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Wellness Coaching: The Latest Trend in Fitness

Experts share tips about choosing a fitness professional who can put you on the road to better health.
By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Laurie Heit couldn't imagine working with a wellness coach. In fact, she didn't even know what a wellness coach was -- until one transformed her life.

A compulsive overeater, Heit had struggled with her weight since childhood. She went on diet after diet, and was finally ready to join Overeaters Anonymous when a friend told her about wellness coaching. She suggested Chere Bork, a registered dietitian and coach. Heit jumped at the chance.

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After her first appointment, Heit was so impressed that she decided to do more. She has now had 12 telephone coaching sessions with Bork at a cost of $75 each. She insists they were worth every penny.

Although Heit has made significant improvements to her diet and lost weight, she says she's gained something far more important. Through the coaching process, Heit discovered that losing weight wasn't what she needed most. She longed to be at home with her family. So after debating the options, Heit quit her insurance job and became a full-time homemaker. She's never been happier.

"My goal didn't change, but how I got there did," she explains. "The time and exploration of the right food plan helped me explore myself and my wants in life."

Fitness Trends

According to a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), "educated and experienced fitness professionals" now constitute the most important fitness trend in the world, having jumped from third to first place since last year. "Personal trainers" rose from seventh to third place.

"We want to be well. We yearn to be in control and feel better. We want more energy," says Margaret Moore, founder of Well Coaches, the only health and wellness coaching certification program endorsed by the ACSM. "But there is an enormous gap between wanting to be well and the everyday reality of living with the mental and physical health penalties of overeating, underexercising, and having too little down time."

That gap is growing. The CDC reports that more than 66% of adult Americans are overweight or obese. Worse still, about a third of the adult population is obese.

Doctors' Views on Wellness Coaching

That's one of the reasons why Moore and other wellness coaches have been working to increase awareness about the field among medical professionals. Moore readily admits, however, that although the idea is becoming increasingly popular with the public, it's only beginning to catch on with doctors.

"Physician referral to coaches is still at an early stage," she says. "We don't have reimbursement, and it's going to take years to fall into place. We see grass-roots, small-scale doctors coming to us. But most physicians just aren't into it yet. It's still very new."

One doctor who has embraced the idea is Michael Lano, MD. Director of the Ridgeview Clinics, a group of primary care facilities in suburban Minneapolis, Lano refers several patients a month to Bork.

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