Life Coaching To Lose Weight
By Susan Yara
May 30, 2006
If you just want to look better in a swimsuit, go on a diet. Or you can try a newfangled tactic: hire a life coach.
“I was in the career and life-mission mode, so I thought we would talk about my job,” says Heather Lord, a communications and special projects manager at a private family foundation in New York City, who hired a life coaching company last year. “But when you start, one of the things they have you do is look at all the areas of your life, because they are connected. Turned out, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with being a size 14.”
Lord had tried crash diets before. She visited a “diet guru” who helped her lose 30 pounds in six months, but she was unable to maintain that weight. She didn’t plan on crash dieting ever again. Then she found she didn’t have to after working with Lauren Zander and Meredith Haberfeld, owners of Personal Evolution.
A month into the life coaching sessions, Lord started eating healthier and took up running. Since January 2005, she has lost 45 pounds and has kept it off.
“It worked because I was no longer focused on just trying to fit into my skinny jeans,” she says. “That wasn’t enough to keep me away from sweets. It took tying weight loss to the big picture–my dream life.”
Life coaches aren’t counselors or therapists; they are not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health matters. They also aren’t necessarily experts–in fact, they don’t claim to be. But they do aim to train clients to reach goals instead of dreaming about them, and those objectives can include weight loss. The trend is catching on at health clubs across the nation, which are implementing programs to teach members that changing their thinking can help them get in shape.
“Places like Jenny Craig don’t deal with why a person is overweight,” Zander says. “It’s a deeper issue–a result of not being happy or dealing with other issues of your life.”
Equinox, a high-end fitness center with locations in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago, offers aerobics classes called “Intensati,” created by life coach Patricia Moreno. The workout is a series of exercises that combine yoga with strength training. Throughout the class, the instructor (usually a life coach) makes positive affirmations.
Crunch Fitness, also a national fitness center, will soon offer clients “Muscle Up Your Mojo,” a life-coaching fitness program created by life coach Marie Forleo. For $199, current members get a month and a half of weekly individual coaching and fitness sessions to help them get in shape. The program is followed up with six more weekly group coaching sessions. Forleo says the program is part of building a life habit, not just losing weight.
“How you do one thing is how you do everything,” she says. “If you’re always late for meetings or break your word often, you will most likely have a tough time losing weight and getting in great shape.”
Of course, private attention doesn’t come cheap. Life coaching techniques vary and can cost from $150 to $400 for weekly hourlong sessions.
While Zander and Haberfeld’s coaches go through a yearlong coaching and training process before they can work with clients, they don’t deny that some companies offer little more than weekend certifications. Haberfeld says the best way to find a good life coach is to pick someone who personifies your ideal lifestyle–having lots of money, for example, or a successful marriage and an optimistic outlook–and by getting a referral from someone you trust.
The Personal Evolution Coaching process starts with an evaluation of 18 aspects of a person’s life, including finances, intimate relationships, family, body and home. In order for the sessions to work, it’s up to clients to be honest about the areas where they are lacking and explain why.
“One of the fundamental principles that we develop in people is that the only way you can make any real changes is to deal with Basic Integrity 101,” says Zander. “If you say you’re going to do something, do it.”