According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes and 90 to 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, this is a disease that is managed mostly by you with support from a healthcare team.
One of the newest types of practitioners to join a healthcare team is a health coach. (Full disclosure: I am one myself!). If you have type 2 diabetes, here are 7 reasons why a health coach may be a good addition to your team of providers.
1. Coaches ask important lifestyle questions.
Many things can influence what and how we are eating. A health coach may ask questions that can uncover the root problems of poor nutrition. Sleep, stress, and work and family balance can all contribute to diabetes and need to be discussed. Being inactive also takes a toll. For example, in one study of over 50,000 women, each two-hour-per-day increment of sitting at work was associated with a 7 percent increase in diabetes.
2. Coaches are not restricted to 15 minutes.
It is not that doctors are unaware of the many factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes, but they are often limited to short visits with patients. My health coaching sessions are between 30 and 60 minutes and happen over a three to six-week period. This helps me monitor behaviors closely and keeps things on track.
3. Health coaches are trained in a number of different disciplines.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a number of different factors, so is important that you include a professional on your team who is trained in variety of areas.
Understanding concepts such as positive thinking, motivation, and habit reversal are key to lasting change and managing diabetes. Health coaches may have a broad academic background in areas such as education, public health, human growth and development, or psychology.
4. Coaches can work in a collaborative way.
Sometimes it makes a difference if you feel like you are in charge when it comes to your body and your health. When I first meet with clients, I ask, “What would feeling better look like to you?” I am always aware that they are the experts in their daily lives. It is up to me to walk beside them and serve as a guide and educator.
5. Coaches give individualized attention.
One of the recommendations for diabetes is to exercise more. However, if you have never exercised, you may not know how to get started and be too embarrassed to ask. Sometimes people are completely intimidated by the thought of a gym and what to wear to exercise, especially if weight is an issue. I find talking through the issues around exercise on the first or second meeting is a great approach to lasting change. Later in the process, I can match the client with a qualified fitness instructor who I think will match his or her goals and personality as we move forward.
6. A good coach can sort fact from fiction.
Some of my clients are tired of being bombarded with information about health fads. They would rather know what the research supports and not be bogged down by the extra information that is not based in science. A good health coach can save you time and effort by simply communicating what health information is real and what is not.
7. Health coaching can happen anytime and anywhere.
Doctor visits need to happen during work hours in a doctor’s office. As a health coach, I have met clients in the local coffee shop, in the park, and at their dining room table after they get home from work. Health coaching can take place over the phone, Face time, or Skype. This type of flexibility allows me to see clients in a more natural setting and give them ideas that work with their real lives.
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a health coach will never take the place of your doctor. But they can be a great addition to your medical team and help you get the results you are looking for more quickly.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.