It probably won’t surprise you that most clients are looking for the fastest, easiest way to lose weight. “How often can I get away with eating junk food?” is a common question you’ll get. Clients should already know to eat healthy foods as often as possible (at least 80 percent of the time), but they can also enjoy the occasional less healthy food (less than 20 percent of the time), if that’s what they really want.

This approach can work well with clients who were previously chronic dieters yet hadn’t been able to lose weight. Once given permission to have “forbidden foods,” those foods magically seem to lose their power and they’re able to make healthier choices the bulk of the time.

There is some evidence that “cheat days” can help boost fat loss and mental health among dieters. But maybe you want to give your client a more quantifiable answer. Could a few days of junk food or even a single fast food meal make a difference in your overall health?

Junk food and fast food defined
What is “junk food”? Essentially any food that is highly processed, high in calories and low in nutrients. Junk food is also usually high in added sugars, salt and saturated or trans fats. Some evidence points to junk foods as being as addictive as alcohol and drugs.

“Fast food” is food that is prepared quickly and is eaten quickly or taken out. Although there are a growing number of healthier fast food options, most fast food can still be classified as junk food.

Long-term effects of eating junk food
Eating a poor quality diet high in junk food is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death. And as you might expect, frequency matters when it comes to the impact of junk food on your health.

A review of studies on fast food and heart health found having fast food more than once a week was linked to a higher risk of obesity, while eating fast food more than twice a week was associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and death from coronary heart disease.

This is disturbing considering nearly half of American adults eat fast food at least once a week.

Short-term effects of junk food
It’s human nature to think about benefits and risks over the short term rather than considering the impact our choices have over the long term. So how does consumption of junk food affect your body over the short term?

A few days of junk food
Just a few days of junk food could change your metabolism. A small study of 12 healthy young men found eating junk food for just five days led to a reduced ability of their muscles to turn glucose into energy, even though they didn’t eat more calories as part of the study. Over the long term, this change could lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.

Another effect of junk food is poor digestion. Because junk food lacks fiber, eating too much of it could lead to constipation.

A single fast food meal can narrow your arteries, leading to an increase in blood pressure.

And the quick spike in your blood sugar from eating junk foods high in refined or processed carbohydrates-  and added sugars – can cause a surge in insulin, leading to a quick drop in blood sugar. That leaves you feeling tired, cranky and hungry for more.

Further, an Australian study suggests that in people with asthma, a fast food meal high in saturated fat can increase inflammation in the airway, potentially making an asthma attack more likely. Just one serving of junk food can increase inflammation throughout your body. So it seems the quick hit of junk food, while fleetingly rewarding, does carry short-term risks.

The good news: Every healthy meal helps
The amount of inflammation and oxidative stress your body will experience after eating occasional junk food seems to be a function of the “big picture” of your choices over time.

If you want to enjoy junk food once in a while but are concerned about the impact on your health, take a look at your overall health habits. Do you smoke or overdo it on alcohol? Are you exercising regularly and eating plenty of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds, and whole grains? When it comes to your health, it seems you can “get away with” the occasional junk food more easily when you follow a healthy lifestyle most of the time. So think about your ratio of healthy to less healthy foods. Are you achieving 80:20 or is there room for some improvement?
When you’re making the choice between a healthier option and junk food, consider that just one healthy meal a day worked into the typical American diet could reduce overall stress and inflammation in your body. Every meal is an opportunity to positively impact your health.

Based on the current research, your advice to a client essentially remains the same: Once you’re aware of all of the short-term and long-term impacts of junk food and you still really want some, have it less than once a week and really savor it. Then get right back to enjoying nourishing, nutritious foods. We have to coach clients with realistic sensibilities.  But still, working on changing the behaviors that create unhealthy eating need to be viewed in a metaview manner… that is, what is the cause, what is the effect, and what does the client stand to lose if they don’t make a change.  That is what the Wellness Coach works more directly on.

Category : Wellness Coaching | Wellness Education

Research indicates that the factor most consistently distinguishing successful client outcomes from those seen as less successful, is confidence – with self-confidence (efficacy) cited as being among the chief factors influencing performance in physical activity (PA) environments – but as coaches, we also see confidence as a frequent concern with other elements of our clients overall wellness.  Take for example client nutrition. Most experienced nutrition coaches will tell you how much confidence keeps people from eating properly – be it from feeling unsure of what to eat or reticense tied to making changes with food intake.   Of course, we can easily see that sometimes there is a struggle between feeling self-confident and recognizing one’s weaknesses.

Confidence influences the belief that one can successfully perform a desired behavior.  Although some have viewed self-confidence as both a disposition and a state, the latest thinking is that self-confidence related to PA is a social cognitive construct that can be more trait like or more state like, depending on the temporal frame of reference used.

It may be something you feel today and therefore it might be unstable
Or, it may be part of your personality— and this is viewed as very stable.

Confidence is affected by the specific organizational culture as well as the general sociocultural forces surrounding sport and exercise.

When you expect something to go wrong.
Negative self-fulfilling prophecies are psychological barriers that lead to a vicious cycle: The expectation of failure leads to actual failure, which lowers self-image and increases expectations of future failure. Research (Vealey & Knight, 2002) has revealed that like many other current personality constructs, self-confidence may be multidimensional, consisting of several aspects. Specifically, there appear to be several types of self-confidence within sport, including:
• Confidence about one’s ability to execute physical skills
• Confidence about one’s ability to use psychological skills (imagery, self-talk)
• Confidence to use perceptual skills (decision making, adaptability)
• Confidence in one’s level of physical fitness and training status
• Confidence in one’s learning potential or ability to improve one’s skill

Self-confidence is characterized by a high expectancy of success. It can help individuals to arouse positive emotions, facilitate concentration, set goals, increase effort, focus their game strategies, and maintain momentum. In essence, confidence can influence affect, behavior, and cognitions.
• Confidence arouses positive emotions
• Confidence facilitates concentration
• Confidence affects goals
• Confidence increases effort
• Confidence affects game strategy
• Confidence affects psychological momentum
• Confidence affects performance

Although confidence is a critical determinant of performance, it will not overcome incompetence. Confidence can take an client only so far. Performance will improve as the client’s level of confidence increases—up to an optimal point, whereupon further increases in confidence produce corresponding decrements in performance. Each person has an optimal level of self-confidence, and performance problems can arise with either too little or too much confidence.

Confidence is the belief that you can successful perform a desired behavior. There are two types: state-self confidence and trait-self confidence. Self-confidence may be multi-dimensional, consisting of several aspects. It can include the confidence related to one’s ability to execute physical skills, to use psychological skills, to use perceptual skills, confidence in one’s level of fitness, and in learning potential or ability to improve one’s skills. Some of the benefits of self-confidence are the arousal of positive emotions, facilitatation of emotions, an affect on goals, and an increase in the effort put forth by the client. Next time – working with different confidence levels.

Category : Wellness Coaching
Exercise is important if you want to be healthy, feel good, and look good;
however, many people do not do it. Lack of motivation is one reason given for not
participating in sports and exercise. Motivation, while used in vague ways in informal
conversation, can be best understood as the combination of direction and intensity of
effort – what situations one seeks out and how much effort is put forth in a specific
situation. As fitness professionals, whether coaches, teachers, or exercise leaders, we can
have an impact on the motivation levels of our clients and understanding theoretical
models of motivation can help us understand our clients better.
Motivation is best understood by taking an interactional perspective considering
both trait factors of the individual and the role of the situation rather than either in
isolation. Trait factors could include the needs, interests, and personality factors of the
individual and situational factors could be the leadership style of the coach, specific
factors of the sport such as equipment available or team records, or factors outside of the
sport altogether, such as the client’s relationships and work-life. Motivation can also be
thought of in terms of being intrinsic or extrinsic. Other factors do of course affect
exercise and sport involvement but motivation certainly plays a large role.
Four major theories of achievement motivation greatly influence how we in the exercise
and sport community can approach understanding motivation and applying what we
know to our roles as leaders. All are interactional views that factor in both the person and
the situation.
Need achievement theory (Atkinson, 1974; McClelland, 1961) has provided a
framework that other research has built upon that focuses on the five factors that affect if
a person strives for success, persists in the face of failure, and how people experience
pride and shame. The five factors in this model are personality factors and motives,
situational factors, resultant tendencies (whether the person is likely to approach or avoid
similar situations), emotional reactions such as shame or pride, and achievement
behaviors such as seeking or avoiding opportunities of achievement, looking for
challenge/avoiding risks, and performance improving declining. This model is important
because it presents motivation as a dynamic, multidimensional process. The ongoing
interaction of a client’s personality, how the situation is set up, and emotional responses
create motivation and so we can leaders can help foster motivation. This model also helps
us understand why people chose the tasks they do, if they are motivated initially to avoid
failure, the approach is very different than if a person is motivated to achieve.
Attribution theory is concerned primarily with how people explain their successes
and failures (Heider, 1958; Weiner, 1985, 1986). These explanations, under this model,
can be divided into three categories: stability, stable or unstable; causality, internal or
external; control, in control or out of control. For example if a personal wins a
weightlifting competition feeling like they won because they put in the hard work and are
talented (in control, internal, stable) their experience will be different to another person
winning a similar competition who thinks that they won because the competition was
easy, they were just lucky that time, and that they aren’t that talented in general (unstable,
external, out of control). This perception of a success or failure has been shown to have
an impact on the future successes and failures of an athlete (Biddle, Hanrahan, & Sellars,
2001). As a coach, this is important because feedback and emotional climate can affect
the way an athlete labels their successes and failures, which in turn affects future success
and motivation.
Achievement Goal Theory focuses on what success or failure means to a
particular person. This is affected by the achievement goals, whether the goal is outcome
or task oriented; the perceived ability of the individual; and their achievement behavior,
performance, effort, persistence, and task choice (Duda and Hall, 2001). As a coach, we
help create an environment that is either focused on mastery of skills and doing one’s
best or outcomes such as winning, so understanding the impact of this climate on
motivation is very important.
Competence Motivation Theory is based on the idea that people are motivated to
feel worthy and competent and therefore that these feelings are central to motivation
(Weiss & Chaumeton, 1992). As a coach, realizing that motivation isn’t just about telling
people to work harder, that it has a lot to do with participants’ feelings and their
perceptions of control should affect the way training plans are structured.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is a way to organize the factors that motivate a
person. The previously discussed theories recognize both intrinsic factors such as
feelings of competence, perceived ability, and responses to success or failure, and
extrinsic factors such as coaching style, motivational climate being task or outcome
oriented, and the competitive or cooperational focus. Extrinsic factors can also include
rewards or incentives for participation such as money or prizes. Positive feedback has
been shown to result in higher levels of intrinsic motivation than negative or no feedback
(Vallerand & Reid, 1984). Both social and psychological factors affect intrinsic
motivation and being aware of the factors can help foster it. Appropriate rewards can
motivate people but focusing on only extrinsic factors can undermine the intrinsic
Flow is a special type of intrinsic motivation where there is a balance of challenge
and skill, the participant is completely absorbed in the task, there are clear goals, action
and awareness merge, total concentration on the task is experienced, there is a loss of
self-consciousness, there is a sense of control, there are no extrinsic rewards, time is
transformed, and movements feel effortless (Jackson & Csikzentmihalyi, 1999). In this
state, performance and intrinsic motivation are both at their highest. The balance of
challenge and skill is key and as fitness leaders, trying to facilitate that balance as best as
possible would be a good idea.
Passion is another factor that has been related to sustained motivation because
one’s identity is related to the activity and therefore direction is focused and intensity is
high (Vallerand et al., 2003). Passion can be encouraged by a coach perhaps by
encouraging people to relate one’s identity to the activity in a positive way.
Enjoying an activity or involvement on a team is related to intrinsic motivation
because we all have a need to belong; therefore, within groups, cohesion is strongly
connected to satisfaction and thus motivates us to continue (Widmeyer & Williams,
1991). Coaching behaviors and styles are also connected to intrinsic motivation (Horn,
2002). So the team dynamic, and relationships both between the members and the coach
and between the members themselves affect motivation.
In summation, motivation is complex, dynamic, and multi-dimensional. It can be
understood through a variety of models that take into account both the person and the
situation. The continuum of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation helps us understand the
types of motivation, and the factors in each model can be broken down into their
composite parts to give us a glimpse of the inner workings of what gives a person
direction and intensity of focus on a task or activity. The feedback and reinforcement
from a coach, the motivational climate, experiences of stress, perception of control,
feelings of self-esteem, enjoyment, and pride or shame can all affect motivation. As
coaches, we play a critical role in creating a motivational climate and care must be taken
to structure situations to meet our participant’s individual needs and understand the
internal and situational motives for their involvement.
Category : Wellness Coaching