My fundamental role as a coach is to partner with you and support you in implementing positive behaviour changes designed to move you closer to your goals. The skills that I bring to the table include extensive training in behaviour change, deep listening, powerful questions, engaging motivation, eliciting and refining your view of your own health and wellness vision, and the development of well-defined long-term and short-term goals.
As a health and wellness coach, I believe in you. Rather than looking for problems in your life to be fixed, I will help you to identify what is working, where your strengths are, and how these strengths can be applied to the changes you want to make. I believe in the capacity of every client to implement positive changes in their own lives, and that working with skilled support can step the process up to a new level.
Some of the positive outcomes of working with a health coach include greater success with implementing healthy habits, weight management, improved markers relating to heart health, and significant mental health benefits. Beyond these specific health related results, there is also the wider scope of well-being, which is enormously important to our quality of life. Perhaps one of your larger goals may be to complete a sporting challenge, to return to (or begin) a particular hobby, to be fully able to relax on a family holiday, or to write a book – your coaching will focus on what needs to happen in order to get you there.
What to expect as a coaching client
The most vital thing you bring to every coaching encounter is your expertise in your own life. Each step you choose will be tailored to you, for while I may have seen other clients with what may appear superficially to be an identical goal or challenge, you are the only one living in your specific circumstances and with your particular configuration of motivating factors and underlying values.
You decide the goals, and set the agenda (with my assistance) for each individual session. Depending on your existing experience with coaching, you may be surprised to discover how granular your goals can get! For example, if you want to work on improving your sleep, what is it about sleep that you want to look at first? Examples could include implementing a more regular sleep schedule, adjustments to your bedtime routine, investigating how your diet might impact sleep, coping with shift work, or exploring the effect of screen use late in the evening. This is merely scratching the surface of the potential areas of exploration that could emerge from the overall topic of sleep, and often you may discover through the coaching conversation that the real issue is in fact something rather more distant from that than you may have initially imagined – for instance perhaps you notice that you sleep better if you exercise early in the day, so actually your next step towards improving your sleep may be related to physical movement. It is important not to underestimate the importance of small steps, however insignificant they may feel, they are vital to meaningful and sustainable forward movement.
The kinds of areas that we might explore together include questions around what your desired change might look like, what is important to you about it, any challenges you might face in implementing it, and how you might plan for them should they arise. If you are feeling stuck, we can brainstorm ideas for possible directions to consider. In some situations it may be appropriate for me to offer you a suggestion or direct you to a relevant resource for your perusal, though only if you actively want this kind of input, and certainly with no offence taken if you don’t find the offerings interesting or useful.
Aside from your expertise, what you bring to the coaching session is a willingness to explore with me, and to undertake some experiments that have real potential to help to amplify the things in your life that you feel most positive about. Together we will co-create a plan to move you closer to your desired goals.
How coaching differs from other health professions.
Firstly, it is important to note that it is outside my scope as a health coach to diagnose, treat or prescribe. I am also not a therapist or counsellor, though – if adding this kind of support seems appropriate – coaching through the process of identifying what kind of provision you want and seeking out the relevant professionals can be very helpful.
It is also not my role as a health coach to tell you what to do, or how to do it. Many professionals, particularly in the health arena, are positioned as the expert from whom we expect to receive instructions, perhaps advice, and often prescriptions of one form or another. This can be appropriate in some situations, for instance a physician has a wealth of expertise that the patient generally does not. However, the physician’s knowledge certainly does not mean that the patient has nothing to contribute to such discussions, as they remain the one and only expert on themselves and their experience. As a coach, my area of expertise is behaviour change. I will support you in maximising your success in that realm, which certainly has the potential to increase the positive impact of any recommendations other members of your healthcare team may make.
Finally, I am neither judge nor arbiter of your successes, though I will certainly help you to recognise and celebrate them. Your goals are not a yardstick by which your success or failure is measured, but rather a series of experiments that will provide valuable information regardless of the outcome. I like to describe the situation, rather than ‘win-lose’, as ‘win-learn’. Either you achieve your stated aim and move on to identifying your next step to build on that progress, or you experience a different outcome from which you can learn – with my support – and adjust as required in order to find a better way forward with a greater understanding of what works for you and what does not. This is also progress!
How helpful can a coach really be if they aren’t giving advice?
It will not be a surprise to you that I have a huge amount of faith in the power of the coaching approach. If you know anyone who has worked with a well-qualified health and wellness coach it may be interesting for you to ask them about their experience, though you do not need to rely only on personal opinions or anecdotal evidence. There is also a growing body of scientific literature to support the effectiveness of coaching in a wide variety of situations. Below are some highlights for anyone not inclined to fall fully down the rabbit hole of research.
The existing research demonstrates that health and wellness coaching as an intervention can include the following benefits:
- Successful behaviour change related to nutrition and exercise
- Reductions in body weight, BMI, blood pressure and LDL cholesterol
- Improved cardiovascular disease risk profile
- Improved blood sugar management
- Improved psychological outcomes in patients with various conditions (e.g. reductions in stress and anxiety, improved general mental health and quality of life)
- Improved adherence to medication and treatment protocols provided by medical professionals
The underpinning of the coaching approach is empowerment of the client. It is designed to support you in implementing real changes in your life, while at the same time developing skills that you can continue to apply beyond your coaching experience which can enable you to approach any kind of change with greater confidence and self-knowledge. In essence, change is not easy – or we would all be doing the healthier things we would like to be doing already – and support founded in solidly researched methodology can be a tremendous help.
It would be remiss not to mention the current pandemic given the timing of this post. Suffice it to say that as all of the conditions giving rise to increased risk of a severe course of Covid 19 can be positively affected by dietary and lifestyle intervention, even small changes in behaviour can be extremely impactful in improving our ability to cope with whatever health challenges may arise.