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5 Surprising Benefits of Having a Health Coach

Co-authored by Gerda Venter

April is here, and the New Year you had envisioned filled with healthy living choices, renewed energy, lifestyle changes, healthy habits, and hope for feeling your best may feel nowhere near reality for you. You are not alone!

Your goals feel unreachable, and you may feel confused about which health approach to choose to have optimal health and vitality. Should you count calories? Increase exercise? Count carbs? Try intermitted fasting? Meditate? A combination of the above?

You may need a customized approach to transform your health—inclusive of your health history, your family's health history, chronic conditions, lifestyle, eating habits, metabolism, and even your stress coping mechanisms. What you may need this year is a little expert advice in the form of a health and wellness coach.

If you're like most people, you probably think of a health coach is someone who helps you lose weight or get in shape. And while a good health and wellness coach can certainly help with those things, there are many other benefits to working with one.

What is a health coach?

Health and wellness coaches are professionals helping people get to the root of their health problems by focusing on the whole person using whole foods, a healthy lifestyle approach and supplementation.

Health Coaches are specialists in behavioural change. They help people change when change is hard. And change is always hard! They know that just having a prescription or a treatment plan does not necessarily mean that you will make that much-needed change.

They partner with you and other experts because they believe that you are an expert in yourself and your own experience. This relationship is formed with an atmosphere of compassion, unconditional acceptance, and empowerment.

I am a Family Physician. Our Canadian Family Physician guidelines for many diseases are to implement lifestyle changes first. For example: If one of my patients develop type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, I would advice them on lifestyle changes, to eat healthier, move more, lose weight, and come back in three months. Only if my patients are not able to lose weight or address the root cause of their illness, then I would prescribe medication.

I have been surprised at how few of my patients have been able to make these lifestyle changes and how many end up on medication. I must admit, for the first 15yrs as a doctor my patients have had limited success with lifestyle changes. Some patients have had phenomenal results addressing the root cause of their illness, turning auto-immune diseases around, resetting their metabolism to such a degree that we can slowly take them of their diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Unfortunately, most of my patients did have to take medication.

Only recently, after I trained through the Institute of Functional Medicine I started using Health Coaches trained by IFM in my Clinic. Referring my patients to a Health Coach has been a complete game changer for me as a doctor. My patients find working with a Health Coach gives them that time and space to understand their illness, understand their management plan, implementing their plan, keeping them accountable and someone to trouble shoot obstacles with. My patients have had such incredible success obtaining their desired health outcomes with the help of a Health Coach, that I now use a Health Coach with all my clients at Wellness MD.

A health coach provides many layers of support to eliminate the confusion that comes with working towards losing weight and eliminating health issues—ultimately assisting you in achieving long-term sustainable change while keeping you on track if (or when) you lose hope, momentum, or focus.

Coaches assist clients in developing support systems and recognize and address beliefs and thinking patterns that might hinder progress. They emphasize autonomy and self-regulation while also supporting the need for accountability.