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  • Writer's pictureKirsten Zerr

Health Coaching: Change The Behavior, Change Your Life

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

A lot of people ask me, "What even is a health coach? Are you like a dietitian or something?" Not exactly. We're not doctors or dietitians (although many health coaches work with doctors). We are coaches. We bridge the gap between intention and behavior, between doctor/dietitian recommendations and actions, between the seemingly impossible to possible. Has a doctor ever told to you eat more fruits and veggies? Probably. Did you do it? Maybe for a while, or maybe not at all. Did you leave your doctors office with the intention of eating more fruits and veggies? Likely! So why couldn't' you follow through? Because we don't always need more information...we sometimes need a coach! Most people have the information on how to be healthy and happy, but just don't know how to implement it into their lives. Health coaches don't tell you WHAT to do, they help you figure out HOW to do it.

A health coach is an expert in behavior change focused on health. Now what exactly do I mean by health? When you think of health, what do you think of? Do you think of fruits, vegetables, and working out? While food and physical activity are a part of health, they are just that...PART of health. Health also involves mental, spiritual, emotional, social, occupational, environmental, financial, and intellectual aspects. Health is’s the state of being well. Health coaches integrate all of those areas with clients because you can’t expect to reach your health goals when you’re neglecting an essential part of wellness. Imagine you’re sitting of 5 tacks. Pretty painful right? So to reduce this pain you decide to remove one tack. But you’re still going to be in pain because you are sitting on 4 other tacks! So if you’re striving towards a health goal and you only focus on diet, you may struggle to reach your goal because you're still sitting of 4 other tacks. In fact, multiple studies have shown improvements in various health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and chronic pain through health coaching.

Now, why is behavior change so important? Most health or weight loss program skip the behavior change process and go right into behavior. This can be explained by something called the intention behavior gap. Have you ever had intentions to lose eat healthy but didn’t follow through? Have you ever started to eat healthy but couldn’t sustain it? It is likely because you skipped right over the behavior change process.

Behavior change is one of the hardest things for humans to do because we are creatures of habit. Our brains are wired to do things we are familiar with, even if they are damaging. Going through the behavior change process is the key to developing the lifestyle you want. Most of us get stuck in the motivation stage. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a good thing. You shouldn’t have to conjure up endless motivation to do something you should already be doing. Think of something that you do out of habit every day like brushing your teeth. Now imagine if it required loads of endless motivation each time you did it. Talk about exhausting! You likely wouldn't complete that task every day. This is why you don’t want to be stuck in the motivation stage because motivation is always have to continually regain which can be exhausting!

So what stage should you strive for? The volitional, or habit forming stage. This is where you attain behaviors that last. Unfortunately unless something significantly impacted your life that cued you to change (like maybe a heart attack) you can’t just skip from motivation to volitional. You need to go through a process, and health coaches take clients through that process based on their individual goals, present lifestyle, and current barriers to success. Health coaches can help you learn how to change the behavior so that it becomes your lifestyle. That way it’s not a fight to reach your health goals.

Health coaching is more than diets and working out. It's about entering into a partnership with clients where they know they will not be judged, but rather will feel understood and respected. It is a "client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness." No, we aren't doctors or dietitians. We're your health partners who provide self-discovery, accountability, and curated information. And together, we will change your life.

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