How the ADAPT Health Coaching Model Can Help Us Fight Chronic Disease | Chris Kresser

How the ADAPT Health Coaching Model Can Help Us Fight Chronic Disease

by Chris Kresser

Published on

Many of you know my history with chronic disease. I’ve struggled with it and experienced the toll that it can take. I was able to take back my health with the help of some truly standout healthcare practitioners and major behavioral changes. A big part of that road back to health was what I did, and a lot of the information that I share on this site is devoted to that piece of the puzzle. Just as important was how I did it—and how that became the basis for the ADAPT health coaching model.

health coaching model
Health coaching is the “how” that connects Functional Medicine and ancestral health to reverse chronic disease. iStock/Steve Debenport

The major behavioral changes that I made required a lot of motivation, support from others, a clear vision of where I wanted to be, and reliance on my strengths and values. I feel so strongly about the power of these two pieces—the “what” and the “how”—to transform health that I created programs to train Functional Medicine practitioners and Functional health coaches so that they can specialize in supporting the kind of transformation that I experienced.

It wasn’t easy for me to make the necessary changes and transform my health, just as it isn’t for so many of you who are also struggling with chronic disease. How do you get the support you need to achieve greater health, build new health habits, and change a lifetime of health behaviors? This is where health coaching can play an important role. 

Health coaching is the “how” that connects Functional Medicine and ancestral health to reverse chronic disease on both a small, individual basis and a large, global scale. You don’t automatically improve your health or reverse chronic disease just by knowing the root cause or what foods our ancestors ate. Improving your health also requires planning, goals, and other techniques and tools that support change and action.

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A Problem of Transformation, Not Information

It’s clear that knowing what to change is not enough to transform people’s health. As of June 2019, there are over 50,000 books on diet and over 60,000 books on exercise on Amazon.com, yet obesity in U.S. adults has climbed from 31 percent to 40 percent from 1999 to 2016 (1) and the percentage of the U.S. population with diabetes nearly doubled from 4 percent to 7.4 percent from 1999 to 2015. (2) If information was all it took to reverse chronic disease, we wouldn’t see these trends. 

These statistics are alarming, and diabetes and obesity are not isolated cases. The chronic disease epidemic is reaching staggering heights, with six in 10 U.S. adults having one chronic disease and four in 10 U.S. adults having two or more. (3) In other words, a majority of U.S. adults are sick.

Amidst these discouraging numbers, I am actually optimistic about the future health of the U.S. population. Over 85 percent of those diseases are driven by our behavior and environment, not our genes. (4) That means we have the power to prevent or reverse chronic illness just by adopting healthier habits.

That is good news, but success in changing the landscape of health in this country is not a forgone conclusion. Change is anything but easy. More than information, it takes motivation and strategy to change our habits. It also takes support … and that’s where health coaches excel.

The ADAPT health coaching model is all about giving people the support they need to build new habits and change their lives. Find out more in this article. #healthylifestyle #changeagent #chriskresser

What Is the Purpose of Health Coaching?

The chronic disease epidemic in this country is an urgent problem, and it’s a problem that we can address, but how do we address it effectively? In the past few years, it’s become clear to me that, even with multiple clinicians on staff, my clinic would never be able to meet the demand for this kind of work. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to training the next generation of Functional Medicine practitioners and health coaches and to equip them with the tools for effectively preventing and reversing modern chronic illness in the real world.

The mission of the Kresser Institute, which houses our practitioner and health coach training programs, is to train clinicians, health coaches, and individuals to prevent and reverse chronic disease using Functional Medicine, ancestral diet and lifestyle principles, and health coaching. Our vision is to transform the health of over 200 million people, reinvent healthcare, and reverse the epidemic of chronic disease.

We didn’t arrive at this epidemic in a short amount of time, and it won’t be a quick fix to reverse it. Chronic disease is the result of habits and environmental factors that take their toll on the body over a long period of time, and it is a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution. Unlike with acute health concerns that can be cured with a pill or surgery, treating chronic disease requires behavior change, which not only takes effort over an extended period of time but also requires maintenance—and support.

As I and many other practitioners have found, we never have enough time with our patients, and providing the support that they need to set goals, build habits, stay motivated, and create lasting behavior change is not a core skill for many practitioners. This gap between practitioner diagnosis and treatment and patient outcomes can only be filled by allied professionals who are specifically trained in the techniques and tools that reliably deliver this support. Filling this gap is a big reason why I created a health coach training program and why I have health coaches on my staff.

Coach Yourself: Applying Health Coaching to Your Life

Not all of you want to become professional health coaches, just as you don’t want to become Functional Medicine practitioners, but the skills of the health coach may still be valuable to you, just as information on Functional Health can make a difference in your life. As we share more information on this site about health coaching and the concepts and skills that are central to the coaching practice, we encourage you to try them out and use them in your own lives, just as you use the Functional Health information that we share.

Many of you are self-educated “citizen scientists” when it comes to core Functional Health principles, and we’d like to see you become “citizen coaches” too. The tools of the citizen scientist, such as N of 1 experiments (clinical trials involving just one patient), at-home testing and monitoring, and reset diets, provide us with important information about our bodies. In addition, knowing about motivation, goal-setting, habit formation, and how to affect positive behavior change—all tools of a good citizen coach—are equally important skills that can support your own health, and the healthy habits of those around you.

Importantly, just as citizen scientists are not trained scientists, citizen coaches are not trained coaches. It’s critical that we not only understand how to use the information and tools of scientists and coaches to make our lives and communities better, but also to understand that these tools can be misused. Respect your body and respect your family and friends—no one likes a know-it-all or an overzealous advice-giver.

Making a Difference with Health Coaching as a Career

What if you want to go beyond coaching yourself and make health coaching a career? More and more people are making this choice and deciding to train as health coaches. Health coach training can provide you with the knowledge, skills, practice, presence, and confidence to help people improve their health and make a career out of doing so.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health coaching (along with other health professions) is growing at a faster rate than any other occupation. (8) The statistics on chronic illness speak for themselves. Highly skilled coaches are crucial for helping people make life-saving behavior changes. In short, if you have a passion for health and compassion for people, the world desperately needs you.

What Does It Take to Be a Health Coach?

Being a great coach requires a number of skills that take time to learn and master. Skills like empathy, mindfulness, assessing readiness for change, asking powerful questions, effectively providing information, and facilitating client clarity and awareness are among the many tools in the coaching toolbox, and they require education and practice to master. The coaches who serve their clients best are those who have taken the time to cultivate these coaching skills and engage in the kind of personal development that puts their clients’ needs before their own interests.

The ADAPT Health Coaching Model

Our philosophy with coaching is similar to the rest of our content and programs, and it’s based on the ADAPT health coaching model. ADAPT refers to the fact that we must address mismatch between our genetic code and the modern world we live in by adapting—by aligning our bodies with our environment.

Coaches work with clients not only to uncover the environmental factors that prevent or support behavior change but also to figure out the steps that clients can take to navigate this environment successfully; they also help clients learn from their past successes and failures to create lasting positive changes. Helping to create such change is at the core of ADAPT … and when you’re trained in this approach, you truly become a change agent.

As an ADAPT-Certified Functional Health Coach, you will have a working background in Functional and ancestral health, a deep education in core coaching skills from leaders in their field, regular hands-on practice and guidance from seasoned mentor coaches, knowledge about how to start a successful coaching business, and connection to an amazing community of like-minded students ready to change the face of healthcare and the lives of their clients. ADAPT-trained health coaches use our pillars of practice (e.g., stages of change, positive psychology, motivational interviewing, etc.) to create a collaborative coaching relationship built on a foundation of trust, respect, and rapport, and they use specific skills (e.g., presence, empathy, open questions, etc.) to guide their conversations with clients toward growth and change. If this sounds like a great next step for your career, we’d love to tell you more.

What You Can Expect from Us on Health Coaching

In addition to offering a certified training program, we will also deliver up-to-date research, new ideas, and valuable concepts that are central to every aspect of health coaching. Here are some of the things that you can expect from this site in the future:

  • Health coaching tips and techniques, including motivational interviewing, positive psychology, readiness and stages of change, and habit formation
  • Insight into what it’s like to work as a health coach
  • Interviews with practicing health coaches and thought leaders in the field
  • What it’s like to work with different groups and niches (e.g., clients with thyroid disorders, weight loss challenges, infertility, back pain, gut dysbiosis, etc.)
  • Articles and posts from health coaches working in the field and graduates of the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program

I look forward to continuing to share this information with you and for you to share my passion for helping people, supporting them in their journey to better health, and reversing the chronic disease epidemic in this country.