FAVE ! First Acknowledge, Validate and Empathize.

What really reaches us is empathy.

What really reaches us is empathy.

Effective coach training teaches about   the power of relationship, of person-to-person connection, not just because it’s warm and “nice”, but because all the evidence from coaching and psychotherapy says it works! We each need to feel truly heard by others that we are attempting to be in relationship with. When we share our lives, our experiences and our feelings we truly want to have acceptance, acknowledgement, and validation.

If I share that I have been in pain since an injury and it is breaking my heart that I can’t get out and enjoy the physically active things I love to do, I don’t want someone to consult with me about a solution (“Let’s explore what you can do to exercise now.”). I want someone to say “Wow! That must be so terribly difficult for you to be unable to exercise.” I want them to “get it” that I’m not only in pain, but I’m frustrated, angry, stuck, depressed, and feeling loss. I want to HEAR that they “get it”.

Once I feel like my experience is understood at that heart level, that my feelings have been affirmed, and it’s been conveyed that it’s okay for me to feel the way I feel, THEN I’ll be happy to launch into some great strategic thinking about seeking solutions.

Empathy RogersWhen coaches convey what I love to call The Facilitative Conditions of Coaching (see my previous post: http://wp.me/pUi2y-6i) clients feel the validation, acceptance, acknowledgement that we’re talking about. Coaches have to find the words to convey empathy, acknowledgement, unconditional positive regard, warmth and genuiness. But, they have to remember to do that FIRST, before they jump to solution seeking.

Having trained over 4,000 wellness coaches worldwide, I’m continually amazed by two things: 1) we train some of the warmest, kindest, most caring people on the planet, and 2) when learning the new skill of coaching these same wonderful people so often totally forget to express warmth, kindness and caring. They struggle on the hot seat of
demonstrating/practicing coaching, and in their anxiety of new learning, instead plow right into seeking to “fix” the problem presented. No statements of empathy. No expression of understanding what the client is feeling. Instead one question after another seeking to find a solution (So what types of exercise have you already tried since your injury?). And by the way, we have observed no difference here by gender, probably 85% of the coaches we have trained have been female.

Remember to be a coach, not a consultant. Consultation is all about finding solutions. Consultants name their businesses things like “Totally Amazing Solutions, Inc.”. Coaches help people discover/create their OWN solutions, they don’t just provide them for their clients…that’s consulting. The mindset shift from treatment provider, consultant (medical or otherwise), or educator to that of coach takes repetitive practice. It’s so easy to slip back into the “What wrong and how can we fix it?” thinking, instead of staying in the coach’s “What’s possible?” thinking.

Acronyms can help us remember processes. Let’s try this one: FAVE.

FAVE: First acknowledge, validate and empathize.

As our client’s story unfolds tune into it with the mind of compassion, the mind of understanding and the mind of connection. Some of what works is relaxing into the coaching process and realizing that just by being true to our naturally warm and empathic way of being we are providing that “safe container”. We “hold sacred ground” for our clients to do the exploration they need to do. When solution finding is embarked upon without adequate exploration, the path taken is often unproductive at best and counterproductive at worst.

So, FAVE! First of all ACKNOWLEDGE your client’s experience. Paraphrase, restate and reiterate what they have said. Remember to reflect their feelings. Help them feel that it has been recognized that they have been experiencing the emotions they have been living. Acknowledge the courage it takes to share. Acknowledge the self-caring it takes to seek help and assistance. Acknowledge the depth of your client’s challenges, their strengths, etc. So you haven’t been able to run or bike ride for three months now. How tough it must be to go from being so athletic to hardly exercising at all! Tell me more about what that has been like for you.

As you do this you VALIDATE their experience and their emotions.  Your unconditional positive regard (and therefore lack of judgment) makes it possible for the client to feel that it is okay for them to feel the way they feel. You are affirming that what they have told you has been their reality. You help the client feel that their story is validated, and as you coach further, with that accepting and yet at times challenging coaching presence, you help them learn that they are NOT their story. As you acknowledge, affirm and validate you help them feel well heard. You help them explore their experience and EXPRESS their feelings about it so they can let go of it, put it in the rear-view mirror, and realize they are not trapped by their story.

Our most powerful vehicles to convey this acceptance and affirmation, this sense of support is the EXPRESSION of empathic understanding. That kind look in the eyes, your thoughts of compassion are very sweet, but they are not enough. We have to put it into words (think telephonic coaching!) and COVEY our empathy. So when you have free time you just have to sit there and wish you were able to move like you used to. How challenging! You must miss being active very much. It sounds like you’ve tried to deal with as best you can, but it’s got to be a real loss for you.

It takes courage on the part of the coach to practice FAVE. You’ve got to be okay with emotion, not afraid of it. Empathy is not trying to cheer the person up, quickly reassuring them that everything will be all right, in essence rescuing them. This conveys a message like “Don’t feel they way you’re feeling. Feel the way I’m more comfortable with you feeling. Cheer up!” FAVE is getting down in the mud, or up riding high in the sky WITH our clients…meeting them where they are at, not where we want them to be. I want MY reality acknowledged, not YOUR fantasy!

Creating "Sacred Space"

Creating “Sacred Space”

The thing to remember is that when we allow our clients to feel the way they feel they usually do so and move through it more fluidly. When they are not able to, even after our repeated attempts at providing our best facilitative conditions, it’s probably time to consider referral to a mental health professional (see my previous post http://wp.me/pUi2y-bA.).

Perhaps some of our “rush to solution” is connected to our fear of dealing more directly with feelings. I’m not going to second guess a coach’s intentions and motivations here. I would just love to see coaches serving their clients in the most effective way possible, and that begins with FAVE.

What are some of your thoughts on the idea of making acknowledgement of our client’s experience a priority?  Please leave your comments.

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Access Excess: Always Wired Makes Us Tired and Less Productive

Access Excess!

Access Excess!

Paradox, double-edged sword, blessing and curse combined, mobile devices have made our lives easier and more stressful at the same time. I remember the feeling of relief the day I finally got my calendar synched on my work/home computer, my laptop and my smartphone. Now I could be in a conversation with someone at a conference and set an appointment seamlessly. It helped tremendously using a GPS navigating app to help find a tricky destination. I absolutely love using the travel app “Tripit” to track all my business travel arrangements. Connecting with others is easier than everWhile we can benefit from technology in so many ways, we are also seeing a “dark side” rising far too fast. The accessible anytime and anywhere nature of smartphones, wi-fi enabled tablets, etc. is causing a shift in workplace norms and, sadly, a shift in in the quality of our personal lives as well. A recent cover story in USA Today reveals how the so-called digital lifestyle and work-style may be seriously damaging our health and well-being. “Nearly two-thirds of full-time workers own smartphones, up from 48% just two years ago, according to the Pew Research Center. One-third own a tablet, up from 12%.  The exploding use of these devices — and connected employees never calling it a day — has created a workplace domino effect: If one person answers the boss’s e-mail after hours, others feel compelled to as well.”

cell-phone-stress-300x199When people are under stress for performance it is so easy to create a sense of digital vigilance that never lets down. Our notification alert signal is on full volume 24/7 so we don’t miss that opportunity that just might be calling. As we get more anxious it becomes more common to even get downright obsessive about our need to be accessible.

Some companies are realizing the price they pay in stress and health and are instituting policies to “leave it at the office”. The need for some ground rules is becoming apparent as the demands on the digitally connected worker increase. “Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees entitled to overtime pay must receive it when they work beyond a maximum number of hours, such as a 40-hour workweek. The constant technological tether to work is testing what constitutes the standard workweek, and lawsuits are challenging this new world.” Salaried employees have no such limits.

The self-employed have to set their own limits and often don’t. Fear of missing that opportunity for a sale by not responding at light speed keeps the smartphone charged and within easy grasp. The infectious sense of urgency in society is hard to be immune to.Double Cell

The whistle never blows in this world of Access Excess. There are no natural breaks. Time off has disappeared. This of course runs in total opposition to how our mind/body system works. We are wired to deal with stress, but can survive only if we also have what the authors of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working call “sufficient volume and intensity of recovery”.

Wellness coaching clients almost always list stress as a barrier to them living a healthier life in almost all dimensions of wellness. Coaches can help their clients to consciously work on their fears, communicate and create agreements at work that are healthier. We can also help our clients to determine if their work environment can be changed for the better or if looking for work in a healthier environment is final solution. We can help our clients create experiments to help them see just how digitally healthy they really can be by being less “wired”. We can help them increase awareness of how much they are allowing fear and anxiety to rule them and work consciously on this issue.

Boundary setting is so much harder when it insidiously has become weakened by cultural norms. “Access Excess” has become a norm that no one ever agreed to. Let’s create agreements at work and at home that allow us to make times to be “unplugged” and healthier!

Question?  Is the man in the picture below able to be free to be at this relaxing lake because he can still be connected, or is he there and stressed because he is allowing himself to be connected?

Lakeside Tech

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The Wellness Coach And Referring Clients To A Mental Health Professional: PART ONE – WHEN

When is it time to help a client find a mental health pro to talk to?

When is it time to help a client find a mental health pro to talk to?

A critical issue for all coaches is to be clear about when and how to refer a client who is best served by seeing a mental health professional either instead of coaching, or in conjunction with it. This will be the first of a multiple post series on this vital topic.

Working on lifestyle improvement is going to bring up emotions. How a client feels about their own body is just as important as how they treat it physically. Internal barriers to change rear their ugly head just when a client if finally making some great progress in their efforts to lose weight, manage their stress, quit using tobacco, etc. Internal barriers can include such tricky subjects as one’s belief systems, optimism/pessimism, listening to their own “Inner Critic” or “Gremlin”, and self-defeating self-talk. A good coach can help a client process feelings, but what should a coach do when it seems that coaching is getting “too psychological”?

For approximately twenty-seven years I practiced psychotherapy and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved seeing people grow, and yes, heal. For over sixteen years now I’ve been working as a professional life and wellness coach. Our company, The Wellness Coach Training Institute (http://www.realbalance.com) has trained over 3,000 coaches worldwide. In doing so we’ve learned that making the distinction between coaching and counseling/psychotherapy is often challenging for coaches. Lets explore what the standards of our coaching profession are about this distinction, and I will also inject my own professional opinion into some of the gray areas.

1) Who NOT to coach! When referral needs to happen up front.

Wellness coaches sometimes find people approaching them for coaching for severe problems that need to be addressed in counseling/psychotherapy. A classic example was the woman who called me saying she had heard good things about my coaching. Immediately she asked if I would coach her about her relationship with her live-in boyfriend. Both of them were self-described alcoholics and he was physically abusing her. What’s more the abuse and alcoholism was precisely what she wanted to “coach” about. I responded empathically, but immediately referred her to her choice of three fine therapists here in town that I personally could recommend. Coaching is just not designed to substitute for therapy. When you are clear that the person you are dealing with has such serious issues gently, but firmly make the referral on the spot and refuse to coach the person.

ConfusionSignAttempting to avoid the stigma of psychotherapy, or even the self-admission that they need serious help, some folks will seek out a coach instead. If the coach takes the bait and sees them there are two dangers: the change they need will not take place (nothing will happen), or, much too much will happen! The in-over-their-head coach could be overwhelmed with potentially dangerous scenarios of behavior.

Having hospitalized clients as a psychologist I have seen what suicidal behavior, psychotic breaks and more really look like. This is the territory for someone with a high level of professional training: masters and doctoral level training in clinical skills and a valid license to practice counseling and/or psychotherapy. Coaches need to respect their own limits and help people who come to them needing more than what coaching can provide to find the real help they need.

2) When to refer a client you are currently coaching.

This question of when to refer falls roughly into two categories; what you might call the “obvious” and the more complex. Let’s look at the more obvious, easier to spot situations.

icflogoHere we draw upon the excellent article written by Lynn F. Meinke, MA, RN, CLC, CSLC , “Top Ten Indicators to Refer a Client to a Mental Health Professional.” This is available free to the public at the ICF Website by following this link http://www.coachfederation.org/articles/index.cfm?action=view&articleID=773&sectionID=27.

The article goes into good detail on each of the indicators listed below and is a MUST READ for any coach.

Make sure you refer your client to a mental health professional when
YOUR CLIENT:

(1) Is exhibiting a decline in his/her ability to experience pleasure and/or an increase in being sad, hopeless and helpless.

(2) Has intrusive thoughts or is unable to concentrate or focus.

(3) Is unable to get to sleep or awakens during the night and is unable to get back to sleep or sleeps excessively.

(4) Has a change in appetite: decrease in appetite or increase in appetite.

(5) Is feeling guilty because others have suffered or died.

(6) Has feelings of despair or hopelessness.

(7) Is being hyper alert and/or excessively tired.

(8) Has increased irritability or outbursts of anger.

(9) Has impulsive and risk-taking behavior.

(10) Has thoughts of death and/or suicide.

The “more complex” times when referral comes into question is when it appears that your client is still functioning fairly well, but the coaching is just not getting anywhere and the reason is in the psychology of your client. This can look a couple of ways:

A) Your client keeps making attempts to change their way of living, but keeps holding themselves back with self-defeating behavior. You may keep coming back to an old issue that still needs healing and is in the way of progress. An example could be a client whose self-doubt stemming from a severely critical parent is so great that they continually will not give themselves permission to risk new behaviors. You try some good process coaching, but still you find that you both just keep coming back to the same stuck spot. A great time to refer.
B) When your client just seems to want to process feelings endlessly. The progress that should be seen processing feelings leading to insight, which is then translated into action steps towards growth, seems blocked.  You may find that you are able to continue to coach your client around wellness and lifestyle improvement while they get their therapy needs met by a qualified counselor/psychotherapist. Your challenge is to again, not take the bait. When your client heads into the therapy realm, say something empathic but then add “You know, that would be a great thing to talk to your counselor about! Therapists can help with that much more than coaching can.”

Next time we’ll explore when to keep on coaching and look at the ethical questions that arise when coaching makes promises it really can’t keep.

An excellent resource to check out: “Coaching or Therapy: A Map For Coaches.”
http://www.benhamconsulting.com/coaching_or_therapy.html

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Healthy At Any Size: Coaching Weight Loss Clients To Be Fit and Healthy

holiday-eating-and-weight-gain

What’s your strategy for the healthiest holidays ever?

The fear of adding those holiday-midwinter pounds often drives people to the bookstore for yet another dieting best-seller. The desire for quick results is understandable and nothing delivers like a low-calorie diet. The infomercials promise miracles and we keep on seeking a solution that we know sounds too good to be true. Of course those same low-calorie diets are impossible to sustain us for the rest of our lives. The pounds usually come back. Our bodies just need more energy.

no-dietingThe truth is, diets don’t work. What does? Sustainable lifestyle improvement. Sorry, we can’t promise that this approach will be fast, but it will work, and it will last.

“Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier.” These words introduce you to the website http://www.haescommunity.org for an organization and an entire movement known as “Health At Every (or Any) Size”. Linda Bacon, a nutritionist at the University of California, Davis, says this new approach came about “to halt “the collateral damage” — food and body preoccupation, self-hatred and eating disorders — that has resulted from the failed war on obesity. H.A.E.S. is based on the idea that “the best way to improve health is to honor your body,” and it supports the adoption of good health habits simply for the sake of health and well-being rather than weight control. (http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/health-at-every-size/)

Teaming up with Lucy Aphramor, a National Health Service specialist dietitian of Coventry University in England, they reviewed over 200 studies on weight loss and concluded that the evidence just isn’t there that dieting helps us attain and maintain healthy weights or healthy lives.

Perhaps our notion of our own “healthy weight” needs a total makeover. Instead of focusing only on what the scales tell us, how about looking at our overall wellbeing? “Bacon and Aphramor insist that adjusting lifestyle habits with an eye toward improving markers of well-being like reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, reduced stress, increased energy and improved self-esteem — independent of any weight loss at all — is a far more desirable goal for people of all sizes to pursue.”

Pursuing being as healthy and vibrant as possible with physical vigor and mental and emotional peace of mind may be what trumps every diet out there. Weight obsession needs to be replaced with both individual awareness of what truly nourishes us on many levels, and the science that focuses on real wellness.

The Coach Approach

When a wellness coaching client tells me “I want to lose 30 lbs.” The first questions I ask are “What will your life be like when you succeed at losing that weight? What will your life look like? What will you be doing and enjoying that you’re not doing now?”

Far too often clients get into self-defeating thinking by seeing the “goal” as the number on the scales, and its easy for coaches to simply fall in line with this simple goal-setting approach. Until the magic number is attained it’s too easy for the client to minimize their weight loss accomplishments with a “Yes, but…” attitude. I will only be successful when I lose all the weight I’m trying to lose. Internal barriers to change are every bit as powerful as external. It’s time to explore better outcome indicators.

Explore with your client the best markers of improved health and well-being would look like for them. Would tracking improvements in the markers Bacon and Aphramor referred to above be smarter? Get an agreement from your client about what they would like to see improve and tie it to their motivation to be well. Help your client notice the richly motivating unforeseen benefits that show up as they make progress. Celebrate improvements such as reduced pain in the knees, better sleep, more energy, etc.

dont-forget-to-love-yourself-2When someone who has struggled to live at a weight that is healthy for them is told that weight loss is simply “calories in and calories out” it is insulting and dismissive of them as a person. We human beings are wonderfully complex and our life journeys are fascinating. Embrace your whole-client, just as you urge them to embrace themselves.

Dr. Michael Arloski is a psychologist, certified wellness coach and a certified wellness practitioner who is the founder and Dean of The Wellness Coach Training Institute where the very best in Wellness & Health Coach Certification Training can be found. http://www.realbalance.com

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The Self-employed Wellness Coach and Market Development – Part Two: Being So Much More.

Growing a business means lots of personal growth as well.

In “The Self-employed Wellness Coach and Market Development – Part One: Closed Doors, Open Doors”, http://wp.me/pUi2y-9L, we shared three keys to opening up coaching markets and improving what you deliver:

#1 – Help others realize the true potential of wellness coaching.
#2 – Realize the true potential of wellness coaching ourselves!
#3 – Create even more value by considering specializing in helping people with specific health challenges.

Now, let’s take a further look at how the Self-Employed Wellness Coach can put themselves out there more effectively by looking at these three ideas:

#4 – Be more than just a coach.
#5 – Become part of the “treatment team” without delivering treatment.
#6 – Treat your business like a business.

#4 – Be more than just a coach.
One of the first things I usually tell aspiring self-employed wellness coaches is that they will need to do more than just attract one client after one client. If you are going to be a wellness coach then “be wellness”! Be what you are coaching. You do that by having integrity and living a wellness lifestyle yourself, with your entirely human, but sincere, fallibility. You also do this by promoting not just your coaching business, but by promoting wellness. Become a recognized wellness resource in your community. Become a go-to guy or gal who people think of when they want to know more about wellness, when they want a speaker at an event, etc.

Do this by writing articles for media that reach people. Professional journals are nice for academia, but if you want to bury some wisdom that has become the place to do it. Instead, put yourself out there online (blogging for example), on the radio, talking at the local “whatever you can think of” club or writing in local papers, magazines, company or organizational newsletters, etc.

You are more than your coaching. You have more to offer the world. If your name is Mary or John Doe you have “Mary or John Doe-ness” to share with the world! Do so in whatever spheres your skills lie. Consult, speak, train, write and network. Your work as a consultant or a speaker can lead to coaching work. The free talk you gave at the “Whatever Club” luncheon shows the world that you are competent, and, very importantly, likeable. You get a chance to attract the kinds of clients who will work well with you. The consulting job with a school system gives you contacts that land a flow of clients from the school’s employee health program. Sharing valuable links and information on your blog connect you with a potential client half-way around the world.

Help rehabilitation patients keep going at lifestyle improvement.

#5 – Become part of the “treatment team” without delivering treatment.

Evidence-based medicine is conclusive: lifestyle profoundly affects the course of an illness. Treatment professionals know this, but often are discouraged by the lack of success they see in their patients that attempt lifestyle improvement. They write “lifestyle prescriptions”, but upon just being told what to do, patients seem to rarely follow them. What’s the number one rule of business? “Find a need and fill it!”

Your “market development” here is all about reaching your target market…the healthcare providers themselves. Remember “market development” is not the same thing as “marketing” or even “attracting”. It’s more. It’s education and connection.

Like the challenge you face with potential coaching clients, healthcare providers often need to become acquainted with just what a wellness coach does, and most importantly, what a wellness coach can do for them! Basically our message is always the same: “I help people succeed at lasting lifestyle change.” Coaches do not deliver treatment, but we are the behavioral change experts that help treatment be more effective. You have to tailor that message to the particular professional you are connecting with.

A wellness coach can help rehabilitation clients continue to exercise and follow a healthy diet long enough after rehab is over to make the lifestyle improvement last. A wellness coach can help diabetic patients with medical compliance (self-testing, medical appointments, etc.) as well as helping them lose and manage their weight, follow a diabetic diet more rigorously, and ultimately get their “numbers” under control. Get clear about your own niche and be able to explain what you do fluidly. Then point to how disease management and insurance companies, hospital and corporate employee health programs are hiring wellness coaches to hold down healthcare costs because they are effective at doing so.

Just like in behavioral change, tracking helps avoid self-deception.

#6 – Treat your business like a business.

If you are a coach you do not have a “practice”. You have a business. The ICF (International Coaching Federation) (http://www.coachfederation.org) urges all of us coaches to call our work a business and not refer to it like it was a treatment practice. We don’t “practice” coaching. WE COACH! And if we don’t make our own mindset shift to see what we do as a business, and act like it, we will be out of business very shortly.

There is an endless supply of books out there about business, but I would say the challenge is to find the ones that help you build a business that still reflects who you are. Your values, dreams and aspirations still need to be front and center. Then you really do have to see how that merges with the world around you. “Do what you love and the money will follow.” does not mean it will follow “magically”, or “effortlessly”. The challenge is to discover what you love doing and see how the world values it. Then it’s about learning the how-to’s of business. We can get down to some details in a later post.

To start with, allow yourself to identify as a business person. That was tough for this child of the sixties, believe me! But when you really want to help people and realize that the greatest way to make a difference may be to keep the doors open and lights on by being a successful business it’s a whole lot easier to embrace.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau

The Wellness Coach Training Institute…powered by Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc., is a leading worldwide resource for the very best in wellness and health coach certification training. http://www.realbalance.com.

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Being the Behavioral Change Expert: The WELCOA Wellness Coaching Interviews

Dr. Arloski Keynoting in Brazil

Wellness coaching is about setting aside your expert hat when it comes to wellness content and becoming the true ally your client needs for lasting lifestyle change. Yet, where our expertise shines through is in helping our client to actually succeed at making those behavioral changes that will improve their life and health. We need to be the behavioral change expert.

Healthcare organizations have discovered that health is largely behavioral in nature (consider medical compliance/adherence and the mind/body effect for examples) and have been embracing wellness and health coaching as a way to bridge the behavioral skills gap. To represent the field of wellness coaching I was honored to have the opportunity to be interviewed by Dr. David Hunnicutt of The Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) in their “WELCOA Expert Interview” Series. I’ve known David since the early days of the wellness movement and our interview produced so much content that WELCOA decided to feature it in two parts. They also helped bolster the field of wellness coaching in this special coaching issue of their newsletter by interviewing my colleague, Margaret Moore.

Please go here for completely free downloads of all the interviews:
http://www.welcoa.org/freeresources/index.php?category=16

Please share these resources with you colleagues. I believe you will find these interviews to be some of the most succinct and helpful information that has yet been published on health and wellness coaching.

Be well!
Dr. Michael

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The Challenge of Being Well And Being Male – Part One

Men Helping Men Be Well !

Living a healthy lifestyle presents challenges for everyone, but what are men, in particular, up against when it comes to being well? Stereotypes aside, let’s look at what we know about men’s health.

At The Medical Wellness Forum (http://www.medicalwellnessassociation.com), where I presented, I was surprised to find out that rates of one of our biggest health risks, obesity, had leveled out for women in the United States, but that men had done a “great” job of catching up and equaling their numbers.

In January of this year a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/17/u-s-obesity-rates-remain-stubbornly-high/), showed a disturbing trend for American males. “In the 1999-2000 survey, more women than men were obese, but by 2009-10, the rate of obesity was almost identical among the sexes. In 2010, 35.5% of men were obese, up from 27.5% in 2000. About 35.7% of women were also obese in 2010, roughly the same rate as in 2000. The rate of increase is startling, doubling in only twenty-five years.

What do obese men stand to lose? Plenty. In addition to greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer, they also face the possibility of a lower sperm count, lower testosterone levels and those surveyed in some research reported lower ratings for sexual quality of life. Overweight and obese men, like women, face prejudice and discrimination socially and in the workplace.

Yeah, right! Discouraging more than motivating.

Despite all of these facts, the problem remains. Fear just isn’t enough to get the motivational job done. The few magazines that focus on men’s health also push unrealistic images of six-pack abs that probably discourage as much as they motivate. Relatively few programs exist for healthy weight loss that focus on men and their unique challenges.

One of those challenges is stress. As men experience more stress, and get older, their already decreasing testosterone levels are exacerbated by rising cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This seems to increase body fat, especially in the midsection, and decrease muscle mass. Stress management is one key, along with increased activity, including strength training, and healthier eating (better nutrition and portion control) to attaining and maintaining a healthy weight.

Men need the support of partners, families, employers and each other to succeed at being healthy. It’s so much easier to take the time to workout, to practice some form of relaxation practice, etc., when those who care about you can convey a sense of permission for self-care.

The strategy of increasing movement throughout the workday and at home also pays off. Instead of sitting in the bleachers, walk constantly around the field during your kid’s sporting event. Get involved in “silent sports” like biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, paddling, etc. and leave the “noisy toys” at home. Encourage your male friends to get in for their medical check ups and “know their numbers”, like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc. Help each other out. As comedian Red-Green says “We’re all in this together!”

BONUS ARTICLE

“Exercising before breakfast can facilitate weight loss by forcing your body to burn fat for energy. Men who exercise in the morning before breakfast burn more fat than men who exercise after breakfast or later in the day.”  (http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/morning-exercises-mens-health-7802.html)

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