Home Tools and Applications Health and Wellness Focusing on Wellness: A vital shift for improving our Health and Wellbeing

Focusing on Wellness: A vital shift for improving our Health and Wellbeing

8 min read

Meet “Paula”. She is in her mid-thirties, a mid-level manager in a marketing department and internal coach. She has 2 kids, a husband and a job she really enjoys. Underneath that surface, she recently developed digestive issues that she could not ignore anymore. She went to some doctors, got some new nutritional plans and started to put them into her life. Her stomach started doing better and then she noticed her old pattern of loosening the reigns on those nutritional plans. She became worried as this pattern was familiar to her – one of struggling with her weight throughout her life. Even though she was happy about feeling better, she was not feeling energized about this new way of living and actually was self-sabotaging it because she didn’t feel as “ill” anymore. Her doctors were focused on her digestive issues and saw her as successful in their criteria. She, however, did not feel equipped nor confident that she could maintain this plan over time. In order to find an approach she could feel confident about as a long-term solution, she began working with a health and wellness coach.

Paula’s story of identifying some health problems and working on fixing them is our standard approach in our healthcare system. Unfortunately, what is becoming evident is that this approach alone is incomplete for creating a true long-term shift in our health and feeling of wellbeing.

A fundamental reason for this result is shown here in Dr. Travis’ Illness-Wellness Continuum.1

Foundationally, healthcare systems and practitioners are focused on identifying health risks and treating symptoms to prevent illness and disease (left side of continuum). The goal in this “illness orientation” is to alleviate symptoms of the illness and return back to “neutral” – neither ill nor well.  When you consider that in 1900 the top 3 causes of death were infectious disease, it is understandable how healthcare managed with this orientation and treatment paradigm approach. Today, however, while we clearly still want to be illness-free, the “illness” orientation and approach are not sufficient for improving our health and wellness effectively, or sustainably. Why?

One key reason is the profile of our illnesses has changed since then. Instead of the infections of old, today we are mostly confronted with chronic disease. In fact, the CDC reports that 7 of 10 deaths are due to chronic disease and ~60% of adults have 1 or more chronic diseases.2 While genetics, environmental and social determinants are factors, there is widespread consensus and data showing we engage in various behaviors that actively pose risks to our health. These health risk behaviors are likely not surprising to you: smoking, use of alcohol, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, lack of sleep and more.

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One Comment

  1. Joy Goldman

    January 15, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Petra, thanks for providing a powerful glimpse into the impact health and wellness coaching makes in our world. I appreciated the balance of statistics and theory, with the illustrative story– one that many of us can understand!


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