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Health Coaching 101: Five Ways to Engage and Motivate Patients for Weight Loss

A Journal of the American Medical Association study, published in 2014, compared different weight loss programs and found only a slight statistical variations in success rates between diet types. The results show that in addition to exercise, behavioral support led to more successful weight loss. The researchers' findings suggest the motivationfrom behavioral support services increases one's ability to adhere to any weight loss program's diet and exercise regimen and is a key ingredient of successful weight loss.

They say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but when it comes to health engagement, men and women are from the same planet. Understanding what motivates someone is a critical first step to effective health coaching that drives true behavior change. What or who will impact someone’s willingness to change behaviors?

Once these factors have been identified, there are five key health coaching strategies that can be implemented to leverage that motivation, increase health engagement, and ultimately achieve weight loss goals:

  1. Respect their knowledge and experience – They know what to do but typically don’t know howto achieve their specific health goals.
  2. Acknowledge their time constraints – The barrier to achieve their weight loss goals is typically finding time with their demands from work, family, and other commitments.
  3. Identify their values and source(s) of motivation – Research in the field of psychology in self-determination theory has shown that the type of motivation is more important than the amountof motivation when pursuing a goal (e.g. weight-loss). Help them identify personal motivation such as self-image, playing with their grandchildren, or vacationing with family.
  4. Create realistic, incremental goals – When creating plans for achieving goals, be sensitive to their work demands, schedule or family commitments. Instead of creating a goal of “increase exercise,” create a goal of “walk with my husband/wife after dinner every night for 20 minutes” or “park at least three blocks from my grandson’s weekly soccer game.”
  5. Support small changes – It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Gaining weight didn’t happen over a few weeks and losing that weight shouldn’t either. Provide positive reinforcement for achieving incremental small changes that fit into their lifestyle, then reassess that goal and create new, achievable goals.

Throughout the health coaching process, assess what they know, listen for what is being said, identify barriers, and provide positive reinforcement of each behavior change. With identified personal motivation and support from coaching they can achieve their weight loss goal and other personal health goals.

Learn how Health Dialog’s population health management solutions can help your organization leverage patient motivation to increase patient engagement.

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