A Focus on Integrative Health Coaching - MAIN WELLNESS WORKS04/12/2023 05:57PM ● By MERYL SIEGMAN
A HEALTH AND FITNESS
Heather has worked in health education and fitness since 1989. She holds degrees in psychology and health education, and has completed post-graduate work in exercise physiology, sports psychology and public health. She’s a certified fitness trainer, board certified health coach and yoga instructor.
“As an undergraduate student in psychology, I intended to go into mental health counseling,” Heather recalls, “but when I became interested in how behavioral health impacts mental health, I switched gears and pursued health education and wellness. My goal is to help people optimize their quality of life through behavioral health.” After earning her master’s degree in health education and teaching health education at UVM, she opened her practice in South Burlington.
Heather approaches fitness training with a view to optimizing mental health. She focuses on her clients’ vision of their optimal well-being and personal goals in an atmosphere conducive to wellness and self-improvement. “My studio is the opposite of a typical gym environment,” she says. “Everything we do is one-on-one and focused on safe, effective strategies that help people reach their personal goals.”
INTEGRATIVE HEALTH COACHING
Heather believes that the field of health education is moving towards coaching.So, what is integrative health coaching? “‘Integrative’ refers to the whole person, recognizing that all aspects of health and wellness impact each other,” Heather explains. “For example, someone might want to make improvements to their eating habits in order to drop weight or reduce cholesterol, but live in a chaotic environment with high stress. It’s important and beneficial to look at how stress and the environment impact one’s ability to make more disciplined food choices.”
Heather goes on to explain, “There’s a fundamental difference between health coaching and fitness training, which I have been doing for 25 years. One is giving information to clients and the other is drawing information out. As a fitness trainer, I offer structured strategy about what to do and when, and how much and how often. But as a coach, I elicit core motivation from clients, treating them as experts in their own lives, and partner with them in developing the ideal strategy moving forward. In this way, the client is in the driver’s seat because goals and strategies that come from the client are the ones that are the most effective.”
HEALTH COACHING VS TRADITIONAL
Heather mentions that according to the CDC, 75% of healthcare costs are associated with lifestyle-related chronic diseases. She says, “Coaches are experts in the process of behavior change. A coach treats the client with unconditional respect and empathy. It’s a supportive process in which the coach is a partner, not an instructor.”
While health coaching differs from traditional health and fitness education, Heather is able to integrate both approaches based on her training and experience. She concludes, “Attaining optimal wellness is an exciting process because it lights that inner fire of what we want for ourselves. That way we can identify priorities, establish goals around them, and develop a weekly strategy about how to progress. It’s very much about structure and accountability.”
When asked what the future holds, Heather responds, “I am passionate about helping people develop the motivation and skills to take better care of themselves. My goal is to continue helping wonderful people embrace comprehensive health and well-being so that they feel fabulous about themselves.
PHOTOS BY KAREN PIKE
Main Wellness Works
South Burlington, VT 05403