The traditional coach is a leader. An inspiration. Someone who drives us to become better. You might instantly think of a coach you had in high school. Or on your summer soccer team. But what about a coach who can help you reach your health goals?
We need a little encouragement at times. A health coach can drive you and keep you moving towards your personal long-term health goals. Ready to learn more?
What is health coaching?
Health coaching combines positive psychology with the benefits of talk therapy to create a clear path toward health improvement. When you hire a health coach, you’re in the driver’s seat with every turn on your health journey.
The Research Behind the Industry’s Growth
The latest research from a study by the American Journal of Medicine shows the value of coaching. The study’s participants showed improvements in multiple biomarker risk factors, including body mass index, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and cardiorespiratory fitness.
And data from a study published by the Canadian Journal of Diabetes found that “health coaching for those with diabetes is an effective intervention for improving glycemic control, which may be of greater benefit when offered in addition to existing diabetes care.”
Health Coaches Are Not All Regulated Health Professionals
It can be tempting to compare health coaches with other medical specialists. Health coaches are not a replacement for your regular doctor. Although many are experts in their field of study, health coaches are not trained to diagnose health conditions. They walk alongside you on your health journey, fulfilling a vital role in linking your lifestyle and medical care plans.
A doctor might tell you to lose weight and exercise more to help manage your diabetes. But how do you do so safely as you balance all the stresses and strains of your busy life? Here’s where health coaches come in.
The Role of the Health Coach
Their role is to help you understand your body and your mind. And to motivate you in reaching your health goals using safe, effective techniques.
Health coaches learn the following within their school programs:
- Dietary theories
- Goal setting and tracking
- Behavioural psychology
- Weight loss strategies
- Stress management
One Size Does Not Fit All
The success of the relationship between yourself and your health coach will define the success of the program they build. They will not order you around. There’s no hierarchy. They will be your guide and listen to you in crafting your personalized health strategies. The health coach will ask you questions about your life and your health. They harness their intuition, empathy, and medical knowledge to build a training program designed specifically for your current state of mind and for your health goals in the long term.
Key elements of the health coach’s work include:
- Building Accountability: The health coach will motivate you. They’ll remind you of the progress you’ve made and help you to stay on track. You’ll build your awareness of your health success as you go through the process. Your coach is there to prevent you wavering from your objective.
- Habit Formation: Consistency is the key to successful health programs. With their expertise in psychology, health coaches engineer progress through habit formation. They’ll empower you to create a schedule that pushes you forward. If the goal is to get more exercise, the coach will help you set a regular training routine. So all you have to do is maintain focus and stick to your customized plan.
- Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a technique coaches use to help you discover your own motivations to create change. The process can help remove psychological roadblocks. And allow you to refocus your energy and build a foundation for success.
- Stage-Based Support: Their expertise means the coach can be your partner through each stage of the improvement process. They can see when you stray from your goal and respond with clear insights into your progress so far. As the process continues, the coach will analyze your performance and make changes to your health program based on the progress made.
*It is important to keep in mind that while some health coaches are health professionals, some only take one nutrition course and are able to call themselves health coaches because the role of a health coach is currently not regulated.
The health coaches in our 360 app are registered nurses and registered dietitians who specialize in diabetes care.
Follow-Up Benefits of Health Coaching
Many people often see benefits beyond their original program goal. For example, patients can benefit from improved confidence as their health improves. Many also experience greater clarity of focus and thought through their one-on-one work with a health coach.
How to Start Your Relationship with a Health Coach
We’ve established the value a health coach can bring to your daily life. But how do you start the process of working with a health coach?
Let’s explore the initial phase of the health coaching-client relationship:
Establishing the goal: The first element in working with your health coach is establishing your goal. Maybe you want to lose weight? Or skip that quick trip to the fast-food chain every day? Perhaps, you want to motivate yourself to get to the gym?
Your health coach will discuss your most difficult challenges with you and help you set a goal that will form the foundation of your coaching program.
Remember: Your goal can change over time, so don’t worry too much about the specific goal. Getting started and enacting positive change is the most important part!
Pinpointing the required tools: Your health coach will explain the required tools you’ll need on your health journey. They will provide a continually updated resource list, so you don’t have to spend time searching personally.
Talk therapy is often a pivotal element to successful coaching programs.
Your health coach may recommend weekly discussions over Zoom or Skype to assess your progress and analyze potential obstacles. So, a meeting app might be an effective tool at the beginning of the process.
Crafting a schedule: Now the coach will help you set a schedule for the beginning stages of your health program. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, your coach might provide you a beginner’s exercise schedule for the week. This beginning step introduces you to the process and empowers the coach with actionable data about your current fitness levels.
Explore Your True Health Potential
Just like individual coaching programs, each relationship between a health coach and their client is unique. But when you do find the right professional, you’ll soon see how personalized coaching and true expert-led empowerment can enhance your overall health.
Gordon, N. F., Salmon, R. D., Wright, B. S., Faircloth, G. C., Reid, K. S., & Gordon, T. L. (2016, July 7). Clinical Effectiveness of Lifestyle Health Coaching. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125027.
Sherifali, D., Viscardi, V., Bai, J. W., & Usman Ali, R. M. (2016, February 1). Evaluating the Effect of a Diabetes Health Coach in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. https://www.canadianjournalofdiabetes.com/article/S1499-2671(15)00847-3/fulltext.