You Are Not “N”. And That Is Why There Are Health Coaches

Health and medical research often does more harm than good to the population as a whole.  For example, if you try to follow the advice that comes of this research, what would your day look like?  Is it even possible to do?  Should I worry about dietary cholesterol or can I eat all the eggs I want?  Let’s dive just a little deeper into a few of the issues.

The Research Conflicts

At one time, hormone replacement was the therapy of choice to reduce cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease in women. Now HRT is considered harmful.

The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test was the standard-bearer for early detection of prostate cancer. Now, not so much.

Low Fat diets (i.e. High Carb diets) are either the key to optimal heart health or the bane of our high LDL/low HDL/high triglyceride existence.

It makes these scenes from the movie Sleeper seem prescient.

The Media Only Reports The Hype

Yes, new research sometimes conflicts with old. Sometimes it stays consistent but we only get to hear about the parts that are are headline-worthy. According to some research, Echinacea, shortens the duration of the common cold and/or lessens its symptoms. But there are plenty of studies that say it is completely ineffective. You rarely hear about those.

The Healthcare Industrial Complex

And then there is the problem of the mega-healthcare industrial complex that conspires to motivate consumer behavior to maximize their profits. These are the big pharma, medical device, and consumer goods companies that fund scientific research in hopes of uncovering new benefits for their products. The research community either has to play along or see its funding dry up.  Armed with these discoveries, the marketeers then cajole the media to publicize their findings or lose precious advertising dollars.

Physicians Have the Same Problem with the Results that We Do

Unfortunately, at the point of healthcare delivery, the problems continue. I’m not talking about the bribes many providers take from big pharma to hawk their wares.  Based on my experience, the bribe-takers we hear about on the news are the exception; not the rule.  But, in a country where health care decisions are made by insurance companies and not by patients in consultation with their doctor, there is no time to critically assess the research and think about how it applies to you as an individual.  The result is cookie-cutter, assembly-line healthcare with limited respect for you as an individual.

You Are Not “N”

Even if the research wasn’t biased, we’d still have the problem of “N”.  If you go to the primary sources of any research that the media screams about, you’ll consistently see a reference such as “N=1700”, or “N= 102″, or N=”8”.  In these instances N stands for how many subjects were in the study.  So in a study on inflammatory risk factors in women who drink wine, N=2900 means there were 2900 women in the study.

Why is that a problem?  Well unless you are one of the 2900 women in the study, this research might be totally irrelevant to you.  Although scientists do everything they can to represent the average person through Randomized Control Trials, you are not an average person.  No other person ever has your:

  • Genetics,
  • Physiology,
  • Nutrition Habits,
  • Physical Activity Habits, or
  • Mindset

None of the 2900 in “N” are the same as you.  You’re not even the same person you were when you first started reading this.

The Case for Health Coaching

Does this mean we should ignore the research? No!  When faced with the choice of anecdotes that say putting butter in my coffee will raise my IQ (Look it up.  Bulletproof coffee is a real thing!) or research that says it’s more like Bull$hit coffee, I’ll trust the research every time.  Research should be one of many factors we consider when making health care decisions.

But when it comes to applying the constant swirl of wellness-related information from your doctor, friends, family, and the media, you should never forget that you are the expert on the subject of YOU.  And while the research may be effective in scaring you into a new health behavior, it does nothing to drive your long term motivation.  Long term motivation has to come from within.

This is where Integrative Health Coaching comes in.  This is where Duke University’s model for Health Coaching, (aka the Wheel of Health) comes in play. It’s an ideal representation on how to pursue optimal health in that:

  • It’s YOU-centric, which means it…
  • acknowledges your life style, habits, values, and behaviors and how they impact your health.  And it does so in a way that…
  • respects conventional and complementary medicine and their role in disease prevention and intervention.

Wheel_of_Health_2010_rev

Health coaches are uniquely qualified to help you identify the health habits and behaviors that are most effective for you and apply them in a way that works.  We collaborate with you to map out a customized health plan that respects your priorities, values, and lifestyle.  We support you when you get stuck.  And help you apply your newly developed skills and behaviors to additional aspects of your life.

We do this in full partnership with you, because you are not “N”.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.