Ever heard the saying, “If you keep having the same problem, you’re the problem?” Yep. That’s true. Wherever I go, there I am. I’m a health coach but I’m also human. Just when I think I’ve figured everything out, another episode of Groundhog Day starts in a familiar fog of deja’ vu. It’s not easy to live and learn at the same time.
Training to be a health coach has opened my eyes to a whole new way (new to me, not necessarily anyone else) of dealing with the darker aspects of myself. I used to assume that healing requires insight to the root cause of an issue. But I’ve learned that understanding why something is wrong doesn’t change what is wrong. Explanations don’t produce change. We can spend a lot of money to have a doctor tell us what’s wrong. We can spend even more to have a therapist tell us why it’s wrong.
Or we can let go of the cause and work on the solution.
Let me share a wee-bit-too personal story of how health coaching worked for me.
In the fall of 2015, I fell into a post-marathon funk. I hadn’t actually run a marathon, but a finish line had been crossed. My book was finally sent to the publisher. And during the three years it had taken me to finish it, I had gone through a divorce, moved with my four children, remarried and inherited three stepchildren. After many intense struggles, highs and lows, my life down-shifted from chaos into peace overnight.
But I don’t do peace very well. Survival mode is motivating, albeit stressful. With no more fires to fight, I was at a loss for what to do next. There was no “normal” to get back to—too much had changed. So I enrolled in a health coaching certification program, hoping that furthering my education would help me figure out what came next.
What came next was winter–both actual and proverbial. Despite the fact that nothing was wrong—everything was actually right!—I felt stagnant and depressed. I’d go days without leaving the house. I slept too little, drank too much and forgot to work out. My sense of self and self-esteem seemed out of reach.
The health-coaching program proved to be a lifeline. In learning how to help others caught in their own spirals of descent, I was given the tools to help myself. And it was unlike any intervention I might have predicted. I had assumed that since there was nothing wrong in my life, the problem must be me. Crap . . . wherever I go, there I am.
But there was something wrong in my life. Looking at it from a holistic view helped me to see living in survival mode had allowed me to neglect other areas of my life. When survival mode ended, I was dazed and confused because I thrive on community and connection. Without those, I stop thriving. Health and happiness are inextricably linked, and require balance in all facets of life–not just the areas we prefer to focus on at the expense of the others. The epiphany came with an activity called the Wellness Wheel. There are 12 domains, each represented by a spoke in the wheel. I rated my satisfaction in each domain. It was immediately obvious why I wasn’t rolling steady through life like I should be. My wheel had a flat.
But the good news is that it was just a flat–not a fatal flaw in my character or mental health. The darkness was simply a lack of light. Awareness led to action. I visualized what my ideal and balanced life would look like. Each week, I set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Baby steps propelled me from my (dis)comfort zone. Soon it was spring—both real and proverbial.
Had I stuck with the assumption there was something wrong with me, the shame and guilt of my pathetic state would have perpetuated the cycle in which I was stuck. This is the beauty of health coaching. We don’t focus on what has brought you down. We focus on what will bring you up. The negative circumstances holding you back don’t matter nearly as much as the strengths and values that will move you forward. Healthy habits and happy feelings are far more rewarding than doom and gloom. Eventually the bad behaviors get “crowded out.” Balance is the most powerful anti-depressant.
Health coaching strives to solve problems so that they stay solved. Because life is full of curve balls. Accepting responsibility for your own wellness allows you to take corrective action instead of waiting around for rescue. There is always something you can do to improve today. And every something you do adds up to an even better tomorrow.
I’m a health coach, and I’m human. Groundhog Day episodes are part of my struggle. But when I find myself stuck in repeat mode, I need only to remember that there is nothing wrong with me that I can’t handle. I’ve simply put too much emphasis in one area of my life at the expense of the others. Darkness is a lack of light! Actions that restore balance turn on the light. Challenge accepted. Game on . . .
Interested in health coaching? Read more about working with me . . .
Sometimes, it’s nice to be told what to do.
Let me start over. When it comes to our health, we’re used to being told what to do. It’s easier to accept a prescription than responsibility. Yet it’s our lifestyle that triggers chronic disorders and disease. And research shows (and countless people are discovering for themselves) that issues can be managed and reversed by making changes within our control.
Change is hard. For the most part, we know what we need to do. Drink less, sleep more, increase veggies and stop eating (and drinking) processed crap. Got it. But that’s too simple and also too hard. So we look for the hack. Pills are easy to swallow and programs get quick results. There are solutions at every price point.
But what happens when the pills cause more problems than they solve? Or when the program stops working because we can’t stick with it? Depending on our personality, we buy into the next promise or stoically accept our fate.
There’s another option—a new buzzword in town. I’ll explain what health coaching is, how it’s different than what you might expect, and why it works. It’s a complete shift from the normal “help” we’ve been offered. I’ll be honest. I didn’t understand health coaching until after I became one.
I wanted to be a certified health coach because I know a lot about nutrition and wellness. And I love to talk about it. Free advice is my specialty . . . you’re welcome. I’m the go-to gal with the fun food facts. Heck. I even wrote a book. Evidently, I had a lot to say–it’s so thick that few people actually finish reading it. It’s like a bible. But that’s ok–I’m proud of it. I continue to share the good news in every medium I can manage. Just sit next to me at the next band competition and see for yourself. Bring a notebook in case you want to write stuff down.
Imagine my shock when I learned in the certification process that effective coaches listen more than they talk. This was disappointing in light of my abundant words of wisdom. It was awkward to learn that my advice won’t work for everyone. In fact, it may not work for me indefinitely. I can’t lay claim to having the answers. My job as a coach is to help others figure out what they need, what works for them, and most importantly, how to auto-correct as life evolves.
From a young age, we’re told that the professional opinion is the correct answer. Experts are the authority. And this is true in many situations. Medical school is a legal prerequisite for diagnosing disease. But while doctors do prescribe treatment, it is not their job to guide you step-by-step to wellness. Doctors manage what’s wrong. In contrast, coaches help you discover how to get right.
Coaching is an emerging field in healthcare. Thus, most people do not understand what we do and where we fit into the big picture. It’s unlikely that your doctor has referred you to a health coach, and less likely that your insurance company agrees to pay for it. The landscape is changing fast, as evidence demonstrates that coaching yields significant results (at a fraction of the cost). For now however, we are still outliers in the system (aka out-of-pocket-eers). That will change in the near future.
Despite my theoretical understanding of coaching, I still gave a lot of advice when I began seeing clients. That paradigm is hard to shake. Clients expected me to be the expert and I wanted to deliver. And in the short-term, my rules (or anyone else’s) can work. Try this! Do that. You’ll likely make some headway. But eventually, there is a wall. Following someone else’s program requires a lot of willpower because it belongs to someone else. Eventually, you run out of steam and it doesn’t work anymore.
How Does Health Coaching Work?
When the walls closed in on my clients, and my advice was no longer working, I felt as discouraged as they did. Their failures became my own. So I enrolled in a masters degree program. I knew that I could do better. Coaching is a skill. Done well, it is powerful—just look at the results that business, executive and life coaches get! They charge big bucks, and the investment pays for itself many times over. Within a few months of entering the program, I made the turn. I got it. I stopped talking and started asking questions. And the answers were there.
We are each the expert of our own life. My job as a coach is to help you own that. There is no such thing as an “unmotivated” person. We’re all motivated by something. Sometimes our brain-wires get crossed. Coaching untangles those wires and brings clarity to our behaviors. I ask questions like, “You said this, but you’re doing that. Why?” And your answer leads to the next step. Connecting to your own unique values and God-given strengths results in lasting change.
My clients made the turn with me, once I stopped assuming I knew what they needed. They reached their goals and now push beyond. In turn, they inspire me. That’s what I love about coaching. I get to grow too. I do offer direction when asked, but now it’s more like an open-ended set of options. My clients chose their path. Together we evaluate the results and plan the next step. I don’t miss giving a lot of advice because plain and simple, that didn’t work. Failure isn’t rewarding.
And that proves that personal transformation is possible. Because if I can figure out how and why to stop telling people what they need to do next, you can change too!
P.S.: Please realize that results don’t happen overnight. I am not offering a quick fix, rather real and lasting transformation. Together we will take one step at a time, and you will get where you want to go in a way that allows you to stay there. Check out Anna and Missy’s stories below. I’ve worked with both of these ladies for over a year.
Who Needs a Health Coach?
In my opinion, everyone can benefit from health coaching. Including me. In my observation, there are three categories of people:
- Those struggling and want help.
- Those struggling but prefer to argue that change is not possible.
- Those who aren’t struggling but are ready to tackle a new goal.
Which category describes you? Would you like to give health coaching a try? I offer free consultations. Submit a health history form and I’ll contact you for an appointment.
What is a Health Coaching Program?
Health coaches often have a specialty that appeals to a specific group of people. The overall focus of my program is nutrition and wellness. Though every client is unique, I most often deal with people looking to lose weight or maintain their weight loss, balance gut health and improve digestion, reduce chronic symptoms like pain, allergies and IBS, combat cravings, manage stress, and/or incorporate more home-cooked meals with meal plans, recipes and efficient strategies. My intention is to help you:
- Discover what foods or diet plan works best for your body.
- Assess your life from a holistic perspective.
- Identify assumptions and thought patterns that are working against you.
- Find true motivation, inspiration and energy.
- Focus forward with timely, achievable and realistic goals.
My health coaching program provides you with:
- Two private 50-minute sessions per month
- Ongoing email and phone support between sessions
- Simple healthy recipes and nutritional guidance
- Resources specific to your needs and goals (books, videos, websites, handouts, etc.)
What is Group Coaching?
Working one-on-one with a health coach means that every session is all about you. However, so much can be learned from others. Tapping into collective wisdom and experiences, and brainstorming from different perspectives can lead to discoveries you might otherwise miss. Group coaching is based on a team environment of confidentiality and trust, where group members are open to being coached. Themes arise from individual issues and questions. Discussions and exercises reveal varying perspectives that can offer a feeling of normality, inspiration, and multiple layers of support and accountability.
Anna M.–Tallahassee, Florida
“I have been a single mom since shortly after my children were born. For 10 years, I worked in a high stress job and spent all of my time taking care of my kids. Fourteen months ago, my weight hit an all time high. I was five feet tall, 165 pounds, and needed Spanx to squeeze into my biggest clothes. So I spent a year going to a personal trainer 3-4 times a week, and cut back on unhealthy food. When I didn’t loose any weight, my doctor referred me to a metabolic specialist, who found that my triglycerides were at 602, and my total cholesterol was at 347. A genetic test indicated that I don’t metabolize cholesterol very well. Statins were prescribed, and I was told I’d need them the rest of my life. But even at small doses, the side effects were immediate. Muscle fatigue, cramping, flu-like symptoms, daily exhaustion, and several severe depressive episodes were debilitating. I tried at least five different statins and each was as bad as the last.
I couldn’t live this way. So I did my research and made a decision. I believed that if I changed my lifestyle, cleaned up my diet and lost weight, I wouldn’t need those drugs. But I felt like I’d already tried everything! Even my doctor believed I’d always need the statins regardless of my efforts. It seemed hopeless.
And then I started working with Colleen. Unexpectedly, most of our sessions were not spent talking about what I should and shouldn’t eat. Self-defeating thought patterns were my greatest challenge. Colleen helped me get out of my own way and overcome my fear that things would never change. Every small step gave me the confidence to take another. I just needed someone else to believe in me until I could believe too. The weight was slow to come off and I had to push through frequent plateaus. But I now weigh a healthy 118 pounds. My cholesterol and triglycerides have dropped into the normal range—off the statins!—and continue to fall. And I have no fear that I can’t sustain this. Colleen didn’t just help me lose weight. She guided me to a completely new perspective. Her coaching style – combining both nutritional and psychological counseling – has been instrumental in my success. I know that I did the work, but I give Colleen all of the credit. And now that I have the knowledge (and the energy!) I will pay this success forward, starting with my kids!” –Anna M.
Missy B. — Fort Wayne, IN
“I lost over 100 pounds on my own. And then it started coming back. It was embarrassing and shameful to think I was destined to be among the 95 percent of people who regain all their weight. I envied the healthy and active people who seemed to have it easier than I did. Working with Colleen gave me the tools and skills to transform my relationship with my body and my understanding of food. She encouraged me to trust my intuition. She challenged me to break my own rules (because they were holding me back). Now, for the first time in my life, I am happy with myself and so very proud of who I’ve become. I would never have believed this was possible without Colleen’s support.” – Missy B
I cook for a big family and live on leftovers, so I double most recipes, including this one. My kids had so many second-helpings of creamy vegetable casserole that there was nothing left for lunch today. Good for them, bad for me.
Creamy vegetable casserole is true comfort food, and yet it’s the pinnacle of a whole food planted based meal. It’s very low budget as you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, mixing fresh, frozen and canned supplies. Creamy vegetable casserole is simple, fast, warm and delicious. The secret here is in the creamy, filling and flavorful sauce. Top with bread crumbs, baked garlic tofu and fresh herbs and you’ve got a culinary masterpiece.
This recipe was inspired by Molly at http://www.cleanfooddirtygirl.com. I cannot say enough about her meal plans. Every week, I get a shopping list, step-by-step batch-cooking instructions, and every meal is the best ever. Check her out!
Store-bought vegan cheeses do the job and I use them when necessary. But less is way more. They are filled with oils and additives. They highlight the difference between “vegan” and “whole food plant based diet.” The later is best, but sometimes compromise is called for.
Lately there are lots of recipes out there for homemade plant cheeses. This one is adapted from Molly at Clean Food Dirty Girl. I was pleasantly surprised. I doubled the batch as I cook for a crowd, and have served it in soups, over veggies, made toasted cheese, quickie pizzas and even eaten it plain. The flavor is fantastic and it reheats well-enough.
Roasted Red Pepper Romesco Sauce
Since discovering Molly’s recipes @CleanFoodDirtyGirl, my weekly menus have expanded and improved. Don’t get me wrong, I could survive on my signature cashew cream forever. But cashews are expensive and high in calories. It’s been eye opening to see that white beans, tofu and most vegetables can be used to make cream sauces (check out this alfredo recipe) that are low calorie and high flavor.
It’s funny that after 25 years of cooking for myself, I still discover blind spots. Despite my kitchen competency, I had no clue how roasted red pepper sauce or soup was made. When instructions are included in the title, the obvious can be hide.
This is adapted from Clean Food Dirty Girl. I subscribe to Molly’s weekly meal plans and every recipe is AMAZING.