1. I crunch the numbers and set introductory intake targets, to set a benchmark.
Generally speaking, the total calorie range in these introductory targets will be the lowest I'd ever consider appropriate for this client. The targets for dietary fats, protein, and carbohydrates are in a "this much is adequate, closer to this amount is probably more ideal if you don't find it too difficult" format.
More often than not, the total calorie target is still quite significantly higher than the client has been attempting to limit to in the past.
2. The client is a little overwhelmed by all these numbers.
This is normal, and usually I'll tell them something like "you don't have to nail it right away, just do your best and we'll try to hit a little closer to the mark more consistently in the weeks ahead. We have forever to get it right".
3. The client finds it so easy to hit their targets, they imagine they must be doing it wrong.
We're so used to the idea that it's really hard to lose weight, and that getting your diet right is complicated and difficult, it often seems to create some cognitive dissonance when a new client finds it so easy to hit the targets I've given them.
Often the client is convinced they will not succeed despite hitting their intake targets quite accurately, due to including some "not clean" choices here and there. On investigation of their food logs, I usually find they are actually still a little short on total intake, and I advise they should have actually taken a second serving of whatever "bad" choice of food they were concerned about.
4. Perhaps just as often though, the client reports in that they are exceeding their fat target, and falling a little short of their protein target.
Regarding the fats, remember we're talking about a minimum target, the least I would consider adequate. Therefore, exceeding it is exactly what should be happening. It would actually be quite unlikely to fall short of minimum adequate fats, other than in very deliberate and restrictive circumstances.
As to the protein? Just do your best for now.
5. Upon weighing in, the client has lost weight. Or at least failed to gain weight despite eating a lot more.
If the client has lost weight, we'll stay with the targets we have until we have reason to move them. If not, we will increase until we reach a level of total intake most suitable for results from training.
In some cases the client has not actually lost weight, but there is an observable improvement in body composition. Aka "leaning out". This is due to more appropriate fueling, and the body having resources available to adapt favourably to training.
6. Client reports being incredibly hungry, despite now eating perhaps 50 or 100% more than previously, and still seeing better results.
We increase minimum targets accordingly, and in some cases I set no upper limit on intake. In other words "no less than this amount, but listen to your body and if it tells you it wants more, you better give it some".
Eating more but not gaining weight, or eating more and actually losing weight, and feeling more hungry than ever is a sure sign that your body is taking up all of the fuel and resources that you are providing, and putting them all to good use in recovering and adapting favourably to training, just the way you want it to.
The conventional wisdom that you will lose more weight by eating less and less and less is baffling to me. To see any results from training, you must provide adequate fuel and resources for the body to utilise. The closer to "ideal" levels, the more pronounced and consistent the results, but "adequate" will still get you there. Most of the way at least.
7. The client reports a few bad days, failing to adhere to their targets.
This happens because people have lives outside of training. Careers, social obligations, birthday parties, or maybe they just really felt like pizza one night.
I'm never remotely concerned when this happens. Almost without exception, they still report in with good progress at the end of the week.
8. The client quickly unlearns any ideas about not being cut out for success in weight management, any hang ups about enjoying different choices of foods, and becomes more confident and enthusiastic about training and consistently hitting closer to ideal intake.
Boom. Goes. The. Dynamite.