Integrative Nutrition Blog

New Study Suggests Health Coaches Are Key to Weight Loss

August 3, 2012

Does the support of a Health Coach increase the likelihood that people will reach their health goals? All signs point to yes.

Findings from a pilot study conducted at the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center show that obese individuals participating in a weight loss program that were supported by a professional Health Coach or peer lost clinically significant amounts of weight (i.e., at least 5 percent of their initial body weight).

Interestingly, the weight losses were comparable to the amount of weight lost by patients participating in a more intensive behavioral intervention with twice as many treatment sessions.

Health Coaches offer additional support, accountability, and information to motivate behavioral change between treatment visits, which is likely why weight loss patients get better results when working with a coach.

About one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year to treat obesity and associated health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Obesity is no longer an "American problem", but has grown into a worldwide epidemic. The World Health Organization reports that 1.6 billion adults worldwide are obese.

While researchers state that more studies will need to be conducted to confirm the results, the growing evidence of Health Coaches’ impact is an optimistic sign in our fight to overcome the obesity crisis.

Accountability is a key factor in Health Coaches’ ability to help patients reach their goals, but the format is flexible. Last year, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that even long-distance health coaching (via phone sessions) was highly effective.

The role of Health Coaches has only started to be defined. As doctors consider the effectiveness of “vegetable prescriptions” over invasive medications, and traditional healthcare costs continue to rise, health coaching is primed to become a leading alternative in our fight for a healthier, happier future.

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