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What Are the Benefits of Having a Health Coach?

What Are the Benefits of Having a Health Coach?

They can help you reach your health goals, manage a health condition and so much more.

Want to improve your overall health? Lose weight? Quit smoking? You’re not alone. However, change is hard and sustaining behavior changes for the long-term is even harder. That’s why many people work with a health coach, a professional “buddy” who can help you achieve your health and wellness goals—whatever they may be.

Here are a few of the ways a health coach can help you.

Help prevent or manage chronic conditions
Did you know that many chronic conditions—such as diabetes and heart disease—may be prevented by eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, avoiding obesity and not smoking? Translating these simple lifestyle goals into realistic daily activities is easier said than done. However, health coaching can help.

For example, the Diabetes Prevention Program used lifestyle coaches (who were mostly dietitians) to help participants lose weight. Over three years, the study found a 58 percent reduction in new cases of diabetes for those who were at high risk.

Often, clients have a condition, such as pre-diabetes, or they want to lower their blood glucose levels into the normal range, or they have high cholesterol and want to bring it down without going on medications, says Flavia Magoba, a Sharecare coach in Silver Spring, Maryland. “We’ll talk about lifestyle changes they can make to help prevent progression to full-blown diabetes or heart disease.”

Magoba says, based on her experience, people with prediabetes are normally not referred to a registered dietitian until they’re actually diabetic. “It’s harder to reverse it then, whereas if you have prediabetes, it’s easier to prevent crossing over,” she says. A coach can help you change the way you eat. “We don’t provide [fad] diets. We provide solutions for lifetime changes,” she says.

Be an active participant in your own health
A coach helps you focus on why you’re motivated to change and encourages you to set your own health and wellness goals. After all, you’re much more likely to be committed to goals you set for yourself rather than those someone else dictates.

Magoba says good coaches learn as much as they can about their clients. “Are they looking for information? Do they need a lot of handholding? Are they resistant to change, or do they just need praise to maintain what they are already doing? I meet them where they are, but I don’t impose what I think they should be doing."

While a coach can be an invaluable source of information, support and accountability, ultimately, clients are the experts of themselves, Magoba says. “They are the drivers of the process. They know themselves more than anybody does.”

Achieve sustainable results
If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking or lose weight and didn’t succeed (or relapsed), you know it’s hard to get change to stick. A review of the literature found that when individuals have someone to collaborate with, someone who recognizes their individuality and encourages them to learn, they are more likely to change their behavior. This, in a nutshell, is health coaching. It’s also really a version of the “teach a man to fish” parable; coaching helps you develop the tools you need to make the long-term changes you want.

Bridge between your physician’s office and real life
Your physician recommended you lose weight. Now what? A health coach can help you figure out what you actually need to do to lose the weight and keep it off. “We’re not trying to replace what you’re doing with your doctor, but rather, we are an extra layer of support between doctor visits,” says Magoba. Your doctor gives you an instruction and coaches help you identify your personal vision, set actionable goals and then take small, bite-size steps to reach those goals, she says.

Anyone can benefit from having a health coach if you want to make sustainable lifestyle changes to achieve long-term wellness goals. “Our demographics vary widely, from legislators to CEOs to the average Joe,” says Spaller. “These are the people working 9 to 5 who are busy with their kids and have let their health go. They want to set goals and get back on track,” Spaller says. Ask your doctor or fitness club to recommend a health coach who's right for you.

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