Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “ From the Homefront ,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 16 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network .
Written by Shelley Kimball
Before this week, I wasn’t really sure what health and wellness coaching was. I get sports coaching, but wellness? I wasn’t sure.
I decided to figure it out, partly because there are a lot of military spouses who do this for a living, but also because Coast Guard’s office of work-life (CG SUPRT) offers these services to family members. So off I went to learn more, and before I knew it, I got myself a wellness coach.
Here’s how it works – a wellness coach is someone who acts as a counselor, an expert, a support to move you forward in your health goals. Those goals can include weight loss, but it’s much more than that – pretty much anything that can affect you physically or emotionally.
“Having a coach to guide you in building your wellness can save on healthcare costs, provide emotional support that reduces stress, and help you to balance your work and family,” said Sarah Geesaman, a CG SUPRT promotions specialist who works with the coaching program. “Coaching is a powerful resilience builder that gives you the tools to self manage illness, meet weight and fitness goals essential for duty, and organize and manage life events so you can transition smoothly through changes that are frequent in the military lifestyle.”
I don’t like to ask for help, and having someone talk to me about health issues sounded sort-of awkward. But for you all, I thought I would sign up to see what it is like. My health goal this year is to be much more vigilant about my cardiac health – lower cholesterol, more efficient exercise, anything to be heart-healthy.
According to Geesaman, the point of all of this is that the coaching will make your goal more focused and will help you maintain your effort and motivation to reach them.
“After using Health and Wellness Coaching, members and their families report that the coach helped them get a clear picture of their goal and the steps to meet it, honestly encouraged them, incited motivation and excitement for the process, and was someone on their side,” she said.
I signed up here. You get up to 12 sessions of online coaching about a particular topic for free. If you want coaching for another topic, you sign up again for that topic. (If you need something more long-term for a medical issue, they will help you find a more appropriate medical benefit.)
First, you need a log-in account with Coast Guard Support, then you can move on to the coaching application. (Hang in there if it looks like it isn’t working. I had to sign up for the log-in account, then gave it a few hours before it would let me move on to the coaching application. And if you have trouble, call 855-CGSUPRT for help.) The application also asks for dates/times that would work for coaching sessions.
After a little less than a week, I received an email telling me that my coaching session would be at a particular date and time. At the appointed time, I clicked the link I was sent and a dialogue box opened for an online chat. The coaching sessions can be online, by phone, or face-to-face. My coach almost immediately recommended switching from online to phone because it is a faster way to communicate and develop a rapport.
The coach started out by asking me about my goals, and then she explained how coaching works. She said she does not provide a plan – I am to figure that out. But once I know what I am hoping to achieve, she will be my partner in helping me get there.
My homework this week is to create my action plan for learning more about how to lower my cholesterol and how to get in more cardio workouts. I also have to identify my challenges to success and consider how I will work around them. I have an appointment to speak with my coach again next week to report back. She said that it is better speak more regularly at first. It feels like picking a new year’s resolution and having to answer to someone about my progress.
January is a pretty popular time to sign up, Geesaman said. But they also see a rise in enrollment in April and October around weigh-ins for military members. Most of us who sign up are looking for help with weight management, Geesaman said, but they cover a lot of other things like moving, relationship issues, parenting, stress management, or even something like having an elderly parent join the family.
The program has been in place since 2012, Geesaman said.
“It was incorporated into the package of services in order to have a holistic approach to the needs of USCG members and their families,” she said.
So about all those spouses who work as health coaches. I spoke with two of them to see what their jobs entail.
Rosemary Talley has had her own business working as a health coach for a few years, and she has a degree in health and wellness as well as a certificate as a health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is also a Coast Guard spouse – her husband is the executive officer for military personnel at the Surface Force Logistics Center in Baltimore. She describes wellness coaching as something that works in tandem with medical care.
“Wellness coaching is important because we are the missing link in health care,” Talley said. “So many doctors give patients advice to lose weight or exercise more, but rarely tell their patients how to do this. That is where I come in.”
Talley said her job is to act as a counselor with her clients to help them meet their goals in the way that works for them individually.
“The most import ant thing to explain is that we are not doctors or nutritionists. We are open and receptive to many schools of thought. There is no one diet or fitness plan that works for everyone,” she said. “We focus on bio-individuality and listen very deeply to our clients.”
The one piece of advice Talley would give all of us sounds pretty simple, but it can come with great benefits.
“Just eat real food. Eating as close to nature as possible is the best thing you can do,” she said. “This and drink more water — too many people walk around dehydrated.”
That’s music to Beth Ameen’s ears – she’s a chef and health coach with her own business, The Edible Antidote. She, too, is a Coastie spouse. Her husband is the public affairs chief for the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.
Ameen has been a chef for 15 years and a health coach for just more than two years. She graduated from the Florida Culinary Arts Institute, and she also is certified in personal nutrition and childhood nutrition.
“My training is ongoing” Ameen said. “As this is a passion for me, I never stop learning and I love helping others achieve their goals and true potential. “
Her clients come to her out of frustration and a hope for change.
“Many have hit bottom and they want something better out of life. Many people are confused by all the contradictory information out there,” she said. “I help them clarify and set a clear vision for themselves.”
To do that, she may help them with fitness or meal planning. She teaches about the benefits of natural foods and increasing physical activity. She’ll even help clients with recipes and a shopping list of clean foods.
She doesn’t require strict adherence to a severe diet. Her favorite advice to her clients is to follow the 80/20 rule.
“Eat clean, unprocessed foods 80% of the time and the other 20% can be enjoyed without undoing all your hard work,” she said. “Also, be kind to yourself. Be mindful of the voices in your head and don’t tolerate negativity.”
Ameen said wellness coaches are ready to tackle their clients’ issues without judgment – they have been there and understand the struggles. In whatever form coaching takes, Ameen said that finding a counselor to help you through the process is important.
“Getting healthy and reaching your goals with someone who understands and can help you makes the journey better in every way possible,” she said.
For those of you who are wellness coaches, tell us about your work and your favorite advice for clients. For those of you who have used a wellness coach in the past, what was your experience like? Share your experiences in the comments below!
- Health and Wellness Coaching Sessions: This link takes you to the Coast Guard Support website, which explains the ‘ins and outs’ of coaching, and it is the entry point for signing up for the program.
- Stories like this: Check out previous ‘From the Homefront’ columns about finding time for fitness, and keeping families healthy with the Health Base Initiative.