3 Things I've Learned as a Health Coach
I began health coaching at a chiropractic based wellness center about a year and a half ago.
I know, ironic right? I feel like there's this on-going tiff between health coaches and dietitians (RD's). Well, being a health coach while in school to become an RD, I've had the opportunity to see both sides.
It couldn't have come into my life at a more perfect time. I had just graduated from undergrad with a degree in kinesiology, and was taking a year off from grad school to save money, figure out my life, and start this whole #adulting thing.
At the time, I was blowing through podcasts from famous functional medicine practitioners, reading books like Grain Brain + The Paleo Cardiologist, and watching documentaries about the current state of our food industry.
After inundating myself in this "wellness" realm, I was PUMPED to start helping people gain back their health. We're so sick, overweight, and lethargic, I thought, I could help people reverse this! All I had to do was educate the clients on this information I have been learning, and they could get better!
Yeahhhh, not quite.
After seeing consistent behaviors among all types of clients over the past year and a half, I realized I felt more like their therapist than their educator.
It's so much more than food.
1. it's rarely, rarely, rarely about their weight
On the first visit, I'd ask clients their goals, and most would say to lose weight. Or they'd dance around the subject a little bit, then say 'Oh, and I expect to lose X amount of pounds.' In the beginning, I would try and help them with this. After about a year of coaching I consistently noticed a theme with everyone who came in making weight loss their number 1 goal.
There was almost always something else going on in their lives that they were trying to escape.
For example, someone may have just gotten a divorce, just moved to a new place, just started a new job, or were nearing 50 or 60 years old. It was almost as if they were looking for something in their life they could maintain control over when everything else seemed out of control. Controlling their body size just seemed to be their way to do so.
I even could relate to this myself. Not all days are perfect, and not all days are #bodypositive, but I always take a step back to see where my thoughts are truly stemming from. A Sunday night when I'm getting anxious for the week ahead? During a move? Right before I start a new semester? Becoming aware of where these feelings are coming from makes it easier to find what the real problem is.
I like to call diets the "ultimate life distractor." Focusing on numbers, body size, and food all day is a great way to distract you from other things that may deserve more of your attention. Or a great way to almost numb yourself from feeling uncomfortable feelings.
As always, dropping weight loss as your focus ≠ dropping your health. I think health can be more easily experienced while not tracking numbers. It can be done with things like eating slowly + mindfully, choosing foods that nourish your body, and moving in ways that feels good to you.
2. The more people know, the more they seem to need help
Another thing I continually noticed was how much people knew about nutrition. They'd tell me how they bought chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut flour, ezekiel bread, plus tell me all the latest research on antioxidants.
This just goes to show you how
- diets are being more and more hidden by 'wellness' as they become less marketable
- knowledge means nothing if you don't know what you're really trying to deal with
For example, someone would come in and be so distraught as to why she didn't eat the handful of Trader Joe's seaweed snacks at night instead of binging on chocolate. Knowledge about what's in these foods means nothing if you don't realize you're not eating enough during the day leading to a natural binge at night, or constantly trying to soothe your uncomfortable feelings with chocolates.
3. Nutrition is Never One-Size-Fits-All
This one is pretty straight forward, but even if I read a clinical study from The Journal of the American Medical Association claiming something to be true, or heard something from Dave Asprey's podcast, it still doesn't mean it works for everyone.
How can we offer blanket statement nutrition help to single moms working full-time jobs with 2 kids at home and a man working 80 hours a week who doesn't have much time to prepare meals as well as someone who has more access to wholesome foods, gyms, and kitchen time? What happens when people can't have certain foods due to allergies or diseases? What happens if people simply don't like kale? (I think I just heard Sweet Green gasp from here).
Offering advice requires putting yourself in your client's shoes. What's their day like? What is the most realistic and efficient thing to make or do in this situation? What does this person actually enjoy eating? This is when things can get fun. We focus on nourishing foods, foods they actually like to eat, and ways to practice self-care.
With that all being said, I still love health coaching. I feel so lucky to have experienced this before becoming an RD. I originally had goals to get out of school and help people lose weight by eating clean in order to becoming their "best selves." Now, I make sure to focus on the client, their lifestyle, and finding things that work for them without focusing on weight.
I have the most fun with clients who come in and tell me that their overall wellbeing is more important than what the scale says. And you know what? They're the ones who have the biggest sustainable lifestyle changes anyway.
Who woulda thunk.