A COACH ON EVERY CORNER
I have always had coaches surrounding me.
Track coaches to fun faster. Yoga coaches to deepen and refine my practice. A business coach when I knew I needed to make a career change but didn't know how to go about it (thanks Kami). Knowledgeable and wise, I relied on them for their experience and expertise.
Yet I had never had a health coach. I mean...why would I, right? I already know a ton about eating well, exercise and getting enough sleep. And frankly the few health coaches I know also sell shakes as part of their package. Since I happily make my own it is just not a fit.
As part of my certification through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA) I had to complete a 6 month practicum where I was to put my learnings to action. The FMCA assigned me clients and gave me tons of guidance and support. There is nothing like diving into the deep end of the swimming pool to master a new craft. My experience as a student health coach was incredibly rich—and I made huge strides in competency and confidence.
And then I was thrown a curveball.
I was assigned my very own student health coach. Someone just for me. I was told to complete these 5 additional coaching sessions—as the client, not as the coach.
Prior to our first session I'll admit I was curious, but pretty closed-minded. Who would my coach be? And what would she bring to the table?
The FMCA attracts health seekers from all over the world. Manju is a Nepalese transplant living in San Antonio. She had married a chiropractor and was getting her functional medicine health coaching certification to help round out his practice. And now she was assigned to someone named Heather from Colorado.
Manju and I had the same curriculum and were learning the same things—so would our time together be a waste of time—for both of us? Although I didn't think I would learn much, I was excited. To me the sessions represented an opportunity to compare my coaching style with another's technique. The experience would give me a feel for how functional medicine health coaching might feel to others.
Over the course of 10 weeks Manju and I meet via phone for our first session and then via video for the following sessions. I am not a lover of tele-coaching and convinced Manju that she should allow me to at least see her face. And a little of her surroundings. She was efficient, serious and kept the conversation grounded and focused. Our meetings lasted 30 minutes to an hour.
MY 4 TAKEAWAYS
1. It feels really good to cover all the bases.
Functional medicine health coaches focus goal setting on behavioral elements that are within our control to change. The Institute for Functional Medicine calls these the 5 modifiable lifestyle factors. Functional medicine trained health coaches share suggestions on 1) nutrition—with the belief that food is information, energy, connection and medicine. But we don't stop there. We also focus on providing tips to 2) foster better relationships, 3) improve sleep + relaxation, 4) increase exercise + movement and 5) transform stress. It's an incredibly comprehensive style of health coaching that covers all the bases in a very intentional manner. And since I am not just what I eat, or just how I sleep, I benefited greatly from this holistic approach.
2. Rain or shine, I was on her schedule.
Manju held space for me. She prioritized my health and wellness and wasn't going to cancel on me. I mean, she had me down in pen on her calendar! Who else does that for you? And it's one thing to know what you need to do. It's another thing to actually do it. Accountability is huge. And because Manju was going to ask, I was going to deliver. And if I hadn't delivered, well, she would have worked with that as well. She would have told me that we didn't set the right goal and we would then get to work on what that goal should have been.
3. Others see things I don't.
My top 3 character strengths are Self Regulation, Zest and Love. I am guessing Manju's are not. The reason I know my character strengths is because FMCA tasked me with filling out a free scientific survey to find out who I already knew I was at my essence. But boy is it nice to have the language and words to express it! Interested in learning your character strengths? Do it! Go to the VIA Institute on Character.
According to VIA website, The VIA Survey is a psychometrically validated personality test that measures an individual’s character strengths. Character strengths are viewed as our positive personality in that they are our core capacities for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that can bring benefit to us and others.
Manju's personal character strengths, life experience and perspective are not the same as mine. And thank goodness. Our differences allowed me to be open to new ways of thinking, new ways of doing and new ways of being. Usually what felt like a small suggestion here and there ended up being quite powerful and life transforming.
4. I got more me time.
The end result? Real time to physically explore the SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely) goals I had set with Manju. I was spending so much time making sure everyone else was okay that I had not been focusing enough time and effort on myself. The exercise of having my own personal health coach forced me to make time for myself—and to try out new suggestions that most-definitely improved my life.
THE DOWN AND DIRTY
So how does this translate? Like for-reals?
The following is a session by session replay of the highlights. It's the tip of the iceberg of all the good that happened.
Session 1: My husband Randy and I were not communicating well. On a 10 point scale, where 10 is excellent and 1 is awful, I was rating him a 3. Was he aware of his poor performance? Ha! No. Manju and I didn't delve into the details, instead we focused on what could bump up that number. By session 5 Randy was a solid 9. WOW! #relationships
Session 2: I was feeling guilty that my dog Lulu wasn't getting exercise. She was getting walks, but I wanted her to be able to run full speed. I had never taken my dog to a dog park. My Lulubell is kind of a spaz and I was nervous she would excite the other dogs. Manju and I did a simple exercise where we talked through the worst that could happen, the best that could happen and then agreed that it was worth the chance. Because I knew that Manju was going to ask me if I had taken Lulubell to the dog park, I made sure to make time for it before our next session. Like the day before. But the point is it happened, my Lulu loved it and it made me feel good prioritizing her needs. #stress-transformation
Session 3: I love to exercise—but after focusing on school, my kids, my business and my husband it just wasn't happening. Manju listened as I thought out-loud and put a movement plan into place. We worked through the potential hurdles and what my response would be to those challenges. I got back on my mountain bike on a regular basis and woke up early to do morning sprints. By being more intentional about fitness I became a happier person. For some slam dunk exercise tips check out my post on Get the Body Movin.' #exercise+movement
Session 4: With so much going on I felt like I was living life at 100 miles an hour. I knew I needed to slow down and get better sleep. I had been going to a monthly gong bath but it had fallen off the calendar. I put it back on and went. Have you tried a gong bath? They are amazing. I love lying in shavasana being fully immersed in music and its frequency. I feel much more calm and serene on the other side. Now I make sure to prioritize this monthly event. I also began to meditate again—after a looooooong hiatus—for 3 minutes each morning. The benefit? I feel more focused throughout the day, have less stress and end up sleeping better. #sleep+relaxation
Session 5: Having multiple autoimmune diseases means I do whatever I can to reduce systemic inflammation. My diet is pretty dialed-in. Here Manju suggested I consider adding fresh turmeric and ginger to warm water to sip on throughout the day. I was cooking with dried turmeric and ginger and the idea of getting them into my diet fresh was appealing, but I didn't like the associated extra cost. To complete this goal, Manju challenged me to find an Asian grocery store where prices were known to be lower. It was an incredible experience—felt like I had gone to Vietnam on vacation without the expense of a plane ticket. I began sipping on my new "tea" everyday. While the turmeric turned my finger tips orange I know it was fighting the good fight on the inside. #nutrition
Would these things have happened had I not had a personal functional medicine trained health coach along for the ride? NO. Definitely not. I am grateful to Manju, and grateful to FMCA for making fellow student health coach sessions a requirement.
Looking for a more specific definition of what a health coach does? The following is from the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching.
Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental. International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC)