WHAT IS HEALTH COACHING?
The 2009 Farlex and Partners Medical Dictionary defines a Health Coach as “one who educates, encourages and motivates another to achieve improved fitness or wellness.”
In addition to being a health educator, encourager and motivator, a health coach is also often a health counselor, organizer and accountability partner.
A 2017 review of 41 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) highlighted that health coaching, at its core, is a patient-centered approach that uses solution-focused techniques to enhance motivation and positive action. In health coaching interventions, coaches and patients/clients collaborate to identify health goals informed by the values, strengths and preferences of the patient/client. Interactions between coach and patient/client are generally centered around motivation, education, support and accountability to build patient-efficacy for positive change.
THE HOLISTIC, INTEGRATIVE, EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH
As a health coach, my health approach can be summed up in 3 words or phrases: holistic, integrative and evidence-based.
The holistic approach simply means we consider everything that could be having a significant effect on physical health.
The integrative approach means we look at both conventional and alternative healthcare tools and select or highlight those that are most useful while avoiding those that aren’t appropriate or even harmful.
The evidence-based approach means that we try to make sure we’ve done a thorough examination of the peer-reviewed clinical and scientific literature before advocating for or against an intervention.
In my experience the people who get the best results with health coaching are A) those who are “ready for change” and B) want to take this kind of approach with their personal health.
WHAT DOES THE HEALTH COACHING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
Health coaching with me starts with a comprehensive assessment that covers your physical condition (including all body systems as well as cellular/genetic issues) and several lifestyle/health areas (including psychological & social health, sleep, exercise & physical activity, nutrition, stress, environmental health and medical & dental factors, among others). I can also review recent lab test results from the past 6-12 months.
After the completed assessment and lab tests are sent to me, I review them and make notes before our first scheduled session (often a phone call or video conference, although local clients have the option of face to face). During the initial session, using data from the assessment and lab test results, we begin to build a personalized, comprehensive health plan that often includes a sleep plan, exercise plan, nutrition plan and ideas for further medical tests and interventions (if indicated). To keep things simple we often prioritize 1-3 daily health habits.
After the initial session the client receives a follow up email with notes from the session and an invite to a shared Google Drive folder containing various health-related resources (including any lab test results).
From there, the client is further educated, supported and held accountable through email support, health curriculum and daily readings (optional) and follow up sessions.
A 2016 study found that the core features of successful coaching include availability (ease of access), a strong relationship built on mutual trust, both personal and practical support, the coach acting as bridge between patient and other providers, and continuity (or an on-going professional relationship). I strive to emphasize all of these principles (and others) in my coaching practice.
BUT DOES HEALTH COACHING ACTUALLY WORK? WHAT’S THE SCIENCE SAY?
Maybe you’re thinking, “That sounds great and all, but does health coaching actually help people significantly improve their health?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s take a look at the peer-reviewed scientific literature…
This 2019 study of 30 obese adults in a 12 week program found that those who received health coaching via video conferencing had more favorable changes in weight loss, physical activity and insulin resistance markers than those who didn’t receiving coaching.
This 2018 systematic review of 219 scientific articles on health coaching found health coaching to be “a promising intervention for chronic diseases.” The review found that the main physical outcomes of health coaching were “a reduction in body weight, blood pressure and LDL cholesterol” and that health coaching had consistently positive effects on exercise behavior, nutritional behavior and even psychological outcomes. The study authors concluded that health coaching was a treatment adjunct “worthy of consideration for cancer, diabetic and heart disease patients.”
This 2017 review of 41 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found health coaching an effective tool to facilitate healthy behaviors among people with 1 or more chronic medical conditions. The review found that health coaching had a statistically significant effect on A1c levels, physical activity change, BMI reduction and self-efficacy (or self-empowerment). As would be expected, the study found that the type and level of the coach’s training was a key factor in treatment effects.
Another 2017 review of the literature found health coaching effective in chronic diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and that health coaching has potential to lower healthcare expenditures, especially in the long-term.
A 2014 review of 13 studies found that “health coaching produces positive effects on patients' physiological, behavioral and psychological conditions and on their social life.” The study also showed health coaching led to significant results with weight management, physical activity levels, general physical health and even mental health status.
In summary, several studies have found health coaching effective for combating obesity, insulin resistance, high A1c levels, heart disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol), cancer and diabetes. Many of these same studies found that health coaching led to positive psychological/mental, social, exercise, physical activity and nutritional change. Finally, high-quality health coaching was also found to have a self-empowering effect on clients/patients and has the potential to reduce health expenses in the long-run (usually after a year).
ARE YOU READY TO TAKE A MAJOR STEP FORWARD WITH YOUR HEALTH?
If you’re ready for a significant, positive change in your health and see the wisdom in taking a holistic, integrative and evidence-based approach, reach out to me. And if you’re not 100% sure you want to do even a single health & nutrition coaching session (let alone a one month package), you can always contact me to set up a free, no obligation 10 minute phone consult. Click here for more information on purchase options.