Whenever I travel and give talks or work with new groups of people, I always get asked what a holistic lifestyle coach does and what kind of patients do I treat.
In reality, a health coach is anyone who has a holistic approach to healthcare, and may include nutritionists, naturopaths or any healer whose goal it is to put you back on the path to restoring your health.
The most common reason people come to see me as a health practitioner is because they have pain.
Pain is a symptom that there is something wrong in the body, but where the holistic approach may differ from the traditional medical approach is that we see pain as a message and not the problem itself.
So, how is a health coach different from a doctor?
Let’s say you have lower back pain and you go to see your general practitioner (GP).
The doctor will listen to your complaint, and will probably then prescribe you anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers.
These medications are not designed to fix the cause of the back pain, but rather, to inhibit the neurological message of pain to the brain.
This approach of “shooting the messenger” enables us to soldier on with our lives and go back to work, but is seldom a long-term solution. In fact, taking pain medication is more like sweeping the problem under the rug.
If we use the analogy of a car, pain is like a flashing light on the dashboard.
Pain medications like non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), switch the flashing light off, but the problem isn’t fixed by disabling the light.
In this case, a health practitioner is like a mechanic, and our goal is to identify and treat the underlying issue that encouraged the body to manifest the symptom of lower back pain in the first place.
Only then can the problem be addressed on the level that it was created and be treated successfully. Only when the mechanic has tuned the engine, will the flashing light turn itself off, but unlike a car, the human body is a very complex system of systems and our dashboards have a whole lot more lights than a BMW!
Ignoring the message
In fact, there are many other types of messages that act as a system of communication between the mind and body, e.g. hunger, fatigue, and even emotions such as fear or desire.
These messages form a kind of language that enables effective communication bet-ween the mind and the body, but when we choose to ignore or override these signals, we may break down or create space for dysfunction and disease.
Our job as health and lifestyle coaches is to reconnect you to your own mind-body system and to help you understand what the flashing lights on your dashboard mean.
Let us take an example of how I have treated patients in the past.
In 2009, a lady called Rachel came to see me with pain in her legs.
Rachel was overweight and had type 2 diabetes, which was the primary cause of her leg pains. Her fasting blood sugar was 12mmol/l and her HbA1c level was 9%. (Normal levels for both indicators are below 5.)
The history of her symptoms is as follows.
In 2005, she started a new job that was a promotion, but came with more responsibilities, and therefore, more stress.
After three months, Rachel noticed that she was having problems sleeping.
Within six months, she had gained almost 6kg in weight.
At 12 months, she was drinking three to four glasses of wine per night to help her relax and get to sleep, but she was waking up feeling exhausted and irritable.
Within two years, she had gained another 5kg, was urinating frequently, especially during the night, and developed urinary tract infections when her immune system was run down.
She was on a few courses of antibiotics per year and was regularly taking pain medications for headaches, as well as sleeping pills.
She was also diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and was regularly taking antacids.
In 2008, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and decided to go on a diet and start a gym programme.
Within six weeks, she had given up as she didn’t have the energy or the time to exercise, and she wasn’t losing any weight.
She felt dejected and at a loss, and so, she buried herself in her work.
It was only when the pain in her legs became too debilitating that she finally decided to seek advice from a health coach.
If we look back at Rachel’s history, we can see a whole lot of symptoms that she learned to cope with until the messages became too strong for her to ignore.
Weight gain, insomnia, headaches and infections are indications that the body is under stress and not able to function well.
From the earliest signals, we should aim to restore health and vitality, or risk compromising our quality of life.
If we ignore the symptoms, the messages will only become stronger and more apparent until we are diagnosed with a disease and recommended for medication.
So let me reiterate these points again:
• When a breakdown of communication occurs between the mind and body, we create the opportunity for poor health and disease.
• When we forget to eat mindfully, we lose touch with our taste buds and become addicted to processed foods and sugars.
• When we force ourselves to work too hard for financial security, we lose the ability to understand our own health.
• When we stay up late or travel too often, we lose touch with our natural body rhythms and our hormonal levels drop, causing weight gain, fatigue and infertility.
This inability to make decisions that reflect a desire to live in a healthy body is called distraction.
In this distracted state, the mind and the body are disconnected, and just like the driver of a car who ignores a dashboard full of flashing lights, our patients are always driving through life ignoring the signals of their poor health.
In many cases, they have become so used to the signals that they no longer notice them or are on medications to switch them off.
In every case, treatment success lies in our ability to inspire the mind to create and stick with habits that reflect self-love and facilitate healing.
This weekend, try and connect with your inner healer and listen for answers to questions like: What does my body need to eat today?
If your body is suggesting you should go for a run or sleep early, then I’m guessing that you have a great mind-body connection already.
If the message you get is to eat pizza and stay up all night watching TV drama reruns, then give me a call as your dashboard is lighting up like a Christmas tree and it’s only June!
Published: June 19, 2016
Article : http://www.star2.com/living/viewpoints/2016/06/19/when-the-mind-and-body-dont-connect/
Author : Liam Harkness