27 December 2018


by Jacob Schepis 0

Information is transmitted by observation and experience, and it’s human nature to believe what we are told. Our vulnerability to accept information as fact can often be our demise, especially as coaches. More specific to this article, we often put too much stock into the information that our clients report to us. We are susceptible…

Information is transmitted by observation and experience, and it’s human nature to believe what we are told. Our vulnerability to accept information as fact can often be our demise, especially as coaches. More specific to this article, we often put too much stock into the information that our clients report to us. We are susceptible to giving people the benefit of the doubt and our clients are no exception. Whether it’s their desire to change, their rating of effort during a set or the reporting of their calorie/macronutrient intake, we are reliant on the client to pass on information. However, clients don’t always tell the truth (shocker I know), and your role as a coach is to remain vigilant if results are what you and your clients want that is…

In this article, I’ll be discussing why your clients are lying to you, why their weight loss has really stalled and what you can do about it.


What is the truth?

Truth is super difficult to define. Philosophers have sought out to better understand this term for centuries. It’s elusive, rooted in our beliefs and knowledge of things and is highly dependent on perception. Immanuel Kant, a postmodernist philosopher has made a foundational distinction between the “objects” of subjective experience and the “objects” of “reality”. The former being our interpretation of the things in the world and the latter being the actual things that make up our existence. You can see how messy this is, but the importance of these distinctions is that when it comes to diet, what we know and believe make up our perception of the truth – more on this later.

We don’t tell the truth…

The reality is, humans are crafty mother f***ers. From intentional deception, white lies and cognitive errors that simply misrepresent the truth, we lie and we are damn good at it. The history of humankind has demonstrated time and time again that people lie for many reasons – personal advantage, malice, to bolster our social profile, financial gain, personal transgression, to help others, to get a laugh out of folk or to avoid our stark reality.

We learn from an early age that the truth can hurt. It can hurt others feelings, get us into trouble, tarnish our reputation and alter others perception of us and reality.

Distorting the truth is evident in many areas of life. From politicians deceiving the public to bolster their campaigns *cough*  Trump *cough*,  children lying to their parents about doing their homework (guilty) to scientists misrepresenting data to further their own financial state (hello Jacob Wilson), the truth is something we notoriously evade.

If only, our biology was such that any falsehood resulted in hypertrophy of the nose.

I digress…

Now I don’t usually view people with such a cynical perspective, I’m usually very optimistic, and I like to think that all humans have good intentions and don’t misrepresent the truth with malice or deceit. But when it comes to what we say, we are horrible at relaying information, accurately. And communication of dietary intake is no exception.

At the core of truthful information is communication.

Communication involves the interchange of thought or information among persons and is a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding. The proper understanding of a message is an important aspect of communication.

Our clients tell us many things, both through verbal and non-verbal communication. Our job then is to listen and understand. Not just understanding what it is they say, but also their own interpretation and meaning behind the information conveyed.

Better yet, our job is to communicate to them that:

  1. They are likely to lie (intentionally or not);
  2. We won’t spank them or curse if they screw up;
  3. We need to know the truth about what and how much they eat;
  4. If they want results, they must communicate information TRUTHFULLY.

Whether you or the client like it, or not, they are likely to lie, and the only way they can help us, help them is by exchanging true and exact recounts of what they put down their gullet.


More often than not, our clients lie in fear of disappointing us, avoidance of their inability to exert self-control, or telling us what we want to hear or what they wish to be true. And in many cases, simple cognitive errors such as forgetting what they ate, mindless eating, consuming hidden calories or simply not measuring accurately the foods consumed is the cause of misreporting.

We are horrible at reporting our calorie intake, period.

Don’t believe me?

There is an abundance of scientific research that demonstrates how bad we are at reporting our intake and exercise.

Read below:

(1) https://www.cambridge.org/…/BE3AD33BD7839172C1C7E8D9FE5EC98B

(2) https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM199212313272701

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1454084/

(4) https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/…/nutrition_insight…/Insight20.pdf

(5) https://www.researchgate.net/…/238606786_Obesity_and_the_Co…

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7594141/

(7) https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/71/1/130/4729298

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16391574/

(9) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36988065

The data shows that we often misreport energy intake by ~500kcal and exercise by ~500kcal. That’s a 1000kcal difference, which could very well be the difference between gaining/losing weight.

More importantly, even us coaches may not be the best at reporting our own intake as research has also shown that even dietitians misreport intake by ~200 kcal per day.

As I mentioned, reporting boils down to effective communication, which for the coach also involves listening and understanding. Meaning, your job is to create an open line of communication – a relationship that is free from judgement and content and is premised on the truth. Fundamentally, your role is to listen, and by listen I mean pay attention and play nice (most of the time). And if your clients aren’t comfortable about being honest with you, you have barriers which must be addressed before you begin worrying about any sort of dietary intervention.


It is unequivocal that an energy deficit (eating less than the bodies maintenance requirements) leads to weight loss. Energy balance is an immutable truth, that we cannot deny. 

The cold hard facts are that if you create an energy deficit, you will lose weight. Eat too much and create an energy surplus, you’ll gain weight.

That being said, reporting of scale weight also requires an understanding of how to appropriately use the scales. So educating your clients as to the factors that influence weight change (sodium, meal timing, fluid, carb intake, hormones, time of day, voiding etc) and how the day-to-day fluctuations are less important than averages overtime is necessary.

Again, communication of this from the coach to the client is vital in obtaining the truth.

But how do we get our clients to report the truth of their calorie intake?


There are a number of ways to approach navigate reporting issues, but more often than not, poor reporting stems from:

  • A lack of awareness of their intake;
  • Low knowledge of how to track properly; and/or
  • Cognitive disinhibitions.

So when your clients are reporting adherence to a low calorie diet, but their weight isn’t budging, it’s usually one of the above.

So here are a few recommendations/guides on how to approach this with your clients.


We know that the truth is a function of our beliefs and knowledge. So be sure to address what it is your client believes about dieting.

Do they believe eliminating carbs is critical for weight loss?

Do they think a detox is what will help them shed unwanted fat?

Do they even know calories exist and energy balance matters most?

Your clients beliefs will either help or hinder their efforts in reporting. So be sure to teach them that to achieve their goals, they MUST create an energy deficit which means controlling calorie intake and energy expenditure.

The next step is to improve their knowledge about diet, educating them on how to accurately track their food intake, all of it.

Including the bites, licks and tastes.

  • How to match foods to macros and their caloric values;
  • How to read food labels and track them accurately;
  • Weighing and measuring food correctly (raw vs cooked – grams vs ounces)
  • How to use calorie tracking apps such as myfitnesspal (using tick of approval items if available, not selecting the lowest calorie item, ensuring macros are listed etc)
  • What a day’s worth of food intake looks like for their current calorie/macronutrient targets.


The second point I want to make about navigating a stall on low calories is the importance of setting an appropriate calorie deficit (size), diet set up (macronutrient intake, meal frequency/timing and food choices.

More often than not, a low calorie diet (less than 1000kcal) for any person will create an energy deficit, provided they are somewhat active. In many cases, such a large deficit will lead to consistent non-adherence as its simply too hard to restrict and sustain such low intakes. Similarly, a client may adhere sometimes to low calorie diets, and comply most days of the week before binging or going off plan which blows their weekly average into oblivion…

A 300-500kcal deficit is recommended for most healthy and active individuals, with a larger deficit being appropriate for overweight/obese individuals or those who are sedentary.

In the case that your clients are reporting really low calorie intakes, adherence can be improved by raising calorie intake. This is often thought to be a magical process that improves metabolism, however, this isn’t the case and instead provides the client with more food, and makes adhering easier. So finding that sweet spot to uphold a deficit is key!

Moreover, the structure of the diet can also lead to non-adherence for many reasons. When body composition improvements are the goal, protein intake should be set to ~2g per kg and individualized carb/fat intake may bolster adherence. Similarly, flexible dieting has been proven to be superior to rigid dieting for weight loss, meaning preference and enjoyment should dictate the foods that your clients consume, provided they are satiating and don’t lead to overeating.

Also looking to the structure of the daily distribution of calories/macros can influence dietary compliance, with fewer meals, fasting and biasing calories towards periods where higher intakes are preferred being beneficial.


The surest way to helping your clients lose weight is to find the truth. Create an understanding of what the truth actually means for both you and the client, and be make sure you are both on the same page about what is required for fat loss, what data they need track, how to record and report and what their role in the process is.

You can’t escapenergy balance and when your clients report a stall on less than 1000kcal but are hitting the gym daily and pounding the treadmill, well I’m sorry, but they aren’t telling you the truth.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend