In Your Corner
Have you ever lost weight, only to find the pounds creeping back on just a few months later? Or vowed to eat a healthier diet but found it too hard to decipher food labels or set aside time to cook? If you're having trouble meeting a health goal, or if you've tried in the past and failed, you might benefit from an increasingly popular new resource—a health coach. Unlike, say, a workout buddy, "a health coach is trained to help you break your goal into manageable steps, track your progress, and identify and overcome personal roadblocks," says Karen Lawson, MD, program director for the health coaching track at the University of Minnesota.
Lawson notes that the number of health coaches has exploded in recent years, and until national credentialing standards are implemented, you'll need to choose one with care. Ask about her training (you'll want at least 80 hours of education), whether she has prior experience in a health-related field like nutrition or nursing, how much she charges (hourly sessions can range from $50 to $200, and a few insurers provide coverage), and how many clients she has seen in the past (Lawson advises a minimum of 30).
Once you hire a coach, what kind of advice can you expect to get? We asked five pros to share their best tips.
Today Clean, Tomorrow Lean
"If the thought of taking a big step (like losing 20 pounds) feels overwhelming, try making a small change in an unrelated area. Spending a few minutes each day cleaning out your junk drawer or organizing crushing paperwork, for example, can help you feel successful—and provide you with the motivating energy to subsequently tackle the more difficult task."
—Claire M. Stuckey, Plymouth, Minnesota
Lying in Wait
"On days you don't feel like exercising, tell yourself you're going to simply lie on the floor. Some days you might lie there and do nothing. But often, once you're down, it's easy to motivate yourself to do a few crunches, push-ups, or stretches."
—Juliana Brafa, New York City
"In restaurants, use the 'plan, scan, or can' technique. Beforehand, decide on a food plan—for example, that you'll start with a fiber-rich salad or vegetable-based soup. When the waiter hands you the menu, give it a cursory scan to hone in on your choices, and ignore everything else. (Once you lock in on the fettuccine Alfredo, it can be tough to resist.) If you want to order a favorite, less nutritious dish, make your selection healthier by asking, 'Can I have steamed veggies instead of fries?' or 'Can you grill the fish tacos rather than fry them?'"
—Lisa Cummings, Westport, Connecticut
Set Down the Cookie Crutch
"When you're feeling frazzled, it can be tough to think of a quick pressure-releaser that doesn't involve chocolate. Instead of stuffing your desk with snacks, create a 'nourishment menu,' a written list of simple actions (like sending your partner an 'I love you' text, or treating yourself to a hand massage) that make you feel good and ease stress. When you need a time-out, just look at the menu and choose an item."
—Terra C. Pfund, Red Bank, New Jersey
The Remedy for Salad Fatigue
"For a healthy lunch, try this easy, low-cost alternative to salads: Before leaving home, load a one-quart container half full of frozen vegetables and fill the rest with a matching protein and low-fat sauce (think Southwest vegetables with black beans and salsa, or Asian vegetables with canned salmon and sesame ginger vinaigrette). No need to refrigerate: By noon the veggies will be defrosted and everything will have marinated to perfection."
—Jennifer A. Ford, Huntington Beach, California
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