What does a wellness coach do? (and what to look for when hiring a coach)

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Regarding coaching, there are a lot of different expectations that come up when talking about what a wellness coach does. I thought I’d share some insights about what it is that I actually do as a coach, things that I don’t or won’t do, and some things that you should keep in mind when you are looking to invest in a coach.

What is wellness coaching?

First, I think it would be helpful to define wellness coaching. In his book, Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, Dr. Michael Arloski writes the following-

…wellness coaching is the application of the principles and processes of professional life coaching to the goals of lifestyle improvement for higher levels of wellness. It is an alliance between a professional coach and a person (or persons) who, through the benefit of that relationship, seeks lasting lifestyle behavioral change.”

When people ask me what I do, I simple say that I support people (and sometimes groups) in making sustainable lifestyle and behavior changes. I take a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means taking into account the whole person. Some of the things I coach for include nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, and smoking cessation.

The benefits of working with a certified coach

There are lots of benefits to working with a certified wellness coach, including the following-

  • Support- We all have different levels and avenues of support in our life, including friends, family, co-workers, and partners. Support is critical when making big lifestyle or behavior changes. A coach is someone who you know is going to be on your team and walking side by side with you as you navigate through your challenges and goals.

  • Accountability- At the beginning of a coaching relationship, I ask clients how they want to be held accountable. Being held accountable for your goals and commitments can really help people with building consistency. Something else I always encourage is working on self-accountability and what that would look like for a person outside of the coaching relationship.

  • Perspective- I think that when we feel stuck or overwhelmed we tend to develop blinders. A coach can be a great “second set of eyes” to help you in exploring opportunities that might be right behind those blinders.

  • Clarity- More often than not, most people are aware of what their challenges are and how they don’t want to feel. I often get a long pause when I ask “what are you good at?” or “what do you want for yourself?” Working with a coach can allow you to get clarity on your strengths, identify what is going well, and create a big picture vision for your well-being.

What happens during coaching sessions with me

I call the very first coaching meeting the “Foundation Session.” During this meeting, and with the use of a few coaching tools, we will explore the following important details-

  • What it’s like to be you- In co-creating a relationship, it’s helpful to explore what it’s like to be you. This allows you to (hopefully) feel heard and understand, and allows the coach to have an idea of where you are coming from.

  • The Coaching Agreement- This outlines my responsibilities to you as your coach, and your responsibilities as a participant in the process. We also review the financial investment and define what the communication process will be outside of coaching.

  • Your Present Lifestyle- It’s important for both coach and client to have a good understanding of the way things are in the present with regard to your behaviors in different holistic wellness areas.

  • Your Readiness for Change- Knowing what a client is ready for and not ready for is an important step in goal setting and creating a plan. During this first session we will explore what you are ready to tackle and where you may need some support in getting ready.

  • Creating a Well-Life Vision- What does “You 2.0” look like? How would your life be different if you could make the changes that you desire? These are the types of things we will dive into in order to build your well-life vision.

  • Taking action- Even though we’ve just begun, I will work with you to start on a small goal that we will come back to during the next visit.

During subsequent sessions, I work with clients on goal setting, address any challenges that came up between our meetings, and explore the next steps.

Throughout our time together, you may be surprised to find that it is you who is setting the agenda and deciding what is best for you. This is the coach approach, because a coach understands that you are the expert on your own life. I am always happen to provide tips, suggestions, and resources, but ONLY after receiving your permission to do so. No-one likes unsolicited advice!

Where a coach works and who they work with

A wellness coach can work with individuals 1-1, with groups, in a clinical setting with other providers, and in a corporate wellness setting, supporting employees as part of a wellness benefits package.

And some, like me, do both! I provide 1-1 and group coaching through Living Well and Wild and I also work with a company part-time as an on-site health and wellness coach for their employees.

Things that I can’t do as a coach

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that people sometimes have different expectations when it comes to what they think happens in coaching. Since I’ve covered what I do as a coach, I’d also like to share some of the things that are outside my scope of practice as a coach.

  • Meal planning- I am not a Registered Dietician (RD) so I don’t have the qualifications to create individual meal plans. In coaching for nutrition, we would look at your current nutrition behaviors, identify any habits/behaviors that you’d like to change in that area, and co-create a plan to create sustainable change. If meal planning is what someone is looking for, I would definitely refer out to an RD.

  • Workout plans- In the same vein as above, I do not have any personal training certifications so I do not create exercise plans. If a client were interested in a specific workout, or had questions about different types of physical activity, I would refer to a personal trainer, or other clinical provider.

  • Therapy/Counseling- Although some coaching tools and resources may also be used in therapy/counseling, they are two different spaces and operate under different models. While therapy and counseling can delve into past trauma, coaching is very forward looking. If I feel that we are venturing into therapy or counseling territory during a session, I would gently guide the client back to the present moment and refer to a qualified therapist or counselor.

I do want to also mention that there are some coaches who wear “two hats.” For example, it’s very common to have Registered Nurses or Registered Dieticians who are also certified wellness coaches. In this instance, it’s important that you let a client know which “hat” you are wearing when you’re speaking with them.

What to look for when hiring a coach

I think qualifications are really important when it comes to coaching, especially since it’s a term that’s not regulated (although I see that changing in the future!). You definitely want a coach that has gone through an International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited program. My certification comes from Real Balance Global Wellness Services and there are continuing education requirements I have to meet every two years in order to remain certified. You can use this link to find out which training programs are ICF accredited. I think it’s worth mentioning that there is a movement towards standardization through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. You can now apply to sit for an exam to become a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. This will ensure that all coaches who bear that title have minimum training and education standards. (I am excited to be sitting for this board in June!)

Just like it’s any other provider, it’s also important to find someone who is a good fit for you! Usually most coaches will offer a complimentary introduction session so you can have the opportunity to meet them and ask any questions you might have.

Now I’m curious! Have you ever worked with a coach before? Whether that was life, business, wellness, or executive coaching, I’m interested to know what your experience was like!

Taking Responsibility for My Physical Fitness (and 5 self-reflective questions for when you feel stuck)

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Ok. So I have a confession to make. My physical fitness has has been sorely neglected the last few months and I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that. It just goes to show you that even as a wellness coach with so many tools, resources, and knowledge at my disposal, I am still faced with challenges that take some time, effort, and internal work to overcome.

This is an area of my holistic health that I haven’t managed to conquer yet. (By the way, yet is one of the most inspiring words. Next time you are talking or thinking about something that you want to accomplish, but haven’t, add the word YET.) It was confusing to me for a while because * gasp * I actually like working out. Those post-workout feels always give me a boost of energy and I never regret going to the gym. I had to do some serious self-reflection to figure out what was getting in the way of me actually going, especially when I definitely have the time. Motivation and willpower don’t always tell the whole story…but that’s a whole separate blog post.

Ultimately, I decided that I felt guilty about going to the gym, which is weird to type out. My thought process was something like this- “If I take time to go to the gym, that is time taken away from working on something productive. If I’m not being productive my business isn’t growing.” So then I wouldn’t go workout because I was “too busy.” Then I would spend the rest of the day feeling guilty that I didn’t make it to the gym. Wash, rinse, repeat. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Maybe instead of taking time from work, you feel guilty about taking time from family, household responsibilities, or other projects.

It took me a while to really understand that the only thing I was taking time away from was the quality years of my life. I want to embrace the fact that I love myself and my family enough to want to be around for a long time and being physically fit will enable me to do so. Also, my work is centered around the wellness industry- it’s important for me to “walk the walk.”

Now, I am really lucky that I have a high energy dog and I do fence two times a week for at least an hour. (And let me tell you- there is no sweat like the sweat you get when wearing a fencing uniform and mask.) So it wasn’t like I wasn’t getting in ANY physical activity, I just really wanted to make a commitment to strength train at least 3x a week. Weightlifting will help me build up my overall strength and support me in performing better as an athlete when it comes to fencing.

I am posting this after honoring my commitment to myself for a full week and I feel incredible! I can’t wait to see what the next couple of months have in store. I’ll plan on posting updates every so often with wins, challenges, and other personal insights.

If you are struggling with consistency and commitment to something you desire, here are 5 questions to ask yourself

  1. What EXACTLY am I willing to commit to? (Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system- (make it something specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely)

  2. Why do I want it? (think about what your values are)

  3. What is standing in my way right now?

  4. On a scale of 1-10 how ready am I to make this change? (and what does that mean for you?)

  5. Who can I turn to for support and/or encouragement?

Pictured above: adidas squad IV duffel bag | Women’s Inov-8 Minimalist Cross Training Shoe | Cowin Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones

Holiday Gift Guide 2018- Experiences

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Gift-giving can be tricky for several different reasons. Maybe the person you are looking for seems to have it all. Or perhaps your friend has been working on paring down possessions and adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. My parents, for example, are much more interested in doing things together as a family instead of getting a bunch of gifts. If you are in this situation, consider the gift of an experience.

Listed below are five different types of “experience” gifts to help you surprise your loved ones this holiday season.

Concerts

When it comes to concerts, there is really something for everyone! From symphony orchestras, to pop and rock concerts, and local bands. Get two tickets and gift them in a beautiful card or box.

If you know their favorite band or musician (and they still tour) check out the official website for the singer/group to see upcoming tour dates. You can also search by city on Ticket Master or on any local venue websites. (If you live in the Northern Virginia area, I highly recommend Wolf Trap.)

Theater | Movie Night

A pair of tickets to a live show or to a local movie theater can also make a really fun gift. Depending on your budget, you can also include a handmade voucher for dinner, snacks, transportation, and/or a babysitter. If you have an Alamo Drafthouse nearby, it’s a movie night, drinks, and dinner all rolled into one!

Food or Drink Tastings

A food or drink tasting would be a great opportunity for the recipient to try something new. Do you have a friend who loves wine or beer? Check your local area restaurants or breweries to see what types of events are available. For DC/Metro area residents, check out Loudoun County for some amazing wineries, breweries, and distilleries with great atmosphere.

Arts and Crafts

I feel like there has been a resurgence in “paint and sip” studios, at least where I live. These are experiences, let by an artist, where you can paint, drink wine, and sample hors d’oeuvres. Some studios even offer daytime events for the younger set where they offer sparkling grape juice and kid-friendly food like pizza.

In the same artistic vein, you could also get tickets to a pottery painting class. Usually these events will guide you through creating and painting a piece of pottery to bring home.

Massage/Spa

We could all use a little extra TLC and self-care, especially around the holidays. Give someone the gift of massage, a facial, or a manicure/pedicure

What type of experience would you be thrilled to receive?