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Dealing With Clients Who Struggle to Comply


clients who don't follow protocol

Do your clients struggle to comply? In a perfect world, as a health coach, you would have a base of ideal clients. Clients who are completely committed to their health and willing to do everything needed to improve it. And do it regularly. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. That means there will be times when you face a challenging client who struggles to make necessary changes. These clients struggle to do the things they need to do to improve their health. Clients like this can be frustrating to deal with as a coach. You understand what needs to be done. They do, too. But they simply don’t follow through with what they know they need to do.

Lack of client compliance can be a big roadblock for many health coaches. You may feel like throwing your hands up in frustration or even firing your client. But there are things you can do to improve compliance for those clients who are struggling.

Check your own mindset first

It’s easy to have judgments about the clients you work with. But some can rub you the wrong way, especially when they aren’t complying with your program. If you’re feeling frustrated with a client and thinking negative thoughts about them, it may be time to take a look at your own mindset. You have a certain protocol that you want them to follow. And there are certain goals you have set for them.

But are your expectations too high? And are those unrealistic expectations fueling your frustration and giving you a negative mindset about the client? Take an emotional step back and try to look at your client without judgment. Just observe them and their behavior for a bit. Look at them with empathy. Your client may be struggling in ways you may not be picking up because of a clouded view of them. Taking time to step back and observe without judgment may help you see subtle patterns within them that can help you understand why they are struggling to comply. And it may allow you to approach your client in a different way and provide guidance that is better suited to their needs.

new mindset new results


Help them have realistic expectations

You’ve taken a look at your mindset about your client and put any unrealistic expectations in check. But it is also common for your clients to experience unrealistic expectations. We live in an instant gratification world. We want things done…now! And your client may have expectations their health will be perfect in only a few weeks. You understand it takes the body time to rebuild. Restoring health is a gradual process. But clients may get frustrated when they don’t see results as quickly as they expected. This can cause them to stop complying. Discuss a more realistic timeline with your clients and help them understand that although they may not be seeing results as quickly as they would like, their health IS changing for the better.

Remind them of their “why”

When a client first starts a program, motivation is typically pretty high. But as they get back into their daily lives and regular routines, it’s not uncommon for motivation to drop. Clients may also find that implementing big changes is more challenging than they expected. That can drop motivation even further. This can derail compliance. If you see that a client started out strong but is faltering after a month or two, remind them why they started the program. A client’s “why” is based on strong emotions. And so, they need to reconnect to the emotional reason they sought to make changes in the first place. Reconnecting with their “why” often helps reignite that fire within them.

woman with anxiety and stress

Address anxiety

Let’s face it, change is hard. And your clients are making big changes in their lives. While the changes are ultimately the best for their health, they may face some anxiety as they make them. If they are making big changes in their diet, they have given up many of the foods they may have used in the past as a reward or as a way to soothe themselves when stressed. You may have them making other changes that can leave them feeling overwhelmed. This can definitely leave a client feeling anxious. Address those things with your client. If they used food as a reward or as a way to soothe in the past, help them find healthier ways to cope instead. If they are feeling overwhelmed by changes, you may need to tweak their program goals so that it is easier for them to manage.

Understand their skill level

Overwhelm while making major lifestyle changes is a common problem for clients. For you, the path forward may seem simple. But your client may not have all of the same resources or skills that you do. And they may not know where to begin. For example, your client normally doesn’t eat breakfast, but instead just grabs a cup of coffee on the go. You tell them to start eating a healthy breakfast each morning. But what if your client even doesn’t know what a healthy breakfast is? They may not know how to prepare one, or even how to change their schedule so they can include time for breakfast each morning.

It can be easy to take for granted that every client has the same skillsets you do. But they may not. And something as simple as “eating a healthy breakfast” can suddenly become very overwhelming to them.  You may need to give them additional guidance or support to make a change easier for your client.

Simplify things

Have your clients been trying to change too many things at once in their life? This can be very overwhelming for a client and lead to a lack of compliance. If this is the case, it may be necessary to simplify. Perhaps they are trying to include a complex new daily workout routine and completely overhauling their diet as well. All of this change at one time may be too much for them and could cause them to stop making any effort.

Instead of focusing on lots of big changes, it may be easier for clients to manage smaller changes. Select one or two smaller changes first. Have them live with each new healthy habit for a couple of weeks and then add on a new change. While this will take them longer to accomplish their goals, clients typically have greater success. Chunking down bigger goals makes them easier to achieve for clients. And they can avoid some of the anxiety and stress that come with trying to do too much at one time.

Group support

Social support

As a coach, you are a form of support for your clients. But you can’t be there for your clients 24/7. When clients have social support from family, friends, and social media, they have a better chance of complying. Making changes can be stressful. But having a good support system can actually reduce that stress. If the family at home  is supportive of dietary or other lifestyle changes, it is much easier for a client to follow through. And if they have family and friends that support and encourage lifestyle changes, and act as cheerleaders, it can help keep the motivation going. If your client doesn’t currently have some form of social support, encourage them to find a group online or in-person that can give them the support they need to keep moving toward their health goals.

Little changes ultimately add up to big changes for your client in the long run, when you work on why they are struggling to comply. Taking the time to get to the root cause of why they are struggling can help them get over that roadblock so that they can find success.


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