Can A Health Coach Help You Live Longer?

 

Hello again my midlife friend

 

In this post, I want to discuss a subject I have become very passionate about after recovering from cancer, and the subsequent life-changing information I have learned as a result.

 

These are observations and some recommendations that hopefully may resonate with you. Kinda like my other posts discussing mindset, anxiety, intentional living, etc. It’s all about things that I have, or am still experiencing in my midlife years…and maybe you are too.

 

If you have been reading a few of my posts, you’ll probably be aware that I’m training to be a Health Coach with IIN – Institute For Integrative Nutrition.

 

The reason for this decision came about when, following my kidney cancer, I consulted with a health coach to find out about a better way to approach my diet and lifestyle. I was so impressed with the information and insight I received, that I felt inspired to help others, particularly midlife women, in the same way. 

 

What Does A Health Coach Do?

 

A health coaching is not to be confused with a nutritionist, life coach, fitness coach, psychologist, or dietician. Although there is a little bit of cross-over included.

 

So why a health coach?.

 

What we don’t often consider is how much our food choices can affect other aspects of our lives. Like digestive problems, bloating, gas, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia among others. Choosing what and when we eat is often linked to other imbalances in our personal lives…like comfort eating if we’re upset, or reaching for sugary foods to make us feel good when we’re anxious.

 

Trouble is, these choices can cause more problems than they solve, like messing with our immune system, weight gain, plus a host of other issues affecting our overall wellbeing. It’s just not something we consider until it’s explained to us. This is what happened in my case.

 

Health coaching mainly involves listening to clients talk about their issues, such as  “I’m always tired and don’t know why”, or  “I’ve developed an allergy recently”,  or  “I’ve started to feel depressed and I’m eating junk food to feel better”, or commonly  “I have bloating and gas”.

 

Woman suffering from stomach issues holding upper belly

 

They would discuss the different foods you’re eating, suggest what you could change to help you feel better, encourage you to talk about what has happened that could be causing the recent bout of depression, and look at what could possibly be changed to resolve the issue.

 

It’s all very low-key, totally non-confrontational and non-judgmental…like friends having a heart-to-heart chat about ‘stuff’. It doesn’t involve you being put on any restrictive diet, told to follow any exercise regimen, or having judgment passed on aspects of your life that may not be bringing you joy at present. Although a health coach can certainly encourage you to explore these.

 

We Know Our Own Bodies Better Than Anyone

 

Health coaching is based on the premise that we all know our bodies better than anyone else. WE KNOW when something isn’t right. As women, we are especially good at this. We listen to our ‘gut’ (pardon the pun). We are intuitive, and unlike many men, we choose to acknowledge and take notice of that inner voice.

 

Humans are all totally different from one another. What may cause an issue for me, be it food, stress level, hormones, etc may not cause any problems for you. This is referred to as being Bio-Individual. This also means that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to resolving a person’s mental, physical, or dietary problems.

 

This is definitely the case with foods. We all react differently to food. For example, my husband loves chili and can eat it without any side effects. On the other hand, I will spend the next 2 days on the ‘throne’ if I so much as look at it!

 

So technically,  there shouldn’t be ‘one medication fits all’ for medical complaints either. And yet, look at the overuse of antibiotics given for just about everything. This has resulted in an antibiotic resistance situation where the bugs are becoming immune to the antibiotics so they no longer work…in many cases leaving us at the mercy of the little blighters!

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate this to a physician as they have a pre-conceived idea of what the problem may be already…and they’re not always correct even though we expect them to be…they’re only human – not miracle workers!

 

If it’s food-related or manifesting due to some imbalance in some other aspect of your life, it’s unlikely to be discussed. Your affliction may very well be due to what you’re eating, why you’re eating certain things, and whether there is a reason you’re not digesting correctly.

 

A Classic Example Of This Is Celiac Disease.

 

People suffering from this disease, experience symptoms that are so varied that it’s often misdiagnosed. This condition can be a direct result of eating certain foods, and serious gut issues preventing the food from being correctly digested.

 

This can result in the person becoming malnourished, and suffering from a host of symptoms and debilitating afflictions that don’t appear to be related. These people can be shuffled from pillar to post trying to get someone to connect the dots and finally get a diagnosis. Things are changing with this disease being better diagnosed but it took a long time.

 

You can tell the doctor how you’re feeling but guaranteed he/she won’t ask about your home life or spend time letting you talk and get out what may be the fundamental issues behind your overeating, depression, lack of sleep, lack of energy, or numerous other problems that you know aren’t going right with you. 

 

This Is Not A Criticism Of The Medical Profession.

 

Physicians are usually so incredibly busy that they have limited time to spend with you. Many will be the first to admit that they’re not taught in medical training that what foods we eat or don’t eat, can either cause or solve many problems. They usually observe our bodies in a different way…a clinical way, and look to medications or even surgery to treat the problem. But this doesn’t always get to the root cause.

 

…and please don’t misunderstand.

 

No ethical health coach would ever try to take the place of your doctor by behaving like they have all the answers. Or suggesting that you don’t need to consult your physician. Quite the opposite. Particularly if after chatting with you, it appears that there is something more serious going on with your physical or mental health, they will be the first ones to refer you on.

 

A Non-Judgmental Chat Can Really Give You Insight.

 

Discussing things with a health coach may give you some new insights into yourself, how you feel emotionally, suggest some changes in your eating habits to improve your nutrition and help lift your mood, and encourage you to evaluate what issues may be causing an imbalance in other aspects of your life.

 

Female health coach and her client sitting chatting and smiling on sofa

 

Just talking and getting some things out with a person who isn’t judging you in any way, who has the time to listen to you, can help you come to your own conclusions. This can lead to you recognizing where your problems may lie and allow you to diagnose your own issues.

 

You’ll be surprised how this can happen…it happened to me. Interestingly, I found that coming to my own realization was more powerful than being told by someone else.

 

Most health coaches have had, or are experiencing some health or personal issues themselves that they are still working on. That’s often the reason they became coaches, directly as a result of experiencing the benefits of healthy changes in their own lives.

 

So you’ll be chatting with someone who truly ‘gets’ where you’re coming from. You won’t be trying to explain yourself to a person who may not understand how or why you’re looking to make changes to your foods. They’ve already been there and bought the T-shirt, so to speak!…and that’s a comforting feeling.

 

The health coach can prompt you with certain questions to enable you to think about things differently. They can also share suggestions for gradual dietary or other changes that you may choose to adopt…and why those changes may be beneficial.

 

Note: these will only ever be suggestions. 

 

It will be up to you to decide to take responsibility for your health and choose to implement changes to help heal yourself. Remember, you know your body and your life better than anyone else and the health coach understands this.

 

By the way…you don’t have to visit a health coach in person. All types of coaching are online now, particularly as we’re all stuck in different places around the world. Thanks to the wonderful world of video platforms like Zoom.

 

Why Is Another Approach To Our Health So Critical?

 

As a population, our health is declining every year!

 

Whilst there’s a time and place for medications, they aren’t always the solution. Most medications are man-made. They have chemicals in them. Granted, they may ease the symptoms, but they can also mask the underlying issue, which could possibly be addressed with a better diet and better nutrition, correcting a lack of certain vitamins and minerals. 

 

A new approach is certainly worth a try…don’t you think?

 

For the sake of this discussion, I want to leave aside the devastation being wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has completely shifted the goal-posts this year for the whole world’s health concerns. Nothing could have prepared us for this.

 

But in normal times prior to 2020, America and other 1st world countries are nations of rising chronic diseases and so much of this is directly related to our diet. We’re seeing unprecedented cases of serious illnesses striking people at younger ages than ever before.

 

Diabetes in children, cardiovascular disease, early-onset type 2 diabetes in adults and children, increasing cases of stroke, increasing cases of hyperactivity in children, issues related to digestion and auto-immune disorders in both adults and kids, growing cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia…the list goes on and on!

 

Not to mention the serious levels of obesity in our populations.

 

BTW…if you are overweight, don’t feel humiliation or shame in relation to obesity. In many cases, it isn’t necessarily your fault. There are other contributing factors besides just overeating.

 

Yes, many people do overeat. But contrary to what society wants to say and think, it’s very often caused by too much unhealthy crap added to our processed foods. This is coupled with a growing level of stress in our daily lives that we often try to resolve by eating…which is extremely common.

 

Food was my ‘drug of choice’ to deal with anxiety and stress.

 

Couple this with an addiction to sugar that the food industry WANTS US TO HAVE!. Sugar releases dopamine in the brain, a feel-good sensation akin to an addiction to nicotine or alcohol. It can be very difficult to overcome. It took me some time to ‘kick’ the sugar habit!

 

There’s Commercial Interest At Play Here…And It’s Legal!

 

Let’s set the stage…

 

There was a backlash some years ago to how much fat we were all supposedly consuming in processed foods. Suddenly fat became the ‘bad guy’ (trans fats, saturated fats – definitely NOT good for us). As a result, the food industry took note and had to change its way of producing their goods in order to be seen to be doing the right thing by consumers.

 

So, to look like they were heeding the public’s worry about fat consumption, they took out the fats, (some of them), but they still had to make the food tasty and appealing so guess what…they started adding sugar…lots of it!

 

It turns out that low-fat diets are not necessarily the way to go. There are some oils our bodies really benefit from such as Olive oil, avocados, flaxseed oil, and sunflower oil. There are other good fats that we need in for our bodies to function such as essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6.

 

These are ‘essential’ because we can’t survive without them, and our bodies can’t manufacture them. They have to be supplied via our food  – namely oily fish like Atlantic mackerel, salmon, sardines, tinned light tuna, walnuts, and flaxseeds) or good quality supplements of Omega 3 Fish Oil. 

 

Trans fats and saturated fats are not good for us even though they’re in so much of our food. Check out the label on a jar or can of processed food next time you’re at the grocery store and see them on the label.

 

Also, look at the ingredients you can’t even pronounce or they are represented by a number or abbreviation. If you need Google just to find out what they are (sadly, most of us don’t bother) then that can’t be a good thing.

 

Then check out the sugar level. Depending on what the food is for, do you think it needs sugar in it?…probably not. Even naturally sweet food items have ‘added sugar’ like corn syrup…why?

 

Nutrition Label on food

 

Now it’s known through copious amounts of research into diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that sugar is worse for us than fat. Particularly corn syrup.

 

Corn syrup is 100% glucose and is metabolized and enters our bloodstream almost immediately. This causes our blood sugar to rise, triggering the body to release insulin to normalize blood sugar levels. Continuous insulin spikes needed to deal with consuming corn syrup regularly may lead to insulin resistance. This can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and possibly type 2 diabetes.

 

Processed table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. These two are processed differently in our bodies. Unlike glucose, fructose is almost entirely metabolized by the liver. If we consume too much fructose the liver can’t process it fast enough, so instead, it’s converted into a key component of triglycerides…a high level of this in the blood is a key risk factor for heart disease. The condition ‘fatty liver’ is said to affect 70+ million people in the US.

 

There Just Has to Be A Better Way.

 

Even the medical profession is very aware of this and profoundly worried. They can see the cost of medical care and the demand for it increasing every year. But their hands are tied. They can only work within their scope and specific expertise, and that usually means dealing with the issues once the patient has presented to them with the chronic illness. Then it’s up to medication or worse still, surgical procedures to resolve the issues.

 

Suffice it to say that we have been duped by the processed food industry, and health-wise we’re paying an extremely high price for it. So much so, that the healthcare system can’t keep up with it. We’re all getting sicker whilst the drug companies and processed food industries are getting richer!.

 

As a direct result of the things we are inadvertently eating…and make no mistake, in far too many cases it is as a direct result, the cost of healthcare will continue to rise and rise. Reaching the point in the future where the average person will be terrified of getting sick because they literally can’t afford the care!

In An Ideal World, We Wouldn’t Have These Issues.

 

There’s a great saying: 

“If you can’t pronounce it, or it has a barcode on it, it’s probably not good for you”

 

There’s mounting evidence that the way we eat, what’s in our processed foods, how much sugar we consume, together with pesticides on our vegetables, hormones added to our livestock feed, arsenic fed to commercially-raised chickens to stop them from getting parasites, is all causing our ever-increasing chronic illnesses because our bodies are not designed to metabolize these things!

 

In an ideal world, we would easily be able to buy genuinely certified organic veggies, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised chicken where possible, and not have to mistrust our processed foods. But the world isn’t ideal, so do what you can to be informed and make decisions accordingly. Seek out organic were possible.

 

Balanced diet food laid out on grey table

 

We can head off some of these major health problems in the very early stages by looking at food…how and what we eat? Slowly replacing processed foods with whole foods, which means foods that are in their natural state.

 

This includes replacing white rice with brown because white rice is milled so much it’s lost the ‘germ’, bran, and husk rendering it nutritionally very low. Basmati rice (both brown and white) is the best for you. Also, white flour used in white bread is bleached using Chlorine, so maybe limit your white bread consumption…just a thought.

Cornbread is worth a try, as is pumpkin or sweet potato bread.

 

In Conclusion.

 

No-one’s saying give up your favorite foods forever. Instead, maybe shift your thinking to having the hamburger and fries or pizza as a treat, in amongst eating healthily and staying away from processed sugar-filled food and sodas as much as possible.

 

Removing processed sugar from your diet is a great start. Using healthy fats that your body needs and choosing not to eat, or at least reducing anything containing trans fats, saturated fats, and corn syrup. 

 

Don’t you think we need to start thinking differently about what we consume? I know this sounds like a rant, but we only have one life and personally, I want to live as long and healthy a life as possible…don’t you?

 

Consulting with a health coach was incredibly beneficial for me and not just related to food. I was encouraged to evaluate other aspects of my life causing concern, and this resulted in me making some life-changing decisions.

 

As a result, I lost 66lbs, changed my diet to mainly plant-based foods, drink more water and a lot less coffee (still an addict!), and decided, along with my husband to ditch our stressful 9-5 lifestyle and become Digital Nomads.

 

The last one is a little radical I know (not for everyone)…but the others are definitely worth it when your doctor tells you “you’ve probably added an extra 8-10 years to your life”

…can’t beat that!

 

Hopefully, you can see how consulting a health coach may be beneficial for you too.

Please drop me a line in the comments…I’d love to hear your thoughts.