Health Coaching and Client Transformations: Health Coaching in Action

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by MaryAnn Jones, A-CFHC

I have always been fascinated with butterflies. Perhaps it was an Eric Carle book or my kindergarten teacher that informed me that the beautiful winged creatures I admired started off as caterpillars. Nature provides us with an extreme example of transformation that is impossible to ignore. Yet, so often in our busy lives, we become blind to the magical capacity for transformation we each possess. Health coaches are trained to help us recognize our strengths and tap into that potential to grow wings and soar to new heights.

I am an ADAPT-Certified Functional Health Coach (Chris Kresser likens us to change agents). I am also an Enrollment Advisor for the Kresser Institute, and I have the pleasure of spending part of my day talking to wellness warriors who want to share their passion for Functional Medicine and optimal health. We created a series of articles to forward the understanding of the vital role health coaches play in helping clients achieve positive health outcomes. We hope to give you a window into the exciting and growing field of health coaching. I look forward to your feedback and your potential to transform.

Check out this article from health coach MaryAnn Jones for real-world examples of how health coaching helps clients transform their lives. #healthylifestyle #changeagent #kresserinstitute

How Do Health Coaches Motivate Transformation?

They create a space that allows for self-exploration, honesty, and possibility.

Brené Brown writes:

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

Health coaches accept their clients just as they are, where they are. We communicate empathetically to create a safe space that accepts each client as a unique being that does not need to be fixed or repaired, and yet may also desire growth and transformation in aspects of their life and health.

Clients often come to health coaching thinking they, or their behavior, needs to be fixed or repaired. There are several issues with this approach:

  • It implies that we are broken and flawed.
  • It can keep us stuck in the story we have created for ourselves.
  • It’s suggestive of a short-term solution or a “quick fix.”
  • And it’s just simply not true.

In contrast, health coaches encourage transformation over information. That approach:

  • Helps clients envision where and who they wish to be
  • Helps clients to see that they already have all the tools and/or strengths they need to make a change
  • Encourages actions that align with the vision clients have created of their future selves
  • Is sustainable and long-lasting—the butterfly never changes back to a caterpillar!
It takes time and practice to master the skills and techniques needed to be an effective, supportive health coach. In the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program, we offer in-depth, evidence-based instruction into the art and practice of coaching, Functional and ancestral health, professional development, and business development for health coaches. Our year-long, virtual course is led by expert faculty and world-class mentor coaches who work together to offer our students ample opportunities to practice and deepen their skills as they learn. Are you ready to start your future as a Functional Health coach? Find out if the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is right for you.

What We Can Learn from Health Coaching Examples with Real Clients

My ADAPT health coach training provided me with the skills to support my clients’ journeys. It also allowed me to:

  • Hone the essential coaching skills of being present and emotionally available
  • Listen with empathy and affirmation
  • Ask evocative and powerful questions
  • Reflect understanding
  • Guide the client toward growth and transformation

I recently asked some of my clients about their wellness journeys and transformations. Their responses humbled me to my core. They thanked me for the opportunity to reflect and respond. I know they will give you a greater understanding of what is possible for your clients when they are ready.

Elina: I Am a Miracle

Q: What inspired you to seek out health coaching?

A: I had always thought I knew the basics about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle; however, I realized I had a lot to learn. I had been at one of MaryAnn’s wellness workshops and it inspired me to reach out for health coaching sessions.

I met with MaryAnn every few weeks to strategize about improving my eating habits. My initial goal was to live a cleaner, more holistic lifestyle and to lose some weight during the process. As a survivor of breast cancer at 28 years old, I knew that the right type of nutrition would help reduce my recurrence risk.

Q: What were your expectations? What surprised you about the process?

A: I wanted to learn a lot about food. Upon my request, MaryAnn shared resources, inspiration, and recipes. She took my husband and me on trips to Whole Foods as together we identified “whole” foods that fit into our new healthier lifestyle. I have reached and surpassed my initial wellness goals, and I am proud to say that my actions have greatly enhanced the health of my husband, as well.

What I never expected was how something as simple as drinking more water could be life-changing. I remember I complained about feeling fatigued and experiencing a plateau in my weight loss. I created a goal of drinking at least eight cups of water a day. Just by making this simple change, I started seeing results immediately. I felt more energetic than I had in years, my skin started to glow, and suddenly the scale started moving again. From that very moment, I realized that I didn’t need to make drastic changes to meet my health goals. Just simple everyday changes helped me achieve the long-term results I was looking for.

Q: What transformation, if any, have you experienced?

A: I almost can’t believe I’m the same person. The quality of my nutrition has improved dramatically. I have also been motivated to get into the best shape of my life. My husband and I joined a gym, and before we knew it, we were running our first half marathon.

Q: What have you found most valuable about your health coaching sessions?

A: The most beautiful part about my journey is that it helped me restore confidence in my body. Going through a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 28 and all the terrifying treatment that went along with it had really made me lose faith in my body. I thought I would never be as physically strong as I was before my diagnosis. But here I am, in my mid-30s, feeling stronger and more fit and healthy than ever. Aside from the physical benefits, working with a health coach helped me believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

Earlier this year, when I told MaryAnn that I was pregnant, which was a very challenging journey post breast cancer, MaryAnn said four words I’ll never forget—“You are a miracle.” When I look at my miracle baby boy Aiden, I think of everything my body has achieved. I survived breast cancer, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, and then ran a half marathon and carried a baby for nine months after many doctors told me it would be impossible. Reflecting on all of this makes me remember that our bodies truly are miracles—capable of overcoming obstacles and doing amazing things.

Lucia: This Is Us

Q: What inspired you to seek out health coaching?

A: With my 40th birthday looming and my youngest child off to kindergarten, I looked at myself in the mirror and knew I needed a reset. It was a “now or never” moment. I had gained 40 pounds, but had completely lost my sense of self. I vetted a few health coaches and I ultimately chose MaryAnn because I felt she heard me.

Q: What surprised you about the process?

A: Health coaching challenged me beyond losing weight, to envision a new reality, to move to a new place. I couldn’t go back to my old self before kids, nor did I want to. I wanted to go someplace new.

Q: What transformation, if any, have you experienced?

A: I had defined motherhood as a complete dedication to my children. As a stay-at-home mom, it was indeed my job. Rarely did I do anything with myself in mind. When I first began working with a health coach, I had to separate care for myself into a different zone. I cooked separate meals for myself and prepared something totally different for my kids. I did all my exercise while the kids were at school. It was my own private journey. It felt good to do something just for me.

Q: What have you found most valuable about your health coaching sessions?

A: During one of our sessions, I came to realize there doesn’t always need to be a choice between “them” and “me.” I could integrate what I needed into my life, with my family. Now, we all begin the day with exercise. My children and husband have joined me in my smoothie obsession. This fall, I started walking my son to school in the morning to get a jumpstart on my step goal for the day. I no longer feel isolated or on my own journey. It is truly “us”!

Michael: I Wasn’t Ready, and Then I Was

Q: What inspired you to seek out health coaching?

A: Several years ago, I was struck with the news that my wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was devastating. The lifestyle I had enjoyed was turned upside down. My emotions became those of bitterness, anger, depression, and complete hopelessness.

I finally accepted my fate. However, during this period, I had developed some extremely bad (and dangerous) habits. I was taking care of my wife, but not myself. Up until her diagnosis, I had been very active and involved in sports and outdoor recreation. The activity I took up instead was drinking. I was still able to adequately function—take care of my wife, hold onto my job—but the physical and mental toll it was taking was enormous.

I was so embarrassed by my weight gain (50 pounds) and what I had become, I hated to look at myself in the mirror. So when my employer offered one-on-one health coaching, I signed up for an appointment.

Q: What were your expectations? What surprised you about the process?

A: During our initial conversation, I stated that my goal was to lose weight. I admitted to her that I knew that I drank too much, but at that time, since I was putting nobody but myself at risk, I wasn’t about to give it up. At this point, I was focused on weight loss, and we discussed ways I could reduce calories, and incorporate stress management and more activity. MaryAnn continued to build trust and relationship, and while alcoholism is beyond the scope of practice of a health coach, she helped to build my awareness and accountability. I tried it all, but my awareness of what the real problem was continued to become obvious.

Progress toward my weight loss stalled. I was finally able to recognize what was really holding me back. It was at this point that I admitted I was an alcoholic, and until I was able to get that problem under control, we were not going to get too far with the weight loss.

I am grateful that MaryAnn acknowledged and affirmed my bravery in making such an admission. She supported my choices and offered a referral resource. Upon request, she informed me of my Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And so I reached out. I told the person at EAP what I was looking for, and she was able to provide information on local outpatient recovery centers that could possibly help me.

Q: What transformation, if any, have you experienced?

A: As of today, I am in a recovery program, I have lost close to 30 pounds, and, most importantly, I have not had a drink in four months. I don’t think any of this would have happened if it had not been for the opportunity to talk to a health coach. She provided a space for me to prepare for a big change and support my efforts when I was ready.

Q: What have you found most valuable about your health coaching sessions?

A: We continue to talk on a regular basis, which gives me the chance to share my progress and keeps me accountable. I am still working on dropping some more weight, having resumed exercising and trying to maintain a healthy diet. Her support is something I will always welcome.

Mara: “Me Time” Matters

Q: What inspired you to seek out health coaching?

A: I knew for years that my weight was a big problem, and I always told myself I would keep trying, but I only realize now how uninformed and half-hearted my “efforts” were. This past summer, something clicked and made me realize I had to take serious action. I knew I needed help. This was an area of my life where I did not know what I was doing. My initial call with MaryAnn reassured me that I had found someone who could help me on my journey.

Q: What were your expectations? What surprised you about the process?

A: I suppose I thought it would be all about food choices; however, it turns out that is where I needed the least help. What I didn’t realize was how emotional the process would be for me in the beginning. Each week, MaryAnn guided our conversations in a way that helped me focus on the progress I was making rather than the negative feelings I was experiencing for having let my health get so out of control. I always finished our sessions feeling better. The level of catharsis involved in these sessions was surprising to me. What was also surprising to me was the comfort I felt. My weight was not something that I was comfortable speaking about out loud with anyone.

Q: What transformation, if any, have you experienced?

A: Aside from a physical transformation (minus 55 pounds, and still going), I have changed my life. I now realize the value of making healthy choices, prioritizing my own health needs, and that maintaining my health is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. I used to think that self-care was cliché and “not for me,” but now I am totally into it and even try to inspire my students to practice self-care whenever possible.

Q: What have you found most valuable about your health coaching sessions?

A: Setting aside 30 minutes each week just for me. I considered our meeting times sacred, and, for the first time in my life, truly prioritized myself.

I realize the value of listening to my own words. Health coaching allowed me to hear my own words repeating back to me. This has made me a more careful speaker, and I realize that the impact of this is far-reaching (it not only impacts what I say to others, but what I say to myself).

Final Inspiration to Help Your Clients Create Their Own Transformations

“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” — Wayne Dyer

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

“Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

For More Examples of Health Coaching and Client Transformation: