Is Education Always The Answer? By Claire Winter
Personal trainers often note, with an element of condescension or exasperation, that people are looking for a magic pill when it comes to weight loss. However, there is a benefit to this approach as it brings with it hope and belief, which translates into motivation, compliance and ultimately, results.
If you believe something is going to work then there’s a higher chance that it will because you are more likely to embrace the behaviours required to make it work. Conversely, if you don’t have that belief then you are less likely to put the effort in and less likely to get results.
So what has that got to do with education? Surely knowing how and why things work would support that?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Something I’ve noticed in myself and others is that an increase in knowledge has resulted in a decrease in that embrace happening. A reduction in the belief that something will work in a special way, leaving only the effort required in its wake. The knowledge that you “just need a calorie deficit” translates into hard work.
Can Education Hinder Rather Than Help?
When clients come to us they often “know what they need to do”. They may have had success in the past or they have a friend who’s had success with a particular approach. When they tell you this it can be tempting to dive straight into the “the reason that worked is because of a calorie deficit” speech. However, dismissing people’s beliefs and experiences are unlikely to benefit anyone. If they know they lost weight following a particular plan then your insistence that it wasn’t the plan but a calorie deficit, whilst accurate, is just going to make you sound like a pedantic idiot.
The thing is that most people don’t care how or why they have lost weight, they care only that they have, and the resulting positive impact that it had on their lives.
Does this mean we just forget the science and embrace that which we view as a fad? No, but it does mean we should hold back on our ego, lighten up in our quest to enlighten the world and exercise a little sensitivity in our approach to educating clients.
Before speaking, consider where the client is coming from and ask why you have an overwhelming urge to correct their understanding. Is there any immediate benefit to the client or will it just undermine their possibly already limited confidence? Anyone with a history of dieting will come to us with the same hope and belief that they approach a new diet club. Initially, for a lot of people, we just need to provide the tools and get them started with achievements and results, building their confidence and belief in themselves as we go.
When To Use Education
Once they are up and running then we can focus more on the long term and it is here when the education side of things comes in. At this stage we want them to understand the hows and whys of what is happening. In truth, often by this stage, we have often assumed the cloak of a weightloss superhero, taken on magical qualities and represent the holy grail of success. This is where the best thing we can do is to educate the client to the point where they know we have no such special powers, giving them the tools to ongoing success and maintenance without our presence.
To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t educate people from the beginning but to approach the subject of education in the same way as you would programming and exercise selection, by assessing the individual in front of you and working with what will be best for them.
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