Level 1: The “Deep Health” coaching secret that transforms short-term fitness goals into life-changing results
Losing 10 pounds. Running a half marathon. Getting six-pack abs. How do you turn short-term client goals into something meaningful, sustainable, and inspiring? Enter: deep health coaching, the revolutionary method that gets your clients the results they want, plus the results they need. The post Level 1: The “Deep Health” coaching secret that transforms short-term fitness goals into life-changing results appeared first on Precision Nutrition.
Losing 10 pounds. Running a half marathon. Getting six-pack abs. How do you turn short-term client goals into something meaningful, sustainable, and inspiring? Enter: deep health coaching, the revolutionary method that gets your clients the results they want, plus the results they need.
Are you truly transforming your clients’ health?
Are you helping them thrive, in all aspects of life?
Sure, you may be helping them boost their bench press, feel confident on their beach vacation, or get sidewalk-cracking swole.
But what if we told you food and fitness—the domains of physical health—are only 16 percent of what determines your clients’ success?
What if you could move beyond “12 week beach bod programs,” or “pre-wedding weight loss,” to something truly meaningful and sustainable, and even more inspiring?
After all… what happens to the beach bod at week 13?
Or by the 10th wedding anniversary?
Can your clients stay at or even grow beyond their goals without feeling deprived, hungry, and miserable?
Without turning food and fitness into a full-time job?
And without backsliding from short-lived pride and mirror selfies into enduring shame and baggy sweatshirts?
Is there a way that YOU can build a sustainable coaching business where you continually help people learn, grow, and improve… without having to constantly hustle new clients or start from scratch over and over?
Where your clients aren’t just okay with the quick-fix results they get… but transformed inside and out, to the point where they rave about you to their friends and family?
What if you could be a coaching alchemist… someone who turns superficial physical goals into substantive life gold?
After working with over 100,000 clients, we believe you can get more ambitious—and be more effective and fulfilled—with an approach that goes far beyond the superficial.
It’s called coaching for deep health.
This is when all dimensions of health are in sync, instead of just the physical.
It’s not only about how your clients look or perform.
It’s also about how they think, respond, solve problems, and deal with the world around them.
“Wait,” you might say. “I’m all for deep health, but my 4pm is here and they want to lose 20 pounds.”
Coaching for deep health will help you get them there faster and more easily than ever before—in a way that fits their life and is sustainable.
(That’s good for your clients.)
Their results will translate into glowing reviews, lots of referral business, and an invaluable sense of career fulfillment.
(That’s good for you.)
The six dimensions of deep health
Deep health doesn’t come from a pill or an operation.
Deep health comes from a balanced diet of fresh, whole foods. It comes from sufficient exercise combined with genuine rest. It comes from clean air and clean water. It comes from real human connection and sincere emotional expression.
And it comes from living with purpose and joy, and using your life as an expression of these things.
When you coach for deep health, you consider the multi-dimensional thriving of a whole person in their whole life.
Not just body fat percentage and blood work, but also factors like how people think, feel, live, and connect to others.
Don’t worry: We’re not suggesting you master psychotherapy, or tackle the human condition.
We are suggesting you understand how healthy eating and lifestyle practices affect every aspect of your client’s well-being. And how every dimension of deep health affects the eating and lifestyle practices of your clients.
Here are the six dimensions of deep health.
These areas of health are deeply entwined and strongly connected.
You probably know how we feel can affect how we eat. (This is, after all, most people’s #1 nutrition challenge.)
You might have also noticed that people with supportive families, strong connections at their gyms, or welcoming fitness communities (such as running or cycling groups) are more likely to show up for their workouts.
Every dimension of deep health influences eating and exercise behaviors.
That’s what coaching for deep health is all about.
Let’s see how this might look in real life.
Example 1: Your client is a dedicated runner with an injury.
They can’t run properly, which means they can’t train, and they’re getting deconditioned. That’s the current state of their physical health.
But because of this situation, they’re also:
- feeling depressed and frustrated (emotional health)
- lonely and disconnected, missing their weekend run clubs and races (relational health)
- starting to wonder what the point of anything is (existential health)
Example 2: Your client works long hours at a high-stress job.
They sit at a desk (which affects their physical health via inactivity and back / neck pain), and they don’t get their proper sleep (physical health impact again)
Because of this situation, they’re also:
- anxious and stressed, answering emails late at night (emotional health)
- arguing with their partner about working too much (relational health)
- spending most of their time in a windowless cubicle with takeout food a phone call away (environmental health)
- on the cusp of a midlife crisis (existential health)
Now… here’s the really cool part:
The problems are connected… but so are the solutions.
Struggling in one dimension of deep health usually means struggling in others.
But there’s a flip side here, too.
Improving one dimension can also improve others.
This is the power of deep health coaching.
Maybe you help your injured client find alternative activities and mentally manage their pain.
For instance, you might introduce them to water sports or swimming. You help them normalize injury and work on rehab.
They get back to movement. They feel happier. They meet new friends at dragon boating or the local pool.
Or, maybe you give your stressed-out client some relaxation techniques, a bit of mobility work to do at their desk, and the number of a healthy meal delivery service. Plus, you empathize with their challenges.
They calm down a little, move more in their day, concentrate better, and (as a result of better focus and hence productivity) even find time to come home half an hour earlier, which makes their spouse happier.
Pull a lever in one dimension of deep health, and gears in other dimensions will also move.
Use the connections between deep health dimensions to your advantage. If one area is off-limits or temporarily broken, try another one.
Deep health looks different to everyone.
For a young stay-at-home parent, it could be balancing a certain pants size with weekly ice cream night with their kids.
For an elite powerlifter, it might be pushing their bench press without screwing up their shoulders or social life.
For a retiree in their 70s, it may be “mobility over medication”—staying off the blood pressure pills and enjoying long walks with their spouse.
That’s why your clients need coaching that’s individualized and thoughtful.
Deep health isn’t about rules or ideals.
It’s about exploration and invitation.
Explore your clients’ worlds to find areas for growth, improvement, and learning. Then, invite them to do that growth and learning along with you.
This offers you unlimited coaching possibilities… and a long-term, lucrative and fulfilling coaching relationship for both client and coach.
Coach for deep health… and better results
Where do you start?
Easy… just ask your clients.
They can tell you where they need the most help, or where they want to flourish more.
Don’t think of this process as a diagnosis or an interrogation.
Instead, think of it more like opening a conversation, building a story, and deepening a coaching connection.
You can casually ask one of these questions, or all of them, if you want.
You can ask and intuit in various ways, gathering data from a range of client cues (for instance, their body language).
You can even make these questions part of your progress check-ins, if you like, using the questionnaire below.
(Download a printable copy to use for yourself or your clients.)
As you explore with your client, you’ll both gain valuable awareness.
Your client may start to notice where they’re living out of alignment with their deeper values and goals. Or where one dimension is connected to another, in ways they’d never realized. (Example: “Gosh, on days I don’t get exercise, I’m really cranky”.)
Often, this simple awareness is enough to spark a conversation about change.
Or, you can guide clients more deliberately towards noticing what might need their attention. (Example: “I find that clients who have trouble sleeping also have trouble managing their appetite… Does that feel true for you?”)
Of course, as you probably know, telling clients what to do doesn’t work. So instead of evaluating your client’s questionnaire and giving them an “assignment,” ask them:
“What’s on your garbage list?”
These are behaviors you know are total “garbage” for your health, sanity, and well-being—but you do them anyway. Everyone’s got a few.
Weekend overeating, skipping recovery days, and not getting enough sleep are some of the most common garbage list items. But they could also be anything from engaging in negative self-talk to stocking the freezer with ice cream every Friday.
Asking about a client’s garbage list is a quick-and-dirty way to figure out where to prioritize your efforts, and get them on the path to deep health.
But it’s only just the beginning.
If you want to start to truly master this coaching philosophy, read on.
Ask the right questions… to find mind-blowing solutions.
After the initial assessment, you’ll probably have a good working hypothesis about your client’s deep health.
So as a coach, you have two roles to play at this point:
Deep health detective: Investigate.
- In which area(s) does it seem like there may be more to uncover?
- Where is your client struggling most?
Deep health sherpa: Guide.
- Don’t “fix,” but enhance your client’s awareness.
- Collaborate to explore where they can seek help—or come up with their own solutions (with some supportive coaching).
In short: Let your client tell you what they need in order to see results.
Below is a handy quick-start conversation guide to help you accomplish that. There are a couple ways to use it.
Option 1: Work your way through each question, searching for places where you want to dig deeper. In those areas, use the follow-up questions to find out more.
Option 2: Skip right to the question that pertains to the area where your client needs the most help. Use the initial question to start a conversation, then dive into the follow-up questions to get more detailed.
In both cases, you can use the “action-focused thinking” questions to help your client start brainstorming solutions.
They don’t have to make any decisions about how to change things right away, but these questions will help get the process started.
Deep Health Dimension #1
Physical health: “How do you feel physically?”
Sometimes people can tell you clearly and specifically about their food, exercise, health, mobility/pain, and overall recovery.
For instance, maybe they’ll say “I’m freaking exhausted because I work 12-hour shifts. My knees hurt from lots of standing on the job. I have no energy to cook, and so I eat convenience-store crap.”
Great! Now you have a solid direction.
Sometimes they can’t tell you what’s up. Or they’ll say “Meh, okay, I guess.”
If that happens, no problem. Try some of the follow-up questions below and see what your client says. If you’re not making progress, you can always focus on a different area.
Potential follow-up questions
- Learn more about nutrition struggles: “What’s your biggest nutrition challenge right now?
- Find obstacles to movement: “How do you feel when you exercise?”
- Action-focused thinking: “What’s keeping you from getting the body you really want?”
Deep Health Dimension #2
Emotional health: “How are you doing emotionally?”
This can be difficult to talk about, but it matters. How your client feels emotionally on a day-to-day basis can impact everything from their nutrition habits to their relationships with others.
A quick pro tip: For many of these questions, what your client doesn’t say is almost as important as what they do say.
Look for body language cues, especially if they’re telling an emotionally laden story. Like, if they smile rigidly while saying “I want to kill my boss,” or seem to collapse like a pile of unwashed laundry while saying “I’m so discouraged with my performance.”
If they give you a one-word answer, consider pressing further. Maybe there’s nothing there, but you won’t find out unless you ask.
Potential follow-up questions
- Understand their ability to deal with emotions: “Sounds like you had a pretty bad day yesterday. How did you deal with that?”
- Evaluate general mood: “If you had to describe your overall mood in three words, what would they be?”
- Action-focused thinking: “What do those three words [above] tell you? Is there anything you’d like to change about your emotional health?”
Deep Health Dimension #3
Mental health: “What happened last time you were presented with a big logistical challenge?”
This area is mostly about how well their mind is working. And this question helps clients evaluate their ability to problem-solve, focus, prioritize, and put things in perspective.
You’ll also get a chance to see what their capacity for insight is like. Do they offer any additional reflections about how they handled the situation? Or how they could have handled the situation differently?
A client who’s not doing so hot in this area could be having a hard time focusing at work or constantly forgetting important items on their to-do list. So keep an eye out for signs they could benefit from upping their mental game.
Potential follow-up questions
- Search for gaps in organization and mental clarity: “How do you keep track of all the things you have to get done in any given day?”
- Assess creativity: “Where and when do you have the best ideas?”
- Action-focused thinking: “What do you think you need in order to have a clearer head?”
Deep Health Dimension #4
Existential health: “Why do you want to make changes to your health?”
Existential health refers to having a deeper “why,” or feeling like our actions have meaning.
When we have a strong sense of ourselves and what we’re here to do, we feel worthwhile. Valuing ourselves then affects how we treat our minds, our bodies, and the people around us.
People find meaning in roles as varied as being the best parent they can be to making the world a better place through their work. The important thing is that your client finds meaning in something.
Clearly understanding motivations, or what’s driving the desire to change, is also important. We can change without knowing exactly why we’re doing it, but it helps to feel like there’s a deeper purpose to the discomfort we’re facing.
And just a heads up, the more times you offer a curious “why?”, the more likely you are to get to the real reason they want to make a change in their life. Practice starting sentences with “I’m wondering about…” and “Why…?”
Potential follow-up questions
- Look for overall purpose: “What’s driving you, here? What’s lighting a fire under your butt to do this, or live life in general?”
- Ask about the “not-why”: “What’s not driving you? What do you not care about doing or having?” (Sometimes it’s easier for people to name what they don’t want, then you can explore the opposite to uncover what they really value.)
- Gauge their sense of belonging: How do you see yourself fitting into the “big picture?”
- Action-focused thinking: “What do you think would give your life more meaning? Is there anything you already do that you find meaningful?”
Deep Health Dimension #5
Relational health: “Who in your life is supporting you in this health journey?”
Social support is incredibly important to success in a health and fitness journey, so finding out if your client has it can help you better assess their needs.
If your client has someone in mind they know they can rely on for support, it’s a good exercise for them to “notice and name” that person. This question may also help your client realize they need to ask for support from someone close to them, like a partner or spouse.
Relationships may affect your client’s habits without them even realizing it. For example, if their partner prefers to watch TV while eating dinner, it may be more difficult for them to eat slowly and concentrate on their food.
Potential follow-up questions
- Probe for meaningful relationships: “It sounds like Person X really matters to you! Can you tell me more about how they support you?”
- Gauge their sense of belonging: “Where and with who do you feel like you ‘belong?’”
- Action-focused thinking: “What do you need from the people you’re close to in order to succeed?”
Deep Health Dimension #6
Environmental health: “How do your surroundings affect your health?”
Everything from the food in your house to the weather in your city to the political atmosphere in your country is part of your environment.
Being and feeling safe, secure, and supported by your environment enables you to make better choices for your health.
Having access to resources such as healthcare or healthy food is also part of environmental health.
We can’t control some elements of our environment. They’re more structural and systemic, woven into the fabric of our societies. These are called social determinants of health, and include poverty, racism, homophobia, lack of accommodation for disabilities, and displacement (as in the case of refugees).
In any of these situations, it may be very difficult to take steps to change someone’s environment. What can help is to focus on the things you can control wherever possible.
Potential follow-up questions
- Determine access to resources: “Is there anything you feel you need in order to reach your goals that you don’t currently have access to?”
- Evaluate their safety and security: “Where do you feel most comfortable and safe?”
- Action-focused thinking: “If you could change your environment to help you better meet your goals, how would you do so?”
What to do next…
Look at the big picture.
By now you understand how seemingly unrelated factors, like someone’s relationships and work life, might affect their ability to lose fat, gain muscle, and/or improve their overall health.
So for the best results, assess every client for deep health—even if they have a super-specific aesthetic goal.
Dig for connections.
The social bone is connected to the mental bone, is connected to the physical bone, and so on. Pull a thread of your client’s life with curiosity, assuming that things are related, and see what it unravels.
This also means that small specific things are a microcosm. If a client comes to you with big problems, ask for particular, concrete examples of how those problems manifested. For instance:
Client: I eat terribly.
Coach: Can you tell me a specific situation in the last day or two where you ate terribly? Like one meal, maybe? What was happening then?
And so on.
Collaborate with your client.
Don’t tell, direct, lecture, or immediately jump in with “helpful” suggestions.
Instead: Investigate, together. Ask, learn, listen.
Every client needs a unique approach, and they need to buy in, first. That happens when they feel autonomous and self-determined, and when they get to tell their story without judgment from the coach.
All you have to do to create an individualized plan is to ask the right questions, and listen to the answers.
Remember that coaching is a science, but it’s also an art.
The science of nutrition can get your clients abs. Artful coaching can make their lives better. Combine the two, and you’re setting yourself (and your clients) up for success.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We'll show you how.
If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.