The client takes it out on the trainer ("What did I pay you for?"), and the trainer returns the favor ("You must not have been doing your homework!") This not only discourages the client, but it gives the fitness industry a bad name. We as trainers already operate in an ungoverned world of certifications, workshops, and educational credits that have no unified educatory guidelines to regulate the quality of what we are taught. So who should be held responsible in this sort of situation? Perhaps both people; let's take a closer look.
Both the trainer and the client should understand what it takes to create a successful nutrition plan that keeps clients happy and gets results. The key word in this plan should not be "extreme", or "trendy", and certainly not "special pills". The most important word in this process is "balance". First off, you must balance your caloric intake and your caloric expenditure - aka, calories in/calories out. It's no secret that for people to lose weight, we must create a calorie deficit. We can achieve this by decreasing the calories we take in during the day, or increasing the calories we burn. This balance will not look the same for everyone, which is why it helps to have a professional to construct your plan. As a baseline, most people can see weight loss by taking in around 10 calories per pound of body weight per day; maintenance would be around 12 cal/lb/day, and weight gain above that in the 14+ range. Keep in mind, these are baselines to work off of, and aren't an absolute measure. Your own bio-individuality will dictate where your sweet spot is!
Now just to mess with you, I'll let you know that almost none of my clients count calories. (reader makes annoyed face here) It's true! The reason being, we find balance in the foods they eat. Most of the people I work with are looking to lose weight & bodyfat, and thus they fall into my general parameters for weight loss and composition improvement. Rather than count calories, we look at what is on their plate. I am a big advocate of whole foods (whole foods, not Whole Foods. Although to be fair, I do love Whole Foods too...) Anyways, whole foods! Meals that you bought the ingredients for, prepared at home, and ate on a plate or in a bowl. This helps a) increase awareness of what is going into your meals, and b) regulate portions and ratios. The fitness industry has countless mentions of macro balance and ratios, and can be a bit overwhelming for someone that isn't necessarily interested in poring over all the research out there. Which is fine, by the way; your client doesn't need to be an expert scholar in all things fitness and nutrition. That's why they hired a professional! So in the quest to balance our plates, I suggest 3-4 meals per day, with a snack if needed. The images here represent a smarter version of the government's 2011 MyPlate initiative, which updated the antiquated Food Pyramid which was last updated in 1992. These show what their plates should look like with a balanced intake. *Keeping in mind again, this is ideal for people looking to get lean and drop some weight - an increase of carbs would be better if you are looking to add muscle mass, and mandatory for any of you athletes out there that will be competitively active for more than 90 minutes.
This being said, it is also important to balance your healthy eating with your unhealthy meals. Yeah, I said it; eating unhealthy meals can be good for you! Adhering to a clean eating schedule 100% of the time usually will lead to feelings of guilt and disappointment associated with food. An approach using the Pareto principle (the ol' 80/20 rule) can be tweaked a bit to say that once you've got a good handle on your food intake, you should allow yourself a cheat meal or two during the week in order to keep yourself from slipping into obsessive mindsets that forbid anything deemed "unhealthy". Again, this should come into play AFTER you have adjusted to making the predominant amount of your meals pretty clean. From there, your balance of clean/dirty eating could look something like this: