Small Changes Make Big Waves

by | Nov 14, 2016 | Articles, For Fitness Pros, Stage 2 | 0 comments

(Last Updated On: February 27, 2023)

How Small Changes Can Make Big Waves

My very first IzzyFit client — let’s call her Lisa — came to me with the goals to lose weight and feel better.

Great, I thought! My specialties were just that: helping people lose weight and feel better! So I trained her at her home 3 times per week. She started a 24-day nutrition “challenge” which included eliminating gluten/dairy/sugar/alcohol/fun/will-to-live while eating lots of veggies and protein shakes.

And while she lost 15lbs in that first month, she stalled for the next five.

No matter how many times she’d try to go back to the way she was eating in that initial month, no matter how many times she tried working out with the same intensity that she’d experienced initially, the scale hardly budged to her (and my) frustration.

Why do you think she eventually crashed, burned and then didn’t want to train anymore?

She took on too much at once, and I was partly to blame. She had an incredible first month of wins but my newbie self didn’t understand that I was setting her up for more losses down the road.

I had not managed her expectations for the long-term. We had never addressed whether the habits and skills she was building that first month could be followed through. Especially given the fact that she was a working mother of two who loved dining out with friends on weekends.

We’re in the business of helping people. However, we oftentimes get so excited about our new client’s potential that we pile on a bunch of changes at once to get the client to their goals in the fastest amount of time (like I did with Lisa). So we “prescribe” these changes because they’ve hired us as The Expert.

What we may have missed, however, is whether those changes even made sense for that particular client. If they lined up with their values or if they felt 90-100% confident they could meet the challenges ahead as we set them up. I know now with Lisa, smaller changes over time could have made a greater impact long-term instead of her immediate win followed by consistent losses.

Smaller changes?!

Why surely you know our clients want results RIGHT NOW!

“The client hired me and I’m The Expert and they’re paying to follow my system!”

Well, yes, right on both counts. Research does support the idea that clients perform better if they do have that immediate proof that things are moving in the right direction. And obviously the client hired you because they believe in your ability to help solve their problem.

But after a few years of Lisa’s, I changed my approach and started to guide the client to create a habit or skill they felt confident working on. The results were surprising:

Most of my CleanSlate28 nutrition coaching clients who work on one small change at a time report steadily losing weight and then maintaining, some for the first time ever.

Top Three AHA Moments

So here are my top three AHA! moments for why small trumps huge, based on what I’m seeing…

By focusing on small changes, you’ll be setting your client up for consistent wins.

While your client might feel like they want to take on as many changes as they can to reach their goal as quickly as possible, it’s likely they’re thinking only about reaching the goal without thinking about maintaining it.

Ask your client: Can these changes you’re taking on become a seamless and happy part of your life? Can you see yourself sticking with them next year and beyond? If yes, carry on! If no, how can we scale them to a point where they’re manageable? (And remember: “Small” is relative!)

Making smaller changes + practicing them + slowly building on them over time = Skillz Gainz!

Josh Hillis likes to use this example a lot:

Do you go from never having dead lifted to dead lifting 500lbs in a week? No. We need to put in the hours of practice to get stronger and stronger at certain skills in order to reach our ultimate goal safely and without burning out.

This applies to our training and nutrition clients alike.

Most general population clients don’t go from a lifestyle of grazing throughout the day while only drinking coffee and diet soda with maybe a salad to their name twice a week to mastering macro splitting, meal timing and drinking a gallon of water/day overnight and we should not expect that of them!

Small changes can shift the all-or-nothing mentality.

We’ve all had that client that goes ALL IN with their diet and exercise and gets awesome results but when life gets in the way, everything falls by the wayside. They proclaim they’ve “been bad and fallen off the wagon and can’t get back on”.

If someone feels less self worth because they couldn’t keep up with an unsustainable plan, how likely will they be to open themselves back up to potential failure again? Not too likely — at least not soon — which means it will take that much longer for them to ask for help again.

Clients come to us because they need our help and expertise. It’s our job to find out what that means for THEM as individuals. And the way to do that is to ask them lots of open-ended questions.

You also need to get to know them not as “another weight loss client” but as Leslie, a mom of two who is a cancer survivor who doesn’t love working out but wants someone who can help her make changes in her life that won’t upend it.

Please consider this: The frustrations our clients feel when they aren’t getting results may be due to expectations and reality not matching up.

The frustrations we feel when our client isn’t making enough progress, isn’t following the plan we made for them, may have more to do with us than with the ability of the client, and that can be hard to swallow.

So let’s ask ourselves: As Experts, can we do a better job learning more about our clients’ values, lifestyles and background to guide them to effective AND sustainable actions — which may skew on the smaller side?

About the Author

IzzyFit - small changesIsabelle “Izzy” Libmann came to personal training in a non-traditional, roundabout way. A theater major at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and event planner and publicist after college, life was very much on-the-go with nutrition and fitness on the back burner.

It wasn’t until she hired her own trainer that she recognized what a powerful experience it can be to get stronger and feel better. One major “AHA!” moment later, Izzy decided to become a personal trainer herself so she could help people feel stronger, healthier and, most importantly, more empowered.

IzzyFit was born out of the desire to train each client as an individual with programs that fit their own personal needs. You can find Izzy at TruFit Personal Training Studios, a private training facility, right in the heart of downtown Evanston, IL.

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