Precision Nutrition has grown into the largest private nutrition coaching and research company in the world. They claim to have coached 35,000 men and women during the last 12 years. Their certification program is also very popular, certifying almost 25,000 people (including me).
I'll talk about my experience with the certification process and why I chose them in a future post. Here, I'll be reviewing my second-hand experience with their coaching program. If you think this will automatically be a glowing review since I'm certified through them, you'd better read on.
The Precision Nutrition (PN) coaching programs are divided into two groups: one for men and one for women. The program is one full year and costs in the neighborhood of $1,000 (there's a discount for joining early).
The program is built on developing habits...one every two weeks. Everyone in the group gets the same habits to work on, and everyone moves on to the next habit regardless of how things have gone. In other words, it's not personalized at all. For the price (it's about $85/month or less), a fully personalized program is not expected. But since PN coaching is based on working with individuals, this program is really more about economics: making it more affordable for clients, and making more money for PN.
There are daily lessons in the form of online pages. And a forum for asking questions or sharing stories. (In general, certain types of people find these useful, and dominate the forums.)
Clients can get "personal" attention via emails or phone calls with the coach, but the experience here was that such attempts resulted in formulaic responses rather than any attempt by the coach to work with the client. Again, this does not mesh with the PN coaching program (i.e., what they teach people who take their certification course), and different coaches no doubt give different service, but this was an experienced, respected PN coach whose performance was not inspiring.
The program also includes an exercise plan. Regular StrongFast Planet readers know what I think about one-size-fits-all programs. How does PN know the client is OK to perform the exercises? How do they know the exercises are being performed safely and effectively? (They don't. Twice.) One of the exercises in particular seemed ill-suited to a weight-loss group. When asked about it in the forum, the coach's response indicated she did not know what the exercise was. Maybe it's because the PN coaching certification includes nothing about exercise performance. But really, you'd expect the coaches representing PN would have a good understanding of the exercises the clients are asked to perform.
There are also group video chat meetings (video optional). These usually involved the coach presenting some topic and clients sharing their experiences, but client experiences were not dealt with well, receiving rote responses or being largely ignored. This was very disappointing.
It's also interesting that the number of participants in the meetings dwindled quickly after the program started. What happened? Did they drop out? PN likes to tout the hundreds of thousands of people they've worked with, but how many of them had success? You don't know how many people are in your group when it starts or what happens to them or how many groups there are. The program clearly works for some people, and with so many people participating that means a nice pool of success stories. (This is the same model used by the infomercial programs, too: get enough people, and some of them will be the right fit for the program.)
Another disappointing aspect of the program (are you sensing a theme?) was the way clients who "disappeared" were ignored. The onus was entirely on the client to reach out for help (and good luck getting it). Hey, PN: if you had an individual client who had paid for coaching and stopped showing up, would you just ignore them and keep taking their money? Hopefully not; they'd reach out to the client to find out what was going on. Again, this is a group program so calls to the many (most?) clients who disappear would be taxing. But at least send them emails! Weak.
But hey, it wasn't all bad. Some of the "habits" were helpful, such as eating slowly ("mindful") or eating to 80% full ("hara hachi bu"). And just being in a program (that you paid money for) helps raise awareness of your eating habits. The "slow and steady" approach is a good one, much better than trying to lose a lot of weight (not all fat) quickly and trying to keep it off (good luck with that). There's some good information in some of the lessons, although it can be information overload with the daily pace and many of the lessons may not be applicable to you. And the client in this case did lose some weight during the year, which is better than nothing.
Oh, and in case someone from PN reads this, here's a tip: If a client feels like a "failure" at the end, it doesn't mean he or she failed, it means the coach failed. And if the coach doesn't know what happened to clients, that's a failure too.
After the program ended, PN sent a "Hey, do it again!" email, with the implication that the client now knows what to expect and could do a better job the next time. No. If anything, they should be sending a "Give us another chance, we sucked" email. But there's probably no profit in that.
So is PN coaching for you? It could be. You'll have to be proactive about getting support when you need it, and the quality of that support will vary with coaches, but plenty of people have had success with the program. (Although what percentage of clients succeed we don't know.)
After all this you might wonder why I did my certification with PN. Stay tuned...that story is coming in a future post.
Be seeing you.