Extra support for better health

Reaching a health or wellness goal is challenging for anyone, whether the objective is losing weight, lowering cholesterol, or improving endurance. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Seek out these pros when you need guidance, support, or inspiration.

Health and wellness coaches

Health coaches are part of a relatively new, evidence-based field of medicine that requires coach training followed by certification from the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching.

What they do. Coaches enable you to shift your mindset and develop new, healthy behaviors. “Coaches help you define what your vision for optimal health looks like. Together you figure out your motivation, why it matters, how to use your strengths to make sustainable changes, and where to start,” explains Margaret Moore, a pioneer of the field who co-founded and chairs the Institute of Coaching at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital and is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School Office of Global Education.

How they work. Health and wellness coaches help you generate new awareness and insights so you can design a plan of action. “Then you work with your coach on a combination of three to five behavior changes, experimenting with new habits until you find a formula that works for you, meeting for coaching sessions twice a month,” Moore says.

Types of health coaches. There are general health and wellness coaches who can assist you with a broad range of goals and specialized coaches who focus on managing a particular health challenge, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, or sleep problems. “Coaches have varied backgrounds,” Moore says. “Some are doctors or nurses; some have exercise or nutrition backgrounds. Find one who’s fairly close to your age and has the expertise that matches the particular challenge you want to confront.”

Fitness professionals

Unlike health coaches that engage you to find solutions, fitness professionals prescribe the exercise program and teach you the necessary skills to make it happen. Older adults are most likely to benefit from either of two types of fitness professionals:

Personal trainers. A personal trainer focuses on fitness for generally healthy people. They evaluate your needs and fitness goals, design an exercise program for you, and work with you while you’re exercising to make sure you follow a safe and proper form. Trainers don’t need college degrees but must take courses to become certified by an agency accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies — such as the American Council on Exercise — and take continuing education to maintain the certification.

Exercise physiologists. These experts develop exercise programs for sick, injured, or healthy people. “It could be someone with cancer who wants to work on balance or someone who wants to continue exercising after a cardiac rehabilitation program,” says Francis Neric, national director of certification with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Physiologists must have at least a college degree in exercise science.

Nutrition experts

Want to lose weight or change your diet? Doctors might recommend working with these professionals.

A dietitian. Dietitians are experts in diet and nutrition. They develop eating plans tailored to your needs so you can prevent or treat chronic disease. They can also advise you about what to eat in order to lose or gain weight. To practice, a dietitian must have a college degree and additional training, pass a national exam, and have a state license.

A culinary (cooking) coach. This new type of expert is a cross between a chef and a health coach. A coaching certification is not required, but culinary coaches must earn a certificate of completion from the only program offering the training, which is at the Harvard-affiliated Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

What does a culinary coach do? “We use coaching principles and cooking expertise to teach people how to shop for and prepare healthy meals. The session topics are up to the patient. Some people want to learn about legumes, others how to cook fish. Each person determines the program and learns [via videochat] how to cook tailored meals in their own kitchens, which helps them adopt new behaviors,” says Dr. Rani Polak, founding director of the Culinary Healthcare Education Fundamentals (CHEF) Coaching program.

Seeking help

Experts may be in private practice or on staff at hospitals, academic centers, doctors’ offices, or health clubs. Insurance sometimes covers the costs. For any expert, expect to pay $40 to $100 per session, for as long as you’d like sessions to continue. “Health is wealth for everyone,” Moore says. “This can be an investment with a long-term return.”

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Acts 4:18-31 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”     

2 Chronicles 25:19 “You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall and Judah with you?”

1 Samuel 2:3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

Micah 2:3 Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time.

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