Personal trainers improve client’s physique and endurance while encouraging other healthy behaviors such as diet and nutrition. Nutritionists explain how to eat healthy. Doctors and psychiatrists prescribe medicine. Psychologists and therapists improve mental health. But sometimes there are gaps in between these segments of well-being, and having a different person for each life aspect can lead to contradicting advice. A health coach fills in these gaps, giving “the picture of a full healthy lifestyle.”
Health and wellness coaches help many types of people with different goals; from lifestyle changes to life transitions. Whether it is someone trying to lose weight or someone unhappy with their job but uncomfortable with completely starting over, health and wellness coaching “is an active, supportive, and trusting relationship between you and the coach that empowers you to define, reach and sustain your goals.”
Rock Creek Sports Club introduced health and wellness coaching to members in October with Coach Abbi Lichtenstein. Abbi, a DC native, and member of RCSC since 2008, has always enjoyed volunteering.
“I volunteered at my daughters’ schools, and at my synagogue. I enjoyed my volunteer work and derived much satisfaction from helping others and gained personal growth from positions of responsibility as an officer and board member within the organizations” Abbi says.
In addition to Abbi’s desire to help others, personal experience allowed her to see the transformative power of health and wellness coaching. Suffering from migraines, Abbi was put on medicine that caused her debilitating fatigue, and didn’t lessen the migraines. She gained 15 lbs but was too tired to work out. Additional pain from sciatica made her realize something needed to change. She started to work with Jean Simons, who is also a wellness coach. Jean helped motivate her to make some important changes such as giving up sugar and refined carbs, and working out 5 days a week. These changes pushed her to also find a new neurologist and get off the medication that was wearing her down.
Wanting to help others, as Jean helped her, Abbi decided to pursue her Master of Arts in Health and Wellness Coaching with a concentration in Integrative Health Practices from Maryland University of Integrative Health. Abbi completed the program and earned her Masters in the summer of 2017. She passed the first ever National Board Certification exam, administered by the National Medical Exam Board, and became part of the first group of coaches to be nationally board certified in health and wellness coaching.
When Abbi works with clients she helps them reframe their situations to balance out stress and manage it with ease, use their strengths and creativeness to overcome obstacles, become aware of what’s important to them to live a life aligned with their values, and understand that if they slip, they have the tools and self-efficacy to move forward instead of remaining stuck.
“Once they gain insight and make the choices that serve them well, their self-efficacy increases. They then feel empowered to find the motivation to make the necessary lifestyle behavior changes and live closer to their life vision and to their full potential.” Abbi says.
Health and wellness coaching is a new and effective addition to a full picture of health. “A Mayo Clinic study of 100 participants who worked with a wellness coach found that a majority had lost weight, improved nutritional habits and increased their physical activity by the end of the 12-week program.” Barbara Sadick, Trying to Break Unhealthy Habits? There’s a Coach For That
Other studies show “health coaches can help people manage chronic conditions (like diabetes), lose weight and keep it off, increase movement and activity, and generally improve their physical and mental health.” Goldman, How a Health Coach Helped Me Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Health coaching can even help with sleep. Leslie Goldman from Oprah.com writes how her health coach helped her achieve the goal of getting to bed earlier–the only thing missing in her otherwise healthy lifestyle. Starting with just one day a week, she was able to meet this goal through their over the phone sessions. But Scott, her coach, didn’t tell her what to do. He asked her make a plan.
“Coaches give you a key role in determining your action plan, help you lay it out in a step-by-step format, and support you along the way,” explains clinical health psychologist Ruth Q. Wolever, PhD, director of health coaching for the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville. Leslie Goodman, How a Health Coach Helped Me Get a Good Night’s Sleep
A coach’s goal is to get you to change your mindset and behavior to improve your life, but they don’t do so by asking you to open up about feelings or by prescribing medicine.
Those used to a more traditional medical approach may be turned off by health coaching and believe it is just another fad to spend your money on.
But, if you’re worried about the expense, many insurance companies will cover health coaching. There is an incentive for coverage– big and healthy lifestyle changes increase overall productivity, so “large employers, insurers, heal-care systems and other organizations are increasingly turning to “wellness coaches” to motivate people to adopt healthier Lifestyles” Sadick, Trying to Break Unhealthy Habits? There’s a Coach For That
Goal setting to keep individuals on course and meditation, are two of many techniques used. One reason it works is the social support of checking in with someone about their progress. When you tell someone else you’re going to do something, you’re more likely to do it.
For Abbi, it is important to show her clients that she cares deeply about their issues, supports them and emphasizes with them.
“First, it’s important to establish trust and a deep connection with the client. I do this by listening to them talk through their issues in a safe, accepting and non-judgmental environment.”
Abbi loves the connection with the client as well as seeing the shift in energy levels from the first session to the last session.
“My clients are full of wisdom and I learn from them as well. All of this is so satisfying and rewarding.”
Abbi’s health and wellness story is multifaceted because she has been a client and a coach. She has made a huge transition in the last 4-5 years through being coached and now, coaching.
“I have more energy, found joy in my life, and practicing health and wellness coaching has given me a life full of meaning and purpose,” Abbi says.
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