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FAQs and Definitions

-How do you define “health”?
- What is “holistic health education”?

- What is holistic life coaching?

- What’s the difference between coaching and therapy or consulting?

- What does holistic life coaching look like?

- What if I want to learn more about the Health At Every Size® approach – is coaching enough?

- What areas are suitable for coaching?

- What does “Embodied Learning” mean?

How do you define “health”?

I define “health” broadly as the ability to live well in the face of whatever stresses and adversities we face.  Living well means something different for each of us.  The following concepts are often cited by people who contemplate what living well means to them: Joy, Connection, Meaning, Vitality, Balance, Energy, Peace, Faith, Contentment, Compassion, Service, Creativity, Laughter, Nature, Community… Physical health is important to living well, but is just one component of health; health of mind, spirit, community, and Earth are important too.  What gets emphasized is up to each of us to decide.  It is significant to me that the concepts of “thin,” “beautiful,” and “rich” rarely show up in such contemplations. 

 

What is “holistic health education”?

Holistic health education redefines the education process to put the learner, not the educator or any other “expert,” in control.  When health is defined as living well with joy and meaning in the face of life’s stresses and difficulties, it becomes impossible for any educator to define the agenda.  Health educators can provide tools and inspiration, but only the individual can define what “living well” means. 

In contrast, traditional health education focuses on identifying “unhealthy” behaviors and changing them, usually by replacing them with “healthy” behaviors.  This seems straightforward enough, but ask yourself two questions:

  • How are you being “convinced” to make these changes?
  • Who defines “unhealthy” and “healthy” in this scenario?

Traditional health education requires a passive consumer, with the health educator as the “expert” who decides the agenda.  Traditional health educators also frequently try to persuade individuals to make changes by using a “carrots and sticks” (incentives and disincentives) approach.  Whether or not change happens depends upon the instructor’s ability to implement behavior change techniques.  (Think Pavlov and the dogs, where you are the dog.)  Worse, health education techniques often seek to motivate people using fear, shame, and guilt.

Any long-term transformation requires a commitment that only come from within; it can’t be “taught.”  Traditional approaches to health education fail to honor our right to self-determination and our ability to define our own priorities and what “health” means to us.  I am indebted to Jon Robison and Karen Carrier (2004) for the definition of the holistic health educator as a “compassionate ally” who facilitates individuals’ reconnection with “their inner wisdom” (p. 170, 195).

 

What is holistic life coaching?

Coaching is often defined as a creative and action-oriented partnership, focusing on an individual’s current relationships, activities, and choices and on what actions an individual will take to achieve identified objectives.  Holistic life coaching is a partnership that accesses the whole person in terms of mind, body, emotion, and spirit for identifying both issues and solutions.  Holistic coaching is about helping clients achieve a satisfying and fulfilling life through balance, connection, and meaning.  The holistic life coach may be a guide, a resource, a listener, a teacher, and a “fellow traveler along a meaningful path.”  (Thanks to my coaching teacher Linda Bark of AsOne Coaching for this phrase!)  Holistic coaching helps clients achieve a balance between doing and being and foster those relationships and activities that truly nourish them by making choices and recognizing patterns that lead to positive change.

 

What’s the difference between coaching and therapy or consulting?

Although for some people, there may be overlap with the subject matter of psychotherapy, coaching focuses energy and attention on taking action in the present.  Unlike most psychotherapy, coaching does not emphasize analyzing or understanding the individual’s past experiences and relationships.  The coach’s role is more like that of a partner or team member than therapist.  Nor is the coach an “expert” or consultant who tells her client how to solve problems or simply solves the problems for the client.  Rather, a coach supports and facilitates the client’s process of discovering and implementing solutions.

 

What does holistic life coaching look like?

The coaching relationship usually begins with a free coaching session that will enable both of us to evaluate whether the coaching relationship will be productive and positive.  After the first free session, we may enter into an initial coaching agreement, usually for 2-3 months to begin with.  Each monthly fee covers a specified number of half-hour coaching sessions per month, as well as “spot coaching” by telephone and email.  For example, the client may email or telephone when identified objectives have been met, or if obstacles crop up in between sessions.  Clients often worry about overusing spot coaching, but in reality, most clients use it appropriately.

 

What if I want to learn more about the Health At Every Size® approach – is coaching enough?

For those who are new to Health At Every Size® (HAESSM) practices such as intuitive eating and body acceptance, I offer education packages as well as mixed education and coaching packages.  When you are ready, we can adjust to a more coaching-based relationship if that appeals to you.  Alternately, you can join a support group.  Especially in the areas of disordered eating and body image, we tend to feel very isolated, as if we are the only ones who feel this way or eat this way, etc.  The support group can facilitate healing in part by providing indisputable evidence that you are not the only one, that you are not alone, and that change is possible.

 

What areas are suitable for coaching?

The subject of the coaching relationship is always determined by the client, who is the only person who can say what objectives are important enough to be the focus of the coaching relationship.  Some areas will take weeks or months for the coach and client to resolve, others might be resolved in one session.  Common areas include:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Personal Growth
  • Life Transitions
  • Career
  • Creative and Abundant Living
  • Stress Reduction/ Management
  • Overcoming Disordered Eating
  • Transforming Body Image

 

What does “Embodied Learning” mean?

Embodied Learning is my term for my educational approach based on my studies of the role of the body in the learning process.  Because the body is the locus of all human experience, and because it is through our experiences that we transform, I believe that the body is also the nexus of transformative learning.


My understanding of the term “embodied” is based on Susan Aposhyan’s definition of embodiment as “the moment to moment process by which human beings allow awareness to enhance the flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and energies through our bodily selves” (Aposhyan, 2004, p. 52).  I consider learning to be “embodied” when learners experience such a flow through their bodies during the learning process.  When we take in information (e.g., reading, listening) while in an embodied state, when we make choices based on an embodied decision-making process, when we process information and choices in an embodied way, the result is more likely to be consistent with our core values and our authentic self and thus more likely to be integrated into our lives.


An implication of the Embodied Learning approach is that we can greatly benefit from cultivating our somatic awareness.  By “somatic,” I mean our direct experience of our bodily states.  Cultivating somatic awareness is about learning how to make contact with our bodily states in a ready and fluid manner.  I practice several forms of somatic meditation, including movement, vocal, and breathing meditations.  While I am more than willing to share my practices with my clients if they are interested, engaging in somatic meditation is not required in order to work with me.

 

Do you have a question that hasn’t been answered here?  Please contact me and let me know what is on your mind.

 

SOURCES:

Susan Aposhyan (2004). Body-mind psychotherapy: Principles, techniques, and practical applications. New York: W.W. Norton.

Fall Ferguson (2008). Transformative Education: The Embodied Learning Method. Available at http://library2.jfku.edu/Holistic_Health/Transformative_Education.pdf.

Jon Robison & Karen Carrier (2004). The spirit and science of holistic health: More than broccoli, jogging and bottled water; More than yoga, herbs, and meditation. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.

 

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