[ November 19, 2015 by Fitness Revolution 6 Comments ]

How Your Client’s Personality Impacts Nutrition Coaching

Your clients’ personalities impact everything about their overall fitness plan, including their nutrition coaching. This article covers 4 main types & how to *best* coach them.

(Last Updated On: September 24, 2019)

Why Personality Affects Nutrition Coaching

Coaching is all about effective communication, and in this article, you will learn how to identify and adapt to your clients’ natural communication styles. This practice will help you overcome many of the barriers to getting a client to buy in and ensure they want to be a part of the process when it comes to nutrition coaching.

In this article we will:

  • Identify and understand your own communication style so that you understand how to adapt.
  • Follow a process for quickly identifying a client’s communication style so that you can adjust your own to meet their needs.
  • Develop an understanding of how to effectively communicate with each communication style for more effective coaching.

As a fitness professional today, there is so much information available about nutrition and helping your clients change their eating habits that it can be a challenge to figure out which method is the right one—that is, the one that will help your clients get sustainable results in the quickest way possible.

The great news is that all of these methods work; that’s why each strategy has its advocates who come loaded with testimonials of amazing success stories (think: Paleo, Flexible Dieting, and Intermittent Fasting).

When you get over the dogma associated with many of the nutrition methods and especially with fat loss strategies, you will realize they all share many of the same principles. More importantly, you’ll come to the understanding that some clients are better suited for certain methods than they are for others.

There are two keys to success when it comes to nutrition coaching: compliance and sustainability.

But to achieve those 2 goals with any given client, you need to remember that you are coaching a person. Each individual will have his or her own set of obstacles to overcome and will need a slightly different approach to reaching his or her goals.

The Power of Personality

Taking a personality-based approach to your nutrition coaching will help you get clients to be more compliant and happier with their nutrition program than they would be through you simply prescribing a meal plan or other method to get results.

The premise of personality-based nutrition coaching is to empower your clients to help you with making the decisions that will ultimately get them the results they want. In other words, this approach engages your clients in the process and creates more buy-in, which we all know leads to better results.

The premise of personality-based nutrition coaching is to empower your clients to help you with making the decisions that will ultimately get them the results they want.

While some clients may say they simply want to be told what to do and they’ll do it, when things get tough or they are required to make individual choices due to life circumstances, if they feel as though they are a part of the process, it is much easier for them to make a choice that supports their goal. And if they instead make a choice taking them further from their goal, it’s OK: They will have ownership of that choice, which will make it easier for them to get back on track.

Enter DiSC Profile

Luckily, there already exist some tools for making personality-based coaching both practical and easy to implement. One of my favorite is DiSC®, a system that categorizes each individual based on 4 different personality styles. A DiSC profile of your client can be used to help determine which nutrition coaching approach you should take with them for faster results.

DiSC is more a communication style than a personality style. Understanding the 4 different styles and learning how to communicate and adapt your own style to others will help you be more effective in all your communication.

These are the 4 DiSC styles:

These individuals are:

  • Direct
  • Results-oriented
  • Firm
  • Strong-willed
  • Forceful

These individuals are:

  • Outgoing
  • Enthusiastic
  • Optimistic
  • High Spirited
  • Lively

These individuals are:

  • Even-tempered
  • Accommodating
  • Patient
  • Humble
  • Tactful

These individuals are:

  • Analytical
  • Reserved
  • Precise
  • Private
  • Systematic

Step 1:

The first step in understanding how to better communicate with your clients would be to take a simple home test and find out where you stand on the DiSC chart. You can take a free DiSC test here: http://discpersonalitytesting.com/

Step 2:

The next step is to figure out how to identify your client’s DiSC type without having him or her take a test. Use the following questions to help you determine where your client falls on the DiSC chart.

Which better describes your client:

  1. Fast-paced & Outspoken
  2. Cautious & Reflective

Which better describes your client:

  1. Accepting & Warm
  2. Questioning & Skeptical

Once you have your answers, you can combine them to find your client’s profile.

D Types

  • Fast-paced & Outspoken
  • Questioning & Skeptical

I Types

  • Fast-paced & Outspoken
  • Accepting & Warm

S Types

  • Accepting & Warm
  • Cautious & Reflective

C Types

  • Questioning & Skeptical
  • Cautious & Reflective

How to Best Coach Each Personality Type

Each of these styles requires a different communication style to help them buy into your coaching and make them feel a part of the process, creating the solution with you instead of you dictating it to them.

D Style

When you are working with a D Style client, you should be very direct with them, present your details and plan at a faster pace, and be blunt.

This style wants to get right to the point, so don’t bother them with lots of details. They simply want to put the program to action right away. This is the client who would head to the store and start your nutrition plan immediately after your first session with them.

They also want immediate results and are not afraid to stick to a strict plan to get them. Make sure your plan provides some type of feedback-driven results this person can see quickly, such as lost weight or inches.

This person will simply want to know if you can get them the result they are looking for in the time frame they have available. They will also make you prove your worth to them and will challenge you on your claims.

Your best approach with this type of person is to let them express their concerns but be very assertive in your answers.

You can challenge this person with a strict plan, and they won’t get too hung up on details. They are OK to figure it out as they go.

I Style

An I Style is similar to the D Style, but you need to be friendlier with them and less blunt. Be optimistic about the results you expect without going into details.

This style also wants to be recognized, so encouraging them and praising them for their hard work and results is important. If you have stories and experience of your own, use them with this style because they want to be able to relate to you. It would also be good to use social proof and testimonials with this person.

S Style

If you have an S Style, the approach to coaching them needs to be slow and very sincere. This person values relationships and is concerned about how this will impact others more than themselves.

You’ll need to make sure they know this plan will work and that it won’t impact the others in their lives. If they have a family, they will probably be reluctant to change.

To help them most effectively, be warm and sincere, slow down your coaching approach, and focus on the process.

They may ask lots of questions, so be patient and address their concerns so they feel you care about their results. Constant reassurance will help with their progress.

C Style

When working with a C Style, you have to approach things a bit more cautiously. This style needs info and details to make their decision and really buy into the program. Homework or extra reading material to back up your reasoning for using a certain method with this style is important.

Use case studies, and be prepared to answer a lot of questions about the hows and whys of your nutrition plan.

When coaching this individual, use a slower pace and be very methodical and analytical in your approach.

The Art of Coaching

There is an art to coaching, and that art is developed and refined by learning how to communicate with your clients. Learning how to adapt your own preferred style of communication to the style that best suits each of your clients will help you be more successful when getting them to make tough changes.

Adjusting your style will take time and a lot of effort. You naturally want to communicate with your own style, but you will be much more effective if you choose to adapt and adjust to your clients’ communication styles. When you do, they will be more comfortable and much more willing to do what you ask.

What other aspects of the client-trainer relationship can you apply these principles to?

Comments [06]

  1. November 19, 2015

    Great article – very very useful information.

  2. November 19, 2015

    I could definitely use this in my initial client consltation. Do you actually have Disc system?

    • Ryan Ketchum
      November 21, 2015

      Chris- I’ll shoot you an email to tell you how to get started using it.

  3. Keianna
    March 23, 2016

    Is there a Disc system I could use to incorporate everything?

    • Ryan Ketchum
      March 23, 2016


      Yes there is a DiSC System. Email me at ryan@frnation.com and I’ll see if I can connect you to get set up with one.

  4. Janice McNicol
    February 21, 2018

    Hi Ryan,
    A few years ago I trained in DISC which I used for management training, team building etc. I am now exploring possibility of coaching in the area of weight loss and nutrition and read your article with great interest. Does the DSC profiling tool you use actually outline in the report the type of challenges/strengths each personality type may experience in achieving goals in this particular area. Thanks. Janice


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