Weight loss clients’ complaining that they’re not seeing results anymore?

If you’re an experienced personal trainer or weight-loss coach you’ll have dealt with this at least a couple of time in your career.  The more weight you lose, the harder it gets. 

The problem with weight loss

Weight loss can often seem so easy at first.  With your help as a coach, your client at least goes from no exercise to some exercise.  This immediately helps them lose weight by boosting their metabolism and burning more calories.  Their body is burning more more calories than they need to put in so they start losing weight.  Everything is going welluntil their momentum and their metabolism slows down.

The more weight our clients lose, the less calories their body burns naturally to keep running.  To keep losing weight, we need to either increase the amount of calorie-burning exercise or change the way our client is eating.

This challenge for trainers is best seen in the weight-loss competition and show, the Biggest Loser.  Even top personal trainers like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, find it harder and harder to help as their clients lose more and more weight.

As the contestants lose weight, starting in the extreme case of 9 – 10 kg a week, their metabolism slows so their weight-loss progress slows down too.  By week 30, the metabolisms of many contestants were only burning half as many calories as they were when they started. The shortfall has to be made up somewhere by either more exercise or changing diet. The difference can often be the equivalent of eating one less meal a day than someone who was naturally the same weight just so they could keep the weight off. That’s not an easy task for anyone, even a contestant focused full-time on weight loss.


In reality, all top trainers know that changing exercise habits is a lot easier to change than eating habits. When clients come to a trainer for a workout at the gym, the trainer is largely in control of how hard the client goes so how many calories their client burns through. The client has invested hard cash for the workout, has given permission to the trainer to lead the workout and is effectively outsourcing all motivation, accountability and education for that hour.  For a new client that hasn’t done any real exercise for months, the 1 – 2 hours of exercise a week can make a big difference.

However, for your client that’s already lost the easy fat, the process gets tougher. It seems unfair in a way that a key motivation driver (% lost) slows down as the client improves which is exactly when clients need more motivation to deal with the increasing effort required to lose the same amount of weight.

Your client then doesn’t just need to choose how hard to go in the personal training session, she’s now needing to choose how to cook different foods, avoid temptation, use self-control or do a lot more exercise by herself.  These are much tougher choices and harder to do alone on top of family, work, friends and social commitments.


So it seems, the most important thing for trainers that want to keep clients over the long-term is they need to address expectations right at the start (i.e. it’s going to get harder and you’ll have to change your choices) and trainers need to plan for a slowing metabolism to keep up momentum in advance.  Disappointed customers, drop their trainers.

Managing expectations, step-by-step changing habits and consistent support communication is essential for keeping weight-loss clients motivated over the long-run.  Also taking a tip from the Biggest Loser show, use weight loss percentage or even better fat-loss percentage to measure results regularly rather than raw kilograms and pounds.

What’s your strategy and tactics?

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