Even with our very best of intentions, we don’t always have a clear-cut road map for taking back charge of our health. Working with an expert coach in a group setting may be just the solution you need to support you along your journey toward lasting healthy change.
If you’re like millions this time of year, you’re committed to making a few upgrades to your lifestyle to get back on track with your health. But what might these upgrades look like, and how exactly can you go about achieving them? The path toward health isn’t always straightforward, and often some extra guidance is needed. Many turn to group health coaches to accompany them along their journey. Group health coaching is a relatively new approach for the support of clients in their pursuit of positive behavioral changes, yet plenty of research shows that this type of guidance can play a key role in promoting healthy behaviors. Let’s learn about what you might expect from a rewarding group coaching environment, how to spot a quality coach, what the research shows about the effectiveness of group coaching, and the invaluable rewards you’ll gain by sharing your journey with like-minded others.
What is a coach?
First, let’s define what coaching is – and what it is not. In its most basic sense, coaching is an organized process that focuses on collaborative goal setting and solution creation to support the client’s ongoing learning and personal growth. The client is responsible for implementing the action steps needed to achieve a goal, while the coach manages the process to keep the client on track throughout the process. A coach does not follow a pre-established structure or agenda or offer guidance for a universal goal. Instead, the coach is there to follow the client’s plan and provide support to establish made-to-order solutions for the client’s specific needs.
Likewise, health coaching is client-centered and is designed to motivate clients to modify their behavior to reach goals that improve their health and enhance their quality of life. A health coach’s role, then, is to help clients explore their options, identify the barriers to change, make choices about how to overcome obstacles, and establish a realistic plan for success.
What makes a good coach and coaching program?
Most of us know that the road to better health isn’t always smooth, and feeling validated and encouraged while we begin to adopt a new way of living can make all the difference. Research extensively shows that health coaching in a group setting yields far better results than merely setting goals on our own, but not all coaches or coaching programs are the same. When selecting a coach, it is critical to look out for several factors that can make or break your experience.
First and foremost, an effective coach is professionally trained in health and wellness and who listens to your concerns, understands your needs, is curious and asks challenging questions, celebrates your wins, and motivates you to keep going. A coach should also provide constructive feedback, hold you accountable, and treat you with integrity. A good coach will also be open, flexible, and communicate easily in a way that you can understand. A coach should also make it clear what you can expect from coaching and what your coach can, in turn, expect from you, challenging your ideas and perceptions that have held you back while inspiring you to think creatively and problem solve. With the help of a good coach, you’ll create your vision of the future with optimism. Finally, an effective coach will provide you with autonomy. Taking on challenges head-on in a self-directed way is shown to contribute to a high level of intrinsic motivation, an essential ingredient for behavioral outcomes that are more likely to succeed.
Choosing a quality coach is a critical step before starting your journey toward healthier habits, but working with a coach within the framework of a rewarding coaching program is equally invaluable. So, which elements should you seek out when selecting your coaching program of choice?
Besides being facilitated by a professionally trained coach, a good coaching program will provide coaching in a small group format. The members will learn to encourage each other and focus on the collective positive progress. There will be a rapport among members through personal commentary and reflective listening. The group offers a nonjudgmental space where the members can feel safe defining their own goals and action plans and asking for help when needed. Group coach sessions can be in-person but are often held virtually by phone or video chat and can range in duration with weekly, biweekly, or monthly sessions spanning from weeks to months.
But is group coaching effective? Here’s what the science shows
Desiring to feel supported as you go about transforming some of your long-held unhealthy behaviors into healthier ones makes a lot of sense, but are there other practical reasons to seek out a group coaching environment? Would joining a coaching group make it more likely to achieve success? According to multiple studies, it appears so.
One study published in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science assessed the procrastinating behaviors of 108 self-reported procrastinator university students who were coached one-on-one, in a group, or weren’t coached but set their own goals to cut down on procrastinating. The result? The two coached groups showed much less procrastinating behavior than those who set their own goals at the end of the study.
Similarly, another study from the Frontiers of Psychology also followed the procrastination habits of 134 university students who were randomly assigned to group coaching, one-on-one coaching, or no coaching. Throughout three sessions in one month, each of the three groups set goals and established action plans to reduce procrastination, but only those who were coached succeeded in meeting their goals. The authors assumed that one-on-one coaching would edge out group coaching when seeing results. However, this was not the case; both groups performed equally well. In fact, those coached in a group achieved higher scores in a post-study test that assessed motivation, self-control, and time management characteristics.
While working toward behavioral modification under the support and guidance of a wellness-trained professional is an ideal way to achieve success, being coached by peers can be equally as rewarding, and the rewards can extend even with the improvement of metabolic markers. One BMC Public Health study randomized 299 San Francisco patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes to get either peer coaching or their usual medical care for diabetes management over six months. Peer coaches were patients with controlled type 2 diabetes themselves who were trained as coaches to aid in instructing others about diabetes, healthy lifestyle choices like nutrition and exercise, and medication adherence. Coaches also collaborated with the patients to design action plans around behavioral change. Not surprisingly, the group who received peer coaching saw a decrease in their HbA1C levels by 1.07% compared to 0.3% in the non-coached group.
Coaching as a whole can offer plenty of benefits if behavioral change is what you’re after, but what about health coaching specifically? Does health coaching in particular result in positive outcomes for those who seek to improve their health? Researchers from Patient Education and Counseling sought to find out by comparing the health outcomes of group-coached patients and non-group coached patients among 13 studies published between 2009 and 2013. In particular, they tracked the outcomes for metabolic measures like HbA1c and diabetes symptoms, blood pressure, obesity and body mass index, cholesterol, and waist circumference. The researchers found that in 11 of the 13 studies, those patients who were group-coached saw significantly greater positive health effects all around. They lost more weight, saw a decrease in their blood pressure, improved their lifestyle by increasing their exercise, and reduced their HbA1c. They also experienced an improved state of mental health with a better sense of self-efficacy and enjoyed more social support.
Ways that group coaching can influence behavioral change
The science is pretty convincing: group coaching, in particular health group coaching, can be an indispensable tool in your arsenal when it comes to positively changing your behavior to boost your health and enhance the quality of your life. We’ve learned about some of the research illustrating this, but it’s also helpful to understand precisely how coaching might benefit you in influencing the way you improve your daily habits.
Groups offer collective knowledge
Need advice on a goal roadblock you’re facing? Chances are, another group member has some valuable insight that can help. Members can take advantage of the collective knowledge and experience of the group to get feedback and creatively brainstorm solutions together. The instant know-how you can get from others who have encountered the same or are experiencing what you’re currently experiencing can be empowering.
Groups keep you accountable
Members of a group tend to work harder to reach their goals because they’ve shared their plans with the group and feel a greater sense of responsibility to remain engaged and follow through. Also, self-presentation theory suggests that people disclose information about themselves to project a favorable impression. To keep up this impression, it’s common for members to behave in ways that align with it. So, if you convey yourself to others as someone fully capable of success, you’ll more likely act in ways that will lead to success.
Groups provide a sense of universality
When fellow group members share their common struggles and extend a helping hand to one another, you realize you’re not alone. Groups often take on a “we’re in this together” mentality, contributing to a profound sense of belonging. A community of people with shared values can be encouraging, lending its members the strength to make positive changes. Witnessing others overcoming similar challenges and changing their lives for the good can also instill hope and encourage us to feel like we, too, can succeed.
Groups provide courage
Starting a new habit on your own can feel overwhelming, but observing other members’ learning processes and watching them try out, adjust, and repeat again their new behaviors can help you develop the confidence and motivation to strive for your own. This can bolster your willingness to try the new things you otherwise would’ve been too hesitant to tackle.
Groups offer a different point of view
When you carry out your life solo, you’re looking at scenarios through only one lens – your own. But this type of tunnel vision can be pretty limiting. Working with others exposes you to many other perspectives that enable you to broaden your view and develop better solutions – and may even help you get to those solutions much quicker.
Groups are more affordable
There’s no reason to put a dent in your wallet to reap the rewards of quality coaching. More often than not, group coaching is much more affordable than one-on-one coaching.
Groups are simply more fun
Embracing the thought of changing how you do life isn’t the easiest, but it can be made much more enjoyable when you’re braving it with others. Deepened social connections among members all on the same journey make for a fun and stimulating social event to look forward to. Who knows – you might even make a lifelong friend or two.
If optimizing your metabolic health is at the top of your wish list as you look forward to a healthier new you, consider joining the 4-week Biosense® Group Coaching Program. With the guidance of an expert and caring coach, you will learn how to implement a low-carb and intermittent fasting lifestyle to achieve a healthy state of fat oxidation. Alongside others with similar metabolic goals, you’ll join a dynamic, interactive community where you’ll learn how to use the Biosense® device to help track your metabolic journey as you make behavioral adjustments, adopt a low-carb lifestyle, understand how carbs affect your metabolism, and learn how and why to incorporate fasting into your life for maximized benefits. Most importantly, you’ll finally master the skills you’ll need to sustain the progress you’ve made, and together with your coach, design a solid plan for the next steps in your health venture.