The Good, The Bad, and The Life Coach

If you have struggled with weight loss, consider a life coach. There is no magic formula or secret ingredient to permanent weight loss. The good news is, I’m giving it away free, right here and right now. The bad news is, effective and permanent weight loss is hard work and requires significant behavior changes including understanding and changing how you think. Doing this work ourselves can be challenging. This is where life coaching may be helpful.

Like any great athlete or team, people often need a coach.  Coaches push you to be your best by providing constructive feedback, encouragement and challenging fixed beliefs that keep you from attaining your goals. While ultimately, you are accountable for your own actions, a life coach helps you achieve your potential by asking the hard questions and digging into your thoughts, which produce feelings, actions and inevitably your results.

Life coaching helps people to address the underlying thoughts and feelings, which often lead to overeating. In my medical practice, for example, telling patients they need to lose weight and educating them on healthy eating was a fruitless effort (no pun intended). It wasn’t until I started addressing the underlying reasons for my patient’s unhealthy habits, that I saw significant and sustained results. After working with patients in a capacity more like a life coach than a doctor, my patients lost weight and improved their overall health.  My pre-diabetic patients reduced their A1c and mitigated their risk of developing diabetes. Diabetics learned to manage their diabetes through lifestyle modification rather than medications, which are expensive and have considerable side effects. Other patients saw increased energy levels as well as improvement in lipid panel and high blood pressure.

Doctors perpetuate the myth that people are unhealthy because they aren’t listening to medical advice and are uneducated, unmotivated or undisciplined. This perspective shifts the blame to the patient instead of admitting that we (the doctors) are failing. This perspective doesn’t make sense when examined more thoroughly. For example, many overweight people are successful in so many other areas of their lives. According to current medical thought, an overweight corporate leader can manage million-dollar budgets but can’t consistently count calories. Believing overweight patients just don’t know better means an attorney who spends hours reviewing case law to prepare for court doesn’t have the ability to research and understand basic nutritional concepts. Assuming patients are overweight because they are undisciplined means an overweight doctor (there are many) has the self-discipline to complete medical school and an intensive residency training but can’t be trusted make healthy food choices.

Life coaching is successful because it helps people address health and wellness concerns by targeting the underlying thoughts, feelings, actions and results. As doctors, we are taught to assume our patients fail to lose weight because they are non-compliant. After all, why else would patients ignore our warnings about the long-term risks of obesity? We simply tell them to lose weight and follow-up in six months. Then we are shocked when our patients are unsuccessful. On occasion patients make changes and see moderate results, but any weight loss or improvement in lab panels typically disappear in time. It is the rare patient who achieves permanent and sustained results. This paternalistic approach to health care has increased costs, kept pharmaceutical companies rich and frustrated both patients and physicians. Patients are unsuccessful because doctors are treating the symptom of overeating rather than the reasons people overeat.

The economics of our current health care system perpetuate this broken system by rewarding doctors for productivity rather than outcomes. Prescribed medications are expensive and may have side effects. In some cases, such as pre-diabetes, doctors tell the patient to “do a better job managing their weight and follow-up in six months.” As a doctor, I truly believe that annual check-ups are necessary to evaluate physical systems, facilitate annual screenings and identify diseases early when treatment is more effective. The problem, however, is that this system is a system of “disease care” not health and wellness care. Maintaining and improving health and wellness is a completely different model that takes more time than a 15-minute doctor visit. Proactive and effective health care requires addressing the thoughts, which produce emotions and the resulting actions. Only by altering these patterns of behaviors are we able to produce effective and permanent improvements in health and well-being.

If you are interested in learning how a life coach can help you achieve your wellness goals, contact me to schedule a free mini-coaching session.

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