I recently met a client who, for the sake of this post, I’ll call Beth. Beth was referred to me through a mutual friend. She was feeling unwell, had seen her doctor. No problems or potential problems were uncovered.
I should preface this by saying that before I meet someone new, I ask for information. By the time that Beth and I met, I knew that she had a fairly normal health history. She is middle aged and has had one child. She has struggled with intestinal disturbances most of her life, but never received treatment. In addition, I knew that Beth was newly separated.
During our first meeting, I learned that Beth is in a pretty tough place. As I mentioned she is newly separated. Her husband recently moved out. Her 6-year-old daughter is struggling to understand the new family situation. Beth has few friends and her family live out of state.
In Health and Wellness Coaching, we start where the client is. She presented with exhaustion, weakness, stomach and lower intestinal discomfort and significant weight gain. All these symptoms combined to worry and distract Beth daily.
In Counseling, we ask ‘why, but in Coaching we ask ‘what’. What would the client like to work on first? Beth chose her recent weight gain.
With no history of weight problems, Beth was shocked when the scale registered 20 lbs. above her natural weight. What had changed? Well, Beth offered that she was drinking wine regularly to help her sleep, when she had previously been a social drinker. She acknowledged that her passion for cooking had fizzled and that she and her daughter often did the ‘easy thing’ and pick up fast food. Finally, Beth’s ex had cancelled her health club membership.
Beth needed no prodding to see the correlation between her weight gain and the lifestyle changes described above. In fact, she quickly added her exhaustion to the list and declared herself deeply depressed by the failure of her marriage.
In an effort to reclaim her life, Beth’s next step was to decide what she wished to focus on for the next week. She decided to focus on her weight. Overwhelmed already, it was important that Beth choose small, manageable tasks that would eventually lead her to better control of her weight. Her first decision was to sit with her daughter and make a grocery list of healthy, enjoyable meals that they could prepare together. This was met with enthusiasm due to her continuing concerns about her daughter’s wellbeing. Beth also decided to walk to the bus stop each morning rather than drive the block and a half.
We began our next session with a recap of Beth’s week. She had successfully made her grocery list and cooked four nights out of seven! Walking to the bus stop, however, was still a struggle; especially when waking up was still a struggle. She shared that her stomach was not as troublesome when she stayed away from fast food and made a pledge to herself that the food was not worth the discomfort.
At the conclusion of our second session, Beth chose to work on four more preplanned healthy meals during the week. She decided to set her alarm and her daughter’s alarm ten minutes earlier, so that they could make the walk to the bus stop. I asked her how many days she wanted to commit to walking to the bus stop. Beth chose two.
I share all of this, with Beth’s approval, because I want to illustrate two points. First, life changes can be devastating and can affect many areas of one’s life. Beth didn’t expect stomach distress or weight gain, but in hindsight saw clearly the correlation between the symptoms and her emotional distress. Second, the steps that Beth outlined for herself were/are small ones. It’s great when a client sees the big picture, but rushing ahead to fix the whole package often results in disappointment and feelings of failure. Our goal is to help the client rebuild their lives one small successful step at a time.
As of this writing, I am happy to report that Beth and her daughter are doing well. I am proud of the work that she has done and honored that she chose to allow me to help.
Until next time!