We all want our clients to be healthy, but I discovered early on that very few people buy health or wellness. What they do buy is fat loss, better energy, a happy mood, better sex and looking younger, which of course are all "symptoms" of great health. So I decided to make it easy on myself and sell my clients what they wanted.
Every day you work with your clients, you are selling to them. The time they spend with you is critical in educating and motivating them to make healthier choices and take decisive action when you aren’t around. I find that the best way to do this is start with uncovering their compelling and inspiring "why." This "why" must be big enough to get them off the couch and into the gym, get them to put the cookies down and have the salad instead.
Once we have uncovered their "why," we make it as real as possible. I have my clients take a picture of their dream body, stick their head on top and post copies everywhere. I have them use it not only to inspire them but also motivate them and protect them if their resolve and willpower start to waver. I made my own that I like to show at speaking engagements -- it's my head on Dara Torres' body. Gotta love that woman's abs!
Armed with this inspiration, it becomes easier to get your clients to replace bad habits with incompatible ones by adding simple action steps into their daily life. Some of the top action steps I like to use are:

  • Gradually add fiber-rich foods to your meals to reach 50 grams of fiber each day.
  • Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily, and drink it in between meals.
  • Make time for seven to nine hours of consistent sleep nightly during the normal circadian rhythm.
  • Try a new vegetable each week.
  • Eat at least five (ideally 10) servings of non-starchy veggies daily.
  • Start the day with a substantial balanced breakfast.
  • Replace a meal a day with a high quality meal replacement shake.

I never give a client more than three at one time and quite often, it may only be one. I don't give a client anything new to do until we have the current actions steps successfully incorporated into their daily regimen. I have them journal these as we work on them so that we can troubleshoot if necessary.

JJ Virgin, PhD, CNS, ACSM-HFI, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert and author of the book Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She is the co-star of TLC's reality show Freaky Eaters and the president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.She can be reached at jj@jjvirgin.com.