This time of year is notoriously harried, fraught with culinary delights, and sparse on physical exertion–for most, that is. We’ve certainly accounted for the personal training clients that refuse to fall off the wagon for even a day, or those who want and ask for the encouragement to stay on track when challenged.

Still, the majority of clients will see these few weeks as a “fitness vacation” or perhaps be so sucked into holiday travel and activity that their routines are thrown too much to maintain diet and exercise consistency.

Let’s help them not to panic, for not all is lost.

Offer a Dose of Reality

Start by reminding your client that consistency does not require 100% participation 100% of the time. A fitness company called Precision Nutrition smartly looked at the data of one thousand fitness clients over the course of a year and found that just putting in some effort made changes in their body, namely weight loss. Those who were less than 50% consistent (and as low as 10% consistent) still lost 5-6% of their body weight over 12 months. If you’re 160 lbs. then you may have lost around 8 or 9 lbs and kept it off. While that’s not wildly successful, it’s also nothing to sneeze at for barely trying.

The even better news is that being 50-80% consistent resulted in awesome outcomes, and it didn’t matter much if it was 50 or 80%. While this group lost just 1% more bodyweight than their “lazier” counterparts, they lost several more inches, which—as we all know—is a far better measure of a changing body than the numbers on the scale.

As you can imagine, the more consistent the efforts the better the results. But the take-home message here is that even half-hearted attempts prove worthwhile.

What IS Consistent?

This group defined exercise consistency as doing something active every day. Intensity might vary wildly from one person to another. So if you’re doing something every single day that qualifies as physical exertion to you, then you’re being 100% consistent. That means being 40% consistent would look more like 2.8 active days—so perhaps two hard workouts and a long walk?

The same notion applies to eating healthy and balanced. If every meal you ate was fresh, unprocessed, and properly balanced, then you adhere to a healthy diet 100% of the time. Depending on how many meals you eat a week (let’s take 4 meals a day as the barometer here), you might have up to 28 meals a week. If 12 of those meals are healthy, then you’ve been 40% consistent.

Pass on the Perspective

If you’re a top-notch coach you might already know exactly how consistent your clients are. If they’ve been progressing and meeting their goals, then they’re at least somewhat consistent. If they emerge from the holiday fog worried that they’ve undone all their hard work all year long, remind them that it would take just as long to undo the work that it took to get it done.

In two or even four weeks’ time, one may have regressed from being 80% consistent to 30 or 40%, or maybe they even went overboard on the indulgence and kept working out but stuffed every cookie and fruitcake that crossed their paths down their throats.

Imagine in that span they gained 5 pounds of unwanted fat. Sure, it’s possible. But getting back on track will not take much for that one who is accustomed to being consistent most of the time. In another month’s time, with the same effort and consistency, they’ll be right back where they started before the holidays.

Live Life Guilt-Free

It’s easy for folks to get laser-focused on a fitness endeavor and get caught up in the “need” to achieve and conquer. As commendable as it is to take charge of health and wellness this way, the balance needs to tip every so often to allow life to happen. None of us should feel guilty about participating in celebrations and indulging once in a while, especially while memories are being made and life is being lived.

True, some folks who have battled a life-long weight loss struggle may be too triggered to indulge in the same way others do. These clients may fall off the wagon completely if they even look at a holiday cookie. I’m speaking more to the average weight loss or general fitness client, but who may also struggle with body image issues—which often goes hand-in-hand with guilt and shame.

Although it’s not our job as fitness pros to counsel our clients into a healthy body image and acceptance, we can certainly remind them to be kind to themselves, and help free them from any self-deprecation they might harbor post-holiday chaos.

I always say, “Treat your body like it’s your child.”

With 2020 on the horizon and resolutions bound to materialize, get a jump on your clients’ attitudes about what they might be feeling, and don’t be afraid to steer them out of their own discouragement and into the new year with confidence and enthusiasm.

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Michele Rogers

NFPT Publisher Michele G Rogers, MA, NFPT-CPT and EBFA Barefoot Training Specialist manages and coordinates educational blogs and social media content for NFPT, as well as NFPT exam development. She’s been a personal trainer and health coach for over 20 years fueled by a lifetime passion for all things health and fitness. Her mission is to raise kinesthetic awareness and nurture a mind-body connection, helping people achieve a higher state of health and wellness. After battling and conquering chronic back pain and becoming a parent, Michele aims her training approach to emphasize fluidity of movement, corrective exercise, and pain resolution. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Health Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Follow Michele on Instagram.