The What & Why of Health Coaching

 
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The concept of coaching is probably not new to you: someone with expertise in an area helps you learn and improve so you excel in that area. The most common places this exists are in sports, music, and the business executive world.  Notice health wasn’t one of the areas mentioned; yet your health is one of the most important aspects of your life - and also one of the most expensive and difficult to navigate.

Why is a Health Coach Necessary?

One word: Akrasia. Coined by Aristotle, akrasia is the disconnect we have between intention and action. It’s why we fail to behave in our own best interest despite knowing what is best. To simplify, it’s a lack of willpower, and it’s inherent in all of us.  The truth is that most of us know what we need to do to be healthy - eat well, exercise, reduce stress, and get enough sleep. Lifestyle is the major factor in health and wellness, and when we do the right things, we see health benefits. But the problem is that we don’t do them...or stick with them. We have the information for how to be healthy but we don’t act on it. By our very nature, we struggle with willpower; then layer on work, kids, and everything in between, and it’s easy to see why maintaining self-control and discipline is hard. The result is that we don’t prioritize our health.  And even when we try to, it’s hard because there is a host of external factors - like family, work, social pressures, and a world designed with the default set to unhealthy that influence that. Take a look at the number and accessibility of elevators/escalators vs. stairs the next time you go into a building.

 
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Health coaches help you prioritize your health in small, manageable, and incremental steps. They help you connect the dots between where you are and where you want to be by helping you fully understand and be accountable to the lifestyle component of health.

What Exactly Does a Health Coach Do?

For starters, they help you understand what your health goals are and why. This is something really valuable because most people don’t actually know what they want or why they are doing the things they are doing. Understanding this is paramount for creating a healthy foundation on which to build upon, and research shows that creating goals results in better health outcomes.

The father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, summed it up best: “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” A good coach believes that you have the answers to whatever is challenging you but they also understand that you may need some help in figuring out what the answer is and how to make it happen.

They are a partner and collaborator with you in the process. They provide encouragement along the way, as well as accountability, so you are more likely to achieve your goals.They help you identify barriers to success, help you develop strategies and tools that work for you, and provide resources and information that can help you get where you want to go. You have someone to ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, and be there with you through the process. More importantly they have time and space dedicated to you so they are able to fill in the gap that many doctors don’t have the time or resources to fill.

The Philosophy of Health Coaching

One key aspect of most health coaches is that they don’t promote one specific type of diet or one way of eating. They recognize that everyone is unique and different so no one diet, exercise, or way of life will work for everyone. Health coaches taylor recommendations and plans for each individual based on the individual. It’s personalized information for you.

They also take a holistic approach - focusing on more than just nutrition or exercise - by looking at all aspects of your lifestyle - including sleep and stress - as well as the underlying reasons that drive any unhealthy behaviors. Many times components of our health are looked at in a silo - focusing on nutrition only or sleep only - when really they are interconnected. After all, your body is vastly complex, and one area of health greatly impacts the others. This is why the different components of your lifestyle should be looked at together.  

So much of health coaching is about increasing motivation, building upon strengths, and finding ways to make meaningful, lasting change that feels natural. It can be very empowering. But it’s important to note that most of the time the process is slow. For most people, it’s taken a long time to create unhealthy behaviors so it takes some time to unwind them and replace them with healthy ones. This isn’t about what you “should” be doing; it’s about creating habits that you want to do because they feel good and fit in with your life.

The Impact of Health Coaching

With so many diets and trends out there promising results that often don’t last, health coaching provides a path of support to create sustainable lifestyle behavior changes. By focusing on goals, the underlying reasons behind those goals, and utilizing individual strengths, health coaches can increase motivation and readiness to change among their clients. This motivation, along with a focus on small, incremental changes, has proven to be effective in changing behaviors that lead to major health risks. These behavior changes are not short-lived like so many traditional diets or remedies. Research shows that health coaching can create lasting changes that have long-term value. Health coaching can help you create sustainable behavior change that can have major impacts on your health, quality of life, and overall well-being.  

Wondering If You Need a Health Coach?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance a health coach can be beneficial to you and help you achieve your health and wellness goals:

  • Do you want to make healthy changes but don’t don’t where or how to start?

  • Are you interested in optimizing your health and wellness but don’t have a plan or know what is the best one for you?

  • Are you overwhelmed and confused by the myriad of health and wellness advice out there - from nutrition to exercise and everything in between?

  • Is it challenging for you to stick to health-related goals?

  • Is staying motivated and positive about your health and wellness challenging for you?  

  • Do you find it difficult to prioritize your health?

  • Are you tired of quick fix/fad solutions and want to make changes that last?