Category: Fitness

Do nutrition and health coaches need insurance?

“Look into whether health coaches need insurance” is one of those lines that many of us put at the bottom of a to-do list—and that’s generally where it stays.

Day after day.

The thing is:

Getting up to speed on coaching insurance doesn’t have to be painful.

This article walks you through a straight-forward three-step process that won’t require a legal degree to understand. You’ll learn whether you need insurance, as well as the types that work best for health coaches.

One note:

This content focuses on the needs of health and nutrition coaches in the U.S. and Canada. If you live in another region, you may or may not need the type of insurance discussed here depending on your local laws. When in doubt, check with an attorney, other coaches in your area, or a local insurance company to find out what they have to say.

What kind of insurance do coaches need?

To figure out whether you need insurance, consider your personal vulnerability to malpractice claims and license complaints.

Both issues are usually covered by professional liability insurance—the most common type of insurance for health and nutrition coaches.

(FYI, we’ll tell you about other types below.)

Let’s start with malpractice issues.

(Check out the video below yo see a more detailed discussion—with an actual attorney—of some of the legal issues coaches encounter.)

ll health professionals are vulnerable to malpractice claims.

That means if a client gets injured or sick, and believes it’s the result of your advice, they could make a malpractice claim against you. In other words, you could get sued.

If you’re self-employed and don’t have professional liability insurance, you’ll be responsible for your own defense as well as any judgement against you. That means all of your personal assets are fair game: your house, your car, and your savings account.

Professional liability insurance protects those personal assets.

(FYI, if you started a business, like an LLC, to protect your personal assets, liability insurance for your business may be a good idea.)

Some health professionals are also subject to license complaints.

This is mostly a concern for coaches who need a license to practice some of their services, so think:

health coaches who are board-certifiedmental health professionals who also do health or nutrition coachingnurses, pharmacists, and physical therapists who coach as a side-gig

Let’s say you’re a physical therapist and a health coach. You get a DUI, and your neighbor finds out. Your neighbor complains to the health coaching and physical therapy organizations where you’re licensed. Those organizations will investigate whether to revoke your license.

During that time, these organizations might put your licenses on probation, so you can’t work. And you may have expenses related to defending yourself during the investigation. That’s when your insurance policy will kick in.

All this might sound a little far-fetched, but these things do happen.

The benefit here? Insurance should pay for the costs related to the investigation (up to the limit on your policy).

The top five types of coaching insurance

If you’re looking into insurance, you have several types to consider.

Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, kicks in if you need to defend a malpractice suit or license complaint. This may offer the best match for nutrition and health coaches. (The bulk of this article looks at this insurance type.)

General liability insurance protects you from third-party claims. So if someone trips over a kettlebell in the gym you own and gets hurt, or they damage to the space you rent, this type of insurance would cover the fallout. General liability insurance may make the most sense if you’re working with clients in a physical space.

Cyber liability insurance protects against any fallout from client data breaches. If you coach online, you may want this type of insurance.

Commercial property insurance covers the contents of your commercial office space or gym from things like water damage or theft.

Commercial auto insurance covers anything that happens while you’re driving for work. It might come in handy if you ever drive clients in your own car (for example, to go work out at a nearby park), or if you’re transporting lots of heavy workout equipment in your car on a regular basis.

n employer’s insurance policy may not completely protect you.

If you work for a hospital, gym, or company that provides insurance coverage, do you need your own personal insurance policy?

Potentially, yes. 

Generally, your employer’s insurance priority is your employer and not you. That usually means no coverage for those license complaints. (Reminder: License complaints are where you are at risk for getting your license revoked.)

An employer’s policy may also leave you vulnerable to certain types of malpractice claims.

For instance, your employer’s insurance probably won’t cover situations that arise when you:

Casually give coaching advice to a neighborPerform coaching volunteer workCoach clients outside of work

What’s more, personal liability policies may insure you for a higher amount, and will usually stay in place if you change jobs,.

In fact, some organizations require that their employees (and independent contractors) have their own personal liability insurance for exactly these reasons. That means you might be required to carry your own insurance even if an organization covers you under theirs.

What if my clients sign a waiver? Should I still consider insurance?

Having your clients sign a waiver or disclaimer is a very good idea.

The waiver brings attention to the idea that there’s always risk in taking nutrition, fitness, or health advice from another person.

Most waivers for health coaches make it clear that:

It’s the client’s responsibility to run any changes to their routine by their primary care provider.The client accepts responsibility for the advice they follow.

(For an example of a standard disclaimer, see our client intake form.)

So… if your client has signed a waiver, why would you need insurance? The short answer is that a waiver can’t protect you from every type of claim. And in the US, different states have different laws about how much a waiver protects.

Bottom line: Still ask your clients to sign a waiver or disclaimer, but don’t write off insurance. Think of it like double protection, just as your car has seatbelts and airbags.

If you decide you want health coaching insurance coverage, use these steps to get started. 

.pncta-l1-banner {
width: 90%;
max-width: 90%;
min-height: 262px;
padding: 0;
display: block;
margin: 1rem auto 3rem;
box-shadow: rgba(0,0,0,.08) 0 0 6px 0;
box-sizing: border-box;
background: #2b363e radial-gradient(circle at 78% 56%,#435360,#2b363e 53%);
overflow: hidden;
height: auto;

.pncta-l1-shape {
position: relative;
width: 65%;
height: 70px;
margin: -40px auto 30px auto;
background: #00bbe3;
text-align: center;
border-radius: 15%/50%;
padding-top: 45px;
box-sizing: border-box;

.pncta-l1-shape:after {
content: “”;
position: absolute;
top: -95%;
bottom: -15%;
right: -5%;
left: -5%;
background: inherit;
border-radius: 15%/50%;

.pncta-l1-over {
position: relative;
z-index: 200;
color: #fff;
padding: 0;
margin: 0 auto;
font-size: 14.5px;
font-weight: 200;
text-align: center;
width: 100%;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 23px

.pncta-l1-row:after {
content: “”;
display: table;
clear: both

.pncta-l1-content {
position: relative;
display: flex;
margin: 15px 27px;
flex-direction: row;
align-items: normal;
overflow: hidden;
background: url( no-repeat;
height: 100%;
width: auto;
background-size: contain;
background-position: 100% 0;
min-height: 180px;

.pncta-l1-info {
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
text-align: left;
width: 60%;
overflow: hidden;

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 23.5px;
font-weight: 700;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: normal;
letter-spacing: normal;
color: #fff!important;
padding: 0 0 10px;

.pncta-l1-info p {
text-align: left;
padding: 0 0 15px 0;
margin: 0;
font-size: 14.5px;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: 1.37;
letter-spacing: normal;
color: #c6cbce;
font-weight: 400;
width: 90%;

.pncta-l1-img {
width: 40%;
position: relative

.pncta-l1-img > img {
display: none;
margin: 0;
position: absolute;
top: 1em;
right: 0;
left: 0;
max-width: 100%;
margin: 0 auto;
z-index: 2;

.pncta-l1-btn {
color: #f4f4f4 !important;
width: 180px;
height: 34px;
text-transform: uppercase;
font-size: 13.5px;
font-weight: 600;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: normal;
letter-spacing: normal;
text-align: center;
min-width: 180px;
background: linear-gradient(to bottom,#00bbe3 2%,rgba(41,151,186,.96)),linear-gradient(to bottom,#1fd8ff,rgba(31,216,255,0) 6%);
line-height: 0;
border-radius: 2.4px!important

a.pncta-l1-addbanner:active, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:hover, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:link, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:visited {
color: none !important;
text-decoration: none!important;
outline: 0!important

@media only screen and (max-width: 768px) {
.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px;

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 21px;

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
margin: 15px 27px 25px;

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 21px

@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {
.pncta-l1-btn {
font-size: 14px;

.pncta-l1-shape {
width: 75%

.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 17px

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
background-size: 44%;
margin: 15px 35px

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 17px

.pncta-l1-info p {
font-size: 13px;

@media only screen and (max-width: 580px) {
.pncta-l1-shape {
width: 80%

.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 17px;

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
background-size: 50%;
margin: 15px

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 14px

.pncta-l1-info p {
font-size: 13px

@media only screen and (max-width: 500px) and (orientation: portrait) {
.pncta-l1-content {
background: 0 0;

.pncta-l1-banner {
width: 100%;
margin: 1rem auto;
min-height: 380px;
max-width: 100%

.pncta-l1-shape {
position: relative;
width: 75%;
height: 80px}.pncta-l1-info p,.pncta-l1-over{font-size: 13px;
display: table}.pncta-l1-info h3,.pncta-l1-over>strong{font-size: 17px;
line-height: initial!important;
font-weight: 600;

.pncta-l1-content {
flex-direction: column;
align-items: baseline;
margin: 0 auto;
text-align: center;
padding: 0 15px;
width: 100%;
height: 320px;
background-size: 50%;
background-position: bottom center}.pncta-l1-img,.pncta-l1-info,.pncta-l1-info p,.pncta-l1-info>h3{width: 100%;
display: block;
text-align: center;
margin: 0 auto}.pncta-l1-img>img{display: block}.pncta-l1-content: after{content: “”;
display: inline-block;
width: 0;
height: 0;
border-style: solid;
border-width: 0 100px 50px 100px;
border-color: transparent transparent #00bbe3 transparent;
z-index: 0;
transform: scale(3.5);
left: 0;
right: 0;
position: absolute;
bottom: 0;
margin: 0 auto;
text-align: center>Over 150,000 health & fitness professionals certified

Save up to 30% on the industry’s top nutrition education program

Get a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Learn More

Step 1: Identify potential providers.

You have several options.

Option 1: Use a health coach-specialized insurance company.

Quite a few insurance companies work specifically with health professionals.

Some examples include HPSO and Alternative Balance. (Full disclosure: PN has partnered with HPSO to provide a smooth application pathway for PN Certified coaches).

Some PN graduates also find the policies they’re looking for with insurers that specialize in all types of small businesses, such as NEXT Insurance and Hiscock Insurance.

If you’re having trouble finding a company that provides coverage in your area or for your specific type of coaching, ask around. Other coaches in your area or niche can most likely provide solid leads.

Option 2: Find out if any of your professional associations provide insurance.

Many personal training certifying bodies include an insurance option when you pay your membership dues.

For many people, this is the easiest insurance route.

Option 3: Check to see if you your existing insurance provider can cover you.

If you have homeowners or vehicle insurance, your provider might be able to add a rider that covers your home-based business as well.

Similarly, if you already have professional liability insurance for another health profession—for instance, you’re a pharmacist with a nutrition coaching side-hustle—you may be able to add health or nutrition coaching onto your policy.

One quick note: Insurance companies can decide whether they want to insure you. You can be declined for coverage based on any number of factors, including which certifications you have/don’t have, where you’re based, and the type of coaching you do.

If one insurer won’t cover you, don’t get discouraged—there may be another that’s a better fit.

Step 2: Be clear and honest when collecting quotes.

Insurance companies can only make a payout on a claim if you’ve provided them with accurate information when applying for your policy.

Be prepared to answer questions about:

The services you provide: Do you only do nutrition coaching? Or also personal training?Where you practice: Do you have a home-based business? Do you do virtual coaching? Do you go into clients’ homes?Any other certifications or qualifications you have: Are you also a therapist, nurse, or any other type of health professional? Insurance companies need this information in order to give you an accurate quote.

Most of the time, you apply for insurance and get a quote online.

Step 3: Compare your options.

Once you’ve collected quotes, look at the fine print.

What’s covered?

Take note of whether the policy covers malpractice claims only, or whether it also includes licensure complaints (if that’s relevant for you). Will you be covered if your client’s data is breached? Or if they slip and fall while you’re training them?

If you’re not sure, call the insurance company and ask. Pose hypotheticals, asking about certain situations and whether they’d be covered under the policy you’re looking at.

How much insurance coverage will you get?

It can be tricky to figure out how much coverage you actually need. Insurance companies stay up to date on the average legal fees and settlement payouts related to each profession they cover. They use this information to recommend minimum coverage amounts to their clients.

For instance, HPSO’s standard health coach policy covers $3,000,000 aggregate, and up to $1,000,000 for each claim. That means if you had 3 claims against you in one year, you’d get up to $1,000,000 in coverage for each one. It also covers up to $25,000 to defend your license.

If you think you might need more than the standard coverage, however, talk to the insurance company about your specific needs.

How much will it cost?

Know the premium (what you pay up front) and deductible (how much you pay out of pocket before the policy kicks in). Some policies offer lower premiums, but higher deductibles—and vice versa.

What’s the company’s reputation?

Ask other coaches about their experiences with the insurance companies you’re considering. Check each company’s Better Business Bureau profile, or look them up on TrustPilot. See if you can find out how easy it is to file a claim, and how people’s experiences interacting with the insurer have been.

From there, all that’s left to do is choose your policy.

How much does insurance cost?

Probably not as much as you think.

In general, health coaches can expect to pay between $100 and $500 per year for professional liability insurance.

Where you fall on that spectrum will depend on what type of work you do with clients, which certifications and licenses you have, and how your business is set up. For example: Some companies have lower rates for employed coaches (as opposed to those who are self-employed).If you’re only coaching part-time, you could pay less than a full-time coach.If you started your own business entity to protect your personal assets, like an LLC or S-Corp, your rates could be higher than the range mentioned above. That’s because you’re being treated as a business, not an individual, and businesses have higher risks in an insurance company’s eyes.

3 ways to get the most from your health coach insurance

So now you’re insured. What happens next? Hopefully nothing. But here are some tips to keep in mind in case something does happen.

1. Document anything weird.

Let’s say a client gets injured in a session. Or says a supplement you mentioned made them sick.

Write down what happened, and include as many details as possible. You can also give your insurance company a heads up.

Particularly if it’s something serious, it’s good to get everything documented as soon as possible while the incident is fresh in your mind.

2. If you receive a formal complaint, call your insurance provider ASAP.

This gets the process of defending you started, and leads us to…

3. Don’t ask any random lawyer for help.

You don’t want to use your divorce lawyer down the street for a malpractice lawsuit or a licensure complaint.

First, that divorce lawyer probably won’t be an expert in this area of law.

Second, lawyers can be really expensive. If you’re looking at $500 an hour, you could drain your defense coverage pretty quickly.

Insurance companies usually have lawyers they work with that are experts in defending against these types of claims and complaints. These lawyers also generally have a relationship with the insurance company that makes them more cost effective.

Most people get insurance hoping they’ll never have to use it. And in most cases, that’s exactly what happens.

So sit back and relax, because you’ve got it covered.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Do nutrition and health coaches need insurance? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Did you miss our previous article…

Top sleep doctor: Trainers, health coaches, and dietitians can make seriously great sleep coaches.

As a trainer, therapist, health coach, or dietitian, you probably see your clients more than most physicians see their patients.

That extra time allows you to build rapport and trust—critical components for helping clients get unstuck.

Now here’s something you might not know:

That rapport and trust could make you a seriously great sleep coach.

The reason: A lot of emotional investment goes into helping people change the multitude of daily habits that affect sleep, says Chris Winter, MD, a leading sleep specialist, author of several books (including The Sleep Solution and The Rested Child) and contributing expert to PN’s Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery certification.

“Trainers, therapists, health coaches, and dietitians might be positioned to do that better than a doctor,” says Dr. Winter.

(And, yes, that’s actually coming from a sleep doctor.)

Plus, according to Dr. Winter…

There aren’t enough sleep doctors.

Long wait lists prevent people from getting the help they need—and some of those people suffer from mild sleep issues that truly don’t rise to the level of “I need a doctor to look at this.”

Take that person who knows their 4 pm cup of coffee keeps them up at night.

This person most likely doesn’t need a doctor. A sleep coach, on the other hand, can help them identify and try many different strategies—weaning off caffeine slowly, substituting another activity for their coffee break, drinking an alternative beverage—until the client finds the one that works.

That’s just the start, though.

Sleep, stress management, and recovery coaching is often the missing link to achieving nutrition and fitness goals. 

With specific training, you can help your clients go from overwhelmed and backsliding to feeling as if they can handle whatever life pitches them.

(And life hurls some wicked curveballs.)

The best news…

You likely ALREADY have several traits and skills needed to become a highly effective sleep, stress management, and recovery coach.

Here are three more reasons you’re perfect for the job.

Reason #1: Sleep and stress affect health and fitness… a lot.

Professional athletic teams like the Red Sox hire sleep specialists like Dr. Winter to help their players level up.

That’s because elite performers know:

Improved sleep and stress resilience lay the foundation for improved health and performance. 

This is true for all humans, not just professional athletes.

“Optimal sleep, stress, and recovery makes every other aspect of someone’s health journey easier to achieve,” says Greg Wells, PhD, performance physiologist, author of Rest, Refocus, and Recharge, and a consultant for our Sleep, Stress Management, Recovery certification.


Reason #2: You already have a lot of the qualities needed to help people change.

Maybe you’ve committed your life to helping people.

“That means, almost by default, you’re empathetic and you have compassion,” Dr. Wells says.

In addition to those traits, you’ve probably also developed many skills that facilitate behavior change.

For example, you probably know how to:

Clarify people’s goals (and dig up the crucial motivations behind them)Listen to (and actually hear) peopleHelp people transform their old habits into new, healthier behaviors

Despite all of that, you might still feel inadequate when trying to help people with their sleep and stress management issues.

That’s where additional training can help. By gaining specific knowledge and expert techniques, you can  build the confidence you need.

Reason #3: This falls squarely into your scope of practice.

Knowing when to refer out for sleep, stress, and recovery is not all that different from knowing when to refer out for health or fitness.

As a sleep coach, you can work with people to develop practices that improve sleep quality and quantity—but you can’t diagnose their sleep apnea or insomnia, offer to run a sleep study, or adjust someone’s CPAP machine. They’ll want to see a physician for those sorts of things.

Their doctor will likely prescribe some behavioral changes:

“Have a better pre-bedtime ritual.”“Practice these cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) exercises.”“Use the CPAP consistently.”

And that’s where you come in: You can help your clients actually do these things…  successfully.

(If you’re ever in doubt about what is and isn’t without your scope of practice, check out our Scope of Practice Worksheet.)

The takeaway: While you can’t replace the value and necessity of a doctor, you can help clients effectively implement a doctor’s advice.

You’ve got the chops. (Really.)

By learning to help your clients improve their sleep, stress management, and recovery, you’ll add an edge to your coaching expertise and business.

But even better? You can help your clients move to a level of health they never realized was possible.

If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post Top sleep doctor: Trainers, health coaches, and dietitians can make seriously great sleep coaches. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Did you miss our previous article…

Warning: People Who Try These Experiments Tend to Get a Lot More Done

The internet is full of energy hacks.

Try fasting! Put butter in your coffee! Take this supplement!

What if you’ve tried all that—and your doctor has also declared you the healthiest and fittest of specimens?

Yet your energy and focus still aren’t where you want them.

Is it time to face the reality that you’ll never feel as spunky or get as much done as you want?

Nope, not quite.

There’s a good chance you haven’t yet explored all of your options. In this article, we’ll share three unexpected solutions. Experiment with one, two, or all three—and get ready to feel a whole lot better.


#1: Optimize your sleep environment.

Our sleep habits are tied to our physical environment.

For instance, one PN client couldn’t figure out why she avoided going to bed every single night.

It turned out, her bedroom was a bit of a dumping ground for junk, which reminded her of all the work she had yet to do. More stress meant less sleep.

The thing is…

A relaxing environment is essential for a good night’s rest. 

People sleep better when their bedroom is optimized for comfort, light, and noise and temperature.

The experiment: Redesign your sleep area.

Think of this experiment in two levels.

Level 1: Declutter.

Marie Kondo, the famous tidying consultant, author, and Netflix star, based her “KonMari” cleaning method on this idea:

You can transform your home into a space of serenity and inspiration just by decluttering. 

In addition to helping you sleep, a soothing, restful environment can lead to mental clarity. (Hello, energy you’ve been missing!)

Importantly, your bedroom doesn’t have to reach Kondo-perfection, and you don’t have to do all the cleaning at once.

(If you’re completely happy sleeping in a pile of laundry or with your pet tarantula… then enjoy.)

That client we mentioned earlier, for example, committed to tackling one tiny pile of stuff every day.

Within a few weeks, her bedroom became a sanctuary, rather than a dumpster.

And guess what? She couldn’t wait to crawl into bed every night, relax with a cup of tea, read a good book, and go sleepytime.

Which leads us to…

Level 2: Redecorate your sleep environment.

Once you’ve decluttered, consider setting up your bedroom for optimal sleep. You might want to adjust:

➤ Light levels and quality: Dimmed or red/orange spectrum light (as opposed to bright or blue/green-spectrum light) can help promote sleep and relaxation.

For some people, a night light adds a feeling of safety, making it easier to sleep.

➤ Environmental temperature: In general, body temperature drops during sleep, so having a cool environment is considered sleep-promoting. However, some folks may find warmth more relaxing, and prefer a heated blanket or warm bath before bed. Again, go with what works for you (or your client).

➤ Noise (and silence) levels: Some folks need silence to sleep best. Others find background sounds—like music, storm or songbird playlists, or white noise—more relaxing.

➤ Tactile stimulation: How do you feel about flannel pajamas? A fluffy cat or dog? A body pillow or stuffed animal? A weighted blanket?

Don’t forget: These are all experiments. 

Not everyone is the same. Try stuff, and see what works.

#2. Help yourself feel socially safe.

Humans need supportive social connections.

And yet, other people often cause the most pain.

In other words, relationships can be a source of energy… or energy drain. 

One way to gauge whether a relationship is giving or taking your energy: attachment.

Attachment is the ability to form strong, secure, stable bonds with others.

When you’re securely attached, you feel free to be yourself and express your needs. You trust the other person to have your back and be an ally and advocate. You also gain energy from engaging and connecting.

When you’re not securely attached, you may feel as if you can’t honestly share your true thoughts or feelings. And that can be exhausting.

Your energy gets drained by the work of hiding yourself, attempting to manage others’ feelings, and/or trying to protect yourself from their toxicity.

The experiment: Do an attachment inventory.

Make a list of the people in your life.

Include animals (such as your dog, cat, or horse) as well as yourself.

For each relationship, consider how strong, safe, secure, or supportive the attachment or connection is.

Strong: The bond is robust and nearly unbreakable. This relationship has “life” and vitality. You’re connected.Safe: You feel validated, seen, and accepted. You can be messy, real, and vulnerable, and won’t be criticized, judged, or rejected.Secure: You trust this relationship. It’ll be there for you no matter what.Supportive: The other person genuinely cares about your goals and values, and wants to help you succeed.

Jot down some notes.

Whatever you notice, don’t judge it. Just observe. Then, record your answers to these questions:

Who gives you energy when you interact with them? Who drains it?Which relationships feel the most connected and close? What gives you that feeling?Which relationships feel more complicatedrisky, stale, or insecure? What gives you that feeling?Who helps you move towards being the person you want to be? How exactly do they do that?

Once you have your answers, consider which relationships might be stealing some of your energy. Is there anything you can do to strengthen them? Or, is it time to let go of some?

Conversely, who gives you energy, and how can you spend more quality time really engaging?

Maybe, instead of liking his photo on social media, you call the uncle who always makes you laugh. Or rather than half heartedly throwing the ball to your dog while you’re distracted on your tablet, you take Fluffy on a nature walk.

The answers won’t necessarily involve a quick fix. (You may not want to cut your sister loose even though your relationship is freaking draining.)

But bringing awareness to how relationships either energize or drain you  can be a key step.

#3: Give back… wisely

Giving some of your time to others can help you feel like you have more time overall, research shows.1

But there’s a catch. You can also deplete yourself, especially if you give for the wrong reasons, such as, say, to please certain people.

To gain energy rather than drain it, carefully choose the service and care you offer, and care for yourself, too. Look for options that bring you and others joy and comfort, but don’t run you down.

When you prioritize what you truly value, and select your caring and service thoughtfully (rather than it being just one more obligation), then giving to others feels great—rather than just another draining chore that pushes you further down your own to-do list.

The experiment: Create your own personal mission statement.

First, consider these questions.

Are you someone who enjoys thinking about Big QuestionsAre you someone who prefers “just the facts,” and doesn’t have a lot of time for that nonsense?Do your cultural traditions involve existential, philosophical, and/or spiritual exploration? If so, how and what?Have you ever had a profound, life-changing, “bigger-than-me” experience? A sense of wonder and awe? Or something that changed your sense of “self”? If so, what?Flip side: Have you ever had a tiny, single-moment experience that made a big difference? (Think: a kind word when you were down, a spontaneous gesture, sharing a genuine emotion with someone, a joke that caught you off-guard and made you laugh in spite of yourself?)

Take this exercise one step further by writing a personal mission statement. Create a list of three existential commandments (or, at least, personal guardrails) that guide your life.

Dig deep and reflect on the following questions:

What are the core values and beliefs that drive what you do?How do you give back or support others through your daily life, profession, or volunteer work—or simply by being who you are?What aspects of life are most important to you? What do you want to experience while you are here?What kind of a legacy do you want to leave behind?Okay now: What’s the smallest possible version (think: 5-minute action or less) of all of the above?

With your personal mission statement in hand, brainstorm ways you might be able to give back without totally overwhelming yourself, such as trying to brighten someone’s day and make them smile, bringing a coffee to a coworker, or holding the door open for someone.

Note: You’ll probably find that you’re already giving back in some ways.

That’s awesome. Recognize that, and remember that it’s a pretty great reason to get out of bed every day every day.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a health coach who’s passionate about helping others live their healthiest lives.

You probably already give back by working with clients. But you might also:

Volunteer at a food bank, refugee welcome center, or soup kitchen to help everyone eat healthier—or even just get a square meal.Start, or contribute to, a community garden, cooking program, or walking group to boost neighborhood health.Organize a pick-up sports league (like an “everyone-welcome” soccer game) with the neighborhood kids to help fight sedentary habits.Offer a free coaching spot for someone in need.

Energy can hide in surprising places.

The experiments in this story? They’re just the beginning. Not every solution for better focus and energy will work for you or anyone else. Chances are, however, that, if you keep experimenting, you’ll eventually find the focus, spunk, and motivation you want.



Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Mogilner C, Chance Z, Norton MI. Giving time gives you time. Psychol Sci. 2012 Oct 1;23(10):1233–8.

If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post Warning: People Who Try These Experiments Tend to Get a Lot More Done appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Did you miss our previous article…

The truth about adrenal fatigue.

Reviewed by Helen Kollias, PhD

What isadrenal fatigue?SymptomsScienceTreatment

Every month, roughly 80,000 people type “what is adrenal fatigue?” into a search bar, hoping for answers.

And the internet gives them plenty. (About 17 million, give or take.)

Click on any number of these offerings and you can read a super-convincing theory about how adrenal fatigue works.

That line of reasoning goes like this:

Prolonged stress or illness overworks your adrenal glands. Eventually, your glands fatigue, and sleep disruptions, cravings, brain fog, exhaustion, and other symptoms set in.

According to certain people on the interwebz, expensive supplements, restrictive eat-this-not-that diet lists, and essential oil blends can turn this sad state of affairs around.

If you’re desperate for help, this adrenal-fatigue theory can seem like manna from Heaven.

Except it’s not true, as we’ll explain below.

Unfortunately this misinformation prevents people from understanding what’s really going on.

In this article, we’ll help you sort the facts from the fiction. By the end, you’ll know the real cause of these symptoms—as well as evidence-based strategies that actually work.

What is adrenal fatigue?

To fully understand adrenal fatigue theory, you need a quick anatomy lesson.

At the top of each of your kidneys, you have an adrenal gland that releases an array of hormones. One of those hormones, cortisol, gets you out of bed, regulates blood pressure, and snaps you to attention during an emergency, among other things.

According to adrenal-fatigue theory, too much stress causes the adrenals to stop functioning properly.

They either don’t generate enough cortisol, or they produce it at the wrong times (like when you’re trying to sleep).

This then leads to symptoms like:

feeling tired and lethargicpoor healing and recoveryaches and painshaving salt or sugar cravingshaving trouble falling asleep or waking uprelying on caffeine to get through the day

Those are all real problems. We’re guessing you’ve experienced one (or all) of them. Or you know someone who has. (Because why else would you be reading this story?)

Is adrenal fatigue real?

The truth: There isn’t much evidence in favor of the adrenal fatigue theory.

But there is quite a bit of evidence that refutes it.

After carefully examining 58 different studies, researchers from Brazil found that, in most people tested for adrenal fatigue, cortisol levels were… normal. In other words, their adrenal glands were anything but depleted.1

They concluded: “Adrenal fatigue does not exist.” (Pretty clear where these scientists stand!)

Sure, if you dig around PubMed long enough, you’ll find a few studies that claim to support the adrenal fatigue theory.

Those studies tend to measure fatigue levels—rather than actual adrenal function. In other words, they show that fatigue exists, but not necessarily adrenal fatigue.

So why do so many people swear that adrenal fatigue exists?

That’s probably because their so-called adrenal fatigue symptoms are very real, common—and frustrating.

Tiredness is one of the top reasons people seek medical care. It plagues a lot of folks.2

For most of those people, stress—and not adrenal fatigue—is the more likely problem. (More about this below).

Yet there’s no easy medical test for stress.

There are, however, a wide range of tests for the dozens of complex medical conditions that can also lead to fatigue, including thyroid issues, sleep apnea, and anemia.

This can leave people in a situation where they continually tell their doctors about how crummy they feel.

So their doctors order more tests that reveal nothing out of the ordinary, which can make patients feel unheard and misunderstood.

When someone’s not getting the answers they need, adrenal fatigue theory becomes super attractive.

drenal insufficiency

Many people confuse adrenal fatigue with adrenal insufficiency (AI).


Adrenal insufficiency is a recognized medical diagnosis.3

In AI, the adrenal glands don’t produce their full roster of hormones.

This includes cortisol as well as aldosterone (which regulates salt and water balance), DHEA (a “master” hormone necessary for testosterone and estrogen production), plus others.

AI can result from Addison’s disease, a condition where the adrenal glands are physically damaged, often due to an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks its own healthy tissue.

Or, it can result from hormonal signalling problems. Meaning, the hormonal signals from the pituitary or hypothalamus aren’t communicating properly with the adrenal glands.4, 5

The symptoms of AI are typically more severe than those proposed in “adrenal fatigue.”

They include:

weight loss and loss of appetitesignificant joint painstomach pain and upsetdry skindisrupted electrolytes (like sodium and calcium)low blood pressuremajor fatiguehyperpigmentation (darkened areas of skin)

Adrenal insufficiency can only be diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor.

Stress: The real reason you feel so awful

Here’s what the proponents of adrenal fatigue get right: Stress is a real problem—for a lot of people.

Chronic stress doesn’t just affect the adrenal glands.

Our stress response is a whole-body experience, affecting the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, among many other parts of the body.

Short bouts of stress followed by adequate recovery are no big deal. In fact, that’s how we grow stronger.

If that stress is ongoing and there’s not enough recovery, however, the body starts to break down.

Graphic depicting a bell curve with labels that show how too much stress can change how you feel. Being bored correlates with too little stress, rocking it with just enough stress, and crashing and burning with too much stress.

Consider what might happen if you hoisted heavy dumbbells… forever. You wouldn’t get stronger; you’d get weaker.

And that’s what happens when you’re under unrelenting stress, even low-level stress. Chronic stress without respite feels terrible, head-to-toe, as the graphic below shows.

Graphical depiction of a human body with text pointing to various areas. According to the text, stress can tighten muscles, intensify pain, intensify heartburn, make workouts feel impossible, induce forgetfulness and brain fog, increase colds and flu, and boost cravings and hunger.

If you’re experiencing these symptomscheck with your doctor to rule out any medical conditions.

If you leave with a clean bill of health, you may be suffering from the consequences of unrelenting stress, without adequate recovery. Luckily, simple, accessible practices can help.

Reduce stress that’s within your control.

It’s not realistic (or even ideal) to obliterate all stress. But you can turn some stressors down a few notches. Your first step: Identify your areas of stress, using the Stress Web, below, as a guide.

A graphic called

Consider your stress level for each area of the web.

To make this easy, you might download and print out the web so you can color in the areas based on how much stress they deliver.

Let’s say you’re training hard in the gym several days a week. Then you might color in all four sections of the physical part of the circle.

On the other hand, maybe you’re not dealing with any of the financial stressors. In that case, you might not color any of those in.

Once you see which areas pose the most stress, brainstorm ways to reduce those areas of stress.

And know that it’s not always about the big things.

For example, our client, Zahra, noticed that her environmental and mental dimensions of the stress web were particularly high.

After some thought, she made a couple changes. She:

bought noise-cancelling headphones to drown out her household

installed apps on her computer to block certain websites during periods of the day

Those strategies allowed her to cut down on unproductive distractions and focus on her work tasks.

After a month, Zahra was feeling more clear-headed, and actually started enjoying her workday more. Plus, she had way more energy. She hadn’t realized how depleting all those competing distractions had been.

Jack up recovery, in multiple areas of your life.

The more stress we deal with, the more we need to prioritize recovery.

Think of your “mojo reserve” as a jug: Stress drains it, and recovery fills it back up.

Try to fill your jug at least as much as you drain it.

Graphical depiction of a faucet, showing that recovery practices (good nutrition, regular sleep, gentle movement, fulfilling activity, social connections, positive emotions, time in nature, mindfulness) turn on the tap. Stress (poor nutrition, low energy intake, intense exercise, work stress, relationship stress, caregiving, financial stress, loneliness, illness) increase what's leaking out.

Recovery can take many forms. In working with over 100,000 clients, however, we’ve noticed that the following three practices offer an enormous impact.

Eat a nutrient-packed diet

Consume enough calories to support your body and activity levels, with a balance of macronutrients (including carbs!).

Bonus points if you can eat slowly and mindfully. (Here’s why slow eating is way better than dieting: The 30-day eating challenge that can transform your body.)

For more specific recommendations check out our Nutrition Calculator. Plug in some basic info, and it’ll give you a personalized nutrition plan based on YOUR body, lifestyle, and goals.

Get appropriate levels of exercise

If your intense spin or CrossFit sessions feel more like they’re breaking you down than building you up, lower the intensity and/or duration.

Schedule in recovery days, and consider replacing some of your more intense training sessions with gentle, restorative movement that activates the parasympathetic “calming” nervous system. Think: yoga, tai chi, walks in nature (or “forest-bathing” if you prefer!), stretching, and foam rolling.

Form good sleep habits

While we can’t force ourselves to fall asleep on cue, we do have a lot of control over our sleep hygiene—the habits and routines we engage in around sleep.

Experiment with the following strategies and see what works for you:

Power down devices 30 minutes before bedUse a journal to write down thoughts, worries, and reminders before turning off the lightsTurn down the thermostat a degree or twoTake a hot shower or bath before bedSleep alone, so you’re not disturbed by your partner or pets

Remember, “experiment” means to try it. Any individual practice may or may not be useful. But you won’t ever really know unless you make a concerted effort to give it a shot.

You can always decide to stop doing it if it doesn’t make a difference. In fact, at PN, when we make a change or try something new, we like to say, “It’s forever for now.”

Adopting this “nothing has to be permanent” mindset might help you (or your clients) be more open to experimentation.

(For a visual guide on how to engineer your life for better sleep, check out: The power of sleep).

You can build stress muscles.

When you face stressful events—with a strong mindset, relationships, and recovery practices—you grow stronger.

If you’ve been stuck in a downward spiral, small improvements can give you some much needed energy, and hope for a better future.

Eventually, stress can feel like surfing: Challenging and dynamic, without pulling you under.



Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review. BMC Endocr Disord. 2016 Aug 24;16(1):48.

2. Stadje R, Dornieden K, Baum E, Becker A, Biroga T, Bösner S, et al. The differential diagnosis of tiredness: a systematic review. BMC Fam Pract. 2016 Oct 20;17(1):147.

3. Bornstein SR, Allolio B, Arlt W, Barthel A, Don-Wauchope A, Hammer GD, et al. Diagnosis and Treatment of Primary Adrenal Insufficiency: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Feb;101(2):364–89.

4. Charmandari E, Nicolaides NC, Chrousos GP. Adrenal insufficiency. Lancet. 2014 Jun 21;383(9935):2152–67.

5. Husebye ES, Allolio B, Arlt W, Badenhoop K, Bensing S, Betterle C, et al. Consensus statement on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with primary adrenal insufficiency. J Intern Med. 2014 Feb;275(2):104–15.

If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their


And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

PN’s brand-new certification—announcement coming soon!—will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post The truth about adrenal fatigue. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Truly horrible fitness advice: “If I can do it, you can do it.”

“If I can do it, you can do it.”

You’ve heard that fitness advice. Maybe you’ve even said the words yourself.

(Sheepishly raises hand.)

And it’s time for this cliché to end.

Especially when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and health.

Because most of the time:

It’s not true. 

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean someone else can do it.

More importantly, this phrase backfires, making people feel worse than before.

Here’s why, and the fitness advice you might want to offer instead.


When we use this fitness advice, we usually have the best of intentions.

Maybe we’re trying to relate to a client: “Hey, I’ve been there!”

Or perhaps we’ve felt inspired by any number of news stories. Think: Blind man climbs Everest.

But there’s a problem.

No two people are exactly the same.

We might, as coaches, think we’re comparing apples (our life) to apples (our client’s life). But more likely, our client knows they’re an orange… and feels misunderstood and alienated—usually for one (or all) of the following reasons.

#1: Someone’s background impacts their health.

Things like where we’re born, how we grew up, and what we do for work shape how we eat, move, and live. They also affect our ability to change for the better.

Technically, these factors are called social determinants of health. And they can influence us positively or negatively.

Examples of social determinants include:

IncomeEducationJob stabilityWork conditionsFood access and securityHousing and environmentEarly childhood developmentSocial communityNeighborhood environmentAccess to affordable and high-quality health care

Social determinants can be more important than lifestyle choices in influencing health, according to the World Health Organization

Here’s how this can play out with clients.

You tell someone to hit the gym. If you can muster the effort to get to the gym on a busy schedule, so can your client, right?

Well no, not necessarily.

Especially if they work long hours and don’t have childcare.

Or maybe you suggest “more veggies” to a virtual client.

You don’t like veggies either, you say, but if you can find a way to eat them, your client can surely figure it out. Except, your client lives with their mother-in-law who cooks all of their main meals, which tend to include few veggies. In your client’s home, everyone thanks the cook, whether they like the food or not.

Does your client have some options? Sure—but not as many as someone who has more control over their dinner plate.

There are thousands of ways social determinants of health can make what’s possible for you (with some hard work) straight up impossible (or a whole lot harder) for someone else. Some social determinants of health are really hard to recognize—especially if you haven’t walked in that person’s shoes. So heed this universal rule of thumb: Don’t make assumptions.

#2: Every person’s body is unique.

Let’s assume you and your client have the same social circumstances.

Is it okay to say “if I can do it, you can do it?”

Spoiler alert: Nope.

Because genetics also play a role. 

Say you’re a person who puts on muscle easily. For you, maintaining a lean, athletic physique means working hard in the gym and keeping a close eye on your nutrition.

Of course, those two things require effort. Maybe a lot of effort.

But a person who has a harder time building muscle, and tends to store fat around their middle thanks to their genes?

They’re not going to get the same results as you—even if they eat and exercise exactly the same way. Those are the genetic cards they’ve been dealt.

So no—they can’t “do it” just because you can.

#3: Some people are luckier than others.

Most people who’ve worked hard to get where they are don’t want to admit that the universe might have helped them out a bit.

Imagine this: You’re an athlete competing at the CrossFit Games.

The final workout—the one that decides who’ll win—happens to be deadlift-focused, something you’re specifically great at. (If it’d been snatches, it’d be a totally different situation.)

When you win the CrossFit Games after that final workout, it doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard. But did you also benefit from the luck of the draw? Yup.

Perhaps a more relatable example: Maybe you met a coach or friend—just as you’re ready to make a change—who revolutionizes how you think about nutrition and fitness. And that sets you down the path to a healthier lifestyle.

In an alternate universe, where you didn’t meet that amazing coach at the right time, it might’ve taken you a whole longer to get where you are today.

The point: Don’t discount the “right place, right time” effect.

3 better ways to help your clients

Use all three together—or pick what works best in a given conversation.

1. Use limited relatability.

Say someone’s going through a divorce, and their coach has been through one, too. It could be tempting to offer advice like:

“I know this is a hard time for you. My divorce was brutal! But I managed to stay on top of my nutrition while going through mine, so I know you can do it.”


There’s a better way to use the experiences you have in common with a client, without making assumptions about their situation.

It’s called limited relatability, which helps you relate, while also allowing your client to feel heard and understand.

To master the technique, use this simple two-step formula.

Share your experience:“I know what [fill in the blank] looks like for me.”Get curious about your client’s experience by asking an open-ended question:What does it look like for you?”

Translated to a real-life coaching conversation, you might say something like:

“That sounds tough. When I was struggling with binge eating, I felt so powerless and frustrated. What are you feeling in this moment?”

2. Notice and name the bright spot.

This strategy is all about taking a moment to appreciate and applaud what your client has just shared.

You might say:

“You know what? It actually takes pretty amazing self-awareness to identify and acknowledge that this is a barrier for you right now. What does it feel like to have such a firm grasp on your situation?”

Or maybe:

“We can talk problem-solving in a second, but before we do that, I want to pause and tell you that it’s amazing you’ve pinpointed this as an issue. I don’t know if you’d have been able to do that six months ago!”

This can be really effective because the client isn’t expecting to pause. They’re expecting ways to move forward. You’re giving them a moment to stop, take stock, and reflect on their awesomeness before taking action.

3. Inspire them with their own accomplishments.

Let’s say your client’s apprehensive about the idea of shutting down earlier to get more sleep.

Instead of that old “if I can do it, you can do it” advice, try highlighting their past accomplishments. That could sound like:

“You know what? You actually told me this exact same thing a couple of months ago about going to the gym. And now you’re going regularly! We can talk about specific strategies to make going to bed earlier more doable, but also, remember how far you’ve come.”

Basically, instead of saying “if I can do it, you can do it,” you’re saying, “if you can do this one thing, you can do this other thing!”

You’re showing them that you see their hard work.

And most importantly, because of that hard work, you believe in them.

When you use the above strategies with your clients, you’ll accomplish something that the phrase “If I can do it, so can you” just can’t:

You’ll help them feel heard, seen, and valued.

That’ll go a long way towards strengthening your relationship—and ultimately help your clients get better results.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Truly horrible fitness advice: “If I can do it, you can do it.” appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Did you miss our previous article…

So you made a mistake with a client—now what?

The moment Dr. Karin Nordin exited the Zoom call, she knew she’d made a crucial mistake.

It was her first coaching session with a brand-new client, and from the get-go, things felt a little off.

The client (let’s call her Dierdre) was feeling emotional. Within minutes, tears were shed.

And when Dr. Nordin offered advice, Dierdre swiftly rejected it.

That’s when Nordin, a mild-mannered person and seasoned professional, did something out of character:

She got mad.

Instead of applying her coaching expertise, she found herself ranting at Deirdre, challenging her excuses, and trying to force her to change.

Naturally, the more insistent Nordin got, the more obstinate Deirdre became.

By the time she closed her laptop, Dr. Nordin knew without a doubt… that client wasn’t coming back.

What do you do when you screw up?

Turns out, you can learn from Dr. Nordin’s experience. 

Nordin’s a PN Certified coach, a curriculum advisor to Precision Nutrition, and has a PhD in Health Communication.

She also considers herself a pro at making mistakes. Well, not just making mistakes, but growing from them.

Her academic and professional expertise is in something called growth mindset, which views mistakes and failures as springboards for improvement.

(And yes, the term “growth mindset” is almost a cliché these days, but it’s an actual research-based psychological discipline, and something we can all benefit from.)

Here’s how Dr. Nordin bounced-back from her mistake—and how you can do the same.

(For even more helpful coaching advice, sign up for our FREE weekly newsletter, The Smartest Coach in the Room.)

Step 1. If you feel compelled to fix it right now… wait.

You know that almost barfy feeling you get when you mess up?

Dr. Nordin feels it too. After her conversation with Dierdre, “I felt vomity and gross for a while. I kept thinking, ‘I handled that so poorly, this is the worst’.”

While her natural impulse was to try to fix her mistake, she chose to wait a full 24 hours before taking action.

“We want to be able to react in a neutral state, or as neutral as possible,” she explains. “And that can take a bit of time.”

In other words, the classic ‘sleep on it’ advice still applies. Of course, that can take a bit of discipline (especially if your tendency is to fix things right away.)

“I knew I’d be thinking about it while I lay in bed at night,” says Nordin, “but with a bit of distance I was able to respond to the situation much better.”

The takeaway: Your inclination might be to try to make things right, immediately. But don’t rush. You’ll likely respond from a calmer, more rational headspace the following day.

Step 2. Practice radical responsibility.

A big part of coaching is helping clients recognize the autonomy and control they have over their choices and actions.

This is empowering: Clients begin to realize they have what it takes to change their habits, and achieve their goals.

That same principle applies to coaches, too. Especially after we’ve goofed up.

“I find it very useful to take a ‘radical responsibility’ perspective,” says Nordin.

“No matter the situation, I say to myself: Let’s just pretend for a moment that 100 percent of this is my fault. Then, on that basis, I ask myself: What can I do about it?”

Depending on your mistake, the answer might be obvious.

For example, if you gave a client information that turned out to be wrong, simply own up to the mistake and provide them with the correct details.

But even if the mistake was more cringe-worthy, Nordin says acknowledgment is still a good way to go.

In the case with Dierdre, Nordin waited 24 hours—and then penned an email that went something like this:

Hey Dierdre, 

I know our conversation got really heated, and I apologize for that. What you do in your life is 100 percent your choice—not mine.

I totally understand that you don’t want to move forward with coaching, and I’ve refunded your deposit. 

Thank you for your time. I wish you the best in all your future endeavors.

The takeaway: Resist the temptation to blame the client, deny the mistake, justify it, or sweep it under the rug. Take ownership for your actions, and do your best to right the wrong. This approach is not only more professional—it’s also more empowering.

Step 3. Look for the growth opportunity.

Once you’ve done the right thing on behalf of the client, consider what you can learn from the experience.

“My mistake taught me a lot about my coaching practice and how to market myself as a behavior change coach,” says Nordin.

Her biggest realization?

That she hadn’t properly communicated to Dierdre what to expect in their coaching session. “I think she expected someone who would just listen to her and help her sort through her emotional issues, whereas my coaching is more about habit change.”

And yes, client resistance is a normal part of change. But if Nordin had given Dierdre a better idea of what her behavior coaching typically entails, they might have avoided the conflict.

“It wasn’t Deirdre’s fault. Many people don’t know what behavior change coaching is all about,” adds Nordin. “I need to do a better job helping people understand what to expect when they work with me.”

The takeaway: Don’t beat yourself up for your mistake. Instead, focus on how you can use it as a learning experience. Aim to come up with at least one thing you’ll work on improving or do differently next time.

Step 4. Get curious with yourself.

In addition to professional growth, mistakes can be an opportunity to understand ourselves better.

Sure, sometimes mistakes are just mistakes—caused by inexperience or lack of knowledge. But they often point to areas where we can dig deeper.

“This is especially the case if it becomes a pattern,” says Nordin. “For example, if you find yourself repeatedly getting aggravated or tense, you might be projecting your issues onto the client.”

After the situation with Dierdre, Dr. Nordin asked herself, “Why did I get so mad about that?”

Ultimately, she decided that her emotional outburst had been triggered by some personal issues that she’d been neglecting.

So, being the growth-minded person she is, she decided to explore them with a therapist.

The takeaway: Do some honest self-reflection. Sure, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (That’s a Sigmund Freud quote, in case you’ve never seen it.)

On the other hand, some blunders (especially repeated ones) could serve as a wake-up call, or even a personal breakthrough.

Yes, mistakes might suck in the moment. But if you can approach them with curiosity, an open mind, and a dose of compassion, they just might make you a better coach—and a happier person.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post So you made a mistake with a client—now what? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

How I stopped tracking macros with my clients—and started seeing better results.

Here’s an unpopular opinion…

Macro-style food logging and tracking (think: MyFitnessPal) is NOT the best way to coach your clients on nutrition.

There, I said it. Now hear me out…

I’ve been a nutrition coach for over 10 years and have worked with more than 1,000 clients. I now use my knowledge and skills to help gym owners and coaches grow and systemize their own businesses, so I get to see how coaching methods work on a large scale.

I’ve tried many different nutrition coaching styles over the last decade: entirely macro-based, habit coaching with food tracking, and entirely habit-based with no macros at all.

What if I told you that when I stopped having clients count macros, they experienced:

Better resultsHigher complianceA happier journeyLess stressBetter eating intuitionA longer coach/client relationship

Well, that’s exactly what happened.

Make no mistake: I don’t hate macros. They definitely have their place.

(Related: The complete guide to using—and coaching—macros.)

But for 99 percent of clients, I just think there’s a better way.

So what is it?

Photos, people. Photos.

I have clients track what they eat by taking a picture of their meal.

It’s simple, easy, and effective—and as a result, you get high compliance.

But the best part? It provides way more information and coaching opportunities than conventional tracking.

I know what some of you are saying:

“You can’t determine calories or macros with only photos!”

It doesn’t matter.

When it comes to food, there are more important details to address than WHAT clients are eating.

And photos help you see what macro-tracking can’t: the full picture.

To get the most out of them, though, you’ll need to know what to look for.

I have a method for that.

I call this method The 5 Ws.

Who, when, where, why, and what.

Let me explain each, along with the coaching opportunities they present.

(And for more nutrition, health, and coaching advice, sign up for PN’s FREE weekly newsletter, The Smartest Coach in The Room.)

1. Who are they eating with?

Who someone eats with can impact the food choices they make, as well as the amount of food they consume.

Have you ever had a friend who eats super healthy? Ever find yourself making healthier choices while eating with this person?

The inverse is also true. It’s more tempting to go wild on a Friday night when your friend, partner, or coworker is indulging, too.

Sometimes, simply helping your client gain awareness that they tend to overeat around a certain person can be a game-changer. (And no, I’m not suggesting they end the relationship.)

2. When are they eating?

Did your client  (unintentionally) wait until 3 pm for lunch because they got busy or didn’t plan properly?

Here’s an example of when this kind of info can be super useful. If you uncover a pattern of missed meals, you can look at why that’s happening and either:

Option 1: Help your client build more structure into their day to prevent missing mealsOption 2: Come up with “if-then” scenarios for when it does happen. Example: “IF I miss my lunch, THEN I will get XYZ meal/snack”

3. Where are they eating?

You can learn a lot from looking at your client’s eating environment.

➤ Are they sitting at their desk in front of their keyboard, working through lunch? They might not be taking the time to chew their food thoroughly, which could lead to overeating.

Here, you might work on eating to 80 percent full as a next step.

(Learn more: How to eat until 80% full)

➤ Are they sitting on the couch watching TV? They might be chowing down mindlessly, another reason folks overeat.

In this case, you might focus on learning to eat slowly.

(See: The 30-day slow eating challenge.)

➤ Are they eating at a dinner table? That’s great! They appear to set time aside for meals and are developing great habits here. (Can you say bright spots?)

➤ Does their food appear to come from their own kitchen, or is it in takeout containers? If your client logs chicken, broccoli, and sweet potato on a traditional food tracking log, you don’t know if that’s homemade or picked up from a local fast-casual restaurant, potentially laden with hidden oils and lots of sodium.

This could be an opportunity to educate them on different food preparation techniques, and explain why a home-cooked meal could be a better choice for their goals.

4. Why are they eating?

As coaches, we’d really benefit from asking this question more often.

Do people always eat out of hunger? Hardly.

People eat for a plethora of reasons, and hunger is often not the driving force. For example, people frequently eat because they’re happy, sad, stressed, tired, thirsty, or bored, or it could be due to environment, habit, culture, or tradition.

If you find that a client’s stress eating, you could help them find ways to better manage their stress, such as meditation and exercise.

Or perhaps they’re a social butterfly, and for them, eating is part of the social experience.

You can collaborate with your client on ways to make the best choices possible while celebrating with their friends and family—rather than feeling like they have to stay home.

Ignoring the many reasons why your client eats can make them feel like there’s something wrong with them. Instead, help them develop the tools to lean into their WHY in a positive way.

5. What are they eating?

To me, this is the least important question. Because in my opinion, there’s not a great coaching opportunity here.

If your client isn’t making great choices, more than likely, one of the other 5 Ws is at play.

How does it work, exactly?

Here are some practical tips for putting this strategy into practice.

➤ Use photo logging when onboarding clients. For the first two weeks working together, I have clients take daily photos of their meals.

Then, they upload the photos into folders organized by meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, for example.

After the first two weeks, I let the client choose if they want to continue taking photos.

➤ Look for patterns. You might notice your client is frequently skipping breakfast or snacks while feeling hungry throughout the day.

These patterns provide a great starting point for your coaching.

(You can encourage your client to look for patterns as they eat by using resources like Precision Nutrition’s Eating Behaviors Journal and How Food Feels Journal.)

➤ Make it collaborative. I don’t typically do official “reviews” of client photo logs.

You never want your client to feel like they’re being graded.

Instead, try asking questions about their photos rather than making statements about what you see.

For instance, you might ask: How did this breakfast work for you? How did you feel a few hours later?

➤ Let your client suggest next steps. Once you’ve worked together to identify some areas for improvement, ask your client what they feel like they could change with confidence.

This is where they decide on a new action to practice.

My goal isn’t to persuade you to abandon macros.

(Especially if that approach is working great for you.)

Rather, I want to share an alternative tool that’s profoundly affected the way I coach.

Give it a try.

I know it can be scary, but in my experience with over a thousand people, you’ll get better results and much happier, more balanced clients in the end.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post How I stopped tracking macros with my clients—and started seeing better results. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Social connections: Could they be even more important than cholesterol?

Reviewed by Karin Nordin, PhD

“More hugs.”

Ever seen a health professional write that on a prescription note?

Probably not.

Though we’re often told to improve our health by eating right, moving regularly, sleeping well, and taking the recommended meds, it’s less common to be told to focus on our relationships.

That might be a mistake.

Because here’s what we’re discovering:

Social health is vital—and in some cases, it’s a bigger priority than exercise or nutrition.

The impact of poor relationships is so severe that some experts have argued physicians should screen for social isolation just as they screen for heart disease or diabetes.1

One study even found that satisfaction with relationships at midlife is a better predictor of long-term health than cholesterol levels.2 (Not to exaggerate the findings of one study, but it does illustrate the importance of social wellbeing.)

If you’re a health coach, relationships may impact your clients’ progress as much as how friendly they are with salad, or the daily steps they average.

The good news: We don’t need hundreds of new friends to improve social health. (And actually, a few quality relationships may be better than lots of weak connections.3)

In this article, we’ll provide three strategies you can use to help clients (and yourself) leverage quality social health—and health overall.

Read on, friend.

What does “social health” mean anyway?

Hope this doesn’t offend anyone but…

We aren’t that different from monkeys.

Okay, maybe you don’t pick through your mate’s back hair for snacks.

But much like our genetic cousins, we humans are social animals. So much so that it’s impossible to separate our physical health from our social health.

As the graphic shows below, the two are that intertwined. 4,5

Graphical depiction of the importance of social health. The title says

What if your social group doesn’t encourage health?

Your nacho-loving beer buddies.

Your “just one more helping” family member.

The cast of Arrested Development that keeps you glued to the couch.

You’ve probably heard the advice: “If you want to be healthy, hang out with healthy people.”

The advice is well-meaning, based on results from the Framingham Heart Study that revealed just how impactful our social context is. (One finding: You’re more likely to be happy, depressed, or obese if your closest friend is happy, depressed, or obese.6)

Despite this, we love our beer buddies, sloppy and loud as they are. And Grandma’s pie-pushing comes from love. And no one wants to live in a world where dysfunctional family sitcoms don’t exist.

Our social circles often define our identities; we’re very attached to our familiar groups. This remains true even if the friend, family, or professional group we belong to isn’t necessarily good for us.2

For many, the idea of leaving a stressful or unhelpful social base is up there with being asked to live on a desert island… naked and alone… with snakes.

If someone suggests you swap an unhealthy social group for a healthy one, you’ll almost surely dig in and resist. (And your clients will do the same.)

That’s why when addressing clients’ social groups, coaches should listen more than they advise, and draw out a client’s own wisdom.

Try asking:

“Is this relationship still benefiting you?How does this relationship relate to your current goals, priorities, and values?”

After reflecting on those questions, a few clients might decide they need to find new friends or roomies.

But not usually.

And that’s okay—because as a coach, you still have three powerful strategies to help clients strengthen their existing social bonds, so they can improve their overall health.

Strategy #1: Amplify the coach-client relationship

You’re part of your client’s social network.

In fact, there’s a fancy-pants name for the coach-client bond: the therapeutic alliance. It refers to the level of trust and rapport between a practitioner and the person they’re helping.

A strong therapeutic alliance can help a person feel supported and understood while surfing the tides of change.

And get this:

Client results are up to 85 percent dependent on the therapeutic alliance.

The stronger that relationship, the better the results.

How do you strengthen this bond?

Highlight your clients’ awesomeness. Point out their strengths and what they’re doing right. As much as possible, try to see your client from a compassionate, non-judgemental, and positive perspective.

Embrace client-led coaching. Help clients identify their own limiting factors and propose their own solutions. You’re a knowledgeable guide, but only a client knows what’s best for themselves.

Listen and validate. When a client is suffering, they probably don’t need you to search PubMed for more evidence. More than facts, your clients often need understanding, support, and creativity to get them through the tough stuff.

(Want to build trust and connection with clients? Read: “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” 9 ways to help people change while staying within your scope)

Strategy #2: Create intentionally welcoming spaces

Take a critical look at the virtual and/or in person gathering spots you oversee as a part of your coaching practice.

Are they places where members feel welcome, championed, and safe?

Do clients want to hang out in these spaces?

If you decide your coaching community needs some work, consider this advice from Precision Nutrition super coach Jon Mills, PN2, who’s been building and maintaining successful coaching communities for years.

Know who you’re welcoming—and who you’re not.

Many coaches see themselves as the coach for everyone. That’s a mistake, says Mills. “When you welcome everybody, you by default welcome nobody,” he says.

Think deeply about the type of clients you want to attract and retain. Then consider what they might want from a community—and what might repel them.

For inspiration, consider what Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly, the gym Mills runs in Vancouver, British Columbia did to cater to the queer community:

Posted a pronouns policyOffered non-gendered restroomsHung a pride flag in the front window

Those details helped clients know immediately whether the space was for them, Mills says.

Communicate your values and expectations.

Post a code of conduct. This helps clients know the rules that help keep your community safe and welcoming.

As an example, in our Precision Nutrition Facebook communities, our first rule is this:

Be respectful.

And we explain what we mean by that.

Everyone wins: Members know what to expect, and how to behave.

Uphold your group rules.

Don’t just pay lip service to values like helpfulness and respect.

You must actively reinforce them, Mills says. “It’s worse to have a code of conduct and not enforce it than to have no code of conduct at all,” he says.

Rule reinforcement is especially important if, like Mills, you coach clients who often feel unwelcome in typical spaces. When done right, you can create an atmosphere like the (now online) Valkyrie martial arts studio did pre-pandemic:

Valkyrie invited people to register for couch time—just as you’d register for sweating it out in a class. On any given day, you could find people chatting, laughing, and bonding.

For them, the studio was more than a gym. It was home.

Small group coaching: Where individualized attention and supportive group dynamics meet

For more than 21 years, Alwyn Cosgrove has gathered and stored data for every single training session with clients at Results Fitness, the gym he owns in Santa Clarita, California. That information—from roughly 40,000 yearly sessions—functions like an ongoing research study.

And it‘s led to a counterintuitive finding:

Clients do better when they train in small groups than when they work one-on-one with a coach or trainer.

This remains true even when clients are following different programs, Cosgrove says.

“You’d assume people would get better results when working only with a trainer because they’re getting more individualized attention,” says Cosgrove. “But the less individualized attention in a group setting seems to be offset by group dynamics.”

That might be because fellow clients “get” each other, allowing them to cheer one another on in ways friends and family may not be able to.

Strategy #3: Rally the support of family and friends

In coaching more than 100,000 clients, we’ve noticed something:

Most people focus on their shortcomings rather than their successes.

This negative focus tends to discourage and demotivate people.

That’s why, “at some point in virtually all of my clients’ journeys, we’ll have a conversation about building a cheer squad,” says Mills.

When friends and family support a client’s goals, values, and priorities, that client tends to be successful. There’s a sense of “we’re in this together,” says Precision Nutrition super coach Toni Bauer, PN2.

(Want to help clients get clear on the kind of support they need, and who to get it from? Use this FREE worksheet: Social Support Form)

But friends and family usually need a few pointers.

Because they can sometimes also be the people who (often unintentionally) sabotage a client’s progress by…

… Asking, “Hey, want some ice cream?” while scooping out two big bowls.

… Making comments like, “Wow, you’re eating less than usual. Are you okay?”

… Guilt-tripping, saying, “Oh come on, drink with us!” or “I made this cake just for you! Don’t hurt my feelings, now.”

As much as possible, try to allow the client to lead this solution-finding mission, says Bauer.

If you jump in with too many suggestions, your client will likely continually tell you, “No, that won’t work. You just don’t understand my friends/family.”

When brainstorming ways to overcome sticky issues with family and friends, Bauer suggests you ask questions like:

Has there been a time in your life when trying something new has worked smoothly in your household? If so, what was that like?

Could you tell me how you’ve communicated with your friends or family in the past? Let’s discuss what worked and what didn’t.

What’s the easiest, low-hanging-fruit change you can make that’s minimally disruptive to your friends’/family’s habits?

After contemplation, clients might come up with their own ideas.

If they get stuck, however, ask:

Do you need help with this? Are you interested in hearing some ideas that have worked for other clients?

If they say yes, you might tell them about that client with a nut allergy who asked her wife to only buy ice cream with nuts. The client knew she wouldn’t be tempted by nut-loaded ice cream, and it allowed her wife to keep a sweet treat in the house.

(For help navigating resistance from friends and family, read: 3 counterintuitive strategies for getting loved ones to support your healthy lifestyle.)

Our social circles don’t have to be perfect to benefit us.

It’s nice when goals align with with loved ones:

Your household sits down and EVERYONE wants to try your new kale loaf.

But really, whose life is that??!

In reality, just like us, our friends and family are a mishmash of virtues and vices.

But that’s not what defines us.

Instead, it’s our willingness to accept and support each other wherever we’re at, that makes relationships so life-giving.

Social groups may never be ideal, but they can usually be improved by building on what’s already working, and adding on as needed.

With this mindset, your beer buddies may continue to love their brews, but cheers to you even if you decide to opt for seltzer.

(And who knows, maybe seltzer pong could be a thing.)



Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Larrabee Sonderlund A, Thilsing T, Sondergaard J. Should social disconnectedness be included in primary-care screening for cardiometabolic disease? A systematic review of the relationship between everyday stress, social connectedness, and allostatic load. PLoS One. 2019 Dec 19;14(12):e0226717.

2. Malone JC, Cohen S, Liu SR, Vaillant GE, Waldinger RJ. Adaptive midlife defense mechanisms and late-life health. Pers Individ Dif. 2013 Jul 1;55(2):85–9.

3. Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl:S54–66.

4. House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D. Social relationships and health. Science. 1988 Jul 29;241(4865):540–5.

5. Eisenberger NI, Lieberman MD, Williams KD. Does rejection hurt? An FMRI study of social exclusion. Science. 2003 Oct 10;302(5643):290–2.

6. Bzdok D, Dunbar RIM. The Neurobiology of Social Distance. Trends Cogn Sci. 2020 Sep;24(9):717–33.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Social connections: Could they be even more important than cholesterol? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

4 ways to find your niche as a nutrition coach

Liz Durant was unstoppable.

She packed 25 marathons into eight years before advancing to ultra-marathons—all while juggling a demanding career in accounting and finance, raising three kids, moving frequently, and squeezing in some competitive tennis, too.

At 45, Durant was offered a job as a personal trainer at a local gym. She decided to take it, jumping at the chance to share her love of running in a meaningful and purposeful way.

She dove headfirst into her new hustle, working to gain expertise in nutrition (through the PN Level 1 and Level 2 Certifications), endurance, and women-specific coaching.

Any given week, she’d teach 10 group fitness classes; spend 20-30 hours training in-person and online clients; train for her next race; chip away at certifications and other continuing ed; and of course be there for her family and friends too.

By her early 50s, Durant noticed it was getting harder to meet the demands. Hot flashes kept her awake at night. Injuries became commonplace. Durant felt burned out, struggling to keep up with her schedule.

She came to accept that she was entering a new phase of life. With help from a coach, Durant made adjustments to her lifestyle and nutrition habits.

“I had to really assess what was essential, and let go of some things that were not,” Durant says. “I practiced balancing my clients with my own training needs, and prioritizing my ‘big rocks’—sleep, stress, movement, and food.”

Before too long, Durant was back to feeling good and crushing her schedule.

And that’s how it hit her.

She would focus her coaching business, Affinity Fitness, on women just like her: 50-somethings who want to maintain an active, busy, healthy life, even while dealing with the realities of aging.

And that’s how she ended up finding her niche as a nutrition coach. Here are four illuminating lessons Durant learned from her experience—plus tips for you to try, too.

Precision Nutrition Certified Coach Liz Durant.

Lesson #1: Make it personal.

The more intimately you understand what your clients are up against, the more effectively you can support them.

Durant knew: “The 50s are a perfect storm of physical and lifestyle changes.”

Here are her clients’ top challenges, plus how she targets them.

It’s been a while since they prioritized themselves.

Many women in their 50s have spent years or decades caring for others, losing touch with their own bodies and needs in the process. (Durant has also found preliminary research on disordered eating and empty nest women, which aligns with anecdotal evidence from her coaching practice.)

Durant helps clients practice listening to their bodies, so they can relearn signals like hunger and fullness cues.

They’re experiencing hormone changes.

As a result, many clients notice decreased energy.

“Performance and training start to suffer,” Durant notes. “Then your sleep is disrupted because of hot flashes. Plus, you’re more prone to injury.”

To address this, Durant helps clients adapt training and recovery to their bodies’ evolved needs. She also focuses them on improving sleep and managing stress by shutting off screens and winding down earlier in the evening than they’re used to.

Day-to-day life suddenly looks different.

Women this age are often experiencing significant life adjustments (becoming an empty nester; retiring). This means disrupted eating and exercise patterns.

Durant helps clients get a balance of lean protein, smart carbs, healthy fats, and veggies—often portioned for a slowed metabolism. (Hint: She uses the PN Macro Calculator. “The report that comes out of that is gold.”)

And Durant coaches them on a big takeaway from her own experience: “Being nimble is key. Don’t beat yourself if you need to re-prioritize your life to fulfill your basic needs. Progress, not perfection.”

Lesson #2: Specialize even within your specialty.

The clients in a given market or niche will have things in common, but it’s important to leave room for personal preference.

For example, while some of Durant’s clients love training online, “others have looked forward to getting back into the gym.”

To accommodate both groups, Durant offers online, limited in-person, and hybrid coaching models.

“I have several clients who travel south in the winter. We train in the gym when we can, and when we can’t, we use Zoom. My clients love the consistency and flexibility,” she says.

Meanwhile, Durant offers three different packages:

Sprint: Program design with just a bit of supportMarathon: Program design with individualized nutrition supportUltra: Program design, customized nutrition recommendations, and a weekly Zoom training session

“It’s all about finding what works best for individual clients.”

Lesson #3: Listen to your audience—not everybody else.

When Durant was getting her coaching business off the ground, she tried Facebook ads to get visibility. It’s standard marketing, but it didn’t work.

So, she thought more carefully about the women she wanted to coach. What are they interested in? How do they spend their time? What would be of real value to them?

It hit her like a sack of potatoes: Just like Durant, her clients were huge fans of the Instant Pot. She’d been running free workshops at the local library, plus paid sessions in clients’ homes. Why not take it to Facebook Live to get more folks interested in what she had to offer?

Liz started doing free sessions on meal planning and prep, plus recipe demos right from her kitchen. Immediately, she had an influx of new clients.

“It’s been awesome!” Durant says. “So much so, I am considering developing an online course on the Instant Pot for runners. Simplify their lives and give them more time to run!”

This kind of approach can take some experimentation, Durant warns—but it helps to keep an open mind. “Throw something at the wall and see if it sticks. Try something for a month and see what happens,” she suggests.

Lesson #4: Think about the change YOU want to make.

Durant says specializing has helped her get clients, especially by word-of-mouth. But much more than that, it’s brought a clear sense of purpose and meaning to her work.

“I love helping women take care of themselves after they’ve spent so long taking care of others,” she reflects.

And for Durant, this mission has opened the door to a more large-scale vision: “I feel like there’s a notion in my generation that a big part of our purpose is to care for other people, even at the expense of our own health,” she says. “I want to change that.”

Durant—who’s now 59— believes we’re on the verge of a societal shift, where women of all ages are becoming more willing to prioritize themselves, and topics like menopause are becoming less taboo.

“Women are starting to understand that self-care isn’t selfish. And besides, when we take the time to prioritize our own wellbeing, we are more effective at taking care of others anyway!”

Clients pick up on this sense of purpose. They begin to envision a new future for themselves, too. They get results. They tell their friends.

“When we’re north of 50, we have an opportunity to create a new blueprint for ourselves,” says Durant. A new vision we can choose to think of as me, 2.0.”

With this new vision in mind, Durant is leading the way.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post 4 ways to find your niche as a nutrition coach appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Food addiction: Why it happens, and 3 ways to help (or get help).

“I can’t stop thinking about food.”

Ever felt that way?

It’s normal to think about food a fair bit, and occasionally overeat.

But what about when thoughts of food crowd out almost everything else? When you feel an anxiety that’s only relieved by eating?

Or when it seems like you don’t have any control over what, when, and how much you eat?

It might make you wonder…

“Do I have an addiction?”

Many of us throw the word “addiction” around lightly when we talk about our relationship with food.

But some people—including, perhaps, some of your clients—are truly suffering.

In this article, we’ll explore:

What food addiction is.How it’s different from overeating.Why certain foods have more “addictive” qualities than others.Who’s most vulnerable.

(Quick heads up: As a coach you can’t diagnose food addiction, but you can support and be an ally to your clients dealing with it. You’ll also want to refer out to a qualified practitioner. Learn more about that here).

Let’s get into it.

What is food addiction?

Food addiction means having emotionally-driven, persistent, and uncontrollable urges to eat—even when you’re not physically hungry.

It affects 2-11 percent of people in Western countries. (The rates are highest in the US, with some research showing as much as 11.4 percent of the population could be affected.)1

With rates so high, you likely know someone with food addiction. Or maybe you’re the one struggling.

How do you know?

Here are some signs of food addiction:

Craving increasingly large amounts of (usually) high-calorie processed foods in order to feel pleasure, energy, or excitement, or to relieve negative emotions, physical pain, or fatigue.Spending so much time thinking about and getting food, and recovering from overeating, that it crowds out recreational activities, professional obligations, and relationships.Continuing to overeat despite negative effects like digestive problems, unwanted weight gain, or mobility issues.Experiencing withdrawal-like effects—irritability, low mood, headaches or fatigue1,2—when you’re not eating.

How is food addiction different from other forms of overeating?

If you overeat at most of your meals, or have the occasional out-of-control binge eating episode, are you addicted to food?

Not necessarily.

Pretty much everyone experiences periods of overeating, and/or instances of binge eating.

As the following continuum shows, it’s only when urges and compulsive behavior around food become severe, frequent, and chronic that a person can be diagnosed with an eating disorder or food addiction.3,4,5

A table showing the continuum of eating. From green to red, it includes the spectrum of balanced eating to food addiction. Balanced eating means you generally eat to match energy expenditure. (Although you may have occasional—often unintentional—episodes of both overeating and undereating.) Passive overeating means yu often eat more than you need, but you don’t use food to alter or numb your emotions, and you’re not distressed over your habits. Loss-of-control eating means that occasionally, eating feels compulsive, excessive, and out-of-control (e.g. “Whoa, I really overdid it at the Crab Festival this year.”) Binge eating disorder (BED) is when you binge eat at least once a week for at least three months. Bingeing means eating a large amount—often quickly and in secret—to the point of feeling uncomfortably full. When you eat, you feel out of control, and often feel guilt or shame afterward. Food addiction is similar to BED, but you may also compulsively “graze”—eating smaller amounts of food almost constantly, often with a feeling that you can’t stop. When you do stop, you may feel withdrawal-like symptoms, creating a hard-to-escape cycle.

As you may notice, binge eating disorder and food addiction share several major similarities.

But food addiction—which more closely resembles a substance use disorder—is more severe than BED because it causes even more life disruption.

How food addiction happens

Food addiction isn’t caused by one single thing.

For example, you can’t just blame it on genetics.

Factors like the amount of stress in someone’s life, how they respond to that stress, how lonely they feel, where they live, and who they spend time with also make an impact.

In other words, like most health issues, food addiction arises out of a jumble of biological, psychological, and social factors. (This multi-dimensional approach to understanding illness and health is called the biopsychosocial perspective.)

A Venn diagram showing how the biopsychosocial model works, and what areas of life are included in the three areas: biology, psychology, and social context.

Let’s go into those categories now.

Biological factors: How does your body work?

In early human history, food scarcity happened on the regular.

To survive, humans evolved to overeat when food was abundant, especially when that food was tasty and calorie-rich.6,7,8 (Jackpot: avocado tree.)

But now, the instinct that once helped us survive makes it hard to stop eating.9

Highly-processed foods—especially those with a combination of sugar, fat, and salt—are the most difficult to resist.

Much like drugs and alcohol, these foods trigger a range of rewarding, feel-good neurochemicals, including dopamine. Highly-processed foods have this effect even when you’re not hungry.10,11,12

(In contrast, whole, unprocessed foods aren’t very rewarding when you’re not hungry, and it’s usually easier to moderate your intake of them.5,13)

These days, highly-processed foods are so accessible that you have to rely on your ability to self-regulate, or control your behavior, in order to resist them.

But people who deal with compulsive overeating (including those with food addiction) often have a hard time self-regulating.

Here’s why:

People with compulsive overeating may…

Struggle with impulse control, possibly because the planning, strategizing center of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) is impaired. This might be a hallmark of all addictions, and can contribute to poor recovery outcomes.14,15

React more easily and intensely to stressors. They have a higher level of cortisol release than others.16 And because stress can trigger addictive behaviors, people who are more physically sensitive to stress may be more likely to use food (or drugs or alcohol) as a way to cope.

Get more pleasure from food (at first).17,18 They may have a bigger dopamine response to highly-processed foods, more motivation to seek out that response again, and stronger cravings.19

Get less pleasure from food over time. When you often overeat highly-processed foods, dopamine receptors become less responsive to those foods.20 This means that a bigger “hit” of food is required to achieve the same pleasurable effect.21,22,23

Dopamine: Why we like it, and how it hooks us.

Dopamine release happens in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region famous for its role in registering pleasure and reinforcing learning.5

Lots of things give you little dopamine boosts…  eating a tasty meal when you’re hungry, connecting with friends and loved ones, and achieving goals. However, certain activities and substances—like drugs, gambling, and (yes) highly-processed foods—can produce unnaturally high surges of dopamine.

Here’s why that can become a problem:

The greater the dopamine response, the more pleasure you experience. The more pleasure you feel, the more motivated you are to repeat it.

When you experience a dopamine surge, you learn to associate pleasure with the specific activity or substance that caused it.

As that learning continues, your prefrontal cortex and your reward system get hijacked. You become focused on getting more of the thing. And you have trouble experiencing pleasure from anything else.

Over time, your brain adapts to these floods of dopamine.

This is called tolerance. Tolerance drives you to chase more of the pleasurable thing, yet you rarely feel satisfied.

This is the addiction cycle.

(Want to know more about what food characteristics people find irresistible—and even addictive? Read: Manufactured deliciousness: Why you can’t stop overeating.)

Psychological factors: What’s your mindset?

When we ask clients, most of them say they’re more likely to overeat when they’re feeling stressed, tired, or sad.

Research supports this observation: Stress, depressed mood, anger, boredom, and irritability are common triggers of binge eating16,24

Binge eating often further triggers feelings of guilt and shame, and these feelings may promote more addictive behaviors.25

Because binge eating and food addiction are associated with challenges regulating emotions,26,27 food can be used as a way to self-medicate and temporarily feel better. (Foods with sweet tastes are especially effective at elevating mood and suppressing pain.28)

Food addiction is also associated with a history of trauma and abuse, and is found alongside a number of other mental health disorders like depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychosis,29 and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).30

(Want to support clients with trauma while staying in your scope? Read: How trauma affects health and fitness—and prevents client progress)

Although many people think of addictive eating as a form of “self-sabotage,” here’s a more compassionate, useful way to think about it:

For the person struggling, food is simply a safe place, a comfort to turn to when life feels overwhelming.

Social factors: What’s around you?

In animal research, addictive eating behaviors only happen when they’re given highly-processed foods.5

This isn’t to say that processed foods cause addictive eating. It’s just that their presence, combined with other biological and psychological vulnerabilities, makes food addiction more likely.

And due to social factors, some people are exposed to highly-processed foods more often than others.

Imagine you live in a “food desert”—an area that has poor access to affordable, fresh, and minimally-processed food. If all you can get at your local grocery store is packaged snack foods, white bread, and maybe some canned fruit, your nutrition and appetite will be harder to manage.

Similarly, not having enough money to buy healthy foods on a regular basis can make an impact. Naturally, you might do like our ancestors and “stock up” when calories are available. Some research supports this: Higher rates of food insecurity are associated with disordered eating behaviors like binge eating.31

You can also pick up on social cues around food.

If you’ve grown up with friends and family that regularly overeat, or use food to soothe, comfort, or entertain, they might encourage you (explicitly or implicitly) to do the same.

Even when you want to change, swimming against the current can be hard.

The irony of diet culture

Despite some progress through movements like body positivity and “Health at Every Size,” modern culture still prizes thinness.

In order to achieve that thinness, many people diet incessantly.

Here’s how that backfires:

When you think you can’t have access to something (in this case, food you find delicious), you end up wanting more of it.

This is called the limited access paradigm, and it explains why very restrictive diets not only often fail, but may even make people more likely to overeat and binge eat.32


That’s why recovery from compulsive overeating and food addiction often focuses on body awareness, mindful eating, and developing a positive relationship with food—not dieting.

Interested in checking your bias towards thinness as a coach? Read: Are you body-shaming clients? How well-meaning coaches can be guilty of “size-bias.”

Help with food addiction: 3 ways to support clients (or yourself)

Health and nutrition coaches can’t diagnose or treat a food addiction, or any kind of eating disorder. But you can start the conversation, and be an essential part of a client’s recovery team.

If you’re reading this article because you’re struggling, we’ll suggest some ways to support yourself too.

1. Create a safe, compassionate, and encouraging environment.

If a client comes to you with some deep stuff, don’t feel like you have to figure out their childhood or fix their biology.

Instead, focus on understanding their current situation, helping them feel safe, and developing a trusting relationship.

The best ways to do that? Practice empathy and active listening.

(Read more about empathy and listening skills: “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” 9 ways to help people while staying within your scope.)

Because people with food addiction and binge eating disorder may be more sensitive to reward,33,34,35 coaches can also help “reward” clients in more affirming ways.

Meaning: Give them lots of praise. Celebrate every “win” you see.

And if a client comes to you feeling shame over a certain behavior or feeling, reassure them that this isn’t evidence of their inadequacy. Missteps and imperfections are human. Feeling sensitive to them is just a sign that they want to do better for themselves.

If you’re struggling with food addiction:

You’ll benefit from self-compassion and non-judgement too. Try not to blame or criticize yourself for “causing” this or “being too weak” to pull yourself out of it.

Be your own buddy: People are much better at changing when they come from a place of love and support.

For more practical, self-compassionate ways to feel better, read: “How can I cope RIGHT NOW?” These self-care strategies might help you feel better.

2. Drop the nutrition lecture.

Yes, maybe you’re a health or nutrition coach.

But in this case, focusing too much on nutrition (especially calories and energy intake) can backfire.

Clients struggling with food addiction are usually already overly concerned with what and how much they’re eating—and they probably feel tremendous shame around that.

➤ Instead of nutritional value, focus on how foods make clients feel.

You can ask (with kindness and genuine curiosity): “When you eat [insert trigger food], how do you feel in your body? And what thoughts come up?”

Although sometimes uncomfortable, this exercise can help clients identify foods that do feel good in their bodies, and align with their values. Over time, this can build a more positive, practical relationship with food.

➤ Help clients develop awareness around their triggers.

Ask gently: “What was going on before you started to feel the urge to eat? Where were you, who were you with, and how were you feeling?”

When you’re aware of your patterns and habits, it’s easier to find opportunities to re-route them.

(Here’s a worksheet that helps clients identify and disrupt unproductive eating habits: Break the Chain worksheet)

➤ Collaborate to come up with eating-replacement activities.

Stress is a common trigger for overeating, so ask your client to make a list of activities that calm them down, and bring them joy.

Note that overeating isn’t “forbidden.” Clients always have the option to use this coping mechanism.

But they can also slowly develop alternative behaviors to eating—which they may learn to prefer over time.

If you’re struggling with food addiction:

Here are three small actions you can take to start helping yourself feel better:

Focus on how foods make you feel rather than their caloric value.Use the Break the Chain worksheet to develop awareness of your triggers.Create your own personal list of replacement activities.

3. Refer out.

If you suspect your client has food addiction, you may want to start with this worksheet: The Yale Food Addiction Scale. While you can’t diagnose your client (unless you’re also a qualified mental health or medical health professional), you can use this tool to begin a conversation.

Most importantly, empower your client to seek help outside of your coaching. Remind them that seeking professional help takes courage and wisdom, and that you’ll be with them along the ride.

For most people, a family doctor is a good place to start. Family doctors can perform a formal assessment, then refer to appropriate help, whether that’s a licensed therapist, a psychiatrist, or another health professional.

If your client wants help finding a therapist, find one that’s trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been shown to be effective in managing and treating addictions and disordered eating.

You might be the first (and only) person your client has confided in.

Take your role seriously, display acceptance and compassion, and help your client get the care they deserve.

If you’re struggling with food addiction:

You’re not supposed to do really hard things by yourself. It often takes a team of support, so reach out.

Talk to a trusted loved one for moral support, and consult your family doctor or a licensed psychotherapist to get professional help.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It means you have your own back.



Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Imperatori, Claudio, Mariantonietta Fabbricatore, Viviana Vumbaca, Marco Innamorati, Anna Contardi, and Benedetto Farina. 2016. “Food Addiction: Definition, Measurement and Prevalence in Healthy Subjects and in Patients with Eating Disorders.” Rivista Di Psichiatria 51 (2): 60–65.

2. Schulte, Erica M., Julia K. Smeal, Jessi Lewis, and Ashley N. Gearhardt. 2018. “Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale.” Appetite 131 (December): 148–54.

3. Berkman, Nancy D., Kimberly A. Brownley, Christine M. Peat, Kathleen N. Lohr, Katherine E. Cullen, Laura C. Morgan, Carla M. Bann, Ina F. Wallace, and Cynthia M. Bulik. 2015. Table 1, DSM-IV and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Binge-Eating Disorder. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).

4. Bonder, Revi, Caroline Davis, Jennifer L. Kuk, and Natalie J. Loxton. 2018. “Compulsive ‘Grazing’ and Addictive Tendencies towards Food.” European Eating Disorders Review: The Journal of the Eating Disorders Association 26 (6): 569–73.

5. Davis, Caroline. 2013. “From Passive Overeating to ‘Food Addiction’: A Spectrum of Compulsion and Severity.” ISRN Obesity 2013 (May): 435027.

6. Brown, Elizabeth A. 2012. “Genetic Explorations of Recent Human Metabolic Adaptations: Hypotheses and Evidence.” Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 87 (4): 838–55.

7. Neel, James V. 2009. “The ‘thrifty Genotype’ in 19981.” Nutrition Reviews 57 (5): 2–9.

8. Wiss, David A., Nicole Avena, and Pedro Rada. 2018. “Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution.” Frontiers in Psychiatry / Frontiers Research Foundation 9 (November): 545.

9. Davis, Caroline. 2014. “Evolutionary and Neuropsychological Perspectives on Addictive Behaviors and Addictive Substances: Relevance to the ‘Food Addiction’ Construct.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation 5 (December): 129–37.

10. Lutter, Michael, and Eric J. Nestler. 2009. “Homeostatic and Hedonic Signals Interact in the Regulation of Food Intake.” The Journal of Nutrition 139 (3): 629–32.

11. Small, Dana M., Marilyn Jones-Gotman, and Alain Dagher. 2003. “Feeding-Induced Dopamine Release in Dorsal Striatum Correlates with Meal Pleasantness Ratings in Healthy Human Volunteers.” NeuroImage 19 (4): 1709–15.

12. Kelley, Ann E., Brian A. Baldo, and Wayne E. Pratt. 2005. “A Proposed Hypothalamic-Thalamic-Striatal Axis for the Integration of Energy Balance, Arousal, and Food Reward.” The Journal of Comparative Neurology 493 (1): 72–85.

13. Monteleone, Palmiero, Fabiana Piscitelli, Pasquale Scognamiglio, Alessio Maria Monteleone, Benedetta Canestrelli, Vincenzo Di Marzo, and Mario Maj. 2012. “Hedonic Eating Is Associated with Increased Peripheral Levels of Ghrelin and the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoyl-Glycerol in Healthy Humans: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 97 (6): E917–24.

14. Garavan, Hugh, and Karen Weierstall. 2012. “The Neurobiology of Reward and Cognitive Control Systems and Their Role in Incentivizing Health Behavior.” Preventive Medicine 55 Suppl (November): S17–23.

15. Volkow, Nora D., Gene-Jack Wang, Dardo Tomasi, and Ruben D. Baler. 2013. “The Addictive Dimensionality of Obesity.” Biological Psychiatry 73 (9): 811–18.

16. Gluck, Marci E. 2006. “Stress Response and Binge Eating Disorder.” Appetite 46 (1): 26–30.

17. Davis, C. 2009. “Psychobiological Traits in the Risk Profile for Overeating and Weight Gain.” International Journal of Obesity 33 Suppl 2 (June): S49–53.

18. Moreno-López, Laura, Carles Soriano-Mas, Elena Delgado-Rico, Jacqueline S. Rio-Valle, and Antonio Verdejo-García. 2012. “Brain Structural Correlates of Reward Sensitivity and Impulsivity in Adolescents with Normal and Excess Weight.” PloS One 7 (11): e49185.

19. Wang, Gene-Jack, Allan Geliebter, Nora D. Volkow, Frank W. Telang, Jean Logan, Millard C. Jayne, Kochavi Galanti, et al. 2011. “Enhanced Striatal Dopamine Release during Food Stimulation in Binge Eating Disorder.” Obesity 19 (8): 1601–8.

20. Wang, Gene-Jack, Nora D. Volkow, Panayotis K. Thanos, and Joanna S. Fowler. 2009. “Imaging of Brain Dopamine Pathways: Implications for Understanding Obesity.” Journal of Addiction Medicine 3 (1): 8–18.

21. Bello, Nicholas T., and Andras Hajnal. 2010. “Dopamine and Binge Eating Behaviors.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 97 (1): 25–33.

22. Davis, Caroline, Robert D. Levitan, Zeynep Yilmaz, Allan S. Kaplan, Jacqueline C. Carter, and James L. Kennedy. 2012. “Binge Eating Disorder and the Dopamine D2 Receptor: Genotypes and Sub-Phenotypes.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 38 (2): 328–35.

23. Davis, Caroline A., Robert D. Levitan, Caroline Reid, Jacqueline C. Carter, Allan S. Kaplan, Karen A. Patte, Nicole King, Claire Curtis, and James L. Kennedy. 2009. “Dopamine for ‘Wanting’ and Opioids for ‘Liking’: A Comparison of Obese Adults with and without Binge Eating.” Obesity 17 (6): 1220–25.

24. Frayn, Mallory, Christopher R. Sears, and Kristin M. von Ranson. 2016. “A Sad Mood Increases Attention to Unhealthy Food Images in Women with Food Addiction.” Appetite 100 (May): 55–63.

25. Craven, Michael P., and Erin M. Fekete. 2019. “Weight-Related Shame and Guilt, Intuitive Eating, and Binge Eating in Female College Students.” Eating Behaviors 33 (April): 44–48.

26. Tatsi, Eirini, Atiya Kamal, Alistair Turvill, and Regina Holler. 2019. “Emotion Dysregulation and Loneliness as Predictors of Food Addiction.” Journal of Health and Social Sciences 4 (1): 43–58.

27. Cassin, Stephanie E., and Kristin M. von Ranson. 2005. “Personality and Eating Disorders: A Decade in Review.” Clinical Psychology Review 25 (7): 895–916.

28. Gibson, E. Leigh. 2012. “The Psychobiology of Comfort Eating: Implications for Neuropharmacological Interventions.” Behavioural Pharmacology 23 (5-6): 442–60.

29. Stunkard, Albert J. 2011. “Eating Disorders and Obesity.” The Psychiatric Clinics of North America 34 (4): 765–71.

30. Hardy, Raven, Negar Fani, Tanja Jovanovic, and Vasiliki Michopoulos. 2018. “Food Addiction and Substance Addiction in Women: Common Clinical Characteristics.” Appetite 120 (January): 367–73.

31. Hazzard, Vivienne M., Katie A. Loth, Laura Hooper, and Carolyn Black Becker. 2020. “Food Insecurity and Eating Disorders: A Review of Emerging Evidence.” Current Psychiatry Reports 22 (12): 74.

32. Babbs, R. K., F. H. E. Wojnicki, and R. L. W. Corwin. 2012. “Assessing Binge Eating. An Analysis of Data Previously Collected in Bingeing Rats.” Appetite 59 (2): 478–82.

33. Loxton, Natalie J., and Renée J. Tipman. 2017. “Reward Sensitivity and Food Addiction in Women.” Appetite 115 (August): 28–35.

34. Loxton, Natalie J. 2018. “The Role of Reward Sensitivity and Impulsivity in Overeating and Food Addiction.” Current Addiction Reports 5 (2): 212–22.

35. Eneva, Kalina T., Susan Murray, Jared O’Garro-Moore, Angelina Yiu, Lauren B. Alloy, Nicole M. Avena, and Eunice Y. Chen. 2017. “Reward and Punishment Sensitivity and Disordered Eating Behaviors in Men and Women.” Journal of Eating Disorders 5 (February): 6.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Food addiction: Why it happens, and 3 ways to help (or get help). appeared first on Precision Nutrition.