Wellness Coaching Explained

Find out why it is important to have a wellness coach in your life.
By Parvati M. Krishnan

Today, when a majority of our waking hours is spent working or commuting to and from work, and then meeting the
demands of the households we run, sedentary is convenient. In fact, it’s expected. And it goes hand in hand with overeating, illness, weight issues, body image trouble, stress-induced binges...The chasm between you and wellness deepens.

A few of us read the signs in time and pull out. But what about the rest of us, who depend on crash diets, staccato spurts of physical activity, unused gym memberships and the like? We need someone to guide us, help us reconnect with ourselves and walk the talk towards attaining a state of wellbeing. That someone is a Health and Wellness Coach. And we’re in conversation with Preeti Rao, India’s only certified health and wellness coach and consultant.

What is the role of a health and wellness coach?

Health coaches are your allies and accountability partners. They create a process of awareness, establish the root cause of problems, educate you on exercise, nutrition and stress management techniques and facilitate growth by gauging your readiness and willingness. They motivate youto move towards ultimate wellness, which includes physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual and environmental wellbeing. While coaches help you find your true
calling, it is, eventually, up to you to bring about these changes. It takes about 90 days to bring about a shift in lifestyle behavior and about a year to convert this into a sustainable change.

Why should one opt for a coach?

With the rise in chronic disease and the lack of lifestyle behavioral changes, it has become almost imperative to have a health and wellness coach. A typical session takes about 30–40 minutes – doctors rarely have that much time to spare for each of their patients. Coaches fill that gap left by doctors. They extend a helping hand after surgical or diagnostic intervention as well.

What does a session entail?

The first session has two criteria –creating awareness and re-evaluating wellness. Your coach will check your BMI, BMR, fat content and lean muscle mass as well as for nutrient deficiencies in your body. To evaluate wellness,coaches go through your life’s wellness wheel (emotional, spiritual, physical...). After this, you decide what you want to address first – your health or wellness. Once a road map has been created in the first session (which is always longer than the others), subsequent sessions will involve working to bring about lifestyle changes. Here, it is up to you to decide and start executing and incorporating behavior alterations in your life – sleeping early, consuming lesser or no trans-fats, drinking more water and exercising, among others. Every journey is different and starts on a different dimension. Working on one aspect of the wheel starts positively affecting the other aspects. It is very experiential and powerful. This in-depth and holistic approach is more sustainable than a typical talk-down approach. Our aim is to make these changes so powerful and embedded that our clients never have to come back to us. We want them to be so independent and transformed that they never need us again.


Wellness Coaching

How did you get into this line of work?

I had gained weight when I was 16, and would be teased about it. So, I decided to attend fitness classes. Within a week or so, my trainer asked me to take charge of the classes and teach while he went away for a while. People started enjoying my classes and soon there were more students. I think he was slightly upset when he returned (laughs) and he refused to pay me! Soon after, I did the Reebok certification and was selected (with a few other girls) as their brand ambassador in India; I bagged a five year contract and took about 1,000 classes a year, which included aerobics, kick-boxing and Pilates. Then, I wanted to study sports medicine, but was discouraged. So, I ended up studying International Business in California. When I came back to India as a 22-year-old, I got interested in yoga. I joined the Sivananda Ashram in Delhi. This is where my journey started shifting from a physical to a more philosophical dimension. I stayed at the Sivananda Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram for three months. There I realised that we don’t need a lot in life to be happy and that I get a lot of inner satisfaction when I see people transform. This is when I decided that I wanted to do something in the field of health and wellness. It took me another 10 years to actually get down to it.

I did my masters in Integrated Health and Medicine from the US and wanted to come back to India. My aim was to revolutionise the manner in which health treatments were being offered here. I started practicing as a health coach, but I realised that I couldn’t make this transformative change single-handedly and needed more people with the right intent. That’s when Weljii (formerly Wellness Jiva; www.weljii.com), India’s first ever Health and Wellness Coaching Centre and Institute, was born.

Tell us about your work.

Every client I work with and the transformation they go through is immensely gratifying. I am coaching a lady in her 30s who had body-image  issues. She was obsessed about looking a particular way, being a particular size. She had been to several dieticians because of which her metabolism had suffered. So, the first thing I did was correct her metabolism. She was averse to food; she considered it her enemy. She would eat only 800–900 calories a day. So, even though she was overweight, she was malnourished. So my second step was to correct her relationship with food. Today, she can go out, and make healthy food choices and is comfortable in her own body. With her improved relationship with food, she is able to focus on other aspects of her life and is much more content and satisfied. I used to firmly believe that wellness coaching helped lifestyle diseases, but to see a change like this, made me realise that it has the power to heal anything.