Health Coach Spotlight: Kari Houge
Our Health Coach spotlight this month features Kari Houge from Bloomington, MN. Kari is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, and DPP Lifestyle Coach (“The Trifecta,” in Omada parlance). An Omada coach for nearly four years, Kari has empowered thousands of participants to take charge of their health and live free of chronic disease.
What made you decide to become a health coach?
I’ve struggled with my weight, so I know that it’s not just about knowing what to do, it’s also about having a strong support system and allowing yourself to succeed. Often times, self-limiting beliefs get in our own way. We don’t think we can take the time to exercise, make nourishing meals for ourselves, or engage in other forms of self-care.
When we change our beliefs and acknowledge that we deserve to be healthy, we stop sabotaging ourselves and put the time and effort needed to create healthy habits. I’ve learned to protect my self-care time which has given me the lifestyle that I’ve wanted all along. As a health coach, I hope to inspire others to do the same.
What is your advice to someone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle but doesn’t know where to start?
Set a specific and attainable goal. It can be something as simple as getting up from your desk every hour at work. Once you’ve mastered that, add an additional goal of walking for 10 minutes at lunch, and so on. Success is motivating and self-fulfilling - a first success motivates the next, and so on. When you achieve the goals you set for yourself, you’ll find you naturally want to keep going.
I’d also encourage participants to learn to accept temporary setbacks. Challenges and slip-ups happen. Fortunately, we can use our setbacks to inform what works for us and what doesn’t. After experiencing a weekend of unhealthy eating, we can use that information to look back and assess what works for us and what doesn’t. Temporary setbacks ultimately show us the healthiest path forward.
What are the most common types of setbacks that you see participants face in your region, and how do you address them?
The winter in Minnesota can be brutal at times, which means less outdoor activity time for many. Having an activity plan in place before the snow flies is key. Exercise time doesn’t have to be in a gym. It can take place indoors using Omada workout programs, streaming workouts online, or DVDs. If participants want to enjoy the beauty of winter outdoors, I encourage them to bundle up, put on proper footwear, and take a walk outside.
What is a memorable success that you enjoyed celebrating with a participant?
A participant shared that they now know the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger. They had used food for comfort, companionship, celebration...for everything but nourishing their body. Being able to discern the two has made all the difference for them.
How has coaching impacted your life?
Coaching has helped me look at the process of change differently. It’s helped me to realize that “all or nothing” thinking doesn’t work when dealing with wonderfully imperfect people (myself included).
Coaching has also opened my eyes to just how much some people overcome in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Life circumstances can be a huge barrier; but participants find ways to overcome them. They persevere and create the changes they want to see in their lives. Self-forgiveness and gratitude tend to be traits they all share. It’s inspiring, to say the least.
What makes Omada different than other programs?
Omada encourages long term, sustainable changes. It’s not about a short term fix. We also provide many levels of support - between the peer groups, the accountability of the trackers, the knowledge from the lessons, and the consistent support from the coach to celebrate successes while working through challenges. I think we can all agree that behavior change is hard. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is witnessing the impact of our approach.
What healthy hobbies do you enjoy?
I love my raised garden! It won’t win any size awards (it’s 4 feet by 12 feet) but production is good, and I appreciate knowing exactly how my food was raised. There is nothing as good as fresh picked produce, and I love my carrots, cucumbers, onions, spinach, radishes and peppers that I can eat throughout the summer and early fall.
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds or 3 small/medium breasts)
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1/4 cup cucumber, diced
3 medium stalks celery, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus additional to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Place the diced chicken, grapes, celery, green onions, cucumber and almonds in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, milk, honey, salt, and pepper. Pour over the chicken mixture and toss to coat. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. If time allows, refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with fresh dill. Serve on top of salad greens or use a large lettuce leaves to make wraps.