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  • Writer's pictureLifestyle Evolution

Could Functional Health Coaching Be Your Missing Puzzle Piece?

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

What is Functional Health Coaching?

Health coaching work is growing at a fast pace right now, and there are lots of good reasons that health coaching WILL become a larger part of our approach to healthcare. First and foremost, health coaches specialize in behavior change. Think of a health coach as a catalyst. You have all the ingredients you need, but the catalyst is what will spark all of those elements to come together and work on your behalf!

Health coaches support their clients in finding their own strategies and motivation for change, overcoming obstacles, and implementing protocols that have either been prescribed by a clinician or nutritionist/dietitian, or that the client has chosen to implement on their own. Health coaches don’t operate on the “expert model” that’s so common in healthcare, where they simply tell you what you do. Instead, they empower you to make your own decisions, helping you draw on your own strengths and values to achieve your goals. The fact is that if simply being told what to do was enough, then we would not be dealing with the growing cases of chronic illness, disease, and obesity that is taxing our healthcare system and so many peoples' lives at record levels.

Health coaching is based in the belief that each of us needs to know our “why” – what intrinsically motivates us to make changes. Exploring this “why” and really understanding how we can harness it as we work to bring our health and wellness vision to life is at the core of long-lasting behavior change!

There is also another key word here – functional. Why does finding a Functional Health Coach make a difference? The answer is that a deep understanding of functional health is essential to being a health coach in today's healthcare environment. This means your coach can better collaborate with a wide variety of practitioners, to better serve you and your health needs. Solid training should also include ancestral diet and lifestyle knowledge, an approach that is based in whole foods, clean living, and getting back to a natural way of eating that is how we as humans best thrive.

How can a Functional Health Coach support your health issues?

The chronic disease epidemic is growing every year, with 6 out of 10 adults in the United States currently being diagnosed with a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more conditions. The majority of those chronic illnesses are NOT caused by genetics, but rather by diet, lifestyle, and behavior. Changing these lifestyle factors has the potential to prevent and reverse chronic disease on a huge scale. But with chronic illness, most care really is self-care - the lifestyle choices we make each and everyday.

Yet, research shows us that only 6 percent of Americans engage in the top five health behaviors (never smoking, getting regular physical activity, consuming no alcohol or only moderate amounts, maintaining a normal body weight, and obtaining daily sufficient sleep). There’s a lot of room for improvement here, but that’s where functional health coaches come in. Alongside their work supporting clients, health coaches excel at supporting practitioners too. While clinicians focus on diagnosing, testing, and establishing treatment protocols, health coaches work to help people implement the behavior changes that clinicians prescribe. That’s why health coaches are an essential part of the collaborative practice model of healthcare. In a collaborative healthcare model, practitioners work with health coaches, nutritionists, and other providers to ensure patients have all of the support they need to make lasting changes. That leads to better patient outcomes, improved health, and greater satisfaction for clinicians. This is the model we need to continue to move toward!

To summarize, with a deep understanding of functional health, a coach can:

  • Support clients in implementing recommendations or protocols prescribed by licensed providers

  • Explain and clarify treatment protocols

  • Serve as the liaison between you and your practitioner

  • Provide education in a one-on-one or group environment

  • Offer guidance and additional resources when needed – all evidence-based

To be clear, health coaches DO NOT diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions. They may provide expert guidance in areas in which they hold active, nationally recognized credentials, and they may offer resources from nationally recognized authorities and evidence-based science.

How does Functional Health Coaching work?

Every health coach has a unique style, and some focus on a specific area of health, but the principals of coaching and helping a client bring about long-term sustainable change are rooted in the same knowledge. And the process can look something like this:

  1. Creating a larger health and wellness vision in the beginning, tapping into your "why". This is where you get to envision the you that you want to show up as in your life. How do you want to feel? What would your typical healthy day and lifestyle look like? How would it affect other aspects of your life?

  2. Building the long-term goals, or pillars as we call them, that will be the foundation that holds up the vision. This is where you get to look at various areas of your health: nutrition, sleep, stress management, movement, mindfulness, decluttering/organization, and more.

  3. Focusing each session on the smaller steps and goals that you will be working on and experimenting with each week to work towards your long-term goals and vision. Small steps give you lots of opportunities to experience success and build confidence!

Think of this as a journey you are on, with many potential paths and directions, but you have this guide with you that is asking you the deeper questions, reflecting back your own thoughts, helping you explore the potential paths ahead, and encouraging you to dive deeper into your strengths and values. Then whatever path YOU choose along the journey is one that you have created from a deeper motivation and meaning, so that the changes that come about are sustainable and fulfilling.

Does it work?

As more research emerges about this growing field, they are seeing consistently better outcomes when a health coach is part of the program or protocol. In one weight loss study, the group that saw a health coach (in additional to a nutritionist) had better weight loss results and maintained those results longer. This tells us that the work being done through health coaching is powerful and it taps into a deeper understanding of why someone wants to change and how they want to get there. This client autonomy is a key factor as to why coaching works – the person being coached is in the driver’s seat!

In our work, we are fortunate to be able to provide both a Functional Behavioral Health Coach and a Functional Clinical Nutritionist (now he definitely wears the “expert hat”). This allows our clients to have the expertise needed for nutrition changes, with daily communication and accountability. You will learn a great deal about how nutrition impacts every aspect of your health, adding this knowledge to your toolbox of resources as you go! Then our clients also have sessions with our functional health coaches, where they get to work through all the other areas of the health and wellness vision, for a truly whole-person approach. This is what makes the difference – everything is connected! You cannot address only nutrition, as overall lifestyle choices affect every aspect of our health and wellness. This is why our clients find great success in our program.

Are you a fit for our Nutrition and Health Coaching?

The simple answer is that if you are ready to explore your potential and take your health and wellness back into your hands, then YES! We bring together the science of nutrition and the foundations of behavioral change to support our clients with:

  • Losing weight and keeping it off

  • Preventing, improving, or reversing issues around diabetes, autoimmune issues, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and many other chronic conditions

  • Establishing movement routines at different levels of ability

  • Managing stress and burnout and coming back to a place of balance

  • Creating better sleep habits

  • Exploring mindfulness and even starting a meditation practice

  • Reconnecting with nature and time outdoors, including addressing the overuse of technology

  • Identifying and building a support network and resources

Honestly, the list could go on and on, as every individual brings their own story and their own needs to the table. Whatever the wellness goals, nutrition and lifestyle changes are at the root of bringing about true transformation. Imagine what it would feel like to really show up as your best self each day. What could you accomplish? What you could you do that you never thought possible? What dreams could you realize? How would your future change? We would love to help you find out!

Yours In Health ~ Jeanna

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