Provision #390: Coaching as Family Affair

Laser Provision

This week is our last client interview in this series, and it’s with four people — all related • who have been part of a LifeTrek coaching group for more than a year. They came to coaching with the desire to transform themselves from the fat family into the fit family, and they wanted to do it together. Their journey into health and wellness illustrates one more dimension of the coaching process, as it works with groups of people who share a common interest, purpose, and vision.

LifeTrek Provision

For some coaches, group coaching is their preferred if not their exclusive style of working. I know of one coach, for example, who specializes in coaching luxury car sales professionals. Unwilling to talk with each other and share their secrets in the same town, these salespeople are willing to participate actively in coaching groups that draw from different markets. So he creates diverse telephone coaching groups, from different localities, to improve performance and fulfillment in the workplace.

Our coaching groups have been similarly oriented around a common interest. They seem to work best that way. Christina, for example, ran a coaching group for expectant mothers, called The Fourth Trimester, Erika hosted a group for creative self expression, called Awakening Through Art, and Kate has led coaching groups for singles, called Attract Your Ideal Mate, and for those in career transition, called Manifest Through Intention.

In my case, I have run a variety of telephone coaching groups over the years, including one on the use of the Internet for aspiring coaches, called E-Rupt Your Coaching Practice, and several on themes related to Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. Two groups I have particularly enjoyed were called Stress Proof Your Life and Mastering Your Money We can do those again at any time!

One of the nice dynamics of group coaching is that participants coach each other through the process. In fact, it becomes the role of the facilitator-coach to make sure everyone participates and no one does too much advising during the call. That is, after all, the constant temptation in coaching: to do too much talking and too little listening. Great group coaching pays attention to this dynamic, being sure that people listen to each other and to themselves through the process of learning how to do better.

Another benefit is that group coaching usually costs less than individual coaching, thereby expanding the opportunity for coaching to more people.

For the past year and a half I have worked with a group of four people • today’s featured clients • who not only share a common interest • weight loss and wellness • but who also share a common bond • as members of the same family. Three of the four participants are brother and sisters; the fourth is the sister-in-law. All four have dealt with eating and weight loss issues over the course of their lives, all four were significantly overweight when we began coaching, and all four have now lost significant weight with one person having reached and maintained her goal weight for the past six months.

My guess is that you will appreciate their experience, their challenge, and their story. You will also enjoy their humor. Laughter is part of what characterizes this family’s time together. They have no trouble poking fun at each other, both dishing it out and taking it, in order to lighten the load along the trek of life.

Q. So who remembers how this group came together in the first place?

S-1. That would be me, and it happened in your hot tub. I have known you since the early 1980s, when you were wearing your minister hat in the inner-city of Chicago, and I had come to visit you and Megan after your move to Williamsburg. I had already started in on another round of weight loss, through Weight Watchers, I had lost about 20 pounds, and we were sitting in your hot tub talking about my experience.

From past experience, I knew I had reached the point at which I would quit the program. 20 pounds had heretofore been enough to get me feeling and looking a little better. That’s when I would let up and, before too long, the weight would come back. We were talking about how I could do it differently this time, and about my concern for the rest of my family • who was even more overweight than me • when the idea of a coaching group came up.

The idea of transforming the fat family into the fit family captured my imagination • but I was doubtful we could get the group together. I wanted to do it, but I was motivated by my recent weight loss. I didn’t think the others would go along with the idea, my sister because she had never been that interested in self-help type initiatives and my brother and his wife because I wasn’t sure they could afford to make the commitment financially. But they all surprised me.

S-2. This felt different for several reasons. Since we were doing it as a family, and since we were doing it on the phone, it didn’t feel like I was going into therapy. It was also just time to do something. I was at my highest weight ever, and was pretty disgusted with myself. I knew that my sister had been losing weight, so I figured I could benefit from her energy and experience. Finally, since I was acquainted you and was aware of your background, the trust level was already high.

S-L. The trust factor was the key for us as well. On one level, it seems absolutely ridiculous to pay someone to tell you to do what you already know you should do. I mean, how stupid is that? But on the other hand, if you’re not living from your values and if it works, then it would appear to be money well spent • better spent, certainly, than on other more fattening forms of entertainment.

B. And we were also at the high end of our weight cycle, needing to do something. In college I had wrestled in the 140s. When the idea for our coaching group surfaced, I weighed almost twice that amount. We were simply out of control with our eating, and in many areas of life. That was especially apparent when we would all get together for holidays or other special occasions. The eating was unbelievable. Put us all in the same car, and we would be required to stop at the truck weigh stations on the highway. It was time to head in a different direction, even if it did cost money.

Q. Once we convened the group, everyone started to lose weight, almost immediately. How did that happen?

S-2. There was a lot of inspiration, conversation, education, and experimentation not to the mention the peer pressure that comes from doing this as a family. Both you and my sister had lost weight, so that was an inspiration right there. But our conversations on the phone have carried that inspiration through, from week to week. They’ve been great and I’ve really come to look forward to them.

S-L. I’ve certainly learned so much through our process together. You hear things, from time to time, as to how this food or that food is bad for you. But our conversations have educated me in the specifics of just what these foods do, how they work, and how they harm or help the body. Early on, for example, you turned us into bad-fat cops • looking for ways to reduce or eliminate our consumption of saturated fat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and trans-fatty acids. I knew we were making progress when my youngest daughter started to ask, “Mommy, is that food going to kill us?”

B. So we eliminated a lot of the bad foods from our house. We read the labels and got rid of them, or at least we didn’t buy more. We used to live, for example, on those powdered, quick-fix macaroni and cheese products. That was dinner, with a diet soda. At this point, I can’t remember the last time we had that in our house. We’ve experimented with different changes, until we got into new patterns and habits.

S-1. But it hasn’t gone fast enough for me. I’m the one who keeps up the pressure. That’s my role in the family, and it’s been hard for me to learn that people change at their own rate, in their own time, and for the own reasons. Last Thanksgiving my husband had a heart bypass operation, and the recovery was quite an ordeal. I don’t want anyone else in my family to have go through that, so I have kept pushing for people to get in shape now.

The coaching group has been a healthy way for me to do that. It’s also given me a way to connect with the people I love on an emotional basis. I live 800 miles away from the others, so I don’t see them anywhere near as much as they see each other, and I don’t talk with them as much either. Creating a weekly conversation point in our family, in the presence of a capable facilitator, has helped me both to connect with and to challenge my family in new ways. It has benefited us, all the way around.

Q. How much have each of you lost at this point, and how do you feel about the process?

S-1. For me it depends upon when you start counting. Remember, I had started Weight Watchers before we got the coaching group organized. When I started Weight Watchers I was 170 pounds. When we started the coaching group, I was already down to 153 pounds. Now, I am down to 124 pounds which I have maintained for the past six months. That’s almost 50 pounds of weight loss, which of course feels great. But I feel even better about my ability to maintain the weight. That has always been the challenge for me, and it’s rewarding now to be figuring out that piece.

S-2. I started the group at 256 pounds and now weigh 216. That’s a 40 pound weight loss since we started the group, which, of course, I would like to be more, but which you have helped me to see as an ideal rate of gradual weight loss. I feel as though I have been learning new things and making small, gradual changes in my lifestyle. Like eating flax seeds every day or drinking more water. Things I will be able to continue forever, not just things I am giving up because I “am on a diet.”

S-L. I started the group at 190 pounds and am now down to 173 pounds. Eating has been only one of many challenges for me as a home-schooling mother and pastor’s wife who also works, part time, outside of the home. My life is constant chaos, and in that environment it’s easy to become very careless about my family’s and my eating. Whatever is quick and easy usually wins out.

But slowly this group has assisted me to become more careful and more aware. I used to look down on people like that. I thought they were just being fussy or even inconsiderate to not eat whatever was put in front of them. Now I recognize that we are surrounded by poisons in the food chain; it’s up to us to hunt and gather our way through to the good stuff.

B. I started the group at 278 and now weigh about 250. I could have done better, but I am happy that I weigh less rather than more than I did one year ago. I am also happy that my exercise activity has become both more regular and more vigorous. One thing I did was to get my church to pay for my membership at the YMCA; I also announced to the church that I was in a coaching group to lose weight, so they wouldn’t expect me to eat all the food any longer at a church supper.

Doing those things has made me more accountable to the things we talk about in this group. By going public and coming out of the closet, by getting church members to invest in my weight loss process, I feel more energized by my values and more permission to say, “No, I don’t want to eat that,” than I did before. Some people in the church even decided to lose weight with me, as an act of self-help and solidarity. And some of them have now lost more weight than I have, so they’ve been ribbing me to get with the program. I certainly have plenty of support.

Q. Say more about the group dynamic. How has that been helpful?

S-L. First of all, it has been fun to do this together. What a unique way to spend more time together! We tease each other a lot, and give each other a hard time, but we don’t take offense. So we can push and pull at each other, even about something as sensitive as our weight, without ruining our family dynamics. For other families that might not be true, but for us the group experience has brought us together.

S-2. And it has given us a different focus when we get together for holidays and other occasions. Our get-togethers used to be all about eating. We didn’t know how to do anything else when we were together. Now, thanks to this group, we make plans ahead of time as to what we are going to eat, what food we are going to have around, and we even figure out different ways that we can be more active together as a family. It has been very positive.

S-1. It’s like we have been given a shared language, a common experience, and a deeper knowledge of what it takes to be healthy and well. You have not just been our facilitator and coach. You have also been our role model and teacher when it comes to nutrition, fitness, and relaxation. By getting us to focus on those three factors, and by sharing so much of what you have learned and are learning about them, we have become more educated and mindful about things we used to take for granted or not think about at all. It’s been incredibly helpful.

B. The weekly check in, with everyone else on the call, is a powerful accountability forum. Knowing that we are going to talk not only with you but with each other, that we are all working to reach and maintain our optimal body weight, and that we all want to live long and prosper both as individuals and as a family means that we pay more attention throughout the week to what we are eating, whether we are exercising, and how we are taking care of ourselves. We may not be the fit family yet, but we are on the road and moving in the right direction thanks to LifeTrek Coaching.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you on the road to health and wellness? Are there people in your circle of family and friends who could be of assistance to getting on that road and staying on that road? How could you become a role model and teacher, as well as a facilitator and coach, for health and wellness with those you know and love?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

If I am not mistaken, Bob celebrates his birthday today (December 7). Happy birthday to you as much as I wish you a year to come full of good health, inspiration (from Latin inspirare • breathe life into; being in spirits) and curious (from cura • spiritual charge) articles in the most valuable of treats: (the greatness of) being human. Happy birthday to you, and have a good day with those that are dear to you, from those of us who read your material here in Colombia, South America.

Warmest wishes to Bob on such a special birthday! You are a treasure, a blessing, an inspiration, a role model, a champion and a teacher. Thanks.

I have been reading your Provisions for over a year and have gotten some good ideas and made some changes. The interviews, however, are mind boggling and moving. So now I am interested in coaching, as long as it can fit into my financial recovery plan. Thanks.

Erika had a great Pathway this week! Click These are difficult questions she asks at the end…it is interesting to think about how I could try to switch to different perspectives. Considering my boyfriend and I are opposites, the questions she asks would be a good exercise for the two of us to explore. 

I was reading the newsletter tonight and really related with Erika’s section on seeing things and being stuck on one channel. She used to be my coach and her writing reminded me of how helpful that was. Thanks.

Erika’s Creativity Pathway really spoke to me this week. I’ve had all my input devices locked on the Negative Self-Worth channel and it hadn’t really occurred to me how much that limited my ability to notice other more positive messages. Thanks for opening my eyes.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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