You can imagine my surprise when a prominent New York City physician told me that doctors don’t know a thing about health. He argued that yes, they were extensively trained to diagnose symptom patterns into disease names and to treat the symptoms through pharmacology, but that these disease-management skills are not the same skill set needed to cultivate health. This innovative doctor saw an obvious gap in healthcare and was calling for a new profession-- a profession that was similar to a primary care doctor but instead a generalist expert in health. Long story short, I asked him if he’d heard of health coaching and landed myself a job as a resident wellness expert at his healthcare company. But that’s another blog post. At that time, I had already spent a lot of time in clinical settings, trying to figure out if I wanted to pursue my passion for health by going to medical school. I had reached a similar conclusion as my doc friend. Even the more holistically-minded clinicians I had worked with faced frustrating limitations in their capacity to elicit health-behavior change due to time and insurance constraints.
I now find myself in the unique but awesome position of working in a clinic where the doctors actually do know a heck of a lot about health. My doctor colleagues are naturopathic physicians, trained in primary care medicine from a natural-perspective. Unlike conventional doctors, their training focuses on food as medicine, botanicals, psychosocial wellness and root-cause resolution of disease.
The obvious question in a setting like Wellness Minneapolis is why would someone see a health coach rather than a naturopathic physician?
Here are some reasons it may make sense to begin your health journey with health coaching.
In most cases, the keys to creating health are shockingly simple and don’t require a medical degree to understand. They are so simple in fact, that you’d think everyone would be vibrantly well. But unfortunately, KNOWING what you should do, does not usually translate into doing it. I deeply wanted to become a daily meditator about 2 years before I actually did it. I currently know I’d be 10X happier if I spent less time each day on my phone and I have yet to solidify this behavior change. So many of my clients are focused on debating the tiniest minutiae of health (ex. which brand of supplement is best) and have yet to master the basics that would have the biggest impact (like consistent sleep and daily movement). What’s needed to create health behavior change is usually not more complex health knowledge and information. It’s usually two-fold approach: accountability and strategic support to create different daily habits + breaking down psychological barriers and cultivating health supportive mindsets. This is where coaches excel.
Alternatively, naturopaths are able to hone in on the root cause of chronic symptoms and disorders and creating a holistic treatment plan, accordingly. A naturopath’s treatment plan usually includes lifestyle changes, botanicals, and supplements. With some variation for specific issues, any plan your naturopathic doctor recommends will involve consistently getting quality nutrition, sleep, movement and managing the stress in your life. These are the four areas you need to build consistency in and a health coach is an expert at making that a reality. If you’ve already worked with a health coach, you’re likely a superstar at rocking the foundational habits of health. With these foundations in place, any targeted solutions offered in your clinical plan will yield faster, more efficacious results. Additionally, a coach can help you actually implement the lifestyle changes suggested by your naturopath.
Here’s why a health coach may be your most powerful tool for finally getting healthy:
Health Coaches Understand That The Key To Health Is Daily Habits:
Health is created by your daily choices over time. In other words, health is simply a sum total of your habits. Often we have psychological barriers that limit our ability to create lasting change. For example, I bet you already know the basic things you need to do to be healthy. But unfortunately, knowledge does not necessarily lead to consistent action. We are not rational creatures but instead influenced by myriad factors including psychological barriers (limiting beliefs), and cues in our environment. This is why it’s so important to create systems and structures that automate your health behaviors rather than relying exclusively on willpower and good intention.
Health Coaches Have A Truly Holistic Definition Of Health:
A good health coach possesses a truly holistic model of wellness, understanding that often what’s needed to create vibrancy isn’t just kale smoothies but may involve things like expanding social supports or tapping into a sense of purpose beyond the humdrum of the mundane. A good coach has strong intuition and is able to break out of any cookie cutter treatment protocol and instead taps into their clients deeper needs and unique vision for what true wellness means for them. Signing up for a coaching program also gives you the time to address multiple layers that impact health beyond just the obvious physical ones.
Health Coaches Know Health Is Simply A Series Of Learnable Skills:
A coach is an educator who can help you fill in any skill gaps that may be limiting your success. Often times health is touted as a fixed state (for example a fixed body ideal or something gifted to you only if you’ve won the genetic lottery) that some people have and some people don’t. A more empowering view is that deep self-care and health consists of consistent habits and learned skills. There are a few essential skills that make healthy living accessible and easeful. For example, some essential skills of a healthy person include basic cooking techniques, knowing how to create routines and rituals the automate behavior change without relying on willpower and learning some basic breathing and mindfulness techniques that put you in control of the state of your nervous system.
Health Coaches Help You Shift Your Mindset and Beliefs:
A coach doesn’t just focus on the externals but evokes paradigm altering mindset shifts that can change not just your behavior but how you view your sense of reality. A few key health mindsets involve adopting a growth mindset, a stress-is-enhancing mindset, and a self-compassionate mindset. A coach can also help you re-frame your limiting beliefs, expanding your sense of agency and possibility for your life. Often times these beliefs operate below our subconscious mind. A coach can help bring them into the light of awareness, where they can be questioned and changed. An example of this may be an old belief that you don’t have the right body type to attend a yoga class or that food equals love.
Health Coaches Emphasize That You Are The Expert, and focus on helping you tap into YOUR intuition and body wisdom. A coaches magic involves consistently directing you towards your own deep wisdom and desires. In a world filled with health experts, many of whom disagree with each other, it’s easy to feel confused, overwhelmed and paralyzed about where to even begin. Our current medical paradigm often exacerbates this by asking us to hand our personal power over to clinicians. A good coach teaches you tools to consistently access your own inner wisdom to find out what would be most nourishing for your body and soul. This cuts through information overwhelm and the feeling that there are a million things you SHOULD be doing. Instead, you learn to write your own prescription for what’s going to lead you to your best life.
Health Coaches Offer Accountability and Individualized Support:
A coach is an accountability partner and having accountability towards a trusted other is often one of the missing keys to changing behavior. Since a coach gets to know you deeply and works with you over time, they can uncover your unique barriers that have prevented you from achieving your health goals in the past, and hold you accountable to intelligently crafted goals uniquely suited to you. This is how you finally get the outcomes you’re desiring.
The essential ingredients that lead to health are not rocket science. In fact, the suggestions that can create profound changes in energy levels, vitality, and wellness are usually shockingly basic and simple. The reality is that most people don’t consistently do the things that lead to health. Yes, we all know getting sleep is vital for everything from weight management to optimal brain function but the tricky part is how YOU, with your unique psychology, lifestyle, and values are going to create a sleep habit that is realistic and effortless given the context of your daily life. It is at this juncture, between what you know you WANT to be doing and the REALITY of what you are doing, where a coach can be incredibly valuable in closing the gap. By working with a coach you’ll develop the key skills and habits needed to create a lifetime of health.
If you’re intrigued and would like to see if coaching is right for you, you can get started by scheduling a free 20 minute intro coaching call.