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’

Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Luke 10:19

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 2 Corinthians 11:14

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Romans 12:21

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 John 4:1-3

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
1 John 3:8

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Leviticus 19:28

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
Proverbs 19:23

The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Psalm 91:1-16

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, …
Luke 10:17

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