Health behavior coach: Small steps for health

“It’s a matter of making little changes, but those little changes have made a huge difference for me. I feel better than I have in years."

Health behavior coach: Small steps for health

When Laura Haack walks through the grocery store, it reminds her of the way her life has improved.

The Inwood, Iowa woman bypasses the soda and chips aisle, putting bright red, yellow and green peppers into a clear plastic bag. As she carefully selects the vividly colored vegetables that now regularly make it into her shopping cart, Laura says that eating right is now a part of her daily routine.

“It’s a matter of making little changes, but those little changes have made a huge difference for me,” says Laura. “I feel better than I have in years.”

A desire for change

For a long time, Laura knew she wanted to live a healthier life, but she felt overwhelmed by the many obstacles to shifting her habits. After a career in the banking industry, Laura had retired and was looking to make plans for her future, so she decided it was time to get some help from a health behavior coach.

“I needed someone to give me a little direction,” Laura said.

Laura made her first appointment with Shelly Hoefs, a health behavior coach, at the Mutch Women’s Center for Health Enrichment. She was nervous at first, but then the two women sat together, talking about Laura’s long-term goals. Almost immediately, Laura knew she had met someone she both trusted and liked.

“We would focus on just one or two things that I could do, something attainable that would make my life better,” Laura said. “She helped me set goals and then gave me the information I needed to reach them.”

Taking small steps

Laura and Hoefs talked about nutrition, healthy eating habits and identified the times when things would go off-track. When she figured out that she would snack while waiting for her children to return home from school, they came up with healthier options.

“Instead, I’d work out for 20 minutes during that time right before they got home,” Laura said. “It gets me past my danger time and I’m getting my exercise in.”

During her sessions, Hoefs showed Laura new ways to add exercise, taking her for a walk on a warm day and developing yoga positions that work well with Laura’s body shape and fitness level that she can do at home.

Nutrition counseling with the health behavior coach helped Laura make changes in the way that she shops. Her whole family has benefited from her focus on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and fiber. As she walks through the grocery aisles, she picks up a box of cereal, expertly reading labels to compare brands.

“It used to be a hit and miss thing, but now I know what to shop for,” Laura said.

Successful solutions

When an approach didn’t work, the two women worked together to tweak Laura’s goals and behaviors. At first, Laura was writing down everything she ate and logging all of the nutritional information, but she worried so much about every detail that she quickly got overwhelmed.

“It was stressing me out and making it worse for me,” Laura says. “When I met with Shelly she said that we would try doing something else that worked better.”

Within the first five months of seeing a health behavior coach, Laura lost 10 pounds and seven inches off her body. She knew that Hoefs would hold her accountable to meeting her goals, but also support her and find ways to help her make changes that she could maintain, she said.

“It is one of the best things that I’ve ever done,” said Laura with a confident smile. “When you reach your goals, it feels great.”

Posted In Health Information, Healthy Living, Weight Loss, Women's