Article by Gayle Wilson Rose and Alison Allman
It’s easy to procrastinate when planning for events that don’t have a deadline. Yet, when an event is a week away, a good event planner quickly can pull together necessary action items. In matters of health, however, it is usually too late to act once the “event” of chronic illness arrives.
Whether we take care of our health on a daily basis or we ignore it, we are making a choice about our futures. Instead of caring for our daily health, we often click into “default mode” just to survive everyday stress. That can mean skipping breakfast, eating fast food, shorting ourselves on sleep to meet a deadline, rarely making time for exercise, or not taking time for relaxation. Default mode generally involves poor nutrition, high stress and sedentary behavior, which all contribute to chronic disease development.
In the workplace, our default mode can help us manage crises and get through the day. The cost is lack of critical long-term planning needed for business growth and success. Eventually,
our health “balance sheet review” signals that change is needed.
You, in a new way
Unfortunately, no alarm bell sounds when your blood pressure creeps up. When your cholesterol level quietly escalates, no one sends you an e-mail notification. For too many people, a catastrophic health event such as a heart attack or a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is what wakes them up to the need for lifestyle changes.
Like planning a great event, improving lifestyle behaviors requires mindfulness, choice, and intention. We make time for things that are important to us. Daily exercise, relaxation, adequate sleep, and a nutritious, whole-foods-focused diet can become exceptions if we don’t prioritize them.
The good news is we can reprogram ourselves by creating new neuropathways that create new habits. Reprogramming is possible by doing things repeatedly and intentionally until the new path becomes routine. Creating our own healthy “fast food” and quick meals becomes easy once we build the behavior pattern. Building an early morning exercise and meditation routine, for example, can become as automatic as daily teeth brushing. Moving away from unhealthy habits and replacing them with positive ones takes time and concentrated effort.
When the constant juggling of life and work throws you and your health out of balance, health coaching can help you get rebalanced and build a foundation for health and maximum productivity. Coaching doesn’t rely on extreme diets for weight loss. There are no gimmicks, restrictive meal plans or expensive pre-packaged meals; just real and lasting lifestyle change through one-on-one support and accountability.
Like working with a consultant in a specialized area of business, partnering with a health coach is an effective approach to breaking through self-defeating patterns of caring for ourselves and our health. Coaches work with individuals as well as employee work groups.
When you partner with a coach, you learn strategic and effective ways to make sustainable behavior changes and are accountable for your goals. You create a vision of health that is achievable through a step-by-step process as you define goals that are attainable and supportive of your vision. Your coach helps you discover your unique strengths, motivations and core values. These become your foundation for permanent change. Patty G., a St. Louis small-business owner, says, “Food no longer controls me. Health coaching has helped me consistently drop two pounds a week for a 30-pound loss, and I’m still going.
It has helped me make a lifestyle shift I couldn’t have done on my own.”
Through a health coaching partnership, you develop strategies to veer around the potholes that cause you to stumble. You learn to anticipate challenges such as how to keep your dietary goals in check when you are traveling and eating out a lot. “With my travel schedule and frequent dining out, coaching has made the difference in a transition to a healthier lifestyle,” says Erika J., a home mortgage executive from St. Paul, Minn.
Together, she and her husband Chris have dropped more than 100 pounds.
Vision for a healthy future
Your coach helps you develop a long-term vision of health that you reduce to smaller, attainable goals. You connect virtually with your coach on a weekly basis, reviewing progress toward goals, brainstorming strategies and making adjustments for the coming week. “With coaching, my energy levels and overall health improved,” says Sheri M., a mother of two from St. Louis. “I went from being sedentary to being a regular gym-goer and loving it! I reached my goals without its feeling like a chore.”
Some weeks are full of high fives, while others may find you adjusting your plans for success. When you get off track with your new habits, your accountability partner helps you return to focusing forward. “The leaps and bounds I’ve made with health coaching have gone far beyond my scale,” says Brenda W., a client from Louisville, Ky. “My fitness and motivation for change have blossomed.”
A health coach keeps you accountable, inspired, and committed.“I am certain I would not be where I am without the accountability [of a coaching relationship],” says Joe S., a St. Louis client who has shed 60 pounds with health coaching. As you develop stronger self control, your confidence and optimism increase. You reach your goals through consistent and sustainable progress and change.
We all juggle priorities continuously, and it requires both stamina and balanced energy to be successful. Partnering with a health coach can mean the difference between operating in an unhealthy default mode or achieving your personal vision of health.
Everyone deserves the gift of good health, but it is earned by those who put forth the effort and intention to build and preserve it.
Gayle Wilson Rose and Alison Allman are certified health coaches and fitness trainers at Pyramid Health Coaching in St. Louis