Patrick Umphrey on the Power of Empathy for Building Community

This time I have Patrick Umphrey on the show, the man behind the legendary “Eat. Train. Progress.” Facebook group. I talk to him about the power of empathy when working with clients, building that community, and how that has lead to a stream of applicants for his coaching business.

Show notes

  • What would Patrick talk about if he was invited to speak at TED? Empathy. However, Patrick is not a confident public speaker. [01:30]

  • Imposter Syndrome. Andy feels like this is a common struggle. People who are at the top of their game always feel like they could do better. Is there something to people being humble? Patrick is not sure what makes him feel like an imposter. However, Patrick does feel like it is an emotional and instinctual thing. Andy talks about people not being able just to get started. [2:30]

  • Writing for peers over an audience. Andy talks about his struggle with trying to make his content match the level of his peers. He feels that his writing output has gone down as a result. However, realising his audience enjoys his writing Andy doesn’t obsess about this point. [7:30]

  • Patrick speaks on Empathy. Patrick has a child on the autism spectrum which has changed his views. There are a lot of fitness professionals and coaches that do not have empathy. Having empathy helps create better recommendations. There can be an assumption that people are not trying but the reality is that the just-graduated fitness coach could have a relatively easy life compared to a single mom. [8:00]

  • Patrick’s Facebook Group. Eat, Train, Progress is the name of Patrick’s successful Facebook group with 13,800 members. It has only been up for a little over 1-year. The success of the Facebook group came from MyFitnessPal’s forum 6-7 years ago. Patrick started with a Facebook Page but found that a Group was better for discussions. Alan Aragon promoted the group which resulted in significant growth. The group is tightly moderated that hammers down on personal attacks without being too serious. [11:30]

  • Maintaining Empathy with a Facebook Group of over 13,000 members. Patrick has awesome moderators. Some regular members will report questionable posts. [18:00]

  • Andy’s Facebook Group. In Andy’s Facebook Group, The Family, the rules are clearly laid out. Both Andy and Patrick don’t feel guilty about kicking people out of their groups. [19:00]

  • Patrick’s Facebook Group questions. The first question is if they agree with the group rules before posting. The second question is to type “meatballs” to prove you are a human (based on a running joke). [20:00]

  • Patrick on banning members. Sexist, racists, inappropriate private messages are all reasons for immediate banning from the group. Patrick also keeps track of people giving unsolicited advice. Patrick tries to be patient with people during discussions or personal attacks but aggressively defends his moderators. [22:00]

  • Patrick using the Facebook Group to build his coaching business. Patrick has embedded a survey of coaching on the rules for the group. Patrick put together a photo shoot and is planning to start a blog. Patrick is also looking into group training sessions to boost coaching income. [27:00]

  • How do people see the coaching link in a Q&A thread? In the thread, Patrick types out of the purpose of the Q&A and lists the number of coaching spots available with a link to his survey. [29:30]

  • Patrick talks about income. The majority of his income is now from coaching, with a small percentage coming from his work as a close-up magician. It started as a side income, but it turned into a full-time job. [30:30]

  • Starting out with online coaching. Patrick feels like most people start out as a personal trainer and not as a forum moderator. Andy talks about how some of the industry’s greatest minds started in forums. [32:30]

  • The worst advice Patrick sees in his world. People are commenting on deadlift videos and saying to lower your hips. Patrick doesn’t like the advice of everyone getting out a food scale, and everyone needs to do StrongLifts. [34:30]

  • Patrick’s advice for people who can’t adhere to using a food scale. According to Patrick it depends on their goals. He looks for the easy changes that clients can make. Andy mentions using the simplest things before adding in unnecessary complication. [38:00]

  • What has Patrick changed his mind about? Patrick thought that the solution to obesity was to track calories and focus on energy balance. However, Patrick sees this as a mechanistic approach that doesn’t help people lose weight. There are other environmental factors, such as lack of sleep or too much work. [41:30]

  • How do you tactfully let a client know they are eating more calories than they are reporting? Patrick doesn’t like when coaches call this lying. Patrick sets up his client’s expectations from the beginning to talk about tracking accuracy and behaviour. [45:30]

  • Patrick talks about diet breaks. Patrick has started using diet breaks for frequently with his clients and he sets up the client expectations from the beginning. [50:30]

  • Anything Patrick can’t prove but believes it to be true? Someone thinks they are in a deficit and are stalling for a significant amount of time is something Patrick comes across fairly often. Patrick speaks about how people feeling like they have failed or succeeded will drastically change the long-term success of a diet. Patrick sees the advantage of using a diet break when people are stalling. Patrick will sometimes use the concept of a deload being similar to a diet break with clients that are very good at training. [51:30]


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