What does an intuitive eating coach do, anyway?

What-does-coach-do-optI get asked to explain what I do so often that I figured it was worth a blog post, so here goes:

You probably already know what intuitive eating is (If not, start here and then come back).  So let’s begin with what a coach is.  On a most basic level, a coach is someone who helps you do something that you want to do that you’re not willing or able to do on your own.  While all coaches have that in common, there are a lot of different coaching styles and approaches out there.

My approach comes from my coach training with Linda Bark of Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy.  In this approach, the role of the coach is to travel next to but a little behind the client, letting them lead.  It’s about deep listening and powerful questions.  Learning this approach revolutionized my coaching practice and helped me transition away from being “teacher/advice giver” to being a coach who meets clients where they are and empowers them to move towards their goals.

The difference between teacher and coach is hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around.  It’s natural to think, “If I don’t know how to eat intuitively on my own, I need someone to teach me.”  Teaching does have its place, and I do some teaching in workshops and in my online courses, but the people who come to me for coaching usually know the basics of intuitive eating.  They just haven’t yet figured out how to make it really work for them.

So if I’m not teaching clients about intuitive eating, what exactly do I do?

In the first session (1hr) we talk about the client’s history with food and eating.  While there’s always more to learn, I find that it’s helpful to start out with a pretty clear picture of past and present relationship with food.  Often this is the first time they have considered all of it at once, and it can be pretty powerful.

At the end of the first session, we come up with “homework” for the week.  A week of hunger and fullness tracking is usually a good place to start.  It helps us get a clear picture of current eating patterns.

Follow up sessions (30min) begin with a discussion about the previous week, how the homework went, and anything else that is relevant (major life events, stressors, sleep patterns, unexpected mishaps and insights, etc.).  In the middle of this discussion is usually where the magic happens.  We gain a deeper understanding of what is happening and where we should go next.

In the beginning of the coaching relationship clients often feel unsure about their ability to steer the ship.  This feeling is often amplified because there’s this thing where you think you understand your eating issues, and as we start to dig in, you realize that it all goes much deeper than you had imagined.

I must confess that it is in these moments, where my client is feeling the depth and magnitude of the issues, that I get really excited, because these insights are the fuel for genuine transformation.  You can’t fix a problem you don’t really understand.  No insights= no transformation.

So back to the session: We use what we learned from last week to come up with “homework” for the next week.  The homework must be manageable, measurable, and oriented towards the goal of becoming an intuitive eater.  Nobody knows how to come up with good homework at first, but most everyone learns pretty quickly.  (Want to know who has the hardest time?  Perfectionists!)

Intuitive eating is always at the core of our work, but realistically, and holistically, there are a lot of different things attached to your eating habits.  Homework could be about connecting to your body, practicing mindfulness, improving sleep, lowering stress, practicing self-care, engaging in joyful movement, creating boundaries, healing relationships…and more!

Over time the coaching process becomes a well oiled machine.  I have had sessions where the client was so on top of the process that I hardly had to say anything at all!  Once we get to that point, our work is nearly done.  Although becoming an intuitive eater is a lifelong process, intuitive eating coaching is not.  An effective coach will help their client overcome major obstacles, and then support their client in learning how to keep moving forward on their own.

So those are the basics about my intuitive eating coaching practice.  If you are thinking about working with an intuitive eating coach, I encourage you to shop around just like you would when picking a therapist or primary care doctor.  Many coaches offer a complimentary phone or Skype call so you can get a better feel for their approach and whether it is a good fit for you.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t get down on yourself if you are struggling to become an intuitive eater.  It’s not easy!  Unlearning old patterns and reconnecting to your inner wisdom is a pretty big undertaking.  But it’s also very rewarding, and does get easier over time with the right support.

Want to know more about my coaching practice?  Check out these links:

Intuitive Eating Coaching

Intuitive Eating Coaching Packages

 

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