September is National Cholesterol Education Month. It’s a great time to check out your cholesterol numbers – and if need be – to get them under control. If it turns out you need help lowering your cholesterol levels your healthcare provider may recommend a medication, however, don’t overlook the impact lifestyle changes can have on your health. You may be able to lower your cholesterol levels through diet and exercise—working with a health coach is a great way to make long lasting lifestyle changes sustainable. Here are some of the many benefits to working with a health coach:
- Helps you find your motivation. Your health coach will first get you thinking about your motivation. The strongest motivation has some emotion behind it. Making a change because someone else wants you to is a weak, external motivator. But, making a change because you want to based on a personal goal such as becoming a role model for your children or avoiding medication that might have side effects is an example of strong internal motivation. Coaches can help you find this type of internal motivation that is so helpful in driving change and keeping you focused.
- Sets weekly health goals. With a strong motivator in place, you and your coach will next work together to find weekly health goals that will work for you and that you feel confident about achieving. Each week as you achieve these smaller step goals, you build confidence and get closer to that three month goal. Weekly goals are small increments of the habit or behavior you want to be doing when you get to the three months. It is these behaviors, repeated consistently, that will get you to the three month health goal you are seeking.
When you set weekly goals, coaches will encourage you to be specific. They will ask you to describe the goal in terms of the what, where, when, and how long you will do the behavior. Here is an example. “This week I will substitute avocado for mayonnaise on my sandwich.” They will also get you to think about the support you will need to be successful. For instance, you may need to think about adding avocado to your shopping list so you have it on hand to make a sandwich. Putting your goals and action steps in writing is also very helpful. You have something to refer to that is on paper and not just a thought.
- Drives accountability. There are a number of benefits to be had by working with a health coach. Accountability is a major one. Sharing your goals with others is also a good idea because the larger your support system the better. Your coach will often suggest that you share your plan and goals with your significant others. Having a health coach can help you not only define and implement your personal success system, but also serve as a trusted resource to rely on for fresh ideas or facts and information related to fitness and nutrition.
It’s important to note that not all health coaches are the same. Currently, anyone can call themselves a health coach or nutritionist and there are lots of companies providing “coaching.” I encourage you to look for credentials when seeking a health coach. Registered dietitians are nutrition experts and some have additional training in health coaching for behavior change.
Whether you are ready to take action or just considering change in the near future, a health coach can help set a plan in action. There is no time like today to begin the journey to a healthier you.