Lynne Frost, a business coach, who will be speaking at the 2018 Festival of Learning hosted by the South African College of Applied Psychology, recently worked with a morbidly obese client. He was on his way to losing his job because his weight prevented him from working.
Frost met her client, Hans B*, in September 2017. He weighed about 240kg and was confined to a chair – he lived, worked a little, slept and ate in this chair. He was unable to continue working and his employers asked Frost to step in.
“All other interventions had failed, and his employers decided to bring in a coach as a final attempt at helping him before starting the employment separation process,” Frost says.
“He suffered from depression, hypertension, immobility syndrome in his lower body, diabetes, body sores, circulatory issues… you name it! His doctor was talking about amputation of his legs, but he would never have survived such an operation.”
“I had never done anything like this before, so I was pretty nervous. I did a lot of reading and research around coaching interventions and the morbidly obese. And I was so encouraged by the number of successes internationally, that I decided to take it on,” says Frost. She decided to tackle the problem with compassion, encouragement, co-engagement and practicality.
Frost had to estimate his weight as he was immobile and couldn’t be weighed on a home scale. “He also couldn’t be weighed elsewhere,” she says. “We used body measurements to track his progress instead.”
After spending time with Hans, Frost knew she couldn’t handle this case alone and involved his medical doctor, physiotherapist, direct manager, HR and his partner, who was also his enabler.
“We created a plan that included all of these people. And, together, Hans and I worked on a complete lifestyle change.”
Learning how to change mindset and lifestyle
“We had two entry points into our discussions; the first was around his rapidly deteriorating health and the second was his job,” says Frost. “Hans is a highly intelligent IT professional. He works for a major listed company. However, he had not been to the office in nearly two years. Amazingly, his employers kept him on the payroll. And although for a time he worked from home, his skills soon became outdated and he was no longer communicating with his manager and team.”
She explained to Hans that if he didn’t respond to the coaching he was at risk of losing his job. “This was the wakeup call he needed as his family are dependent on him to provide. We worked together to visualise a different life for him, a life where he wasn’t trapped in a chair for 24-hours a day.”
In eight months they have made steady progress and Hans has lost about 65kg. Although he still has a long way to go (another 80kg), he has regained mobility, his blood pressure is stable, his circulation has normalised and he is no longer at risk of losing his legs.
“Last week he went back to work for the first time in more than two years,” says Frost.
What does a coach do?
“We work together towards clarifying their vision, setting attainable goals and listing measurable action steps required to achieve the success or change they desire. Areas we address may include business innovation, staff retention, revenue growth, communication, building capacity and getting ahead of the competition,” she explains.
As a personal wellbeing coach, Frost works with individuals to help them achieve balance, progress and good health in their lives. “We address issues such as career advancement; role change; immigration/emigration; health and wellness; and personal happiness.”
In personal wellness coaching, Frost says she often starts sessions by visualising a different life. “For instance, with Hans, we worked on how it would feel for him to go on holiday. During our time together we have continued to populate this vision and now, as he recovers, taking a holiday has become a plan, rather than a distant goal.”
How coaching sessions work
Frost provides a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space where clients can openly discuss their dreams and goals with her, as well the obstacles and fears that are holding them back.
“I identify entry points to facilitate useful discussion, brainstorming and thinking to help my clients to achieve insight into what is possible. We unpack the crucial areas for change into manageable bite-sized chunks, and then, together, set goals and action steps to move my client/s towards measurable achievement.”
She says her role is to be the facilitator of change. “It is my clients’ role to enact that change and to hold themselves accountable for achievement.”
Helping a loved one
Are you worried about a loved one? Frost shares some tips on how to broach the subject of weight in a kind and respectful way:
Enlist the help of a medical professional.
Avoid fad diets and the advice of well-intentioned friends.
Express concern to the sufferer around their health issues rather than focusing on appearance and weight.
Contact organisations such as Overeaters Anonymous – family and close friends can attend the “open” meetings to support the efforts of their loved one.
Involve a personal wellness coach.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
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