A health coach view: The support solution to obesity

Rukhsana, a health coach at Living Well Taking Control, comments on an obesity willpower report.

A new report by the British Psychological Society has called for changes in language to reduce stigma, and a need for health professionals to be trained to talk about weight loss in a more supportive way.

This is welcome news for health practitioners and coaches like myself, who have called on greater access to the right support for those living with chronic conditions like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The report highlights trauma and stress as one of the leading reasons people are developing obesity, saying “people who live in deprived areas often experience high levels of stress, including major life challenges and trauma, often their neighbourhoods offer few opportunities and incentives for physical activity and options for accessing affordable healthy food are limited.”

This combination of stress, deprivation and trauma needs to be taken into account when developing healthcare solutions for these conditions.

The power of educational support

To help combat this, greater efforts need to be placed on educating the public about making healthier choices. Many of the deprived patients I support every day have a lack of knowledge around healthy eating and lifestyle. Prior to commencing their interventions, patients are unable to make the everyday choices to keep their weight off. I address these issues by highlighting five healthy key lifestyle messages, in areas of diet, exercise and positive mental health. I make use of visualisation techniques, aids and demonstrations to show participants about the food choices they make every day. My sessions often see family members and partners attend to support each other. This has transformational power for communities with years of generational lifestyle problems reversed.

Tools to treat chronic conditions

A national rollout of support is in progress, which will see a combination of group support and widening access of digital tools to help treat those living with obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This couldn’t come soon enough.

Liva Healthcare offers one such programme. Used by NHS England, the digital coaching platform enables patients to set goals and track progress via an app. Crucially, there’s always a human touch, with the patient holding regular video meetings with the same personal health coach.

Driving behavioural change is what’s unique about these programmes to encourage healthier lifestyles and positive mental health.

Ultimately, there is only one solution to obesity – a lifestyle change. It’s a major mental challenge for patients. But today, with the right help and support there is a new optimism that we can get there. With digital tools and programmes, we are on the cusp of even more significant advances. We must ensure that every patient at risk rolls back their chronic condition with access to the right support.

About Rukhsana

Prior to joining the programme, Rukhsana’s mother was diagnosed with renal cancer and she became inspired to support others, offering advice to those that need it most. Rukhsana began working as a local interpreter in Urdu, working her way up through specialist training in health advising and diabetes management. Rukhsana now conducts around 15 sessions a week for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP). She believes that group classes are the best way for people to make long-term lifestyle changes, as the dynamic offers more support and sharing.

The NDPP programme sees participants attend thirteen group sessions taking place within their local community, and each session focuses on a new key theme. Rukhsana likes to use visualisation techniques, aids and demonstrations to show participants about the food choices they make every day.

The average age of the programme is 40+, but Rukhsana has seen participants as young as 18. The LWTC programme aims to support communities and their families as well as individuals, with many participants choosing to bring their families or partners along to support each other.


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