The Anatomy Of A Successful Nutrition Coaching Program

What makes a successful nutrition coaching program?

How can you create a nutrition program that will produce amazing results and have your clients raving about you to their friends, family, and co-workers?

Excellent question! You’re about to find out the exact formula I’ve used to coach thousands of successful clients over the last decade, and the method I teach to my rockstar nutrition coaches and dietitians in the I Believe Mentorship. 

But first, I must tell you a story about what NOT to do with nutrition coaching.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away….

There was a newly christened Registered Dietitian by the name of Tony Bologna working in a big box health club called Globo Gym.

Tony, like most RD’s had a passion for helping clients with nutrition, but had no real clue how to actually coach someone to produce long lasting results. Tony received an amazing formal education about TPN, food service management, and biochemistry, but was clueless when it came to the anatomy of successful nutrition coaching. One fine summer day, Tony walked into Globo Gym to find he had his first ever nutrition coaching client scheduled to see him that day.

Tony, eager and excited, greeted his client in his office. He proceeded to make small talk with his client, and then realized it was time to get down to business. It quickly dawned on Tony he had no idea what he was doing. So, he nervously pulled out a sheet of paper from the printer behind him, and began to scribble together a meal plan for his client based on the foods he mentioned he enjoyed.

50 minutes later, the client walked away from his $85/hour session with a piece of printer paper, a scribbled meal plan, and no real tangible action items, targets, or coaching. He was never seen again.

Don’t be like Tony.

And yes, that was me just five short years ago.

In retrospect, I am very grateful for that first client as it provided the catalyst for me to form the nutrition coaching process that has delivered amazing results for thousands of coaching clients. It also allows me to provide this formula to you, so you can profit from my past mistakes.

Why do you need to learn this?

Because the fact of the matter is, most degrees, programs, credentials, and certifications won’t teach you what real nutrition coaching is all about. If you think clients will come rushing to you just because you have an RD, PhD, or whatever other letters after your name, you are wrong. 

A lot of people suggest nutrition coaching is saturated in 2019. They are wrong. I do agree, the field is saturated with unqualified amateurs dishing out poor advice and low quality nutrition protocols. The field is definitely not saturated with experts.

In order for you to succeed in this field, you need to be able to deliver an amazing service, an uncompromising experience, and a powerful outcome and exceptional customer service. If you do this, you will win.

What does the anatomy of a successful nutrition coaching program look like?

Assessment.

Ever go to the doctors office, sit down, and the doctor magically comes in knowing exactly what’s wrong with you and can whip up a prescription, which will solve your problem, and send you on your merry way. Probably not. They first have you go through some sort of assessment, so they can diagnose your problem, and then prescribe a solution.

Every single program you create should begin with a detailed and thorough assessment of your client. You need to understand all the basic anthropometrics and biochemical parameters like age, height, weight, mood, energy, stress levels, etc. But, I would challenge you to take it a step further and identify characteristics about your client on a human level. Remember, this isn’t clinical dietetics where you come in, educate for five minutes, and then leave.

You need to understand how your client works and how they learn. We all learn in different ways. One question I love to ask on my initial assessment is “Tell me about a time you worked with a mentor or a coach that you loved. What about their coaching style did you respond best to?” This question has proved to be invaluable when creating a nutrition program my clients will adhere to and enjoy following.

Also, a common mistake that can sabotage client adherence is not tailoring the nutrition protocol according to the wants and needs of the individual. Most practitioners are emotionally connected to a particular diet paradigm, and this is reflected in their programming. Don’t let that be you. Create programs your clients can stick to and will actually enjoy following!

One of my rockstar mentorship clients Andres Ayesta, RD said: “A successful coaching process starts with a proper assessment. I start by specifying their short term and long term goals followed by a thorough discussion of their lifestyle, their struggles, their pains, what has worked and what hasn’t. With that information you can meet your client where he or she is at and develop a personalized strategy for them”

Implementation.

Something very important for you to remember is your clients are NOT like you. They get overwhelmed with change very easily. The worst thing you can do with a new coaching client is overwhelm them with information. Information overload in the beginning is the easiest way to send your client running for the hills. So, when it comes to implementation of your nutrition coaching program, it should be done in a way where they can easily digest information, and also establish momentum early on by getting some easy wins under their belt.

In your first initial coaching session, you need to establish in your clients mind that they made the right choice by investing in you and your services.

You do this by implementing the smallest changes you can make with their nutrition, that will produce the largest outcomes. This is what we call the “lowest hanging fruit method.” Just because you could teach them the entire metabolic pathway of ATP synthesis, doesn’t mean you should. Simplify nutrition for your client, give them some easy wins early on, and then progress the program as needed.

Expert Nutrition Coach Nicole Hagen says: “We often hear things like, “go big or go home”, or, “shoot for the stars” and while setting BIG goals can be thrilling, it’s the small steps – when done consistently – that win every time. I teach all of my clients exactly this. Frills and thrills are fun, but are often fleeting. When it comes to creating big, powerful results forget the frills and find something that lasts.”

Monitor Feedback.

It blows my mind when I see coaches or RD’s who do not have a detailed check in process with their clients. They blindly get on “coaching calls” with no real agenda or outcome in mind, and then wonder why it’s hard to retain clients past their first month. In order to create a successful coaching program you need to create an organized and powerful feedback monitoring process.

You should have a detailed check in sheet that outlines all the variables you need to monitor on a weekly-biweekly basis depending on the style of coaching you do. Obviously, for myself an RD who works with performance based clients via macro nutrition coaching, my check in sheet would look much different than a client of mine, Claire Chewing, RD who offers intuitive eating services.

Claire says: “Successful monitoring of a new coaching client begins with making sure expectations are clearly described from the beginning. Once we’re on the same page, I check in on them through our coaching app daily. On the app, they provide pictures of their meals and descriptions of their hunger cues + emotions surrounding meals. I provide at least one comment on their entries daily so that they know I’m present and on this journey with them!”

For example, on my check-in sheet I ask for bio-feedback measurements such as energy, mood, sleep, soreness, hunger, etc since my clientele are mainly athletes. That information helps me assess the efficacy of my coaching program and allows me to make changes based on tangible information, not subjective feedback.

Asking your client “how do you feel” on a coaching call is not objectively measuring feedback. Telling your client to “eat cleaner this week” is not effective nutrition coaching.

Regardless if you do macros, behavioral based coaching, or intuitive eating, you need a check in process so you can measure progress. What gets measured gets results. And if you don’t have a way to measure, and validate progress to your clients, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to the inevitable conversation with your client where they say “I need to take a break for awhile, this just isn’t working for me.”

Calibration.

Now that you have your coaching client checking in with you, your first month should be considered a calibration period. What I mean by that is you are learning your client and their body/metabolism, they are learning your coaching style, and you are fine tuning and tweaking your program to deliver the best results possible.

Listen, even if you are highly experienced with programming and coaching, I doubt you have a crystal ball that you can peer into and see exactly how your client will respond to your initial program. This is why calibration is so important. You take your initial assessment, create the best plan you can with the information available to you. Then, you dial in the program based on your clients feedback in their first few check ins, and you calibrate the program as needed. Don’t fix what’s not broken.

If they are doing great and giving excellent feedback, don’t touch a thing! More times than not, there is some calibration that needs to occur within the first 30 days to ensure your clients is feeling and functioning their best in their program.

Toni Marinucci, RD says: “When assessing if a new client is making progress I take everything into account from weights, photos, measurements, and mood, to confidence in the kitchen and/or making healthy choices when dining out. I highlight any positive change in efforts to motivate my client towards achieving more.”

Re-Assessment.

If you think the selling ends as soon as your client signs up, you are mistaken.

It’s you job as the coach to constantly re-assess your clients progress and establish new goals as they achieve their initial goals. It blows my mind when I hear RD’s or coaches say: “I lost a client this month because she hit her initial goal.” It’s your duty to constantly sell the image of the future to your clients.

If this happens you celebrate the accomplishment, and then you set NEW and BIGGER goals together! I’ve had clients in the past come to me to lose 10 lbs. A goal that took us 2-3 months to achieve. They end up staying with me for years because we constantly reassess and set new goals.

If you don’t have a structured re-assessment protocol you are doing your retention rates, and your clients a disservice. This is one of the easiest things I implement with my I Believe Mentorship clients to increase their retention rate.

One of my clients, Kelsey Flanagan has perfected this process with her Rockstar Nutrition Coaching Program. Kelsey says: “The power is the in assessment. The REassessment that is. A successful coaching business is an on going process that NEEDS to have touch points past the first 30 days.”

So there you have it! Five steps guaranteed to improve your nutrition coaching program and deliver an experience to your clients they will be sure to rave about to their friends, family, and co-workers.

If you found value in this post, the best thank-you you can provide to me is by sharing this with one other person who can find value from it!

Now, go use what I taught you and change some lives!