Importance Of Communication

In last day’s post John Berardi of Precision Nutrition elaborated on social connections and the effects they have on our fitness and nutrition needs.

As we all know there is no denying the importance of communication when it comes to personal improvements. So, today the author of Precision Nutrition helps us to understand a few reasons why we become frustrated when someone is trying to encourage fitness and nutrition changes in our lives.


CRAIG BALLANTYNE:  Here is something I bet you get all the time. How you can help with obesity in adolescence and the youth. And certainly a lot of the stuff that you mentioned here can certainly apply.

If we get one kid away from the computer and getting more active hopefully he can be kind of like a pied piper and get some more. But what else have you discovered, whether it’s through working with clients in person or feedback from clients on your membership site that have been applied to lifestyle changes for a family?

JOHN BERARDI: Well, you know, I mean the first answer usually is the simplest answer.When I say simple I mean it is a bit simplified, simplistic, is from the experiences that I’ve had working with youth sports teams. I’m often asked to speak to a group of young athletes, whatever the case may be.

The idea is that I try to get both them and their parents in the room, where I can really speak to the parents because the youths are not buying the groceries. They’re not paying for fast food. They don’t have the money for that, and they don’t basically shape the path of their own eating decisions. So usually the parents are the gatekeeper there, so it’s all about educating the parents.

And unfortunately if you can’t help promote change in the environment which is what the parents are creating then it’s going to be very, very difficult for these young people to start to eat healthy. They just won’t have access to the food. And rather than just complaining about it, it is actually a great opportunity to work with the parents in a positive way.

So we talked about this briefly last time and I talk about this all the time within the context of Precision Nutrition, is that fitness professionals are the ones who actually have the opportunity to help induce that change in parents. And the problem is most of us as fitness pros we only have one technique for helping people change. And it’s the sort of authoritarian dictating and badger technique, right? So it’s like we’re going to tell you what to do and then we’re going to badger you until you do it or until you quit because you can’t do it.

And it’s kind of a joke but really when I go out to personal trainers and nutrition coaches, this is generally their mode of operating. They guilt people into doing the right thing! What I do is I try and explain the importance of why they should be doing this. But just because you’re explaining it patiently it doesn’t mean you’re actually doing a better job of coaching.

And I don’t know if we talked about this in our last interview is the book called “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath, one of my favorite books on change.  And for anyone who wants to change anything about themselves, about their organization, about their clients’ behaviors it’s something you have to read because it will absolutely change your framework. I think we sort of tell people and then badger them and nag them into doing it.  Not only doesn’t that help them change, it actually does the opposite. It roots their current behaviors in even more deeply so the change becomes even harder for them.

I’ll say that again in a different way. The way that most trainers, fitness coaches, nutrition coaches try and get people to change makes them less likely to change. I used to be that guy who thought, “Well, if I just explain to their rational brain patiently that they have to make this change, that it’s important to make this change, their rational brain will understand it, take it away and take the steps to improve it.”

However, it isn’t the case, because its’ not their rational brain that is resisting the change. They already know that they should be more active, eating more fruits and vegetables and feeding their kids better. Everyone’s rational brain knows that. It’s our emotional brain that doesn’t connect. There is too much friction in between the two. The emotional brain wants something different. And it’s not saying I want junk food, but it’s saying that my current habits are just too easy to follow. And I know I should be doing this, but I’m just not going to.

And that’s a tremendous source of guilt for people, so they already feel guilty. So all you’re doing is you’re pointing the guilty finger at them, and then when that happens, they get defensive. So in their own brain they come up with this iron clad explanations for not changing, and that’s why you deepen their resistance to change. So I’m going on a tangent here, but I really think it’s important to communicate to people the way most of us try and help people change is backward. It makes them less likely to change. So inducing change in our friends and family, we’re going to get worse at it. For the person who starts a fitness routine and wants to get their spouse on board and does it by appealing to their rational brain, they’re going to do the exact opposite of what they’re trying to accomplish.

And that’s what I was talking about earlier with the adolescents. It’s this idea that we can make it easier for people to do stuff whether they’ve chosen to do it or not. There isn’t anything simple to deal with when it comes to adolescent nutrition because there’s a lot of parties involved in kids. And so it takes a multi-factorial approach. And a lot of times it takes the proper change approach, and many people just don’t have it in their toolbox to help people appropriately.

What you need to do is learn about change and understand that there is an emotional brain there that you have to appeal to if this is going to be what you’re going to spend your time doing and there’s a path.  And you have to help with all three facets of change.

CRAIG BALLANTYNE:  That’s pretty darn awesome.  Thank you so much, John.  You did talk about it last time in our first interview, that book.  And again, you just showed how important it is for people to really understand.  You gave some really great examples and I think people can understand what you mean by when you’re making the path smoother.  And so thank you for that analogy, I appreciate it.

In part 7 of this expert interview series we’ll get into a little decision on peer pressure.