, you my friend, are awesome. Let’s dig in to today’s lesson.
When I worked at a performance enhancement gym in Connecticut, I designed a nutrition-coaching program for high school athletes. This is Todd, by the way. Just, ya know, so we have full disclosure. Talk about walking into a shit storm of sugar, bad habits and unawareness. None of them, save one or two, had any idea how to compose a healthful meal—let alone how to fuel their bodies for practice and games.
I had a lot of work to do—and most of it involved educating.
But we had to start with some kind of action.
Most of the kids ate something for breakfast—which was a surprising, but overwhelmingly positive bright spot. Don’t get me wrong—they weren’t getting up an hour before school to cook eggs and munch on a banana; they were grabbing sugar filled diarrhea snacks. But it was a start. The fact that they were eating something in the morning gave us a starting point to build momentum.
Enter the supershake.
Most of these kids had very little control over two meals of the day—they ate school lunch and their parents prepared dinner. Without changing the parents, and the school boards, there wasn’t much we could do about those meals. But we could educate the kids on how to make better choices in spite of the slop that was thrown in front of them. We got there.
But first we fucking won breakfast.
Why? Why didn’t we work on education about fats and carbs in their other meals and how to pick a protein portion? Because owning breakfast allowed us to take advantage of a bright spot, congratulate them for doing something well and then incite the single most powerful intervention we could make at the time.
Rather than attempting to smash a sledgehammer into the resistance at lunch and dinner, we rolled with the tide of breakfast. It was an area that we had more control over and we could fit it into a busy high schooler’s routine with little strife. It was easy.
Here’s How We Did It
We started by learning the components of the super shake. Precision Nutrition has a great guide. That’s what we covered.
You can find it here —A Super Shake Guide
It’s great because it gives options. It allows picky teenagers, or picky anyone, to direct their own paths and include things that they like in the shake, while also ingesting a lot of solid nutrition.
Then we decided on a trigger based on their routines. Triggers are parts are everyday, seemingly unnoticeable actions that we attach new behaviors to so that the new behaviors seamlessly integrate into a person’s life. We time-lined out a normal day from start to finish. We figured out the best time to drink the shake in the morning—but more importantly, we figured out the best time to put the shake together at night. Remember, we want easy and seamless. We want simple routine.
We asked two questions:
What is something that you do every morning when you get ready for school?
What is something you do every evening?
The most prevalent evening routines were TV watching and homework. So we attached our shake prep to one of those. They’d get out the dry ingredients of their shake and put them together in their blender cups during the first commercial break of their shows or immediately before sitting down to start homework. Simple integration into their everyday lives.
After the education session, the kids went shopping. They went to the grocery store and supplement store, or ordered their supplements online. They documented the process by texting me pictures of the milks, veggies, fruits and proteins they were buying. It was like a nifty little scavenger hunt.
Then they acted.
But there had to be some kind of tracking, right?—some accountability source to know that they were getting it done and to help keep them on track. They didn’t fill out a sheet or track in some app. What do high school kids do to communicate nearly every waking hour of every day? They text.
Each night they’d text me a picture of their ingredients laid out before combining them into the cup. They had accountability that was just like every day life for them and it gave me the opportunity to praise them. It worked really well.
Once we owned breakfast, we expanded our education and dietary changes to other meals and snacks, but we kept the same process. Find the most impactful intervention we could make at the time, settle on it together, find a behavioral trigger and attach the change to that trigger.
The key is finding the bright spots and considering the most powerful interventions based on the client’s goals, the current context of their lives and how to make everything integrate with as little effort as possible. And that positions people to be successful.
Finding The Reasons for Momentum
“How prepared are you, on a scale from 0 to 10, 0 being not at all prepared, and 10 being super fucking prepared, to add this into your life?”
This question gives people the opportunity to talk themselves into change—especially those that are waffling and feel that they are unprepared.
Let’s arbitrarily say that they answer with a 6. Then we say:
“Cool. Why isn’t that number lower?”
This gives them the opportunity to find all of the reasons that they can make the change, and it gives them the opportunity to talk themselves into a higher number. They realize that they’re farther along than they thought they were. This may, however, take some facilitation. It may take some secondary questions like, ‘well, what are you doing well right now?’
You also might hear something like, “You’re right, maybe that number should be lower.” That’s when you stand firm and respond with something like: “No, I don’t think so. You picked 6 for good reasons. What do you think some of those reasons are?” Then they start to open up and talk about what they think they’re capabilities are. Help the client list them. In most circumstances, they’ll walk away from the conversation more confident, feeling the momentum building wind at their back.
It’s All About Momentum, Baby
Find a good bright spot based on the most powerful intervention you can collectively make at the time, settle on a change together, find triggers that help the client seamlessly integrate change, and help them find the psychological momentum to get after it. You be a ballin’ ass coach.