What is Health Coaching?
“Integrative Health Coaching empowers you to make lasting health behavior changes that are the cornerstones of lifelong well-being. It bridges the gap between medical recommendations and your abilities to successfully implement those recommendations into your complex life.” -Duke Integrative Medicine
Back in college, I might have benefited from the support of a health coach. I was an independent young adult who was trying to cover the chaos that was much of my childhood by controlling what I ate. During my sophomore year, I was barely breaking 100 lbs, hitting aerobics and eating just one apple a day on a “good day.” By the time summer break rolled around my ribs were poking out of my back, my hair was falling out, and I couldn’t stop crying.
My mom booked an ‘emergency’ visit to a psychologist where I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. The doctor’s medical recommendation was a 12-week outpatient program that consisted of weekly group meetings. Our group was quite the motley crew of disordered eating, and this mixed bag didn’t quite lend itself to unconditional support. One lady who was obese and struggling with OE (over eating) chastised us anorexics in the group for bemoaning our inability to eat saying “I wish I had their problem.”
Still I attended every group and did my homework: Eat. I passed the program which pleased everyone, the world went on spinning, and everyone went on with their lives. Meanwhile, I was sent back to school out of state feeling no more equipped to face food and feeling fatter than ever.
If anyone did show concern it was with “If you don’t eat, you’ll die” kinds of statements didn’t exactly play to my strengths. With a lack of unconditional support and accountability, it didn’t take long for my bad habits to creep right back in, and for 10 more years, I went on trying to hide my non-eating.
Today at 47 years old, I am happy to say those seasons have passed, and I am truly comfortable with who I am. Of course, life happens and I sometimes slip back into old habits. But overall, I strive for balance between eating well most of the time and allowing for indulgences. Instead of expecting nothing less than grueling workouts from myself every single day, I take plenty of rest or just plain relaxing days.
My decades-long journey to self-acceptance came with many starts and stops and changes along the way; I sometimes wonder whether it might have gone a little faster if I’d had someone like a coach in my corner.
I imagine myself bringing my diagnosis and my Healthy Eating toolbox to a coaching session. I picture my coach encouraging me to create a vision of my healthy future. I see us uncovering my strengths, setting attainable goals and walking side-by-side until I was living that healthy vision.
Today as a health and wellness coach, I get to be that missing link who helps others “…create a climate where positive change can occur, maintain motivation, turn setbacks into progress, and make new beneficial habits to replace the ones eliminated, change will occur.” Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, Professional Certified Coach and a Certified Wellness Practitioner.
As a health coach, I get to do this in part by drawing from my own past experiences. So for this, I wouldn't change a thing.