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Do You Need a Wellness Coach?


When beginning my fitness makeoverseveral years ago, I was suffering from a torn hamstring. Knowing that I could easily reinjure myself with an overly aggressive exercise program or by undertaking the wrong kind of exercise, I hired a personal trainer.

Until that point, I had considered personal trainers the exclusive province of the rich and famous. I was delighted to discover that personal trainers were affordable and available to work with ordinary persons like me. The use of personal trainers is now widespread and hasresulted in an exponential growth in the industry over the past decade. And despite the struggling economy, future projections are optimistic.

Were I to begin my fitness makeover today, however, I might consider hiring a wellness coach. While personal trainers tend to focus on the exercise component of fitness, wellness coaches coverall aspects of fitness, including physical, mental and emotional health.

Like the personal training industry, wellness coaching, even though arelatively new industry, is experiencing dramatic growth. In some cases, growth is theresult of employers' use of wellness coaching services to encourage employees to adopt healthier habits, thereby reducing medical costs. In othercases, individuals decide they areready to make significant lifestyle changes, realize they are unlikely to succeed on their own andreach out for professional assistance. Yet another example is the person who wants to achieve peak health and well-being and decides to take charge of his or her health.

To learn more about coaching, I talked with Margaret"Meg" Moore who leads Wellcoaches, a community of 3,000 health and wellness coaches. Margaretis the lead authorof the Coaching Psychology Manual and is a founding advisor of theInstitute ofLifestyle Medicine atHarvardMedicalSchool.

Here are 8 questions and Meg's answers to help you decide if you could benefit from wellness coaching.

Q: Do I need a wellness coach?

A: Whether you are ready to make significant changes in your lifestyle or want to optimize your present lifestyle, a wellness coach will improve the likelihood that you will be successful. Coaches are trained as experts in facilitating lasting change and growth. They are partners in assisting you to expedite the change process-outgrowing your challenges and struggles--and helping you go faster and farther than you would do alone.

Q: What does the coach do for me?

A: Coaches facilitate a process for change and growth through invigorating coaching sessions that are workouts for your brain. The goal is to build the optimal mind-set- clarity, focus, energy and resilience-during and following the change process to create and then maintain your new lifestyle. While coaches bring lots of expertise and experience, they will brainstorm with you to help you tap your own learning and insights.

Q: Is coaching limited to fitness? Ordoes it extend to all areas of my life?

A: The scope of wellness coaches is to help clients reach optimal well-being, whatever that looks like for you. This includes physical health (exercise, nutrition, weight, sleep and physical energy) and mental health (stress coping, life meaning and purpose, positive mind-set, nourishing relationships, resilience and concepts based upon the science of positive psychology).

Q: How can I assess my well-being?

A: Here's a quick assessment to help you think about your well-being.

Q: How long do individuals usually need a coach for? What does the service typically cost?

A: The ideal initial commitment is for three months. Following a 60- to 90-minute planning session, you may commit to two sessions per month (30 to 45 minutes each, depending upon the complexity of your circumstances) at a cost of approximately $100 to $150 per month. You can continue after three months with two sessions per month or go to monthly or quarterly sessions with e-mail or phone check-ins between sessions. Plan on meeting your coach every year for a planning session, just as you might meet a financial planner or your physician. In light of the extended relationship, it's important to choose a coach who you think would make a great long-term partner and advocate.

Q: How can I justify this expense in a worrisome economy?

A: In these tumultuous times, it's never been more important to invest in the only asset you can't live without: your health. It's important to stand back and ask yourself, how much is my optimal health worth to me? While Americans are living longer, many of us lost a lot of retirement savings recently in the stock market, which means we will need to work longer. But you need to be healthy to work longer and enjoy your life.

Before investing in a coaching program, define clearly what a good return on investment would look like for you and work with your coach to reach the returns that you need.

Q: How do I find a wellness coach?

A: Wellcoaches can help you find a coach. E-mail us at, call 877-744-3356 or go to and the Find a Coach page to search for a coach.

Q: How do I know if the coach is effective? How do I evaluate a coach?

A: Be sure to clearly articulate your goals and what you define as success and then measure results accordingly.

According to Coach Meg, "For the first time in human history, we are asking people to take charge and be the bosses of theirhealth and wellness. This is a new life skill, which is challenging to master. While most of us are skilled at managing ourwork projects, few of us have everlearned how to develop and implement a personal wellness plan." Coach Meg's mission is to educate and energize people to reach optimal health and well-being.

After trying and failing to lose weight for 40 years, I knew from my own experience that mastering health and wellness skills on my own was impossible. To make significant changes, I needed support.

If you are struggling to lose weight, get moving, quit smoking, reduce stress, sleep better or adopt a healthy habit, consider a wellness coach. With professional assistance, you'll find yourself making daily decisions that are in alignment with your health and wellness goals, and you'll feel great about your positive choices.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr.

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