From time to time, I go on a health kick: I buy spinach, I actually enter the gym, I go more than 24 hours without an alcoholic beverage. The problem is that I usually launch into these whims guided only by what I’ve read on a fitness blog, and within a matter of days, fast food, cocktails and my couch draw me back into their warm, sedentary embrace. What I need is accountability … in the form of a health coach.
Claudia Deen and Megyn Jefferson, both certified health coaches, say most people come to them with the same goal: to lose weight. But clients quickly learn that a coach’s job goes beyond improving diet and developing exercise routines. It’s about emotional and physical well-being.
“We’re trained to work with people in a more holistic way,” Deen explains. “We talk about physical activity and diet, but we also talk about creativity, spiritual life, work environment—it’s about how to get these aspects of your life in balance so you can function well.”
Like Deen, Jefferson sees herself as an advocate for her clients rather than a lecturer. “We are trained to empower people to make their own intuitive decisions rather than assigning them a
diet,” she says. “We give strategies to help clients implement the changes they already know they need to make.”
And then there’s the issue of identifying the reason why a person is overeating or feeling tired or depressed. “We all want the easy solution: I’ll follow a diet and lose weight and I’ll be happy,” says
Deen. “But there’s usually a lot more to it.”
Which is not to say that a health coach is a dietitian, therapist or doctor. “We are not [to be used] in lieu of these professionals,” says Jefferson. “But we can benefit traditional medicine by partnering with a doctor to help a client comply with what is prescribed.”
And with all this work, Deen’s and Jefferson’s clients usually do lose weight. “A lot of people say ‘I feel much better, I’m sleeping much better, my intimacy with my husband is better,’” says Jefferson. “And ‘oh, I also lost 10 pounds.’ There’s always an outside improvement.”
Even though I’ve been averse to coaches since high school tennis, I’m starting to believe sustainable health habits aren’t as impossible as I once thought, as long as I have friendly face to guide me. That, and a chicken nugget or a vodka tonic every once in a while. After all, it’s about balance.