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Nutrition Tips for an Overweight or Obese Client

July 22, 2014

This post is more or less a part 2 from this post I did awhile back. That has actually become one of my most popular posts to date. I have gotten so much good feedback from personal trainers all around the world and even from people who are trying to help a friend or family member on their weight-loss journey.

Today's post was actually inspired by a note I received a week or so back from a guy who sent me some feedback regarding my initial post on obese clients (Tips for training an overweight or obese client). He wrote the following to me:

I enjoy your articles a great deal, specifically the one on training overweight/obese clients. I do have a question regarding nutrition. What approach do you take with your overweight clients regarding nutrition? You didn't dive into that much. Not expecting a nutrition plan per se, but what are the action items you like to focus on? Thanks.

Here is what I replied. I thought it would make a good blog post as well for anyone else who has similar questions:

Definitely when it comes to weight loss with these types of clients, nutrition is equally, if not more, important than their training . With very overweight clients I try to keep the nutrition guidelines pretty simple to begin with (unless they want to learn more right off the bat). I like to give them basic tips to begin with before adding in things like calorie and macro counting. I find they can lose a bulk of weight just from changing their diet around initially and less complicated seems easier for them to adhere to, especially in the beginning, when they are going through a pretty big change in their life already.

Here are a few things I change in their diet immediately when training an overweight or obese client:

-Most obese clients are not getting enough of certain key nutrients as it is, to feed their bodies what it needs to keep their hormones working properly. So then when we cut their calories they often end up getting even fewer nutrients than they were getting before. I start by encouraging them to drop the lower-quality/higher-calorie (less nutrient dense) food choices that they have become accustomed to eating regularly and instead replace them with nutrient-rich, lower calorie food choices. An example would be eating a serving of fresh blueberries instead of two pieces of white bread at lunch. Or having steamed vegetables instead of potato fries/chips at dinner.

-I increase their protein intake with good quality protein choices and generally lower their carb intake (I find their macro ratio is usually WAY out of whack). Protein is really important, especially during a fat loss phase.

-I encourage them to increase their water intake! In general their water intake is usually way under what it should be. Drinking enough water is an important aspect of fat loss. I also ask them to cut down/cut out their sugary drinks and soft drinks. It's amazing how much of a difference this one change in people's diet's makes. So many people don't realise how many extra calories they drink on a day to day basis! It's pretty crazy actually. This goes for excess alcohol consumption as well.

-I encourage them to make sure that 90% of their meals consist of single-ingredient items. For example, for breakfast eating an apple, a bowl of yogurt and an egg, rather than pancakes. They can definitely mix and match on single ingredient items, but other than that, 90% of the time I encourage them to only eat single ingredient items. This is a really important aspect of fat loss, as I find it gives them a better understanding and respect of their food choices. It also helps them with portion sizes and keeps them honest about exactly what they are eating.

-With training, I focus on quality over quantity. This is definitely their best bet while on in a fat-loss phase. I place a strong focus on lifting weighs and include short metabolic conditioning sessions only two to three times a week. The rest of the time I get them to take long walks. I like them doing this as it helps keep them moving and active.

-I like to use this approach initially for a time frame or for their first phase of training with me (i.e for 3 months). Then once they build some new habits and start losing fat and becoming stronger, fitter and healthier, then I often start introducing and teaching them things like counting calories, understanding macros, etc. I feel strongly that everyone should have a basic understand of the science of food and nutrition, macros, calories, etc. It's such a shame they don't teach these things better in schools.

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