun!) Nutrition Coaching Program

How do you create a fun, motivating nutrition coaching program at your gym? Here are six tips to launch and grow your program successfully!

Emily Beers
July 27, 2023
How to Run a Successful (and Fun!) Nutrition Coaching Program
How do you create a fun, motivating nutrition coaching program at your gym? Here are six tips to launch and grow your program successfully!

Let’s be honest: Nutrition coaching is rarely synonymous with the word fun. After all, it’s way more complex than suggesting chicken and broccoli. And usually involves a pretty emotional deep-dive into people’s relationships with food.

Sometimes these relationships stem from trauma or some kind of negative experience. And oftentimes, people looking for a nutrition coach are unhappy with their health, bodies or lifestyle. There’s also a perceived threat of having to give up their favorite foods, the ones that bring them comfort.

Overall, it can make nutrition coaching a heavy undertaking. So how do you, as a gym owner or nutrition coach, go about turning this negative energy around? How do you create a fun, positive experience where clients are genuinely excited to make changes?

Create a fun nutrition coaching program to motivate and support your gym members.

Today, we’re talking to Nicole Aucoin, founder of Healthy Steps Nutrition (HSN), for some creative ways to bring a fun energy to your nutrition coaching program.

Six Tips for a Successful Nutrition Coaching Program.

The non-negotiable piece of the nutrition coaching puzzle is results. If your clients aren’t making changes, the program itself needs improvement. But after that, it’s all about creating a positive, fun experience. Here are six ideas to do that:

1. Take a Client-Centered Approach.

A client-centered approach means maintaining focus on what the client wants to achieve. You may think you know what’s best for them or what they should want. But Aucoin explained that staying client-centered helps keep them motivated and excited about making changes.

Along the same lines, for the sake of meeting someone where they’re currently at, ditch the rules.

“People don’t want strict rules,” said Aucoin. “They want a healthier lifestyle.”

Another part of taking a client-centered approach is to avoid going from one extreme to the other overnight. For example, you may have a client who’s currently not getting any vegetables in their diet at all. It’s unrealistic and zero fun to tell them every meal should now include vegetables.

Instead, take a one-step-at-a-time approach. Challenge them to commit to eating vegetables with one meal a day. And let them pick their vegetable of choice.

“Smaller bite sizes is best, and keep it simple,” Aucoin said.

2. Start with the Wins.

You always want to start a nutrition coaching consult with the things that are going well. Instead of focusing on the barriers your client might be facing, Aucoin says to start with what she calls “the bright spots.”

Even if they’re just teeny tiny wins, she says to “always start with the positive. And then get into barriers and challenges they’re still facing.”

Nicole Aucoin encourages nutrition coaches to start with wins
Nicole Aucoin, founder of Healthy Steps Nutrition, encourages coaches to start with client wins.

This will help your client recognize the results they’ve achieved, no matter how small, from any changes they’ve made. It’s also the best way to make the process enjoyable and keep people on a forward-focused path.

Celebrating wins was so important to Aucoin that HSN actually created an app for it. For example, if a client hits a three-day streak of eating veggies with every meal, it triggers a celebration in the app. An animation shouts out the win and congratulates your client on growing consistency, the driver of long-term results.

3. Get the Family Involved.

Through her years as a nutrition coach, Aucoin has learned firsthand about a significant stumbling block that often blocks success. If a client’s significant other - or family member - is not on board with the changes, it can be detrimental. And naturally, this adds stress to an already-tough situation.

“It can be a big friction point,” Aucoin said.

With that in mind, it can be helpful to sit down and have a conversation with the significant other. This way, Aucoin pointed out, everyone is on the same page and can be fully supportive or involved.

4. Map Out the Journey.

“We can’t assume clients know how to get from point A to point B” said Aucoin. “If they don’t have a map, they might get lost.”

Therefore, the more detailed the plan is, the more likely it is to help your clients succeed. Drilling down to the details mean asking very specific questions. Which vegetables are they planning to buy? What store will they stop at? When do they plan to prepare their meals? Are there any barriers they anticipate with the plan?

“You don’t want there to be any guesswork at the end of your session with them,” Aucoin said.

5. Check In Consistently.

Accountability is an incredibly important piece of the nutrition coaching puzzle. As gym owners, we’ve had people show up at class simply because they knew we were tracking. So we’ve seen the data with gym member check-ins. Similarly, it’s imperative to check in with your clients consistently to keep them on track.

Aucoin designed the HSN app to help with tracking, but reminds coaches that they “also need to follow-up.” By checking in about what’s working and what’s not, you keep your clients on accountable toward their own success.

Check in with clients for coaching accountability
Check in with nutrition coaching clients to hold them accountable to their goals.

6. Set Realistic Expectations.

We live in an instant-gratification society, which means nutrition coaching results aren’t often what clients picture. If they feel like they’re failing due to unrealistic expectations, they’re more likely to fall off the plan.

The most common expectation is in regards to how quickly clients can expect to see changes, Aucoin explained. Therefore, it’s critical that you set expectations of what’s actually realistic.

This means reiterating that “there’s no quick fix,” she said. “In reality, change is slow.”

She added that it’s also important to recognize all kinds of wins. Not just the ones on the scale, but the less measurable ones, too. These are things like how their energy levels or sleep has improved.

Four Events to Help Kickstart a Nutrition Program.

Sometimes, simply announcing that your gym is going to launch a nutrition coaching program isn’t enough to get people to take action. Aucoin explained that it’s easier to get clients excited with fun, creative events. Here are four suggestions:

1. Host a Potluck.

Host a potluck at your gym where everyone brings a healthy recipe made of whole foods. Not only will this provide people with new recipe ideas, it’s also a great filter to find out who your potential nutrition coaching clients could be.

A healthy potluck is also a chance for them to recognize that healthy foods don't have to be bland, but instead, delicious.

“It lets people experience healthy options they might also actually enjoy,” Aucoin said.

2. Create a Recipe Share-a-Thon.

Whether on social media or using a PushPress Grow workflow, a recipe share-a-thon lets gym members help each other. This can motivate people with new, delicious options recommended by trusted gym-mates.

Coaching clients share healthy recipes
Encourage coaching clients to share healthy recipes with the group.

Aucoin said two of her favorite recipes are perfect for those with a sweet tooth: Almond Joy Energy Balls and Casein Pudding.

Plus, PushPress and HSN have partnered to create nutrition-based, automated workflows. The workflows are pre-built to roll out for current and former clients. They include content like healthy recipes, general nutrition info and tips about how to take action.

Pro Tip: Want to learn how PushPress Grow can save you time and support your nutrition coaching program? Book a demo with our team today!

3. Offer a Bring-a-Friend Week.

Everything is more fun with a friend, right? Embarking on a healthier way of eating is no exception. And it’s part of the reason why Aucoin sometimes offers a Saturday bring-a-friend day.

The group works out together and then attends a short nutrition seminar. First, it’s a great way to recruit more clients to your gym. And second, you're recruiting supporters for your clients as they start a nutrition transformation journey.

4. Host a Challenge... Occasionally.

Aucoin is a fan of sporadically hosting nutrition challenges. She explained that yes, a challenge might seem like a huge part of a nutrition coaching program. And they are in fact a great kickstart to get people buying in. However, she warns that they shouldn’t be a constant.

“You also need a path for those people to continue to have continued support after the challenge is over,” she said. In light of this, she recommends one or two challenges per year. This allows you to focus more of your attention on ongoing nutrition coaching. For the clients, this creates a more enjoyable, motivating experience.

She then offered one more tip. When running a challenge, offer weekly prizes instead of one big one at the end. In her experience, this has proven to increase engagement and motivation.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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