How fostering your client's autonomy can help them reach their fitness goals.

Help Your Fitness Clients Achieve Their Goals

Jun 16, 2023

Frozen yogurt is a popular dessert — but not usually because of the quality or because it’s “so much better” than other types of ice cream. People love frozen yogurt because of something else: autonomy. 

But this lower-calorie dessert option can teach us an important lesson in psychology and behavior change.

We feel good, motivated, and happy when we feel in control of our own decisions. We’re more likely to do things when we feel like we’re callin’ the shots. Choosing our own toppings and flavor combinations is appealing to our psychology.

Chipotle leverages this, too. I doubt you’d love the burritos as much if you didn’t get to direct the build-out.

But this is important beyond any desires you might have to open up a Sweet Frog franchise, which is why we are going to discuss the power of autonomy and how to leverage it to help your clients make changes that last.

But first, the basics.


What is Autonomy?


Autonomy refers to the ability to make independent decisions and have control over our own actions. As human beings, we value autonomy because it allows us to express our unique preferences and needs. 

In fact, we don’t just value autonomy, it’s a “basic psychological need” that we have as humans. We need to feel autonomous if we want to feel motivated and driven to do things.

Autonomy helps to feel more empowered and motivated to do ANYTHING — including pursue health and fitness behaviors.

When it comes to fitness, it’s obvious that feeling empowered and motivated is crucial for long-term success. Similarly, by offering the freedom to customize meals, "build your own" food options like Chipotle and frozen yogurt shops provide a platform for people to exercise their autonomy.

This is extra important in the nutrition and fitness coaching space and why we so heavily emphasize building autonomy at KJO Coaching and teaching other coaches the skills to do so with their own clients in the Health Mindset Coaching Certification


How Does Autonomy Help Clients Reach Their Health and Fitness Goals


When clients feel autonomous,  they will feel empowered to independently make the necessary decisions to achieve their fitness goals. Which, of course, makes your job easier as the coach!

When clients have the freedom to be part of the decision-making process in their health and fitness journey, they feel a sense of ownership over the process. This ownership fuels intrinsic motivation, helping clients stay committed to their goals.

As a coach, just telling your clients what to do rather than empowering them to be part of the decision-making and planning process will always make them feel less motivated and less interested in “sticking with it”. If you have a client that isn’t “adherent” or struggles to stay consistent… you might benefit from helping them cultivate more autonomy! 

However, when clients have control over their fitness decisions, they develop a sense of self-efficacy — the belief in their ability to succeed. This belief enhances confidence and resilience, enabling them to overcome obstacles and persist in their fitness journey.

Autonomy fosters a shift from a short-term "diet" mentality to a long-term lifestyle change. By empowering clients to take charge of their health, autonomy promotes sustainable habits, ensuring that they not only achieve their fitness goals but that they maintain them over time.


Help Your Clients Achieve Your Fitness Goals That Last


Next time you’re frustrated with your client’s ability to stick with something, assess the level of autonomy you have in the process.


You can learn more about helping your clients achieve autonomy and their fitness goals through the Health Mindset Coaching Certification. This 13-week program will help you develop the skills to effectively help your clients stick to the plan, stick with you, and achieve long-term success in their health and fitness goals. 


Health Mindset Coaching Certification is recognized by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC),  and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as an approved continuing education provider.


Join the waitlist here and you’ll get immediate access to some free primer materials to get you started!


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Email: [email protected]

IG: @coachkaseyjo @kjocoaching @healthmindsetcert

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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