Life Coaching, Health and Wellness: Early Research Findings

Why would someone seek out a life coach for weight loss? It’s probably not the first professional who comes to mind when you think of making a health or lifestyle change. And yet why not?

“...I took part in a study and you were my life coach during my first year of university (almost 2 years ago now). I was going through my older emails and I still had many of yours between us. I was looking at my goals I set out with you those many months ago, and I can't believe how far I have come since then.

Since I have spoken to you last, I went out and connected with a personal trainer, I work out 5-7 days a week and am now regularly attending a co-ed gym.  I have lost a little over 60 pounds and am well on my way to hitting the 100lb mark.  I eat whole foods now, and barely keep any processed food in my fridge anymore.

I am in a healthy relationship and am living with my significant other and find myself happier every day.  I am now able to stand up for myself and I do not let my friends pressure me or push me around anymore.  I am in my third year of university and just had my first article published on my school’s website so I have been much better with my school work.

I think that you were one of the major turning points in my life, and although we only talked for a short time I wanted to thank you for helping me change my life…"                                                                  CHANGE study participant

Our health is complex. It’s layered among our emotional, spiritual, mental, physical and sexual selves. It’s connected to our relationships with others, with our work and with money. It shows up in our self-image, our self-expression, and our self-esteem. Our state of health is a reflection of our inner sense of peace, inner knowing and self-acceptance.

Traditionally, the way to good health has been reduced to fitness and nutrition. We know the physicality of our health is important and current research now confirms that the issue is recognized as far more complex. Our world is more complex, our experience as human beings is more complex and managing our health is increasingly complex.

Health may be many things. It can be: - Waking up in the morning feeling a lightness in your body and spirit, - Making space during your day to savour your meal and nourish yourself, - Taking time to move your body to refresh, restore, challenge and pleasure your body, - Knowing what you’re feeling, allowing it, experiencing it and moving through it, - Feeling love and appreciation for another being, a friend or relative, - Having the confidence to take a risk outside of your comfort zone, - and many other possibilities that are unique to you.

Starting in September 2010 I participated as a life coach in a research project on coaching and obesity.  The purpose of the project was to compare two different modalities for their efficacy with health outcomes related to obesity. The two modalities were the interactive life coaching approach and the prescriptive LEARN program, which has been used for weight loss for 30 years and has already proven itself to be statistically-significant in research.

All the certified life coaches were trained through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). For the research participants who were randomly selected to the life coaching modality, they were asked to commit to 12 weeks of life coaching over the phone for 30 minutes each week. After coaching was completed, there were 3-month and 6-month follow-up meetings with the researchers to assess the participants’ progress and outcomes.

I coached four people over the course of the research study. After the preliminary introductory call to connect, answer questions about the coaching process and learn what the participant wanted to achieve by the end of the 12 weeks, s/he decided on goals for their health + well-being. The life coaching approach meant that they also explored parts of their life that connected to their well-being: their academic, career and work, their relationships with family, friends and lovers, their physical space or home, or wherever they wanted to focus on and create change in their health and life.

So what were the results of the research study? That life coaching is as statistically significant a method as the prescriptive LEARN program for an obesity intervention. Here is the published study: The CHANGE Program: Comparing an Interactive versus Prescriptive Obesity Intervention on University Students' Self-Esteem and Quality of Life, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Volume 4, Issue 3, pages 369–389, November 2012.

During their 12 weeks of life coaching, participants had new insights about their health and became aware of the many things that impacted it. They learned to coach themselves and how to get out of their own way. Successful coaching is when clients continue to work towards their goals without the coach!

Learning about what we need to be healthy takes us on a powerful journey into ourselves. If you’re interested in taking that next step but feel overwhelmed or stuck, contact me for a free consultation and find out how you can create the sense of well-being you dream of.