Five Ways to Deal with Unrealistic Client Expectations

If you have worked with individuals coming off the back of an influencer’s cookie-cutter program, you’ll be very well accustomed to some of these unrealistic expectations. You may hear things like:
  • “Why haven’t I lost weight yet” and;
  • “I haven’t lost any belly fat yet” or maybe even; 
  • “I don’t think this approach is working, we need to change it up”.

Even though your client may have completely overhauled their approach to nutrition, improved the quality of their diet and boosted energy levels, they may still express dissatisfaction with the lack of an objective change in scale weight. ⁣


So, how do I adjust their beliefs and expectations? ⁣


First off, make sure you are aiming to do exactly that – altering their expectations.

Do not bend your approach and target rapid weight loss/gain results because of the pressure you’re feeling from a client. Remember, you are looking to change lifelong behaviors and habits. That simply is not possible if you are chasing a short-lived arbitrary weight goal. 

To try and help your clients move the goal posts and choose a more health-conducive nutrition goal, try some of the following techniques.
Overweight woman crying and upset because she cannot lose weight and not getting the results she expected, with a dietician.

1. Remind them of the non-weight related aspects of health that may have improved ⁣

When weight loss is a goal, our clients can sometimes get tunnel vision. They become so determined and fixated upon the number on the scale, that the other pillars of health are completely overlooked.

Work with your client to instill some other non-numeric measures of dietary progress such as:

  • Visual appearance in the mirror
  • How clothes are fitting
  • Energy levels
  • Ease getting out of bed
  • Immune resiliency
  • Dietary diversity
  • Skin vitality and glow

Whilst weight loss is the ultimate goal, these aspects of health improvement cannot be overlooked.

Woman waking up with plenty of energy because of nutrition program and health


2. Ask them why they want to achieve their weight loss/gain goal. 

When faced with a weight-based objective from a client (which is perfectly fine by the way), many coaches fail to zoom out and look at the overall picture. Why is anyone trying to lose weight? While assuredly some overweight and obese individuals do it for body image and aesthetic reasons, the majority are likely in pursuit of an improvement in their health status and disease risk.

Remind them that they are likely achieving this, independent of their weight, assuming they are adhering to the program. Of course, if your client is overweight or obese, an objective of weight loss will be essential to incur the full benefits. However, just because the scale has not moved, doesn’t mean their efforts have been futile.


3. Ask them what they will do once they have achieved their goal weight. 

Whilst a cookie cutter program or stringent meal plan can indeed enable an individual to chop off 10 lbs in as quick a period as six weeks, it leaves them with little more than tattered sheet of paper for the foreseeable future.

Any coach worth their salt, is looking to provide more than just a 6-week manual to their clients. And if your clients are not aware of that fact, you should remind them that, the aggressive methods they might of been expecting will only make the next 40 years more difficult.

  • Are they going to be able to maintain those behaviors?

  • What will happen when they can’t consume less that 1400 calories anymore?

  • What happens when they can’t spend hours prepping their meals everyday and have to be more flexible?

  • What happens when they can’t do two hours of cardio every day?

These are all questions that will act as a sobering reminder of how essential it is to build healthy habits and a flexible, comfortable yet consistent routine.


4. Outline the reasons why they shouldn’t chase rapid results

If your client previously worked with someone that promised quick results, they are likely not aware of the negative physiological consequences of such approaches. Within the evidence-based field of nutrition, we are aware that if aggressive caloric deficits are adopted and sustained for extended periods (6 – 12 weeks), there can be a significant drop in our daily thermogenesis (Recommended reading: Stronger by Science).

This will throw a major roadblock into any further fat and weight loss pursuits as the individual will be expending (burning) significantly less calories each day. Therefore, to maintain objective weight loss progress, they will need to keep reducing energy intake incrementally. This is one of the reasons that individuals can experience fat loss plateaus at low calorie intakes such as 1200 – 1400 kCals.

5. Start vetting your clients

I’ll never forget one of my earliest memories in a gym setting. I was only 17 at the time and in my final year of high school (secondary school for European folk). I was quite friendly with the gym manager who also was the busiest and booked out personal trainer in the gym.
I sat on the chest press machine one morning as he met one of the incoming customers as a meet and greet. They wanted to hire him as their personal trainer. Rather than get right into his system and pricing, he said “This is a meeting to make sure I’m the right coach for you, but that you are also the right client for me. This is going to be mostly you, I am simply here to facilitate. I don’t work with clients that expect the work to be done for them.”
That really sat with me. I couldn’t’ believe this guy was turning away clients.

My Dad is a successful contractor and always told me; “never be afraid to turn away customers, if they don’t fit with you”. 

Some of the best advice ever. I have had several clients in the past that have made me question my ability as a coach and nutritionist. Yet after some digging and reflection, I realized that it was them and their lack of determination that led to a stale and sour relationship. Do not be afraid to turn clients away, If when meeting a potential client, they make known that they expect fast, immediate surface-level results, there is nothing shameful in letting them continue shopping around. 


This is not an anti-weight loss article. Just the way it also isn’t an excuse for coaches that are repeatedly not producing for their clients. 
Of course, as a nutritionist/dietician or coach, helping clients to achieve weight loss/gain goals will always be an important and necessary skill. This article is rather a reminder to stick to your principles that you know are optimal for shaping a healthy coach-client relationship, gradual but permanent progress and balanced, happy lifestyle for your clients. 
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