Meet Coach Brian: Q&A with a WCS Health Coach
Every WCS health coach supports employees every day with their deep expertise, friendly approach, and commitment to each participant’s unique wellness journey.
This week, we’re sharing a Q&A with Brian Bowers. Like all of our health coaches, he is a registered dietitian who cares deeply about helping employees make healthy behavior changes.
What originally got you interested in health coaching?
I played soccer in college, and improving sports performance was what initially drew me to learning more about nutrition and the human body. From there, I always knew I wanted to help people to eat healthier, which is one of the main reasons why I decided to become a registered dietitian.
Initially, I started out my career with Wellness Corporate Solutions working at on-site biometric screening events as a health educator and transitioned into my current role as a telephonic health coach. Working with individuals on a daily basis to try to help them lead healthier lives is an absolute privilege.
Why do you think health coaching is important?
People turn to health coaching because they want to focus on eating healthier, becoming more physically active, getting better quality of sleep, or just taking better care of themselves overall. Health coaching encompasses all of the aforementioned benefits, among other things like managing stress and tobacco cessation.
In my experience, people generally have a good idea of what they would like to focus on, but they have trouble navigating the obstacles and barriers that they feel are in the way of leading a healthier life. A health coach brings knowledge to the table, but also the support and guidance to motivate and inspire participants.
How do you make the most of each coaching session?
Even though I can’t see the participant that I’m coaching, I try to bring my energy and personality to each and every coaching call. I try to use the way that I talk—but probably more importantly, the way that I listen to the participant—to help motivate them.
One strategy of motivational interviewing is reflective listening. I work to fully grasp and understand what the participant is telling me and then reflect it back to the participant to let them know I have heard and understand their point and also to reiterate that this is indeed what they have said they would like to focus on. It’s really amazing how it works!
Energy is so important for coaching calls. I always want the participant to feel that our coaching call was really worthwhile and that they took something away from the call, including a new SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) that we set together, as well as an interesting tidbit—for example, how increasing lean body mass can substantially increase resting metabolic rate!
What are some common hesitations around health coaching from participants? How do you work with nervous or skeptical employees?
I think some of the most common hesitations around health coaching revolve around the thought that the participant may be judged, or that they may be slightly ambivalent to making positive health choices. I feel it is one of our most important duties as health coaches to make participants feel comfortable and work to gain their trust.
Within minutes, I feel a participant should recognize that we are not judgmental and we are working to meet the participant where they are at, and to work with them in making positive health choices. Once I am able to help a participant understand that I am indeed “on their side,” it is amazing how the tide of the conversation turns, and how productive our conversations are. I believe empowering participants to be confident in the SMART goals that they have set is a powerful thing that helps participants start to believe in health coaching. Once that happens, both subjective and objective results become almost inevitable.
What are some of the participant stories you are most proud of?
I am proud of all the participants I have worked with. I have worked with participants who have lost 40+ pounds. I have worked with participants who have significantly reduced their HbA1c and are controlling their blood sugars much better through making positive health choices. I have worked with participants who have managed to come off of their hypertension or cholesterol-lowering medications because they have lost weight, or made healthier nutrition decisions, or have found an exercise program that works for them.
I am a firm believer in setting SMART health goals with participants. It is not uncommon for me to be on a coaching call and a participant tells me they would like to lose 50 pounds in 3 months and ask me what they should do. Through motivational interviewing, setting SMART goals together, and focusing on what can be done each and every day, we can work together to help the participant achieve their ultimate, long-term goals. Consistency is key.
One of the most striking success stories and feedback that I’ve received from a participant is below:
“For the past 5 years in my 50’s, I have struggled with personal and family life threatening issues. I gained 40 pounds in less than three years and felt that my life and happiness was pretty much at the end of the road. I had let myself go to the point that I didn’t care about how big I was getting. I didn’t even try to lose the extra pounds, even though my doctor was telling me I was at high risk for hypertension. I was binging and overeating and totally out of control. When the wellness program started at my workplace, I thought big deal.
Anyhow, I scheduled my first session with a guy named Coach Brian! I couldn’t imagine that just talking to someone on the phone could in any way inspire me to want to live a healthier lifestyle. Brian was a great listener and he took my words to heart. I felt very comfortable taking with Brian. He was so easy to talk to and I thought, my goodness, maybe I should try some of the simple things Brian is advising me to do. The first simple thing Brian suggested was to not go to the vending machine at work every day and get a bag of bugles. Instead, he suggested I change the bugles to a healthier snack like fruit.
When I talked to Brian again, he made me feel so good about the health choices I had started making. This call was in October 2016. Through Thanksgiving and Christmas 2016, I began exercising also, which I hadn’t done in years. I started taking my dog for long walks. The pounds starting dropping like crazy. The more pounds I lost, the more motivated I was to lose even more. I was feeling so good about myself, like I did when I was in my 30’s. I even starting thinking to myself . . . I still got it! I am now in a size 4 and feel the best I have felt in years. When Brian and I started talking, he pointed me in the right direction and wonderful things started happening. Not only do I look and feel better, but my mind feels free and my stress level has decreased immensely. Brian motived me in the very beginning when I was very low and felt old and sloppy. His words gave me the incentive to start with little changes, and low and behold those little changes evolved into a much happier, healthier me!”
What are some specific strategies you use to help participants overcome challenges?
Again, a major coaching technique that we employ is called motivational interviewing. This coaching technique involves asking participants strategic questions to help them move closer to positive health change and away from ambivalence. I am constantly assessing a participant’s status on the Transtheoretical Model’s Stages of Change (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance), which lets me know the readiness of a participant to make changes.
Another challenge is to help participants realize that even small changes can go such a long way for their health. For example, decreasing soda intake can not only change one’s waistline and weight, but can also help to manage blood sugars better by not consuming such concentrated amounts of sugar.
It is difficult at times working with participants who want to see results instantaneously. As a remedy, I always try to encourage small health changes to focus on at a given time. Participants can focus on this one thing for several weeks and create a good habit of it. At subsequent coaching calls, we may discuss the successes and barriers they face and/or begin to focus on new health goals.
Want to learn more about our health coaching programs? Contact us today!