How Can I Help Clients Lose Weight?
Barbara A. Brehm
You can't do it for themChanging exercise and eating behaviors takes enormous effort and willpower. There are no magical techniques for "making" your clients stick to their weight-control resolutions. They must do the work, and make the changes in their habits that will facilitate weight loss. But, you can be supportive and understanding, and use every motivational technique you know.2
A focus on weight can be frustratingWhen weight loss is the goal, clients can become frustrated when weight loss slows, as it usually does after the first few weeks of a weight-control program. In addition, changes may be occurring in body composition and hydration so that in some weeks, the scale shows no change. One participant told how she quit her weight control group because of the weekly weigh in. She felt like a failure the weeks she didn't lose any weight. But, she eventually lost more than 60 pounds with diet and exercise.
So, focus on the process, not the product. The process is a healthy lifestyle, which will hopefully lead to the product: weight loss.1-7
Sometimes people don't lose weightSometimes the cause of obesity is unknown.5 This situation is frustrating for clients and fitness professionals. Developing a healthy lifestyle is still the best advice you can give in this situation.
In addition, some clients cope with negative emotions by overeating. They may need professional help to change firmly entrenched, destructive behavior patterns that have developed over a lifetime. Unless you are a therapist, this is beyond your scope of practice. But don't assume all overweight clients have "serious issues."
Environment mattersFollowing a healthy lifestyle is like swimming upstream in cultures where access to a healthy lifestyle is limited. Fresh produce is more expensive than fast food, and active recreational opportunities may be nonexistent. Experts agree that lifestyle change is the only way to lose weight, but many groups face insurmountable obstacles to lifestyle change, especially those who lack economic and social resources for following a healthy lifestyle.3,6,7
Address injury symptoms, not weightOverweight clients are tired of being told to lose weight when they ask for help with health problems or injury symptoms. While losing weight might reduce the problem, weight loss may not be possible, and they need treatment now.
Fitness testing can be embarrassingBe sure your client is medically cleared to exercise, and then track health variables such as blood pressure, blood lipids and blood sugar levels that are measured at medical checkups. Offer fitness tests that clients can complete without feeling discouraged or embarrassed.
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