Podcast Episodes

What I’d Say to a Client If They’re Not Making Progress

April 25, 2024

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Making peace with food is HARD, no doubt about it, and if you are feeling defeated and like you’re not making progress, or if you’re spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere, of course that’s going to impact your ability to move forward and get to where you want to be. I have so much that I want to say about this, and I know that it’s going to help you think about things differently, and it’s going to help you get unstuck if you’re feeling like you’re not making progress. 

If a client that I’m working with feels like they’re not making progress, or if I as their coach am seeing we’re not getting anywhere, then I want to have a really open conversation about that. Nobody wants to spin their wheels and flounder or waste their time, money or energy on something that feels like it’s not working. 

So what does that conversation sound like? What would I say to a client in this situation? I’m going to pull back the curtain here and break it all down for you. It’s like you’re getting a sneak peek into the intimate and honest conversations that I have with my clients. 

Setting Expectations

The most important thing from the get-go is to set realistic expectations about the work that I do with clients. We’re up against diet culture and the way that we are repeatedly promised quick results, such as those headlines you see on the magazines at the grocery store checkout that say something outrageous like, “Lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!” We are used to 2 things:

  1. Being promised quick and drastic results
  2. Equating results with the number on the scale

When I’m working with a client it’s really important that we are on the same page from the very beginning that the process of healing your relationship with food is not going to be quick, it’s not going to be easy, and your progress cannot be measured on the scale. (That’s not a very good sales pitch, is it?) What makes all of this worth it though, is the deep inner peace and freedom that you develop as a result of doing this work. 

Here’s the truth:

  • “I cannot guarantee that you’re not going to have negative thought patterns that pop up.”
  • “I cannot guarantee that you’ll be able to RSVP to a birthday party without hesitation.”
  • “I cannot guarantee that you won’t revert back to old behaviors.”

What I can say with full certainty, is that you’re going to collect the skills and tools to work through these struggles, to change these thought patterns over time, and to know how to keep moving forward, rather than getting back on the dieting rollercoaster. 

Undoing years (or decades) of dieting isn’t going to take only a couple weeks. It’s going to most likely take a year or more. And part of that is because throughout the year, different seasons and different holidays bring on different challenges. So it takes time to be able to experience all of those situations and to practice working through them. 

Defining Results and Success

Another thing that’s tricky when we’re working on ditching dieting, learning intuitive eating, or healing from an eating disorder or disordered eating, is that results aren’t quantifiable. You can’t measure your progress or success on the scale.

With years of diet culture you may be used to using the number on the scale, jean sizes, or tape measurements as a measure of your progress. And often it’s difficult to move away from that at first because as humans we are searching for evidence of success. 

Inside my programs or on your IE journey, your progress won’t always be something you can see or touch but rather it’s something you feel and experience.

Some examples of progress and success might be:

  • Ordering dessert at a restaurant without feeling guilty
  • Saying yes to that wedding invite, even though you feel uncomfortable being seen in a dress (when normally you would have said no to the invite due to your body shame)
  • Getting in the neighborhood pool with your kids, even though the other moms are sitting covered up on the side
  • Setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to have a snack in the afternoon so that you’re not hangry by the time dinner rolls around
  • Intentionally including protein at your meals to keep you satiated
  • No longer weighing yourself each morning
  • Donating the pair of jeans that no longer fits, rather than holding onto them in hopes that someday they’ll fit again
  • Putting your favorite creamer in your coffee and savoring it, without thinking about the calories or how to burn it off later

You see, progress in this process isn’t quantifiable as a number. It’s about doing things that align with your values, such as going to your cousin’s wedding, when you might have avoided it in the past due to your negative body image or because you were on a diet and didn’t want to be tempted by the wedding cake. It’s about going to the wedding because you want to honor that relationship, even if you feel self-conscious about being seen in a dress. 

And progress might be noticing that you no longer feel guilty about eating the foods you enjoy. It’s an internal shift in how you FEEL. It tends to be gradual, where you’ll notice that something you used to feel really stressed or guilty about was actually no big deal now. Maybe last year on vacation you didn’t want to be in the pictures, and this year you’re excited about capturing the memories and being in the photos, even if you don’t like or love every aspect of your body. It’s these internal shifts that make life so much more fulfilling that reflect the process and success you have on this journey – not the number on the scale.

So if a client feels like they’re not making progress, we always talk about how they’re defining “progress” and where they feel like they’re falling short. Often times it boils down to them still yearning for weight loss, and their brain still using that as the measure of success, and truth be told this process tends to take longer than most people want it to, and it’s hard to be patient. 

Getting Curious

Another thing I’ll say to a client if they’re not making progress is, “Let’s get curious.” I used to have a stuffed monkey in my office that sat up on top of the book shelf that represented Curious George, and he was our reminder to be curious rather than judgmental with ourselves.

There certainly are times when someone truly isn’t making progress. So let’s back up real quick here. We’ve talked about how often times when I have a client who feels like they’re not making progress, they actually are and it’s more of a matter of setting realistic expectations and looking at how they’re measuring success and results, and getting on the same page about that. 

But what about those times where someone truly is stuck and they’re not making progress? Because that does sometimes happen, and it can be for a ton of different reasons, which is why we want to get curious.

Some possible reasons a person might get stuck could be:

  • They’ve still got one foot in the diet mentality
  • Life is so stressful, chaotic or overwhelming that it’s hard for them to focus on stuff in their relationship with food because there are other things that they need to focus their energy on
  • They have undiagnosed or unmanaged depression, anxiety or ADHD.
  • They have undiagnosed or unmanaged insulin resistance, or GI issues
  • Trauma
  • They might have an eating disorder – which makes things more complex, and usually means it’s going to take longer for the healing process to occur

You see, there are a LOT of reasons that a person might not be making progress, and almost never is it that they’re simply not trying hard enough. 

A couple other reasons that I’ve seen clients get stuck or not make progress:

  • They’re misunderstanding or misapplying the principles of IE
  • They are selectively applying the principles of IE
  • They’re scared. They subconsciously wonder, “What if this doesn’t work for me? What if I fail? What if I do this and gain a bunch of weight and never lose it? What if I become out of control with food and miserable for the rest of my life?” 
  • They’re listening to multiple voices who are telling them to do different things. 

The key to helping someone get un-stuck and make progress is to figure out WHY they’re not making progress and to be genuinely curious about that (not judgmental). 

Shaking Things Up

The next thing that I’ll often do with a client if they’re not making progress is shake things up. Rather than continuing to do the same thing over and over and expect different results, let’s do something different. 

There are lots of ways we can shake things up – it just depends on where a person is feeling stuck in the process and what their current struggles are. This is where I love being creative with clients, and I always reassure them that I’m never out of ideas or tricks up my sleeve. We just have to keep experimenting to find what works for them and to keep what’s working, toss aside the rest, and curate their toolkit over time. The other thing here is having the tenacity, patience and determination to stick with it, even when it feels really hard. Because going back into dietland is not going to improve things. It might feel like it’s helping at first, but that’s an illusion and it’s almost guaranteed to backfire in the long run. 

If you’re feeling stuck in your own process, and you’d like some additional tools, guidance and support – I have 2 upcoming ways that we could work together, so it’s kind of a choose your own adventure. Both of these options are low ticket, so it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg, and you’re going to get massive value and momentum out of it. 

OPTION 1: My 5-Day Intuitive Eating and Body Kindness UnChallenge.

It’s called an “un-challenge” because you know how diet culture is always offering those diet-y challenges where you cut out sugar for 30 days or, you do a 21 day gut health reset or other nonsense like that? We are going to do an un-challenge and instead of doing all these dieting behaviors, we’re going to implement the skills and strategies of intuitive eating and body kindness.

Each day within the challenge there’s a short video and an action step that you take. And by the end of the 5 days you’re going to be feeling empowered, and excited and you’re going to have momentum with your intuitive eating process. So whether you’re a newbie to intuitive eating or you’ve been doing this for a while, this is going to be a really fun way to turbo charge your process and help you feel excited about it.

Click here to join the Intuitive Eating and Body Kindness UnChallenge!

OPTION 2: My new mini-course called Stepping Off the Dieting Rollercoaster. It’s all about how to make that transition away from dieting, to intuitive eating, without getting lost in the middle where you’re not really dieting, but you’re also not eating intuitively. 

I’m going to give you the guidance, tools and direction to stop dieting, and to shift over to intuitive eating, without “letting yourself go” and without things becoming a free-for-all with food in the process. I know a lot of people fear that when they start eating intuitively they’re going to do nothing but eat donuts all day everyday and that’s not how it’s meant to work. I am going to guide you through that process of getting going the right way with IE, and we’re going to work through the fears you might have about that process – especially with weight and body image. 

Click here to join Stepping Off the Dieting Rollercoaster!

These programs would be a GREAT way for you to get unstuck if you feel like you’re either not making progress, or your progress has stalled out, or you want to accelerate your progress towards making peace with food and your body. 

Reach out to me if you want to shake things up by working together either inside the UnChallenge, Stepping Off the Dieting Rollercoaster – or both! 

Thanks for listening to the episode – we’ll talk again soon!

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