LAKE TAHOE — Jenna Granger believes in looking at the whole picture. As a health and wellness coach, she and her clients address nutrition, exercise, social connections and the practice of becoming more self-aware in regards to health.
“You can’t just look at food because it’s all interconnected,” she said. “It is about eating well, but there are other aspects of well being.”
Jenna leads clients through a six-month program, meeting twice a month to discuss health goals and how to achieve them.
“Very rarely do we sit down and think about our health and our lives,” Jenna said. “Rarely do we give ourselves that space. I sit down with people and give them the space to do that.”
A GROWING PROFESSION
Health and wellness coaching is a growing trend in preventive medicine. Major corporations like Walmart, Coca Cola and Sherwin Williams have employed health coaches for their employees.
Local businesses are catching on as well.
Registered dietician and certified health and wellness coach Jill Whisler said there are many benefit of having employees check in with a health coach. The small price of a health coach is worth the decrease in insurance costs.
“From an employer standpoint, it’s brilliant,” Jill said. “You’re taking care of (the employees), having them healthy and having an increase in morale.”
Jill said health coaching can be a form of motivational interviewing, asking the right questions and allowing the client to reflect on his or her own needs.
Through the Worx program, Tahoe Forest Health System provides health-coaching services for employers.
ONE CHANGE AT A TIME
A commonality in the industry of health and wellness coaching is promoting small, applicable changes.
“If you can just change one or two things, in a year it can make a difference,” Jill said.
A daily walk, making the next day’s lunch in the evenings, not checking emails first thing in the morning — these are some changes Jenna has recommended to clients that have made a profound difference.
People often become discouraged, she said, when setting high expectations for huge changes and feel defeated when the changes don’t last.
“It’s about making your life work for you,” she said, “rather than have your life work you.”
LEARNING TO LISTEN
Another aspect of Jenna’s work is aiding clients in learning to listen to their bodies.
Cravings, she said, are a way to see what is going on, to ask where certain feelings and emotions may be coming from.
“It’s really about listening to your body and learning to listen,” she said. “We’re never taught how to listen to our body. We are so bombarded with information — we’re told the doctor know more about our bodies than we do.”
Jenna believes shame and guilt revolving around food and the constant confusion of what and what not to eat do not foster positive changes.
The biggest shift she sees in clients is when they let go of guilt and become aware and curious about their choices and behaviors.
“How you eat is how you live,” Jenna said. “It’s a microcosm for your life. Different cravings can show you what’s off balance in your life.”
Living in balance is her philosophy and the driving goal for her clients. Jenna helps clients look into other aspects of their life that could be affecting health such as creativity and self-expression.
“The opposite of enthusiasm is boredom, and when we are bored we eat, we shop,” she said. “When we encourage creativity in ourselves, we get enthusiastic.”
Creativity is not limited to traditional art such as painting or drawing, Jenna said, but is anything from cooking, to dancing, to wrapping a gift.
Jenna uses her own life experiences to relate to clients. Sharing personal anecdotes helps the connection between coach and client.
“I’m still learning,” Jenna said. “I’m learning as I go and use my experiences to support people in knowing that it’s a process and being okay with the fact that it is a process — that it’s more of an adventure than a problem.”
EDUCATING THE AREA
Jenna has clients locally and as far as New York. She works in person or via Skype to check in, discuss health goals, and help clients make changes.
Part of being a health educator, Jenna frequently talks at high schools in Truckee Tahoe, at local businesses, and at the North Tahoe Family Resource Center. She addresses issues such as health in the workplace and the importance of community involvement.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Very rarely do we sit down and think about our health and our lives … I sit down with people and give them the space to do that.”