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Top 5 motivational questions

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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As you know, helping clients change their lifestyle is not always easy. So, using powerful questions to motivate change is essential. Here are the top five questions I use with clients:


1. Why is this worth doing?

If changing eating and exercise behaviour was easy, everyone would be fit and heathy. It does take some effort. So, it has to be worth doing.

What makes it worth it for you? Why is it really important to get into shape?

This question establishes compelling reasons for change which are vital for motivation.

A client may say, "It's worth doing because I will be well again."

Remind your client why they said it is worth it, particularly when they find the going tough or suffer a setback.


2. What makes you confident you'll do it?

It may be important to change, but you also need to feel you can change. This question examines the likelihood of success based on preparation, skills, barriers and past experiences.

Also ask "What are you not so confident about?" and offer advice and strategies to overcome barriers. It's the things that clients are not confident about that can derail their progress and break their program.

A client may say, "I'm confident because I've started to plan my meals."

But, I'm not confident about cooking. Praise and support the meal preparation and provide some simple recipes to start with.


3. What needs to change to make it happen?

For lifestyle changes to stick, all sorts of things need to change to make being healthy easier. Time management, priorities, routines, food shopping can all need to be re-organised.

What are the main things that you'll need to do differently in your life to make this work?

A client may say, "I'll need to make time for exercise, I'll need to do the food shopping on the weekend, I'll need to not have treats in the house."

This question helps to create a positive environment and the actions required for success.


4. Who is on board with you?

Support from family and friends to get fit and healthy can be the make or break.

What do your family think about this and what are they going to do to support you?

A client may say, "I've spoken with my partner about how I need their help."

Ask for specifics and help your client have recruitment conversations with family and friends.


5. What makes this time different?

This is perhaps the most important question because it provides an opportunity to establish commitment.

Why will this attempt be successful when previous attempts have not been?

A client may say, "I'm committed this time because I'm prepared to work fewer hours to fit in time to exercise.

Without commitment, efforts to become fit, strong and healthy are just wishes. Have a commitment conversation with clients so they don't have another groundhog day weight loss experience.

I aim not to let a client proceed on a program of lifestyle change without answering these five key questions.



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