How to make your coaching clients do what they promised you

Coaching clients

Goal setting is one thing and making your coaching clients achieve those objectives is entirely another

It especially gets challenging when you’re working in a demanding space like health and fitness. Motivating your coaching clients to follow your designed eating or workout routine isn’t as easy as it may sound. You have to deal with diversified clientele: some are active, some are lazy, some are inattentive, whereas some other are very energetic. Helping them all attain their pre-set health and fitness goals and objectives is a strenuous task. To achieve this, you have to work on a solid strategy that you could enforce in case the particular situation doesn’t work for a specific client.

Imagine your client’s new-year goal is to lose weight. The general approach to achieve this is ‘more workouts, less food’.

However, clients are generally clueless about which specific plan they should follow to attain their objective. What quantity of food he/she should consume to lose certain pounds? Which particular workout routine will be helpful in reaching the desired results? Here, the simple goal setting is often not enough. Even if the goals are realistic, specific and attainable, the client needs a roadmap to get there. That’s where the if-then plan comes in. It’s a self-regulatory strategy, which is amazingly simple yet effective when used to curb temptation and developing good habits.

If ‘this’ happens, then I will do ‘that’

This approach has helped a lot of my coaching clients get rid of bad habits and lose weight.  If-then strategy works because it establishes a connection between different circumstances. It acts as a signal that gives a clue that it’s a right time to act. Moreover, it also directs your brain to automate the action so you don’t have to rely on self-constraint much.

Let’s make a sample if-then fitness plan for you, but feel free to post some more ideas in the comments.

If…. Then…
You had no time for exercise or physical activity during the day You can exercise 7 minutes before dinner using the 7-minute workout app
You can’t go out every week to buy fresh veggies and fruits You will hire a delivery service to drop an assorted box every week at your doorstep
You’re asked to drink something at the restaurant… You will pick a sugar-free iced tea or lemonade instead of a coke
You crave for chips and dip You will eat carrot or cucumber strips with a dip instead
You had an extra cheat day compared to what you had planned You will have a detox day during which your focus would be mostly on vegetables and fresh juices
You have no time to cook You can buy a slow cooker and put all the ingredients in it in the morning to get lunch ready in the afternoon
You really do not like to cook You will hire a home delivery service to cook and deliver healthy food for you
You have a sweet tooth and staying away from desserts seems impossible to you You will consume small portions and try to substitute sucrose with good sweeteners
You’re craving desserts because of depression or anxiety


You can work on acceptance of the things you cannot change and use the other senses (instead of taste) to relax (e.g. listen to music or visiting your favourite place)
You hate going to the gym because you’re ashamed of your body You can buy an elastic band and exercise at home (bonus tip: You can find several workout videos on YouTube)
You like to eat large portions of pasta You can have a double portion once and use shirataki pasta the time after
You feel hungry during the day and the only option available at the office is a vending machine full of unhealthy snacks You will bring some nuts and dried fruit from home and drink a lot during the day
You often forget to drink You can install an app on your smartphone that reminds you to drink (e.g. daily water)


How useful is this technique?

Trust me, a lot! It helped me several times also deal with some excuses that coaching clients usually have and provide them with a plan to deal with what they consider obstacles to a healthy lifestyle (such as having little time for physical activity).

Why is this technique so effective and result-oriented? It’s because it reflects the language of contingencies also known as your brain language. Since, human mind encodes and decodes information faster, the ‘if X, then Y’ approach controls your conduct.

Once you’ve developed your if-then model, you can help your client flip through the surroundings, looking for the situation in the ‘if’ segment of your strategy.

This approach is not stressful at all and it requires less self-control and determination compared to traditional resolutions. It helps your clients maintain their will-power for when it’s actually required.

Thus, regardless of the type of coaching clients you’re dealing with, this approach can be extremely helpful in building time-management habits and will also help them stick to the plan you’ve given them.

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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