Health coaching. You may have heard this term tossed around but aren’t quite sure what it is. What is to be gained from such “coaching”? Do I need it? Is it worth it? Meghan here and today I am going to answer all of these questions and more for you when it comes to health coaching!
Health coaching is still an emerging field, but a very important and necessary one at that. We are beginning to see wellness coaching initiatives implemented in workplaces, online, and partnered alongside of functional medicine doctors – like we do here at STAT Wellness.
Who is a health coach?
A health coach is a trained professional who has received a certification and education to help clients set and achieve health goals through personalized guidance. Health coaches may have expertise in physiological sciences, psychology, and some even have a nutrition background too. A health coach does just that – coaches and provides guidance, mentorship, and accountability so that you are more likely to achieve your goals and stick to them for the long haul. Working with a health coach can help you identify the areas that are holding you back, tackle barriers to success, and make changes so that you can succeed.
While a health coach can help design and implement health and wellness programs, they also understand their legal/ethical and professional responsibilities and scope of practice and know when to refer to someone else for situations that fall outside of their scope of practice.
What is the end goal of working with a health and wellness coach?
Before we go any further, I think it is important to define wellness, as the term has become trendy and quite all-encompassing, including anything ranging from self-care measures, such as getting a massage, to eating clean superfoods like kale and mushrooms, to meditation and mindfulness. There is a lot going on in the “wellness” world, which is great, but in order to best understand health and wellness coaching, we need to define the end goal of wellness, what that encompasses, and how that is accomplished through coaching. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines wellness as “the degree to which one feels positive and enthusiastic about life.” This may or may not include eating certain foods, exercising a certain number of times per week, or getting regular massages. It may focus more on cultivating healthy relationships through boundaries, working through attitudes around food, developing healthier mindsets, or building a plan to make healthier eating and exercise more manageable with your schedule. Health and wellness coaching goes far beyond examining someone’s diet and exercise. Often times as the coaching relationship develops, people’s goals transform into managing stress, healthy sleep, and navigating relationships.
The main goal is to help each person identify their unique values and priorities that will encourage them to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle through behavior modification. Together, the health coach and client discuss these health and wellness goals that will get them to a place of feeling positive and enthusiastic about THEIR life and how they would like to live a heath-full lifestyle. Once the goals are determined, the coach and client work together to transform those goals into action. Health coaching uses clinical interventions such as motivational interviewing, active listening, goal setting, and the transtheoretical model of change to facilitate and initiate behavior change.
Does Health Coaching work? Is it effective?
The short answer is YES! Now, let’s get into WHY it works. We live in a day and age of information overload. We can all find what we should be doing and should be eating online, in magazines, on TV. There is no shortage of information on HOW to live a healthy lifestyle. The problem with this information overload is implementation and knowing what is right for you and how to adapt it to your lifestyle. Health and wellness is not one size fits all. Enter the role of a health coach. A health coach will help you take that information overload and figure out what is best and most important for you; we bridge the gap between basic information that can be found virtually anywhere and knowledge and science-based implementation.
It works because the partnership and support of a health coach empowers individuals to know and understand their health status and how to practice effective self-management and how to make lasting behavior change.
What are some benefits of health coaching?
Focus on your whole-person: One of my favorite aspects of being a health coach is taking a holistic approach when working with my clients. I love to look at the whole person and their entire life, understanding the emotional, physical, behavioral, psychological, nutritional, and lifestyle factors is necessary to enhance overall health and wellness. Along with looking at the whole person, it’s important to help you discover your “why” – your larger reason for change. Perhaps it’s to feel better and have more energy, be able to be healthy and present for your family, disease prevention, reducing stress, or to simply enjoy life more. Knowing your “why” will help to ground you and refocus you when you face challenges. As a health coach, when obstacles come up, I can remind you of the bigger picture and why this is important to you.
Improved compliance: Accountability, connection, guidance, and having a big picture view of your life all leads to improved compliance and maintaining healthy habits so it truly becomes your lifestyle!
Retrain your brain: So much of our struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make healthy choices lies within our mind and the unhealthy things we believe about ourselves, the negative attitudes we hold, and our sometimes misconceived notions about something. Working alongside of a health coach will help you identify these negative, irrational, and unhelpful beliefs and turn it into positive self-talk and positive thinking. So much power is in our minds and by becoming more aware of our thinking and negative self-talk, we can work to re-train how we think and view health, wellness, and ourselves. This will go a LONG way in helping you succeed at your goals!
Is there anything I should know before working with a health coach?
Health coaches are not the same as registered dietitians, meaning health coaches are not licensed to prescribe diets or give specific instructions in regards to diet.
If you are looking for someone to tell you what to do and what not to do, health coaching would not be the best fit for you. Our goal as health coaches is not to tell our clients how to live and what choices to make but rather empower them to find their own wisdom and decision-making power so that they can make lasting behavior change, which is the cornerstone for life-long wellness and well-being. My goal as a health coach is to help you develop your own ability to make healthy choices in all areas of your life so that you can stay the path even when I am not around. I know it may seem counterintuitive, but the goal of a health coach is to teach you to become self-reliant so that you can be armed with all of the tools necessary to maintain your health goals and continue to succeed long-term.
Why can’t I just talk to my doctor about these health concerns and lifestyle challenges?
It is definitely a good idea to talk with your doctor about your health concerns and lifestyle, although most doctors simply do not have the time and capacity to dig into the specifics of lifestyle change and help you work through the questions, barriers, and setbacks that will inevitably come as well as helping you build a specific plan and guide you and provide accountability along the way. This is why health coaching is a beautiful bridge between conventional medicine and complementary medicine. Health coaching takes those medical recommendations as given by your doctor and together we work to successfully implement those recommendations into your unique, complex life situation.
So what exactly will a session with a health coach look like?
First – I always like to get to know my clients and find out about their overall lifestyle. This is just a conversation to get to know one another and find out about their likes, dislikes, work, family/home life, current and past health concerns, etc. This is our initial opportunity to connect and for the health coach to build trust and rapport with the client. After getting to know one another, we then delve into your health and wellness goals and what you would like to work towards and achieve.
Knowing more about the client (i.e. past successes/failures, attitudes and beliefs about health and fitness, readiness for change, personal interests, etc.), we will work together to establish SMART Goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Creating SMART goals is an effective method for cultivating both short and long term goals and turning your ideas and aspirations into reality.
After our initial session, follow-up sessions entail checking in on your SMART Goals and actions steps we discussed previously as well as discussing barriers, set-backs, successes, and potentially new goals once other goals have been set in place and achieved.
Hopefully all of your questions have been answered and you are convinced that working with a health coach is the thing you’ve been missing and need in your life to help you make the changes you want and succeed!
If you are a MEDICINE + MOVEMENT or a MEDICINE member here at STAT Wellness, take advantage of your 10 health coaching sessions included in your membership. If you are interested in working with a health coach here at STAT Wellness, check out our different membership options or our a la carte coaching options. Book an appointment with me, Meghan, or our other health coach, Sarah, here. I look forward to meeting with you and helping you on your journey to your healthiest life.