If you want to accomplish a difficult goal, it helps to have someone knowledgeable supporting you every step of the way.  I learned the truth of this when I hired my own first coach.  Those one-on-one calls with an objective, non-judgmental woman who cared deeply about my success were life-changing.  She helped me identify and remove roadblocks to my success – both real and imagined.  With her support I was able to jettison self-limiting beliefs and make the difficult transition from burned-out employee to passionate entrepreneur, to my lasting benefit.

It is no different for individuals trying to lose weight and improve their health.  A pilot study conducted at the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, published online in Obesity, demonstrates the benefit of working with a health coach.  Amazingly, the benefits of a health coach for weight loss had not been studied before.

In this randomized, controlled pilot study, 44 participants took part in a group low-intensity behavioral weight loss program.  They met 12 times over the course of 6 months.  A third of them were given the support of a professional health coach, a third were randomly assigned to work with a peer in the group, and a third were assigned a mentor (someone who had achieved weight loss.)

The groups working with a professional health coach lost more than 9 percent of their body weight on average.  The group that had the support of a peer in the program lost nearly as much.  And the group that worked with a mentor lost around 6 percent.  At least half of the participants that worked with a professional health coach or peer achieved a ten percent weight loss, significantly more than the group that worked with a mentor, where only 17 percent achieved this goal.

This pilot study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is only the beginning.  A $2 million grant will further explore the effectiveness of health coaches for obesity treatment.  In the meantime, men, women and children that work with a health coach to lose weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle know that coaching is invaluable.  Working with their health coach one-on-one, they are able to break down mental and physical barriers to healthier eating, jettison self-limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns, and transform their lives for their lasting benefit.

Have you personally benefited from working with a coach?  Please share your experience in the comments below.