Executive coaches: Your clients are what they eat!

3rd May by Anthony Eldridge-Rogers

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Executive coaches: Your clients are what they eat!

A well used phrase "You are what you eat”, began almost 200 years when a Frenchman, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote:

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”.

In 1863, Ludwig Feuerbach wrote:

“A man is what he eats”.

So, across Europe the idea that what we eat is vital to who we are took its first hold. In the 1920’s and 30’s the green nutritionist, Victor LindlahrIn, promoted the idea that food intimately controls health. He gained quite a few adherents at the time and the earliest known printed example is from an advert for beef in a 1923 edition of the Bridgeport Telegraph, which stated "Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat." That was in 1923!

The date bears repeating as we now have an epidemic of health problems related to what we eat. It is not a new proposal.

In 1942, Lindlahr published You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet and that got his ideas into the mainstream. If you are familiar with the phrase then it is due, in large part, to Victor.

I am going to make an assumption now. I assume that any executive coach reading this is able to agree with the statement that what we eat, it’s quality, it’s nutritional content, what foods are eaten with each other and when and how we eat are important to the health and condition of a human beings body, emotions and mind. The evidence is overwhelming and frankly almost noone of sound mind and body would dispute it. It is clear too that we are mired in an epidemic of eating and nutrition related physical and mental challenges (Type 2 Diabetes in itself may yet sink our health services). So the view is not just evidence passed around between research universities. It is in the mainstream.

This a compelling executive coaching practice topic.

The person in front of you in a coaching session or indeed on the end of a phone, is of course a manifestation of past and current nutritional experience. If they had never eaten you would talking to a ghost! And that is right down to the present moment. Consider that the brain (which you are interacting with and which you and your client are both signed up to, change via the practice and methods of executive coaching), is completely dependent on nutrients and energy the client puts into the bloodstream via the body. And not just food but recreational chemicals (aka drugs and alcohol), both legal and prescription are relevant too, although we can debate whether these chemicals and substances are ‘nutritional’.

What clients eat and when

When we eat and how we eat matters to how our bodies are. This comes down to an hour by hour basis across a day. What and how we eat at breakfast (if we eat breakfast), is affecting what happens next. A boozy lunch does something to us, not always good. So when we think performance coaching for anyone, whether they be an executive or an athlete, we need to think about how the body and mind is supplied with the necessary fuel and food to complete the intended performance. With athletes is it a crucial determiner of their ability to perform both physically and mentally. We readily accept that for athletes but it applies to us all and why not our executive coaching clients?

Your executive coaching sessions are taking place within these ebbs and flows of nutrition. Try coaching a client when they are very hungry versus when they are just fed and you will see a difference.

The goal then is to inspire and enrol our clients to make sure that they are really aware of what they are putting into their bodies; what effect it is having on their experience and ability to fulfil their objectives, and what happens when they change things around.

It is NOT essential that you are an expert on nutrition.

It is far more important that your client becomes an expert on their own relationship to nutrition. Having said that you do need to have an overview knowledge set that allows you to engage with the overall aspects of nutrition which you can obtain from our Health Coaching training programme here.

Your ability to coach is affected by what YOU eat

No surprises then that our ability to be effective executive coaches is also influenced by our own health and nutrition. Our ability to focus, listen effectively, self manage, respond emotionally and blend skills will be better some days than others. Overall our general nutritional self knowledge will make us better able to be in a good condition to be a coach partner.

Executive Health Coaching Strategy

You are shifting towards integrating health into your executive coaching practicing when you make it an explicit part of the coaching relationship

Start doing it by:

  • Reconfiguring your standard executive coaching toolkit to include nutrition as a component to your coaching practice and your clients awareness
  • Invite clients to keep records over a pre-agreed period of what and when they eat. Correlate it with moods, emotions and performance
  • Develop the habit of checking in with clients about their nutritional behaviour over time with some specific times when you invite them to take a closer look
  • Link nutritional awareness with awareness of other connected behaviours such as sleep, exercise and rest.

Nutrition and neuroscience

The frontiers of the relationship between nutrition and brain health are being rolled back and we continue to discover the crucial role played by certain nutrients (see here). No doubt as the years pass we'll be seeing more convergence between our health related behaviours and behavioural change focussed on brain health and capacity. This is a domain that executive coaches can claim a place in if we focus joining up the dots between our work as executive coaches looking to support a client's change and the impact of nutrition on that change.

Enjoy your next meal!