How to 10x your health: Coaching case studies

by | Jun 18, 2024

Key takeaways

  • If you truly seek outcomes and measurable change, a health coach is a crucial part of your success team
  • Impact = knowledge x action. A practitioner is the knowledge part of the equation. A health coach empowers you to take action. This dynamic duo is how you 10x your health
  • These case studies explore the benefits of coaching including clarity, prioritisation, smashing barriers, creating time, tracking outcomes, mindset shifts and getting more bang for your buck

As a health coach with a background in the world of business, I’m truly passionate about the science and art of setting yourself up for success. No matter the venture, if you seek successful outcomes, it’s all in the set up.

If that venture is optimising your health, daily performance, vitality, and longevity, a health coach is a crucial part of your success team.

What does setting up for success really mean? It means being intentional and honest about the change you seek. It means balancing the science, planning and logic with the emotional management and self awareness of change. Seeking an outcome usually means change, and change means a movement from point a, to point b, which needs momentum and consistency.

If you truly seek outcomes and measurable change, a health coach is a crucial part of your success team.

– Liv Brown, Health coach

 

Part of setting yourself up for health momentum and consistency means getting your team in order. Your team usually consists of:

  1. You – you are the driver and bring the why behind your goals
  2. A health practitioner – a professional who has the knowledge to advise on the best course of health action for you and your goals. They bring the what
  3. A behaviour and implementation expert – to turn your insights into action, and your strategy into real-world habits. In our clinic, this role is played by a certified and accredited health coach. They bring the how

 

The secret sauce to your best health

What is the difference between success and failure when it comes to health optimisation? It is always, always execution.

Because health lies in your hands, you could know all the ‘right’ health protocols, know why your body needs that, and be given the prescription. But if you can’t execute on that lifestyle prescription at least 80% of the time, you won’t move the dial on your health outcomes.

Success lies in doing, and being – not knowing. Knowledge alone is not the answer.

The secret sauce of our patients’ success is made of the formula we’ve been using for almost a decade in our clinic.

Impact = knowledge x action.

At Melbourne Functional Medicine, your practitioner is the driver of health knowledge through your personalised health strategy, and your health coach is the facilitator of action.

Whilst knowledge = power, it is action that = impact.

– Liv Brown, Health coach

 

Why is health coaching an important tool in the optimisation tool kit?

Whilst there is a growing body of clinical evidence showcasing the statistically significant power of health coaching for the improvement of lifestyle-related disease, not all of our health optimisers simply want to avoid disease. They want to set up habits for maximum health span, longevity and daily high performance of the brain and body.

Let’s highlight some of our real health optimisation patients (names have been changed) that I’ve coached to illustrate the benefits of coaching in the pursuit of optimal health

 

Benefits of health coaching

 

Clarity and prioritisation

When Steve walked out of an appointment following the interpretation of his DNA, methylation markers, biological age test and full blood and metabolite panel, he was inspired, informed and overwhelmed.

Steve had booked a 30-minute health coaching call with me for the day after his practitioner appointment, knowing full well he would need guidance. On this call, Steve and I reviewed the latest strategy notes (aka lifestyle prescription) and reviewed the 5 actions. Two were low-hanging fruit, two were important yet not critical to action before the next practitioner follow-up. One was pegged as critical yet difficult. That was where Steve wanted to start – “and get the hard one out of the way”.

The action recommended by the practitioner was intermittent calorie restriction. The prescription was a 14-day protocol, where every 3 days he was to eat less than 1000 calories per day.

At my invitation, over the phone, Steve opened his diary, and together we agreed exactly which 14-day stint this would work in, then we marked out the 1000 calorie days. I asked Steve what he thought might get in the way of this actually happening. He identified that a meal plan x 3 days would be what he needed, so he and his partner could agree and do this together, including the shopping!

Having another person to talk through the prioritisation process is extremely efficient. It allows a person to take the emotion out of change and focus on execution. When we have a neutral party to gain clarity and then prioritise, we stop fighting ourselves and get focussed on the task ahead.

 

Smashing barriers

I co-created a meal plan with the practitioner Mark’s clinical oversight, ensuring foods that were uniquely inflammatory to Steve were omitted (as determined by the functional food inflammation test Steve had already completed) and longevity-related polyphenols were ramped up. We delivered this plan as a PDF to Steve which outlined a set meal plan, shopping list and nutrition panel per day. All Steve and his partner needed to do was to add that to the shopping list and adhere to the 14-day plan he had already set with me.

In addition to this, we’d already identified a major barrier to his likely adherence, which was the desire for a G&T and bowl of crisps after his board meeting. I walked Steve through one of the scientifically proven tools – the ‘If-Then’ approach (also called WOOP) to stay focused on his goals and smash through his habitual board meeting > G&T & Crisp routine!

It’s extraordinarily hard for most people to get out of their way and ‘just do it’. That’s because we often are blinded to our own obstacles and barriers, and have a tendency to blame situations outside of our control. Whilst, it is often true that situations do and will arise that are out of our control, with a coach you can be directed to focus on the barriers within your control, to think more critically about what is ahead, and be challenged on the honest likelihood of that ‘thing’ being done. The Woop method is incredibly effective, and a good coach can weave this into the conversation without knowing you’re methodically moving through a clinically efficacious way of planning and setting micro-goals.

 

Creating time

Arun was a crypto startup founder and a new father. It was fair to say time was scarce. He came to us with no health problems, yet wanted to invest in our 6-month program to hold him accountable for his own health. He knew where his money flowed, his energy would go! So we set about making his experience to optimise his health as impactful as possible.

It was after a revelation of excessive LDL cholesterol and fasting blood glucose, that he had the impetus to change his food and fitness habits. For him, food was the easy part. He simply stopped the croissant breakfast habit, cold turkey. That took mental effort but not time.

Fitness was going to need time. Time he did not have. I know this is mostly true for the optimisers I work with. Time is a precious resource that’s usually jam-packed with more meetings, reviews, projects and responsibilities than can be packed into a 12-hour work day.

Rather than finding time, we looked to get smart and make no assumptions. We explored the protocol recommended by the practitioner which was to increase his strength and resistance training from 1 day a week to 3 a week. Before his son was born 3 months earlier, Arun had been going to a good gym 15 minutes from home between work and dinner. The thought of this was impossible – he wanted to be home to help his wife with the witching hour! One thing Arun was good at was taking a brisk short walk along the river after his lunch break to get some fresh air, ready to get his brain firing for the afternoon ahead. He had a corporate gym, but working out after/before eating felt too time-consuming. He knew there was no way he wanted to eat then do a hard gym session, or vice versa. In brainstorming together with Arun, we came up with the following action plan:

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, he would trade lunch for a balanced, high-quality pre-made protein, veg and nut shake. He would save time needing to eat his lunch and therefore could get 20 mins in at the gym, with 10 minutes after to stretch, cool down and drink his shake in the sunshine outside before heading back to his office to get back into it.

Oh – and over time Arun confessed his phone screen time had gotten out of control, so with a clear plan (also using the WOOP method above) he managed to curb his use of Instagram from 60 mins a day to 20 mins. That created over 2 hours a week of time and headspace!

There was no way his mates, wife or colleagues could have played the role to address this secret vice. It was the judgement-free zone created with coaching conversations that allowed that to be explored.

By being realistic about the work and life demands on our patients, our coaches navigate the management and creation of time respectfully. Our job here is not to teach you time management techniques – most of our patients are well versed in efficiency – instead, we spend the time to help see alternate possibilities, stitch two new habits together, and remove habits that no longer serve our patients.

 

Tracking outcomes

Optimiser Michael came to us as a self-confessed data guy. While he knew coaching was key for making the lifestyle change he desired badly, he said to me “Conversations alone will not motivate me to change”. I valued his self-awareness and honesty. He however wanted to go all in, so he decided to commit to 3-months of weekly, 30-minute coaching calls to explore where it could go – on the proviso it was as left-brained as possible!

We started out assessing his health strategy notes from his practitioner and carefully matching data points to each protocol. He had specific recommendations from his practitioner to:

  • Improve his sleep quality by doubling down on his sleep hygiene
  • Reduce cortisol production and stop his over-exercising habit
  • Support cellular detoxification with supplementation – Michael added his own goal here of additionally curbing his drinking habit by at least 50% – from 60 standard drinks a month to 30

Each strategy had a data point and specific, measurable goal attached:

Sleep: Track using his Oura. Improve deep sleep from 20 minutes to at least 40 minutes.
Cortisol: Track every 3 months with labs, with the aim of bringing down cortisol by focusing on his overexercise goal.
Overexercise: We would measure this by tracking his recovery. We agreed to use his overnight heart rate pattern:

The goal was to have his lowest heart rate point in the middle of the night, rather than right before waking. If his overnight heart rate lowered too late (close to waking), he would choose a different, low-intensity exercise from a picklist provided, rather than rely on his hard-core F45 and HIIT workouts.

Alcohol: Michael started using the app DrinkControl to track and stay accountable to count and reduce his drinking per his goal down to no more than 30 drinks a month.

Michael told me he was an all-or-nothing type of person, and would not celebrate until his data points significantly improved. He told me he was a type A, perfectionist and was always hard on himself.

We started tracking progress, and Michael kept a spreadsheet of his data, which he liked. He could see the trends, and each week was able to reflect on how he felt in mind and body. He was able to start matching the data points to how he felt in his body. This is a skill many of our high-performance patients have forgotten over time, as they see their bodies as a mere vessel to move their brain around in.

Michael started to see his numbers improve and as he got closer to his goals, he not only felt better in his mood, he felt more energised and his cognitive capacity started to improve.

In 4 months, Michael’s sleep had improved from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. He also credits his use of his blue-blocking glasses as a significant help here. He was diligent in tracking his overnight heart rate recovery, although was not able to comply with the rule of a lower-intensity exercise every time. He reduced from 80 drinks on average each month to 30. Not perfect, but it was progress that was worth celebrating.

By having guidance to select the right metrics, set measurable objectives, and having a regular interaction with a coach to review, tracking becomes more meaningful. The benefit of having a coach also means you highlight wins that otherwise might go unnoticed. The science of behaviour change shows that acknowledging small wins are essential for positive progress.

Coaching celebrates both outcomes and the behaviours that lead to them. This is important, because health is not a destination, but a dynamic journey. Your body experiences ups and downs, sickness and wellness, and life’s challenges. Health is about having the agility to handle these demands, so celebrating milestones along the way is essential.

 

Getting more bang for your buck

Your health coach is your health advocate, providing a continuous line of connection to your practitioner. This ensures you make the most of each 45-minute appointment with your practitioner.

Behind the scenes, your health coach connects the dots and prepares your practitioner before your appointments, updating them on your progress, wins, challenges, and any questions you want to discuss. By acting as a preparatory resource, your coach ensures your practitioner is up to speed with everything that has happened since your last appointment with them, allowing you to hit the ground running and make the most efficient use of your appointment time.

Your coach is your personal health activator. They connect the thread between appointments with your practitioner and provide a layer of continuity not possible when engaging with practitioners alone.

 

Mindset shifts

Health coach Bee Pennington asks “what’s it all for”? A proponent of mindset and an explorer of belief systems, Bee knows that getting to the deep roots of your behaviour is one of the most compelling ways to make change.

What’s your deepest ‘why’? It’s usually nothing to do with money or success. It’s much more likely to do with how you are seen (that aligns with your values) and what difference you can make in your world.

Mindset exploration can be a tool in the coaching toolkit. The art of coaching means the use of the right tools and the right time. Of course, not every health optimiser will want to use this tool. In that case, the coach will use an alternate option to drive your health progress forward.

 

What is health coaching?

Health coaching is a methodology that a certified behaviour change, mindset and habit expert uses to move people through change, toward a desired health outcome. That methodology has stages and tools, and is rooted in the science of motivational interviewing, self-determination theory, positive psychology, social cognition, theories of emotional intelligence, and neuroscience.

In the context of health optimisation, coaches can be called a biohacking coach, longevity coach or lifestyle coach.

Whilst anyone can call themselves a coach, only coaches who have undergone approved training, have relevant insurances and stay on top of continuous education can be HCANZA accredited. With integrity and excellence being two of our most valued virtues, all of the health coaches at Melbourne Functional Medicine are HCANZA accredited.

Coaching is facilitative rather than prescriptive. Australia’s longest-established Health and Wellness Coach Training School Wellness Coaching Australia defines health coaching as a:

“Client-centred, collaborative intervention whose primary aim is to support others in sustainable lifestyle change. The goals are selected by the client who is positioned as the expert in his/her own life, with the coach bringing defined skills and knowledge to support the process of change. The major difference between a Health and Wellness Coach and other health professionals is the facilitative, as opposed to prescriptive, approach.”

Coaches that operate in a similar way to health coaching are executive coaches, mindset coaches, leadership coaches, life coaches. These coaches provide guidance and support for change and development, using proven methodologies and tools to help individuals achieve their goals.

 

What is it not?

Health coaching is not therapy. It is not counselling, nor is it a “talk fest”.

Health coaching is not a lifestyle prescription. Health coaches take the lifestyle prescription provided by the health professional, often your functional medicine practitioner or integrative GP, and work together with you to ensure it is implemented.

Coaches are bound by a professional scope of practice. They do not:

  • Diagnose medical or psychiatric conditions
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Provide psychotherapy
  • Order or interpret lab testing
  • Recommend supplements

While they always show up in support of you, a coach will never:

  • Make a change for you
  • Nag you
  • Be responsible for your change

Health is complex, so treatment and advice-giving clinicians first require many years of formal training and clinical practice. The reason health coaches operate very distinctively from primary healthcare providers is the importance of what is at stake. This is why health coaches stay in their lane, avoid advice, treatment plans or diagnoses, and leave that in the safe hands of professionals qualified to do so.

 

Health coaches are not fitness coaches

Often our patients will have ideas that our health coaches will be like fitness coaches. Whilst both roles share the word ‘coach’, fitness coaches are quite different to a health coach. Fitness coaches play the role of BOTH prescriptive plan and implementation. We write your fitness plan, and are there, right beside you as you execute it.

Health coaches cannot (fortunately or unfortunately) live with you 24/7 to execute on your health. Your health and lifestyle is yours.
We won’t be there to set aside your morning supplements with a glass of hydrogen water, be by your side in your kitchen to cook your protein-rich breakfast, in your pantry to distribute healthy snacks throughout the day, stepping in at 11 am for a moment of breathwork, booking in your hyperbaric therapy for the week ahead, reminding you it’s more important to stop work at 6 pm and get out for a hit of tennis with a friend, or at your side at 8 pm reminding you to turn down the bluelight on your screens.

We instead use the small amounts of time we have with you each week, fortnight or month to generate motivation, a clear plan of action, and pre-determination of barriers and solutions, so you can move the needle on change in your own time.

 

What’s it like to work with a coach?

If you have an EA or PA, you already know the benefit of someone being in your corner – having your back, reminding you of important tasks and keeping you on track.

At Melbourne Functional Medicine, working with a coach to upgrade your health optimisation experience is optional, but highly recommended.

As a first step, your coach will reach out for a brief call to explain how coaching works, and what the experience could look like for you. During your initial coaching session, you’ll review your latest health strategy notes and actions, and discuss your medium-term health goals. These goals will then be broken down into smaller, actionable steps that you can start working on right away.

Your coaching service can be set up ad-hoc basis, from appointment to appointment, or can be bundled into a prepaid 3 monthly package of weekly appointments for 3 months, plus the benefit of digital message access via an easy-to-use app between sessions.

Most patients benefit from at least 5-7 coaching sessions, though progress can be significantly accelerated with 3 months of support. Everyone is different, which is why we do not prescribe a set coaching cadence.

If you’ve already been working with us for some time, but want to upgrade to include a coach as part of your success team, just let your practitioner or concierge know.

 

How is my health coach different from my concierge?

All our health optimisation patients automatically get support from Georgia, our clinic concierge. Georgia is the glue that holds your whole experience together in that she’s your key point of contact for any administrative questions related to working with us, orders, appointments and keeping your patient Dashboard relevant and personalised to you.

If we’ve not heard from you for a while, you might hear from us via Georgia who will be curious to see how things are going, and if you need any support from your practitioner or coach. Her job is to ensure you’re clear on your next steps in your optimisation journey, and keep your progress propelling forward.

For patients who do choose to upgrade to work with one of our health coaches, they may choose to use their coach as their first port of call, given they will be connected digitally, via an app.

So whereas a concierge is focused on a seamless experience with our clinic, your coach is the professional behaviour change expert who helps the rubber hit the road with health change.

 

7 ways to know you’re ready to work with a coach to optimise your health

If you can answer ‘yes’ to each of the questions, you know you’re ready to work with a health coach to optimise your health:

  1. When it comes to feeling ready and willing to make lifestyle changes, on a scale of 1-10, (10 being most ready and willing) I am at least a 7
  2. I take full responsibility and ownership over my health choices
  3. I am willing to trust the process, whilst I might love to know why, or question things, I am now willing to take the direction of my practitioner and get the guidance to simply make it happen
  4. I am open to being in a health partnership consisting of myself, my practitioner and my coach
  5. I have the energy and capacity for change in that my health is at a good baseline level, and I wish to amplify it
  6. I believe I can sacrifice immediate gratification for the big picture
  7. I understand health optimisation is personalised, n=1 medicine is about being curious, experimenting, tracking learning and having a growth mindset. I am ready and willing for this

If performance, outcomes and health optimisation habits for life are important to you, a health coach is an invaluable addition to your team. Bringing a coach onto your team will allow you to move faster, with more precision and longer-lasting results.

Your future coach is going to be your new health ally, and could just be the secret sauce you need in your health journey.

Consider adding one of our certified, accredited health coaches to your team today.

Liv Brown

After spending 15 years in corporate life as a senior marketer it was stress-triggered health challenges, family priorities and a yearning for change that led her to leave her job, driven by a desire to heal herself and help others in a more profound way using her lived experience.