I wanted to write a client case study that illustrated the precise hows and whys of success.
On top of the obvious reasons for success, there are also subtler, harder-to-see reasons.
Below I am going to cover an actual example email from my client Mike Vieth.
Mike is about to turn 58. He has lost well over 120 lbs., and we are keeping it off.
I don’t get personally involved with my clients—but I do have feelings about them, and every time I think about Mike and his journey I get a lump in my throat. Mike has accomplished an amazing transformation, both from the outside-in and from the inside-out. He has overcome challenges that would stop others in their tracks.
Mike holding up his old pants.
I’ll share an actual coaching “check-in” email from Mike. I want to draw attention to some of the most important lessons that might just help you in your own journey, whether that journey is weight loss, or physique development, or virtually any other kind of important life transformation.
Michael V’s email
Hey Coach: Week 0. Week off from training.
This immediate point may be unexpected to some people.
I ask my coaching clients to begin their check-ins with what week they’re in of the current program, and here’s my point for this email: it was Mike’s week off from training.
You would think that someone who has lost well over 120 lbs. would be a slave to training and dieting in order to keep that weight off, or that he’d be paranoid about the weight coming back again—but not Mike.
This kind of mindset is something I’ve worked on with many of my clients—but not Mike.
Being obsessed with training or fearing that the weight will come back is living life from inside the thin cage. If that sounds familiar, it is time to stop denying it and free yourself.
Obviously, this has to do with mindset, but there is a physical side to it as well. I avoid this “trap” with my clients by gauging their physical biofeedback (stress, energy levels, how much “oomph” they’re feeling in the gym, etc.) and by giving them well-timed breaks, either from training alone, or from training and diet. The breaks are a part of complete process.
My point is that even with all that weight-loss baggage behind him, Mike not only takes a week off from training here and there, he knows it’s an important part of the process and he embraces it. We use the time off to reboot and recharge. This is one of the most underrated elements of sustainable physique transformation; it’s the kind of thing people know they “should” do, but it’s not until they get a coach that they actually do it.
The Lesson: Time off from training is essential. Don’t just “wish” you were better at doing this. Make it a priority.
Mike V (cont’d):
Today is the 11th of July and marks our 1 year anniversary. […] As I look back over this past year there have been many meals and many workouts, some slips and falls, and unexpected turns. I would not be where I am today without you behind me. You have been a steady guiding hand gently pushing and pointing me in the right direction and lending a hand up when I needed one.
I know that I hired you and as my coach it is your job, but I am still thankful for your presence every day.
As you can see, Mike hasn’t just been “perfect” from the beginning—there is no such thing.
Good coaches know and respect that. Bad coaches either freak out over clients not being “compliant,” and yell and scream at them, or they just do nothing because they don’t know what to do.
No client is a machine of perfection, not in the real world. I often say, in biofeedback and weight loss, that if you “coax” the body, it responds, but if you “force” the body, it reacts. I also say you have to work with your body, and not on your body.
Well, coaching is the same way. You have to work with your client, not on your client. You work with them and lead them to their goals. You can’t just “force” them. That’s kindergarten coaching.
That kind of thing might work in the hardcore competition bodybuilding or figure world (or at least, coaches might be able to get away with it more there), but it has no place in the real world. Real people with real lives cannot live as automatons.
The coach’s job is to balance client accountability with support and guidance—and to do so in reasonable and motivating ways.
As you can see, Mike describes some slips, falls and unexpected turns. He’s a real person living a real life. A coach has to be flexible enough to guide a client through these times, and to—as a part of this—to teach the client that flexibility so they learn how to adapt things for themselves.
The Lesson: Focus on excellence, not perfection. It’s not about being a robot. Excellence lies in the bigger picture of consistency and compliance.
Mike V (cont’d):
I was recently asked why I was stilling paying you to be my coach since I have lost most of all of the weight and had my eating on track.
I thought about that for a couple of days. The person who asked me is a huge football fan, namely the New England Patriots and Tom Brady (I’m sure you can relate to that). So a couple of days later I answered him this way. You love Tom Brady but since he’s already won all those games and those five super bowls, should he tell all his coaches and trainers “I no longer need you; I have everything on track; just leave me alone”?
The person who asked me did not have any response and I’m not sure if he even truly understood the point, but he has not asked me again why I will continue to be your client.
I experience a lot of this sort of feedback from longterm clients. They accomplish tremendous transformations and then people from the outside looking in will say things like the above: “Why do you need a coach, anymore?”
The lesson here is that clients understand this is about an ongoing journey. It is less about living the accomplishment; and then thinking “all done now.”
The Lesson: The journey is never done, and never over. Progress just takes on many different forms. And that is true, even for my own journey in life.
I’ve often stated how proud I am that clients stay with me for years and years and even decades in some cases. And as I’ve stated, the Coach’s job at that point is to transition from the role of “guiding light” to the role of “mirror” and sliding back and forth when necessary.
What people looking on from the sidelines don’t understand is that it is not about “learning secrets” – it’s about sharing experience in an unthreatening, non-judgmental environment.
Mike V (cont’d):
Looking forward to the coming year and what I need to do. Simple really: just keep doing tomorrow what I did today and yesterday. Eat simply but healthily, workout with good intensity, respect myself and treat myself well.
Yes, yes, yes!
What we see here is that Mike is motivated, he is forward-thinking, and he is all about consistency in small ways.
Note also how Mike uses the term “simple” twice in just these few sentences. I often say, “the truth is simple, and simplicity is the truth.” But it is not enough that a client “understands” this; a client must absorb and apply it. Mike is doing exactly that, and anyone can see that for themselves when they read that feedback carefully.
Mike V (cont’d):
I was also looking at the pictures I sent you one year ago and comparing them to the ones a couple of months ago. I look better all-around, I feel.
Only thing that bothers me somewhat is the loose skin around my waist, but I was heavy for many, many years. I am going to turn 58 this month and have never had what you would even term a good physique, so when I really stop and think about it, I am looking really good for someone that never worked until a little over a year ago.
I have also developed a sense of overall well-being. Part of that is physical due to the weight loss, but it’s mainly a mental aspect. Everything looks different these days. It’s hard to explain, really. Sometimes I feel very euphoric, almost like I am in the light after years in the dark. I feel happy and joyful. It is really wonderful way to feel. Looking forward to another great year. Again: I want to say thank you.
There is so much depth in this part it will be hard to do it justice.
But what we witness here about Mike’s journey is the reality of what so many of you are seeking as the result of weight loss or physique transformation. And it is a “result,” in some sense, but it’s not as simple as “first he lost weight, then he was happy.”
The two went hand in hand. Remember the simplicity and consistency stuff from above? These things are connected to that sense of being, as Mike puts it, out of the darkness and in the light. If you are struggling with weight issues or body-image issues, this is—deep down—often what you really want to know and feel, and how you want to live. But to do so, you have to see all these things as connected.
Notice also that Mike mentions he is still not completely “ok” with his physique. That’s fine too, but notice that it certainly hasn’t blocked his journey from darkness to light.
The Lesson: It’s not enough to just “believe in yourself.” You also have to behave in ways that prove this to yourself. You have to act in ways that reflect a belief in yourself.
Even if you are dissatisfied with this or that aspect of your physique, you have to believe that you are always worth it—and then act accordingly.
If this client story should give you hope that it is never too late to be great. Mike inspires me every time I interact with him. I know his journey, his struggles, and his triumphs. As I’ve said before about so many of my clients, “Heroes come in many forms.”
Mike V (cont’d):
I am not sure where I would be on the diet I was following but I do know that I would not be where I am today. Whole food plant-based has changed my life.
A plant-based diet has made an overwhelming difference for many of my clients who’ve asked for a plant-based or “vegan” approach.
To be clear, I don’t insist on it plant-based or vegan unless the client asks for it. But I do assign custom meal plans that use healthy whole foods, which has a pronounced effect on weight loss, fat-burning, metabolism, and overall health.
What am I talking about? Here are some numbers.
Mike V (from previous email):
First thing I will discuss is I had my doctor’s checkup this week and everything was fantastic. My blood work is fantastic also.
I am no longer a pre-diabetic.
My A1C is now 5.0 and in normal range down from a high of 6.3. Of the 1.3 drop 0.8 of it was after I joined with you and following your diet strategy. Total cholesterol is 100 down from 119, triglycerides are 56 down from 95, HDL is 63 up from 45, and LDL is 26 down from 55. I have been taken off the Lipitor I was taking also.
Needless to say I’m extremely pleased.
Mike’s main indicators of health all improved, and he improved so much that he was taken off his meds.
Now, my younger fans may not have much interest in blood test numbers. But let me say two things:
First, if you’re 50 and older, you have to be impressed when you can improve your health, while taking control of your life.
Second, even if you don’t care about the numbers, I can tell you that those numbers have carryover benefits to other areas of your physique. Namely, your metabolism, your vitality, your fat-burning, your energy in the gym, and so on.
As I said above—these things are connected!
The Lesson: I think the lesson here is obvious: improved health MUST BE part of physique transformation. If it’s going to be sustainable, the two must go hand-in-hand.
Mike’s journey has been an incredible one. It’s the stuff of real-world heroes. His improvements and progress have occurred across all three sides of the triangle of awareness: the physical, mental, and emotional realms.
There is no better feeling for me as a coach.
Let me close by saying, Congratulations, Mike!
I am sure you have inspired many people today, by achieving what you have, and by allowing me to share your story. Thank you.