Any person asking: "So, what do you do for a living?"
Me: "I'm a health coach for women."
*person asking stares blankly*
And that is only the beginning.
It was easy to tell someone my job when I was a classroom teacher. It had a clear title that both of us could visualize and understand. Follow-up questions were typically that about subject, grade level, school and/or how many years I had been practicing the craft. Super simple convo and I felt proud to have it because I worked hard to become that teacher.
Then I wasn't in the classroom anymore. So, now who am I?
The initial element of awkwardness with my new response came from me. In the beginning, I was unsure of my ability to be this person for others and knew that it was out of character from my habits of the past. I feared that those that knew me would judge my mentorship thinking these actions were temporary and I feared those who just met me would assume I must not be qualified because I hadn't been practicing it very long.
Honestly, I would have thought the same thing.
I had never even heard of this job prior to starting my journey and didn't know much about what it looked like other than what I was seeing on Instagram. What I DID know was that I had transformed my routine, my habits, my mindset and my health by gaining control of portions and incorporating movement into my day. I was reading personal development books and, for the first time, did not want to sit on the sidelines of life anymore. I was more focused and mindful of my habits and feeling a new sense of gratitude for taking control of my health. I knew that the programs I used work, I knew that they were manageable for other busy ladies, and I knew I felt better using them. I also knew I wanted to teach other women how to overcome the same fears and excuses I had prior to starting. I knew I had the skills to teach, so why couldn't I learn more about this content with these new students and turn my accountability group into a classroom of trust and positivity mixed with real life? I did the work. I kept showing up for myself and those I mentored.
Person: "Oh, so you only sell shakes and take selfies?"
Me: "Not quite."
I went past just showing the products that work for me and took a deep dive into learning the process. I researched and found out there was an emerging community of health coaches who helped women build better habits. They met with clients in person or online via video chats to help them build plans and stay accountable. The American Council of Exercise defines the multi-faceted role of a health coach to include things like teaching "practical and effective strategies... to facilitate lifestyle change" and "...help others take charge of their health." BOOM! THAT is what I wanted to do because it changed my life and I knew it could change others too.
I got my certification to better teach the "why" behind my strategies and became a certified personal trainer, then received my certificate for health coaching. I learned that health coaching can increase success for women to achieve and keep their goals. There are many tools to choose from and ways to do it - I can share what works for me, but it's more important we find what works for her. As for the selfies, I meet so many women who can't find a single picture of themselves in recent years. My own son's first year of photos is missing his mother in many because I didn't want to be seen. I work with each woman to love who she sees in the mirror and put herself back in those pictures to capture the moments and stories of this chapter of her life.
Let's go back to the kind soul asking what I do. I don't blame her for one second when she stares blankly or takes what she sees on social media as the total definition. Many people are unaware a health coach exists - or how they could be the missing ingredient to less stress and more success with health.
Seeing as we are usually on a playground, in a store or out for drinks when this comes up - I don't get into the all the research or definitions - this is already turned more awkward than she expected when she asked. I tell her that I help busy women exercise, eat healthier & feel better. I tell her that I am just as focused on helping women gain confidence as I am with helping them lose weight.
This usually hits home with her.
Sometimes it causes her to explain why she isn't currently exercising or she starts to speak negatively about herself, her weight or her capabilities.
Person asking *holds up plate, cocktail, coffee drink, etc.*: "This is my cheat day."
I have come to realize that women too often assume another woman is going to judge - especially when you tell them that you coach women on health habits. But that's not me or my approach. I find a way to help steer the conversation away from anything negative about herself - I may not be her coach in that moment, but I will not participate in her beating herself up. This didn't happen when my response was that I was a teacher? But health and self-love have been a complex journey full of lots of emotions for many women...I get it.
I will always understand that life is crazy. I will always connect with the woman who is trying to be a "good mom" or "good wife" or "good ______" by spending less time/money/energy on what she wants for herself. I will always understand when she tells me that she feels stuck because this is the way it has always been. I will always be able to feel exactly what she means when she explains how she knows she needs to make a change, but doesn't know where to start. I will always know that was ME before I took the first step.
And if the conversation goes that deep, I will remind her that I am here to help her do just that. Make a change, feel a change, keep a change. THAT is my job. If you're expecting a judge, I'm not your girl.
I try to make it a teachable moment to share with more people about this resource that I know works to make lasting changes. The same way we seek help for anything else in our lives, we should not feel shame for asking for help with our health. I share this opportunity any chance I get so that women will know it is out there (whether she ever works with me or not) and that she doesn't need to walk the path alone as I assumed for so long. And then, maybe, she will share it with her sister, mom, friends, etc. the next time she hears someone that she loves is struggling to make health habits work.
Awkwardness often stems from something being hard to deal with, insecurities or feeling embarrassed. I don't ever want a woman to feel any of those ways about herself, her confidence or working with a health coach. I want her to feel supported, powerful and in control of her path.
THAT is my job. And I love it.