BY STEPHANIE S. BEECHER
For Julie Edgar, watching her weight yo-yo throughout the years was nothing new. As a child, she’d been decidedly chubby, but by college most of the weight had dropped off. Though the weight cycle continued well into her 20s, Edgar seemed to be comfortable in her own skin.
That is until she got pregnant with her first child. That’s when she says the pregnancy pounds packed on — and stayed.
By her son’s third birthday, Edgar had ballooned to nearly 330 pounds, and her signature bubbly personality could no longer mask her deep personal struggles with weight. Edgar says it was time for a change.
“It got to a point where my size hindered my everyday life,” the Wauwatosa resident says. “I wanted to be on the floor playing with my son. I wanted to play soccer. And I didn’t want my son to have to feel embarrassed about me being his mom.”
When her friend, Sandi Vande Berg, owner at T3 Fitness in Wauwatosa, suggested she attend the boot camp class she was instructing, Edgar initially refused. But after running out of excuses, she gave in — and hated it.
“I cried all the way home — I didn’t think I belonged there,” says Edgar. “But then I thought, ‘I have to start somewhere.’”
For the next eight months, she leaned on Vande Berg’s fitness coaching to help reach her goals. She worked out twice a day, six days a week, and learned how to incorporate a healthy diet into her routine. Soon Edgar lost more than 170 pounds, but she says the journey was so much more than a number on a scale — it was a whole new lease on life.
In fact, Edgar was so inspired that she eventually left her corporate finance job in downtown Milwaukee to become a full-time lead trainer at Vande Berg’s studio, so she could help others to do the same.
“I just felt so alive, and I felt thankful,” Edgar says. “I wanted everyone to feel as good as I felt — as I feel.”
How to Shape Your Future
Edgar credits part of her success to seeking out the help of a personal trainer — and she’s not alone. Since the recession, millions of American have sought out the assistance of a personal coach, turning the trade into a multibillion dollar industry.
Though the reasons for doing so vary widely — people seek out help for everything from fitness and nutrition, to home organizing, life coaching and career development —
the end game is the same. People are searching for ways to significantly improve their daily lives.
According to Harvard Business Review, successful personal coaches combine consulting and therapy techniques to result in increased self-confidence, better communication skills, professional advancement and improved personal relationships for their clients.
While most people could benefit from personal coaching, Vande Berg says it often takes a person reaching their breaking point to move them out of their comfort zone and into an avenue of change.
“The worst kind of place to be is in the ‘all right’ place,” she says. “People don’t make changes then. The people who are fed up? Those are the people who are really motivated. It’s really about making a difference in peoples’ lives, rather than short-term fixes.”
At its root, personal coaching is all about empowerment and creating the life that you want, adds Meg Daly, a personal development coach in Milwaukee.
“When people ask me what I do, I say, ‘Have you ever woken up completely overwhelmed with your life?’” she explains. “It’s like they’ve lost their sparkle. Maybe they are full of fear. Maybe there is a lot of self-criticism. Maybe they’re lonely. A lot of times, we’re stuck in our hearts and heads.
“I help people move out (of that feeling) to revive and thrive,” Daly continues.
How Personal Coaching Works
Most of us have experienced those moments when we’re standing in the mirror and just don’t like what we see or feel. So how do you know if you’re just having a bad day or week, or when it’s appropriate to hire a personal coach?
“People usually approach me when they are stuck,” says Rochelle Melander, a wellness and writing coach in Milwaukee. “Maybe they’ve set a (goal) to exercise more, find a new job, or start their blog … and they’ve made little progress.”
The first thing Melander does is normalize the situation. For example, Melander points out to clients that only about 8 percent of people actually keep New Year’s resolutions, and reminds people not to be too hard on themselves. Then she works with them to uncover their obstacles.
The biggest obstacles aren’t usually time or money; it’s a fear of failure or of being uncomfortable, the coaches say.
Sometimes it’s because a person is trying to achieve too many big goals at once — for example, a woman who was both trying to write and exercise every morning before work. In other cases, emotional or physical distractions can get in the way.
A consulting session, question form or survey can help coaches pinpoint the areas that need work. Daly says her process includes three major steps, including how to help clients: 1. Remember who they are; 2. Discover or know what they desire; and 3. How to take action. While every coaching process or package is different, it usually includes a variety of exercises (writing goal statements, journaling, completing worksheets, making behavior changes), in-person and virtual meetings, and check-ins to measure progress.
It’s important to remember that a lifestyle change takes time.
“When I’ve seen them move through those layers, and when they are able to reclaim that life, that’s what I love,” Daly says. “It’s about knowing you’re worth the time and investment. People don’t value themselves enough to know that.”