Here’s an inside look at how Precision Nutrition coaches clients, including our client-centric philosophy, habit-based methodology, and full client curriculum. I’ll even pull back the curtain on ProCoach, the program that’s allowing health and fitness pros around the world to coach the way we do. 

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Today’s article is really exciting because I’m going to pull back the curtain and show you exactly (with, in some cases, screenshot-by-screenshot detail) how Precision Nutrition coaches clients.

I’ll also reveal how we mix world-class curriculum, elite-level coaching skills, and cutting-edge technology to get unprecedented client + business results.

Finally, I’ll share strategies that you can use immediately, in your own practice, to maximize client numbers and income while still maintaining control of your schedule and helping people get the best results.

Before digging in, however, I wanted to let you know that our industry-leading coaching platform — Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach — is opening soon.

Tested with nearly 100,000 clients, ProCoach makes it easy to deliver research-proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching to anyone who needs it… from paying clients, to family members, to co-workers, to loved ones.

It’ll help you grow your business while working less, getting better results, and living life on your own terms.

Want to coach in-person? Online? Or a combination of the two? Whatever fits your ideal lifestyle, it’s all possible with ProCoach.

To understand ProCoach you first need to understand why it was created, and the key problems it helps health and fitness professionals overcome.

JB shares his early coaching struggles and how PN went from 20 to nearly 100,000 clients with ProCoach.

Want to know exactly how ProCoach works? Then check this out.

See how other health and fitness pros are using ProCoach with their clients.

Want to learn even more? Join the Presale List Today

In summary, ProCoach delivers — to your clients, on your behalf — a total coaching solution, complete with daily lessons, habits, check-ins, and more.

Plus, as their coach, you’ll support them by answering questions, offering encouragement, and tracking progress through special ProCoach software.

The good news? On Wednesday, November 29th, we’ll be opening ProCoach to our Precision Nutrition Certification students and graduates around the world.

When you enroll, you’ll be able to use this ground-breaking software and curriculum in your business — with your clients — and easily, quickly, effectively deliver the habit-based coaching you learned in the PN Certification.

You see, everyone knows that habit-based coaching is more effective and has longer-lasting effects than typical diets or meal tracking. But not everyone knows how to do it effectively. We do, and today…

I’d like to show you how we coach. And how YOU can coach this way too.

In today’s article we’ll discuss how you can:

  • Dramatically increase how many clients you can coach.
  • Assess nutrition-coaching clients efficiently.
  • Build a habit-based curriculum for each client.
  • Deliver new habits, lessons, and assignments.
  • Monitor consistency and adherence.
  • Track physical, mental, and behavior changes.
  • Provide accountability, mentorship, and support.
  • Set clients up for long-term, sustainable success.
So let’s get started.

(By the way: This is a long post with a lot of detail. So please set aside some distraction-free time before digging in. Maybe even read it in two or three parts. You’ll be happy you did.)

Client-centered coaching: Shush your “inner expert”.

The history of fitness and health is littered with hard-ass authoritarian coaches.

Taking a page out of the military, these coaches deliver a series of no-pain, no-gain boot-camps where clients are given tough love and are taught to pay for their laziness and dietary transgressions with push-ups, cardio, and burpees.

This style of coaching features the coach as: Expert, Drill Sergeant, and Dictator. In this model it’s their job to tell clients what to do.

Sure, some coaches are at least polite about it. But, no matter how nicely they command, this approach remains coach-centered. It’s all about the coach and what they know. And it’s the opposite of client-centered.

Of course, as a great fitness / health coach, you probably are an expert. You have well-informed ideas and opinions on nutrition, movement, stress, and sleep. But…

There’s one thing you’re not an expert on:
Your clients’ lives.


Each client is actually the expert on their own bodies and their own lives. They live in their bodies and experiences 24/7. You don’t.

That’s a critical distinction. Because…

Your clients have their own abilities and reasons for change.

They have their own limits, beliefs, preferences, backstories, and motivations. Some of these will be so far outside your personal experience that you couldn’t possibly have “standard” advice for them.

But that’s okay. As a change-based, client-centered coach, all you have to do is slow down and…

Quiet your own “expert” voice.

Ask questions. Listen deeply to your clients’ stories. And build your coaching approach around what you hear.

In doing so, you’ll actually uncover your clients’ unique abilities, reasons, and motivations (which will often be very different from yours). These will become your secret weapons.

Now you can help clients identify their own individual limiting factors. And then — more excitingly…

You’ll be able to help them propose their own solutions to their own problems.

We believe what we hear ourselves say.

So if you help clients produce and describe their own solutions, they’ll feel empowered, and embrace the solutions without you having to nag or boss them around.

This is a foolproof recipe for sustainable, long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t about coddling or being too nice or acquiescing to client demands.

Rather, client-centered coaching is about collaborating with clients and creating action plans based on what they feel they can do, not what you think they should be doing.

Let’s explore this methodology a little more.

Clients change by doing and experiencing.

These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on setting goals (e.g. lose 20 pounds) and then following a program (e.g. a diet plan or workout DVD set) to achieve those goals.

How’s that working?

On the goals side of the equation, we’re taught to think about what we want to accomplish. Then we’re supposed to make the goal specific, measurable, attainable, etc.

What happens once we’ve done all that? When we’ve set the ultimate goal?

For most people, not much.

That’s because goals aren’t achieved through the mere act of setting them. And goals aren’t achieved through sheer force of will.

On the program side of the equation, we’re taught to seek out a “Do this, don’t do that” program, summon up our motivation, and then turn our lives into “achieve that goal at all costs” projects.

We’re to become single-minded, unthinking, obedient little goal-chasing machines.

As you’ve probably seen…

This goal-focused approach fails most of the time.

Particularly when competing priorities come up and we haven’t built the necessary skills to be flexible and adaptable.

Then, since we haven’t “met our goal”, we feel bad. We think we’ve failed. We get frustrated and ashamed.

We might even give up. Or put that goal on the back burner till next January 1st, when we vow to take a crack at it again.

Based on my experience, success actually follows a different process.

  1. First, you break down the things you want to do into specific skills.
  2. Next, you develop those skills through intentional daily actions.
The formula pretty much looks like this:

Practice daily to build skills.
Build skills to achieve goals.

Some people call this approach habit-based, others call it practice-based. They’re one and the same, and are based on current research around skill acquisition and change psychology.

Growth and development come through daily habits and supporting experiences.

Here’s an example of how this works:

Goal: Eat better consistently

Let’s say you want to lose weight. You know that to lose weight you’ll need to eat better consistently. So that’s your real goal: Eat better consistently.

But you don’t have all the skills to do it just yet. So you have to break it down into…

Skill: Hunger and appetite awareness

Which skills are required to eat better consistently? We’ve identified hunger / appetite awareness as the most important initial skill for making progress.

But that’s not quite a concrete thing you can do. So you have to break it down into…

Practices: Eat slowly, and stop eating when satisfied

We use two daily habits to build the skill of hunger and appetite awareness.

Habit 1: Eat slowly.
Habit 2: Eat until satisfied, not stuffed.

This takes a month — two weeks for clients to learn, practice, and repeat each of the two habits. At the end of a month, clients have two very important habits that they can now use for the rest of their lives. They’ve learned it by doing it.

Not surprisingly, clients usually lose weight during this time. Because, of course, they’re learning to eat a bit less and adjust their intake according to body signals.

Even better, they’ve built two new habits that they can use for the rest of their lives, no matter what else happens.

Here’s how we present habits (and track their completion).


This approach is the perfect antidote to “program-thinking” in fitness and health.

Instead of a meal plan to follow, which is a very short-term (and limited) solution that never really addresses core problems, this approach is progressive and helps clients build transferable skills while stair-stepping their way to real change.

If you integrate this style of coaching with your clients:

  • They’ll accomplish goals more quickly (with less effort).
  • They’ll have an easier time maintaining results.
  • They’ll be able to do it within the context of a real human life (with its distractions, complexities, and surprises).
Here are some practical ways we implement this in our own coaching program.

The habits of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Precision Nutrition Coaching is a one-year program that uses a client-centered, habit-based approach to help clients lose fat, gain strength, and improve their health.

Here’s an outline of the habits we recommend in our women’s nutrition coaching program. (Keep in mind, this is just one example; since we’re client-centered, we tailor habits to clients’ needs, gender, goals, etc.).

Weeks Habit 1-2 Take a 5-minute action 3-4 Eat slowly 5-6 Stop eating at “80% full” 7-8 Eat lean protein with each meal 9-10 Eat at least five servings of colorful fruit / vegetables 11-12 Make smart carb choices 13-14 Eat healthy fats 15-16 Plan PN-friendly meals 17-18 Record what you eat 19-20 Create & use a sleep ritual 21-22 Drink only calorie-free beverages 23 Break week 24-25 Use a targeted recovery strategy 26-27 Eat whole foods only 28-29 A little more, a little better 30-31 Protein & colorful plants at each meal 32-33 Practice 80% full 34-35 Do a 5-minute mind-body scan 36-37 Take a fitness information vacation 38-39 20 minutes of de-stressing 40-41 Create and practice your fitness mission 42-43 Choose your own adventure 44-45 Prepare for your final photo shoot 46-47 Celebrate your progress 48-50 Spread the love, pay it forward Some of these habits (like “Eat slowly” or “Eat healthy fats”) are more straightforward. Others (like “Celebrate your progress” or “Pay it forward”) might be more open-ended.

The order of these habits, of course, isn’t an accident.

This is a carefully planned, cumulative client development experience.

We start simply and concretely, with clear and specific early habits that help our clients build a foundation. Over time, as clients develop skills and independence, we give them more freedom and opportunities to explore and expand their horizons.

Each habit builds on the previous ones.

Clients are able to do habits more effectively because of the skills they’ve already built. Which makes them feel even more successful and empowered.

They might start out tentative or nervous, but by the time they get to the final habits, they’re rocking ‘n’ rolling.

Here’s how our nutrition coaching software works.

Every day, clients:

  • Receive an email with what’s on deck for that day.
Example of the daily emails clients will receive.


  • Log in to a personal home page for more detail.
  • Read a lesson (which supports the habit).
How lessons and habits are presented on a client’s “today page”.


  • Mark whether or not they’ve read their lesson for the day.
Example lesson for a client to read.


  • Practice their habit for the day.
  • Mark whether or not they’ve done their habit for the day.
Example habit / practice for clients to follow.


Then…

Every week:

  • Clients measure and record their progress. This can be body measurements or other indicators (such as energy levels, mood, or habit consistency).
One of the progress checks that comes every few weeks.


Every 2 weeks:

  • Clients get a new habit to practice.
Example of a new habit / practice, which a client will get every two weeks.


Every month:

  • Clients upload more progress indicators such as photos, body measurements, etc.
One of the progress checks that comes every few weeks.


How do we support clients’ new habits?

Habits are supported by lessons.

We ask clients to practice a new habit for 2 weeks. During this time we share short lessons and assignments that help them understand the habit more deeply and implement it within the context of their lives.

For example, here’s a list of the lessons we use with the habit “Eat at least five servings of colorful fruits and vegetables.”

Lesson 1: How to get your colors.

Lesson 2: Just add vegetables.

Lesson 3: How to prep and cook your vegetables.

Lesson 4: The waste-not game.

Lesson 5: Greens supplements and powdered veggies.

Lesson 6: Tomato travels.

Lesson 7: Who’s your farmer?

Lesson 8: What’s for breakfast?

Lesson 9: PN Coaching movie night.

Lesson 10: Are you over-processing your fitness?

Example lesson that supports the habit “Eat at least five servings of colorful fruits and vegetables.”


Most habits offer Level 1 and Level 2 options.

Clients can make a habit as easy or as challenging as they like.

For newer clients, this takes away the fear of “doing it right” or “having to do too much”. Even the most intimidated beginner can usually find a habit level that works for them.

For more experienced clients, a bit of difficulty or a tougher game to play keeps them interested, challenged, and growing.

For example:

Level 1:
If you’re new to eating our plant friends, feel free to mix up veggies and colorful fruit. Keep it simple and just get in the habit of eating the rainbow.

Level 2:
If you’re already a produce-eating ninja, then use this habit to polish your plant consumption skills. Here are some things to try (choose one):

  • Improve your overall consistency.
  • Try more servings, especially of colorful vegetables.
  • Try new vegetables.
  • Try a new way of prepping or cooking familiar favorites.
  • Aim for more dark leafy greens.
  • Hit up the farmer’s market and try something in season or something organic.
We don’t just give our clients habits.
We build their skills.


Over the course of each program, we help clients build dozens of skills through very specific and well-defined daily habits.

Each habit is decided upon using our “Five S Formula”.

Simple.

The best habits are small daily actions that can be done in the context of real life.

If you ask yourself or your client, “On a scale of 0-10, how confident do you feel you could do this habit every day for the next 2 weeks?” the answer should be a 9 or 10. Anything lower and the habit is too challenging or intimidating.

Segmental.

Most goals are too big, or complicated, to try for in one go. Most skills are the same way.

So you break them down into defined and organized segments. Just like when learning / teaching complex exercises, you need to chunk bigger things into their component parts.

Sequential.

Once you have segments, you have to practice those segments in the right order.

If you do “thing 4” before “thing 1” you’re less likely to succeed. So start with thing 1, then do thing 2, then thing 3, and so on.

Do the right things in the right order and success is a reliable outcome.

Strategic.

Being strategic means being purposeful.

Strategic habits create a set of smart, deliberate decisions that leverage your strengths to help you address the thing that’s in your way right now.

Focus on that one thing — and only that thing — and a difficult process becomes easier and faster.

Supported.

Nothing worth doing can be done alone.

Habits work best when they’re supported by some form of teaching, coaching, mentorship, and accountability.

Habits are good.
A curriculum is even better.


The habit-based approach is awesome. However, if you — or your clients — have ever tried a habit-based program or app on its own, you probably got stuck with questions like:

  • Which habits?
  • In what order?
  • How do I actually do the habits?
  • What if this habit is too hard or easy for me?
  • Why can’t I do four habits at once?
  • And so on.
That’s why we focus on a habit-based curriculum.

A curriculum is a set of strategic, logical lessons and activities that go in a particular order, step by step.

It’s a purposeful program, plan, and progression based on the best practices of client learning, engagement, and development.

The PN Coaching curriculum, at a glance.


While the order of the habits above might seem a bit random, each one is carefully placed in a particular sequence based on very specific learning objectives.

To check out detailed curriculum guides, including a lesson-by-lesson breakdown:

Habits and lessons are cumulative and coherent.

Each habit / lesson builds the skills for future habits / lessons.

Then, later habits and lessons return to themes and ideas from earlier ones.

Everything is connected to everything else in a logical progression.

For instance:

Week 4:
The “Notice and name” lesson covers the importance and basic process of self-observation and self-awareness.

Example of the “Notice and name” lesson.


this leads to…

Week 14:
The “Experiment day: Snapshot” lesson, a very simple self-tracking exercise that looks at a few items throughout the day like energy levels, mental state, mood.

Example of the “Experiment day: Snapshot” lesson.


which leads to…

Week 17:
“Record your intake” habit

Example of the “Record your intake” habit.


and eventually…

Week 29:
The “How to listen to your body” lesson, which helps clients analyze patterns in habits.

Example of the “How to listen to your body” lesson.


Week 35:
The “Your schedule doesn’t lie” lesson, which helps clients keep a time diary.

One of the “Build Your Owner’s Manual” exercises from the program.


Throughout our coaching, we ask clients to track their progress, gather data, and reflect on thought exercises. The purpose of this is to write an “Owner’s Manual” — a collection of information and analysis about their lives, bodies, needs, wants, and real-life-tested experiences.

The Owner’s Manual:

  • collects information about the client,
  • asks the client to test hypotheses and collect data for making decisions,
  • increases the client’s self-awareness and self-knowledge, and most importantly,
  • puts the client in charge (which makes them take responsibility and reduces their resistance).
Each client creates their own Owner’s Manual by answering several sets of questions online throughout the course of the program. This process helps clients:

  • Take responsibility for themselves — their thoughts, their beliefs, their stories, their environments, and most importantly, their behaviors. (No more coach-blaming or “This diet / workout plan didn’t work for me!”)
  • Feel empowered by and invested in the idea that they now have a set of “handling instructions for their bodies”. (No more “one-size-fits all” programs.)
  • Test hypotheses, gather data, and draw conclusions, just like scientists. (No more blindly “just following the rules”.)