Meat Eaters, Plant Eaters, Science Bros And How To Talk To Your Clients About “Game Changers”
If you are a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a strength coach, a health coach, a dietician, or anyone working in ANY field that has anything to do with nutrition or health, you WILL probably hear about this film.
Whether or not YOU will choose to watch this documentary, your clients absolutely will. They will come to you, and ask if you have seen it. They will ask what you think. [Because you are super awesome, and they trust you, and they want your opinion.]
As they utter the question, you can practically feel your eyes rolling into the back of your head. But you force yourself to look at your client, and smile gently. [What’s that noise? Ah, that’s your gritting teeth.]
Five Categories Of Clients’ Reactions To “Game Changers”
When it comes to “Game Changers”, people’s reactions can be loosely classified into one of the following five categories.
Kujo The Meat Eater
They are a dedicated meat eater, and you can take their dead cow out of their cold dead hands. Their right to a burger that is properly pink in the middle is right up there with the right to keep and bear arms. Vegans are stupid, vegetables are stupid. Arnie is kinda cool. But everyone else is stupid. It’s all vegan propaganda, damn it! They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about it!
Kale The Plant Eater
They are a dedicated vegan, or plant-based eater (a more recent label that tries super hard to avoid political ring of “vegan”), and are thrilled. They are super happy that someone has finally seen through all that meat propaganda, and exposed the truth. Meat eaters are killing the planet AND destroying their bodies. The film has validated every single one of their life choices, and they think everyone should watch it, and have their minds blown. They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about it!
Kyle The Science Bro
They pride themselves on being an evidence-based coach, and know that basing any actions on anything but hard cold (peer-reviewed) data is stupid. This film is nothing but misinformation and fear mongering! They have already pulled up all the original references, and assimilated a detailed list of factual inaccuracies and logical leaps in the film, and have that list on the ready for anyone who asks. They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about (how stupid) it (is)!
Kevin The Impressionable Eater
They are a meat eater by default, but honestly, they could take it or leave it. Watching “Game Changers” made them go “wow” a number of times. They’ve been especially impressed with the penis experiment. They have seen “What The Health” two years ago, and made an attempt to change their diet back then, but it did not really stick. This is exactly what they were looking for! Motivation and inspiration. Yes! They’ve seen the film (twice), and now they want to talk about it!
Agnes The Diet Agnostic
They are diet agnostic, and eat mostly everything (except for peanuts. They are allergic to peanuts). They do not get distracted by shiny new objects – they are playing the long game. They’ve seen the film, and they really don’t want to talk about it (mostly because there is nothing really to talk about). They would like your feedback on their latest training cycle though. [In fact, they are probably a fellow coach. :)]
Will They Listen?
Let’s be perfectly realistic here. The Meat Eaters, the Plant Eaters, and the Science Bros are not wanting to talk. They are wanting to rant. Let them. Nod. Ask open-ended questions. Help them continue eating for their goals – with animal products, or without.
The Diet Agnostics will not even ask you about the film. They might not even watch it.
Most productive coaching conversations will happen with the Impressionable Eaters. They will be inspired, and motivated by the documentary. They will have questions. They will WANT to try eating more vegetables. Think about it! How often does that happen?
One fellow coach asserted that because his clients were not “professionals”, he did not feel the need to start a discussion around a documentary. I disagree. Any discussion that client is motivated in having is a coaching opportunity.
Some Questions They May Have
Here are some questions that your clients may have, and some questions YOU might want to follow up with:
“Is it true that meat is so bad for you?”
“Ah, I can see how you’d have this question after watching the film. Can you tell me a bit more? What points in the film stood out for you? What led you to asking me this question?”
This may lead to a conversation around “how do we know what we know”. This may be an opportunity to talk about how we evaluate information, and the sources of specific claims. Perhaps, your client would even want to learn a bit about the scientific process. Or not. That’s cool too.
“I think I want to try eating vegan!”
“Cool! When did you want to start? How long do you think you want to try it for? What would you do, once your trial period is over? Are you hoping to lose weight? Clearer skin?”
See more in specific strategies below.
“I want to lift a car! Will eating vegan help me lift a car?”
[Or run fast, or jump high, or qualify for the Olympics]. In other words, will changing my diet to plant-based help me significantly improve my performance in a way that the film seems to suggest?
Try to resist the temptation to squash your client’s hopes and dreams. After all, the subtext of their question is probably: “Folks in the film stopped eating meat, and stopped feeling crappy. They feel great now. I wonder if I would feel great too. I want to feel great.”
How do they find out? They can try eating this way, and look at their performance benchmarks. Nothing that comes out of your mouth will come close to seeing numbers move or not move after a dietary change.
Four Strategies To Have A Client-Centered Coaching Conversation
Regardless of what category your client falls in, the following strategies will help you have a client-centered coaching conversation, and help your clients reach their goals.
“Have you seen Game Changers yet, coach? What do you think?”.
It’s a trap. Resist the urge to take the question as an opportunity to share YOUR thoughts and beliefs about the film. At length. Just don’t do it.
By shutting down the conversation (and that’s what happens, when you engage in a Hamlet-worthy soliloquy on why health documentaries are an awful source of health information), you’d be wasting a great coaching opportunity.
This is also not the time and place to show how much of an expert you are, by dismantling every inaccuracy or error. Your client is already confused and overwhelmed. Don’t add more to their plate just to appease your own ego.
Instead, try this exercise – see if you can have a discussion about this film with someone without explicitly stating your beliefs around eating meat or not eating meat. Usually that would mean asking a lot of questions, and listening a lot, which sounds a lot like… good coaching. 🙂
Find something (anything!) to give them a high-five about.
“So glad you asked!”
“Ah, good to hear that you are so curious to learn more about your health.”
“Kudos for seeking more info, and for coming to me for help.”
Why bother with the praise? Starting with positive feedback, allows the client an opportunity to engage in “self-enhancement”, a basic type of motivation that is associated with increased self-esteem, increased sense of control and all kinds of great things. All good things when you are trying to help someone reach their goals.
You may know this practice already as “looking for bright spots”. Maya Angelou’s quote comes to mind here: “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Make your client feel good for coming to you with questions.
Frame the proposed behavior change as an experiment
If the client wants to try eating a more plant-based diet, that’s awesome. Here’s where you, the coach, come in! You can help them strategize, implement, and assess.
The client may be inspired by the film, and want to “start tomorrow!”. Have a conversation around what they would need to put in place first. What are they currently eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? What would they eat instead, if they’d no longer be eating animal products? Brainstorm options.
Help them to set up the specific parameters for the specific experiment. Is this something they want to try for a week? For a month? Even if they want to eat this way “forever”, it is still beneficial to identify a time interval at which they will evaluate how this approach is working for them, and tweak if necessary.
How will they know if this experiment is going well? What will they be on the lookout for? Will they pay attention to changes in their energy levels? Quality of sleep? Weight? Nocturnal penis activity?
Your job as a coach is to help the client to go from vague to specific and actionable.
Stay on their side. No matter what.
Regardless of whether they choose to experiment with the new way of eating or not, whether they stick to the change for a day, or a week, or find a new lifelong way of eating that makes their body happy – stay on their side.
The client should have absolutely no doubt that they can come to you for support no matter what. This is where staying neutral (see earlier point) will make your life much much easier.
If you manage to maintain neutrality from the beginning, your unconditional support will be much more believable to the client.
Compare this to a situation, where you scoff at the documentary right off the bat, point out all the inaccuracies in the science used, and then have a client who STILL decides to try a plant-based way of eating after seeing the film. If this client “falls off the wagon” a week later, they’d hesitate to come to you for the fear of gloating and “I told you so” eye rolls.
Or, perhaps, you endorse the documentary passionately and without reservations, and the client discovers some inconsistencies in the film, and brings them back to you.
Want more resources?
This article debunks some of the big claims made in the film (and includes an interview with my super awesome colleague Brian St. Pierre).
This article provides a scientific review of studies and research mentioned in the movie along with full citations (for the Science Bro in you).
This article from Precision Nutrition help you talk people through the latest fads, including “health advice” coming from Dr. Oz and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Hope this helps. Until there is a new documentary. 😉
Now go eat some vegetables.
They are good for you.
But you already knew that.
Even before the documentary.