Hire a coach?


Many people who know they should eat better, exercise more, and enjoy themselves more just can’t seem to make it happen. It’s not easy to break lifelong, unhealthy habits fostered by a culture that in many ways opposes wellness. That difficulty has created a niche for a new type of support, the health and wellness coach.For the past year, at least two certified health coaches, both based in New Paltz, have been plying their trade in the region.

Sherrill Silver, a registered nurse who had been a school nurse in the Marlborough and Hyde Park school districts, holds a master’s degree in health education, and has taught health in the women’s studies department at SUNY New Paltz. She was certified by Wellcoaches, a program based in Boston that says it is “building the new profession of health and wellness coach … [to] facilitate the psychological processes of change that generate sustainable healthy lifestyles and optimal health and well-being.”

Only participants in the program who have medical training are certified as health coaches. Others, such as a colleague who previously was a yoga instructor, are certified as wellness coaches, according to Silver.

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“I’m helping people discover it’s possible to change,” Silver said. “I call it positive doing rather than thinking.” Being non-judgmental is another key to success, she added. “If the person doesn’t achieve his or her goals, it’s not a failure but a learning experience.”

Julie Robbins is a holistic health coach who works with children and adults with ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as well as with women entrepreneurs. She was certified by Integrative Nutrition, based in Manhattan, whose holistic approach, emphasizing not just the body but also the spirit, she found appealing. Robbins owns a travel agency, All About Travel, and earned degrees in accounting and economics.

Before plunking money down for a health coach, people should research the person’s credentials and make sure they’re certified by a legitimate organization. As it is, there is no standard certification and “pretty much anybody could hang up a shingle,” Silver said.

Definitely meet with a prospective health coach, advised Robbins. On September 1, a new website, www.hudsonvalleyhealthcoaches.com, goes online. Also check out www.wellcoaches.com; www.ideafit.com/organization/Wellcoaches; and www.integrativenutrition.com.

Silver has long been interested in food, having grown up in the restaurant business and become a certified herbalist. She said that she was drawn to the profession by her desire to promote well-being rather than merely focus on disease treatment and prevention. Although highly motivated to be healthy, she herself, a professional with a family, had struggled to maintain healthy eating habits. She learned how difficult this battle can be. It was discouraging for her to find that many companies have cut back on their wellness and prevention efforts.

Silver, who also works as community liaison for Four Winds, a psychiatric hospital in Westchester County, offers a three-month counseling program, with rates ranging from $50 to $150 an hour, depending on geographic area. So far she has treated a dozen clients, conducting the 45-minute weekly consultations by phone, for the most part, in her home office. Silver said a few of her clients were located in other parts of the country, including Chicago and Atlanta.

She said she starts with a comprehensive evaluation that looks not only at the person’s weight, fitness level and medical history, but also at their mental and emotional health, including level of satisfaction in relationships and life in general. In the succeeding weeks, “we learn a lot about each other,” Silver said. Trust is absolutely essential to the process. After evaluating each person’s strengths and challenges, she helps her clients create a vision of wellness and health for the future.

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