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Healthy Aging

Could a Health Coach Be for You?

By Sheryl Kraft

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With the recent news that health spending is flattening out, my first reaction was to think it was a positive sign that the economy was getting back on track. According to an article I read in this past Sunday's New York Times, "In 2009 and 2010, total nationwide health care spending grew less than 4 percent a year, the slowest annual pace in more than five decades, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services."

But then it didn't take long for other thoughts to creep in: why, exactly, are people cutting back on health costs? And what would it mean to their own future health? The article's headline calls it a "hopeful" sign, but is it?

A combination of factors—including unemployment and loss of insurance coverage, large-deductible plans, worries about job security and taking time off for doctors' visits or surgical procedures, skipping non-urgent care when money is tight—could account for this drop. And perhaps all this talk about the overuse of many medical tests and procedures has created some warranted second-guessing on the part of the consumer.

The situation will take a long time to play out and clarify. Even some experts don't know whether this new trend will become permanent, or if it's just a sign of the economy. In the meantime, it's imperative we continue to take care of ourselves and protect our health as we age.

Over the past few years, there's been a growth in a new way of looking at caring for your health. Some people are turning to a health coach to manage their health and nutrition needs. Curious about what a health coach is? I was, too.

"Most people who go into health coaching have an interest in health and nutrition. Many of them are already in related wellness fields—personal trainers, massage therapists, yoga teachers, nurses, and even doctors. It's a fast-growing field, and many top doctors are endorsing it as an important career going forward over the next few decades," says Nancy Monson, who is a certified health coach (nancy@creativewellness.us.) as well as an experienced and savvy medical writer and author of the new informative and affordable e-book, Creative Wellness.

Q. Why are people entering the field of health coaching?
A. Because there's such a great need. Our population is aging, we have a lot of serious chronic health conditions, and many of us are overweight and sedentary. Our doctors don't have the time we need to get us back on track. It's not that they don't want to help, but rather they only have about seven minutes to spend with each patient. That means they may only be able to order some tests and prescribe a medication. They also can usually only address one problem at a time.

Q. What does a health coach do?
A. A health coach can spend the time to help someone figure out what their personal health and wellness issues are, how they intersect and affect them holistically and help them develop strategies to overcome them, whether it's that they want to lose weight, reduce stress, sleep better or lower the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I've worked with leading doctors, nurses and nutritionists on educational projects for other health professionals. I know a lot about nutrition, health, mindfulness and wellness, and I want to share that in a more direct way with people. That's what attracted me to health coaching—it seemed like a natural evolution for me.

Q. Why might people be looking for a health coach?
A. Most people know what they should be doing to improve their health and prevent various diseases—the best diet plan for them as individuals, the right type of exercise—but they may not actually be doing these things! They don't have the know-how; they're confused by all the conflicting information out there and the competing diets, as well as all the studies being reported. A health coach can support them by homing in on the health and diet information that's relevant to them as individuals. They can provide step-by-step tools to create permanent changes for their health and well-being.
 
Q. What is your personal approach to health coaching?
A. My take on health coaching involves creativity, because that's a big interest of mine. I am an avid mixed-media artist and quilter. As a result, I incorporate fun creative exercises into my coaching program. I help people access their creativity to reduce stress, lose weight, improve their health and increase their enjoyment of life. My motto is "Be creative, be well!"

Q. How often do you meet?
A. Typically, you meet with a health coach twice a month for about an hour. It can be over the phone, via Skype or in person. The program lasts anywhere from three months to six months to longer.

What do you think? Does the idea of a health coach interest you?

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Comments

I could see using a health coach if he could be a liaison to the Dr - make the call to get me in when I need to seen in a timely manner. I am so tired of talking to secretaries who feel they can make medical judgments as to when people should be seen - or if they should be seen!

Now, that would be a great service for health coaches to offer - but I'm not sure they would take that on. Sounds like a patient advocate to me. We all need on of those!itialesc 14

We are one of the families who have cut back with regards to healthcare costs. Young Boomers who, for all of our working lives, had HMO or PPO plans that covered everything. Now, my husband's employer only offers an 80/20 traditional plan. Things we would have done in a heartbeat several years ago are now being put off and we're only taking care of the absolute needs. As for a health coach, would love to have one. I wish my husband's employer covered it.

I feel your pain, LL. And wouldn't it be so nice if health coaches were covered by insurance plans?

That's exactly what I was thinking - my husband and I don't even have extra out-of-pocket cash for a gym membership, let alone a coach! It would be wonderful to get personal attention, and I wish employers and insurance companies saw the value in it too.

I find this idea intriguing. More than a dietitian. Hmm.

I think the idea of a health coach is brilliant--sometimes when I read through health articles and advice it just seems so one-size-fits-all. It would be nice to sit down with someone who is looking just at your needs and then helping you come up with a plan.

I wholeheartedly agree, Kristen. I think that reading a lot of health articles can get very confusing without the proper clarification of how it pertains to you as an individual.

I would LOVE a health coach. Until I get there, I'll keep going to my massage therapist and yoga classes (and I do consider both of them coaches in their own way). The older I get, the more important health-related stuff is - especially preventive measures.

Jane--Do you have a health coach yet? What is stopping you if you don't?
I work with people who live with chronic pain but I am wondering what would make it something that you would do for yourself? It sounds from your post that you are doing some great things for yourself!

Oh boy, do I agree with Brette! That's what I was thinking as I read this article. It is so hard to get simple questions answered. The phone-answerers also never get your message to the doctor intact. It gets so garbled. And then they say, "well you can make an appointment and talk to her yourself." Of course, that means waiting 2 or 3 weeks to ask one simple question. Boy, can you tell I'm upset over this!! A health coach sounds like a good compromise.

Do they overlap? Does one focus on wellness and the other on systems issues?

Can one person be both? Why would they be different roles?

It might be interesting if the person did not apply a one-size-fits all approach!

As someone who has to fund her own insurance, I do find myself skipping health procedures or putting them off. I think health coaches are a good idea. I'd use one.

If you are still interested in a Health Coach, let me know if I can help! I offer phone and Skype consultations and two different program lengths with multiple payment options.

It does seem like coaching in general is taking off. I wonder if that's because we need people to prod us in all areas of life--psych, relationships, health etc.

I am a new health coach.

I have a Master's in Public Health, am trained in motivational interviewing, behavior change theories, chronic disease prevention, stress management, smoking cessation, nutrition, mindfulness, self-esteem improvement...

Health coaches help you find out what your own personal barriers are to health. Maybe you'd like to run more, but after we do some initial health assessments, together we may find out that you are very stressed from work and that we need to address stress management first.

Everything I do is customizable to you and only you.

I am willing to do service hours for free to practice my skills.

I will offer my services via phone for free for the first 2 people who respond to this post. The service will consist of weekly 1 hour phone calls. Where we figure out your best path to health.

I enjoy meeting 2 lucky women.

Hi would love to take you up on this offer..if it's still available, sorry i am 3 years late. thanks

I could so use a health coach in my life right now. When you're battling an illness or injury you get so much conflicting advice about what to eat and how to exercise to maintain optimum health. It would be good to have someone on your team who looks at you as a whole person and has the big picture in mind.

I work with people with chronic pain. Many times this comes from an injury or illness. Have you gotten a coach yet? If not, what is stopping you?

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) 95% of clients who decided to hire a life coach said it was well worth the investment. I am a nurse with more than 20 years mental health experience. I recently became a board certified coach because coaching helps people identify and reach goals from a strengths based perspective. Coaching empowers people to transform from the inside out with the belief that you have the answers to life's pressing questions and concerns. Having a coach helps you discover those answers so that you can design and live out what you see as your best life. If you would like more information about the coaching services I offer email me at coachtedder63@gmail.com

I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in January, 1996, when I was 38 years old. Before Fibro, I had been active and healthy. I was unable to continue working and lost my job. This was not a good thing, especially because I was single and had to support myself. I was able to find several jobs over the next decade, some part-time, some full-time. I was able to manage each one for a while, then had to quit them because I physically could no longer do the work or be dependable.

10 years later I ended up finally receiving Social Security Disability. With help from the Bureau of Vocational Rehab, I was able to get a part-time job doing data entry to add a little to my income. My modest income has enabled me to continue to support myself.

I have been doing the data entry job for 8 years and for the past 2 months, I've been on a medical leave of absence to concentrate on finding a way to get better - spiritually, mentally, and physically. I am fortunate to have such a good employer. The last couple years, my attendance and productivity have declined to the point where I would totally understand if my employer told me I could no longer work there.

My church has only one worship service on Sunday morning. I stopped going because I wasn't awake that early. I am looking for a church that has afternoon or evening services that does not have loud Christian rock music where all a person in the congregation hears is a lead singer or a few singers and band instruments - a church that has a worship service where I feel part of a congregation worshiping together - not one that seems like a show on a stage.

I want to work with health professionals to feel better. I have a good GP, but he mostly just prescribes medication, suggesting different ones from time to time. That is all most MDs have the time to do when seeing a patient in the medical world of today.

I saw a chiropractor for 3 years and recently stopped going. He did help some; my doctor even approved, but I don't think I got my money's worth.

I've been trying to organize some sort of health team, but I'm just a patient. I know in today's world the patient has to be the one responsible for managing their own health, but when the patient is not well, it is not so easy.

After dealing with Fibromyalgia for 18 years, I am so tired of forcing myself to do most anything - like getting out of bed, getting dressed, doing social things, working, and figuring out a health treatment plan.

After years of pain and fatigue, I became clinically depressed. I found a Christian psychologist and had my first appointment 9 days ago after spending a month waiting for the appointment. The intake appointment gave me the impression that she will be a good match for me. I have to wait another month though to fit into her schedule for my next appointment.

Being an afternoon-shift worker, my circadian rhythm is set where doing most anything needs to be done between 3 PM and 3 AM. It is so difficult to do much else than work when I am working.

After the psychologist appointment, I went to an acupuncturist for the first time in my life. I had scheduled this appointment on my own several weeks prior. A couple people had been encouraging me to try it because they saw immediate results. I was reluctant, but went anyway because I want to use this leave of absence to do things I normally would neither have the time nor energy to do while working.

After my first treatment earlier this week, I saw a shift in my mood, energy, and appetite immediately. (I had gained about 80 pounds over a period of 10 years after the Fibromyalgia diagnosis. I had quit most physical activity because of the pain, but kept eating the same.)

Before the psychologist appointment, a counselor through an Employee Assistance Plan through my employer recommended getting a health coach. There are none affiliated with my Medicare Advantage plan, and I doubt there will be anytime soon.

Because I am having trouble just juggling life, it would be great if I had someone to help me figure out how to physically care for myself, give me encouragement, help me think and sort out priorities.

I have no idea how I am going to pay for the help I find that is not covered by my insurance. I've trusted the Lord for all these years to take care of me and He has. I'll just keep trusting.

This is very informative for people who want to be a health coach someday. I'm a personal trainer and being a health coach is also a rewarding job.

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