Making the Most of Health Behavior Counseling

14 11 2011

Jessica Peacock

I greatly enjoy my role as a health behavior counselor in the Weight Management Program. Having lost weight myself, I know how difficult and yet rewarding the process can be, and I look forward to sharing what I learned from my experience and education with those of you in the program.

The purpose of the counseling component of the WMP is to provide you support as you work on changing your lifestyle. Often, as many of you could probably identify, this means talking about what is working well, what could be improved, and what barriers might be coming up that will affect your ability to eat healthily and exercise. While we recognize that not everyone will be open to talking about the many things that impact their progress, we hope that you find the counseling useful and use it in whatever way will best fit your needs. With that idea in mind, here are some suggestions for making the most of health behavior counseling.

– Be prepared. Before your scheduled appointment, take some time to think about and reflect on the last several weeks. What has been successful about the past few weeks? What have you struggled with that you might need help improving? Thinking about these things will give you a starting point in the conversation and provide direction for your counselor – this way he or she can help you on things that you’ve identified as being a current challenge. It might also be helpful to write down any questions/concerns that you have in advance, so that during the call we can help address these things.

– Identify your barriers. In addition to things that have made exercise/healthy eating difficult recently, you might also think ahead to the future and identify anything coming up over the next few weeks that could get you off track. Often participants underestimate the need to plan ahead for barriers – either they think they won’t be that bad or they are uncomfortable thinking about the possibility of something being difficult. But having a good plan for overcoming a barrier is important to success! The upcoming holidays are a perfect example; it would be easy not to think about how hard they might be to get through successfully, but a little bit of thought and planning will go a long way for maintaining weight over Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you have already identified some of your possible barriers, your counselor can then spend precious time helping you formulate your plan and suggesting strategies that will help keep you on track and losing weight.

– Be honest. We don’t want to hear that everything is going great – we like to hear that, but if it’s not necessarily true then we can’t help you to the best of our abilities! The program has great accountability features, and you can be put on probation or dropped from the program if you do not meet expectations and requirements (i.e. getting to the gym 2x/week, having monthly measurements taken, etc.); however, your counselor does NOT determine whether you are allowed to continue in the program or not. The health behavior counselors are only here to help you be successful so that you continue in the program for the full 2-year benefit. To do that though, we need to know what’s really going on! Sometimes the best time to utilize the counseling service is when things AREN’T going well – this is when your counselor can help you figure out what is holding you back and strategize a plan for getting on track and making further progress. So, don’t tell your counselor what you think he/she will want to hear; be truthful and let us know if you’ve been struggling. We’re here to help when things are tough, and to celebrate your successes in the future!

We hope that you are finding the counseling a helpful service within the program. Your counselor is a great source of encouragement and support, and will also challenge you at times to help you reach your full potential. Our job is to assist you on your path to a new lifestyle, but we can only do that if you allow us to walk that path with you – both good and bad steps. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey!

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