Note: You are an individual, your results will vary depending on genetics, adherence, and effort.
Though it is very hard to identify and accept for yourself, there are some cases where it is necessary to take one step backwards before you can take two steps forward. Two common situations where this is true:
- A guy that wants abs but doesn’t have enough lean mass at the moment to look good when shredded. Solution: put on more muscle mass and accept a little additional fat gain first before cutting.
- Someone that has dieted too hard for too long but still wants to lose more fat. Solution: Diet break, possibly reverse dieting to build the metabolism back up before resuming the diet.
Shane was in the latter camp. He was headed for a severe rebound after following a ~500kCal/day diet, for too long, and without good reason. The problem was that he hadn’t experienced any real ill effects yet (or convinced himself as such), and my challenge was convincing him to change to a more moderate approach before this crash diet ended badly. Specifically, I had to convince him to not worry about the scale for the short-term while we brought his carb intake up.
No-one wants to hear that they need to take a step backwards first, but good coaches in this for the long term will put their integrity before making a sale (more on this at the end). I’ll let the story tell itself in interview format.
Age: 58, Weight: 167lbs -> 165lbs, Stomach: 33.9” -> 30.0”
DL 195lbs -> 335lbs, SQ 185lbg -> 225lbs, BP 155lbs -> 195lbs
Shane, thank you for your time. Can you tell us what you do?
I run a Department of Defence contracting business. I apologise to everyone for asking you to blur my face here Andy, but it’s necessary for confidentiality.
No worries Shane. Briefly, can you tell us about your fitness journey up until you contacted me?
In May 2013 at over 200 lbs I’d started with Lyle McDonald’s very low carb RFL diet* and in 12 weeks lost 30 lbs. However, two weeks into it I had also tweaked it via LG 16/8 fasting/eating and taking re-feeds on training days.
[*Also known as a protein sparing modified fast – ~500kCal intake mainly from protein + leafy veg and a few essential fats. It’s an emergency case only diet (athletes that have left it too late to make their weight class for example), which Lyle is very clear about with his warnings at the start of the book. It wasn’t necessary for Shane to have done this and put him at a big risk of rebound/quick fat gain when coming off it due to severe metabolic adaptations]
It seemed to me that when you contacted me for coaching initially, basically you wanted me to be a ‘yes man’ for what you were already doing, and resisted change. Does that sound like a fair description?
Well, I was wanting to hear that I could recomp and change my remaining fat into lean muscle and stay at same scale weight. I also was not very patient, I wanted to push everything to the max edge.
You seemed too conservative, both because I’d already quickly lost so much and because of my age.
Looking at things I just couldn’t let you carry on like you were because I could predict the crash and burn. Why did you choose me to coach you?
Your take it slow & safe strategy almost had me pass on it, but I’d seen the results you’d gotten with others and didn’t want to waste time experimenting with macros if I could get dialled in quicker with you.
Things didn’t go as I had predicted in the first weeks as your scale weight went up*. I was quite stubborn to suggestion and adamant that we remove focus on the scale weight & immediate gratification for a longer term approach. Did that frustrate you?
Yes, especially cause you also had me start with a diet break before we even began, which I’d initially only grudgingly acceded to, but I directed any frustration instead at what I still had control over; getting stronger, training harder than ever.
[*I predicted a scale rise of 7-10lbs due to water and glycogen replenishment with the diet break, and then steady drops of ~0.75-1.25lbs per week there after, which you can see we didn’t get if you look at the spreadsheet – click image below.]
Anything that surprised you about working with me?
Probably that you’d even agreed to in the first place after our initial back-n-forth disparities of what my reasonable goals & time frames oughta be. It eventually dawned on me that your patience was likely being taxed more than mine and even if progress was slower than I might want or think possible, my eventually getting where I wanted to be was much more assured with your guidance than without you.
What would you say were the biggest takeaways from the experience?
May I share your spreadsheet data also Shane? I think it will be useful for some that like to look at little more closely at things.
Yes, that’d be fine. Might also mention I’m thrilled to see recent DEXA give me a 11.1%BF and am still staying the course headed towards single digit BF%, abs appearing, and main lifts going up as I head towards DL goal of 400lbs, SQ goal of 300lbs and chin-up with 75lbs before I turn 59 in April.
Any advice to others?
Just do what Andy tells you, even without first fully grasping all the ‘whys’ of it, patiently and diligently ‘stay the course’ and let the results start getting unleashed. The validity of it will then begin to inevitably appear for all to see & you’ll get on a track that’ll serve you for a lifetime!
Thank you for your time Shane.
- I worked with Shane for the usual 12 weeks with the addition of a two-week diet break. The photos at the top represent a longer time frame because I encourage clients to surprise me with photo updates when they reach their target and always advise on how to get there at the end of our time working together.
- I brought up the calorie intake mainly with fats and a few carbs due to the severe carb restriction previously. Then while making slow increases to the calorie intake we brought the fats down and the carbs up over time. There was no need to “resume the cut” so to speak as he was in a deficit already.
- I’m not a fan of body fat measurements, even DEXA scans have their flaws, but I include Shane’s scan results there for completeness. 11% seems about right to me, I’d guess that he was at ~18% when we started working together, and well over 30% back in May last year.
The Coaching Lesson? Don’t Be Afraid To Be Firm
Experience has given me the confidence to be firm and to realise the value of having a consistent stand point. Study on top of that has given me the knowledge to back it up with explanation.
This does not mean to ignore feedback from a client, it just means to get all the information you need to make an assessment and decision, and then stand behind that decision until you have enough data or feedback to show you clearly otherwise.
Two issues that cause moral conflicts with coaches:
- The fear of negative reviews.
- The need to pay the rent.
There are always going to be others out there that are cheaper, or happy to sell to people based on unrealistic progress predictions or outcomes that are impossible to maintain.
Everyone wants instant gratification. By suggesting a sustainable path you will lose potential customers, but that is just the way it has to be.
To not remain consistent with your advice because you risk losing the sale, or fear that someone will write a negative comment about you on some internet forum not only short-changes clients of the service they have hired you for, but your reputation in the long-term also.
Some people are going to follow your decisions without question simply due to your reputation, but others are going to want reasons. Study up so that you can improve your explanations, but never be afraid to let the business go – not all people are going to be a good match for you.
“I need the money” is not an excuse. – If you have to work a full-time job while you build things up then do so. I had two other jobs until I got things going well enough that I could focus my efforts on this full time. Sure, I could have got it going quicker by making compromises earlier on, but if I had done I probably wouldn’t still be here doing this today.
Thanks for reading, I sincerely hope you found this helpful.
Do you coach people yourself? Feel free to share lessons you’ve learned in the comments.