Benefits of Hiring a Health Coach & the Four Tendencies

Thriving with Deanna / Health  / Benefits of Hiring a Health Coach & the Four Tendencies

Benefits of Hiring a Health Coach & the Four Tendencies

One of the things I hear often from my clients is that they think they mostly know what they should be doing to achieve “X” goal, but making it happen is another story.


Does this often ring true for you?  I know it does for most people, including myself occasionally.  For example, I know my digestion is best when I enter meals in a calm, un-rushed, un-stressed state, and eat slowly, without a lot of distractions.  But do I always do this?  No, I often have distractions at meals, eat too fast, and feel rushed.  Hence the reason for my upcoming project, Unplug & Nourish, which you can join too (it’s 1 week long and FREE, starting December 10th, 2017).  I may be a health coach, but sometimes I need accountability too!


Speaking of accountability, let’s talk about how it’s one of the reasons for hiring a health coach, but first I have to reintroduce a topic we’ve discussed here before.  You may remember in this post, here, I talked about Gretchen Rubin and her “Four Tendencies Framework,” which divides people into 4 groups: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, and describes how they uniquely approach inner and outer expectations.  If you haven’t read that post, you may want to go back and do so and MOST CERTAINLY take her Four Tendencies Quiz.  Also, I highly recommend her book on this topic as well.  I honestly think everyone can benefit from the information in her book, whether you’re a friend, co-worker, spouse, parent, team member, boss, coach, clinician, etc.


There’s also one last point I should make here.  Gretchen believes that these Tendencies are really part of our innate character and cannot be changed.  So if you were hoping you could just become more like one of the other Tendencies to more easily achieve your goals, it’s not likely to happen.  That’s why it’s important to know how to successfully work WITH your Tendency to obtain your desired results!


The largest group in Gretchen’s Four Tendencies Framework is the OBLIGERS, those who readily meet (most) outer expectations, yet have trouble meeting inner expectations.  However, simply setting up some sort of outer accountability for their “inner” expectations helps them to become more successful with their personal goals.  For example, if an Obliger desires to incorporate more activity into their day, they may be able to make it happen for a few days or even a couple weeks, but without having someone to hold them accountable, the habit formation often doesn’t stand a chance.  However, if they were to create some sort of accountability system (perhaps even just texting a picture of their daily step count on their tracker) with a reliable partner, they are MUCH more likely to follow through.


As you can imagine, because of this external need for accountability, Obligers are VERY WELL served by health coaches.  One incredibly beneficial role of a health coach is to help provide that regular service that so many of us need, especially Obligers (again, the greatest number of us, according to Gretchen).  Health coaches also often have the privilege of getting to know their clients on a deeply personal level and are able to support their clients in their health goals in a very meaningful way.  One way in which I personally do this is often by asking them to use Gretchen’s framework to determine their “type.”


Next up, we’ll talk about the Questioners…


Questioners are not likely to uphold external expectations unless they have a good reason as to why they should.  Have you ever been to your practitioner and been given a list of suggestions or a “protocol” to follow?  Maybe you had time to ask a few questions at the appointment, but didn’t get all of your questions answered, or perhaps you have additional questions you think of after you leave (this is me- I need time to process).  A qualified health coach will likely be able to help answer many of the Questioner’s questions.  Furthermore, the Questioner may wonder if they can modify certain parts of the suggestions or protocol because they feel they “know better.”  This is a frequent trait of the questioner as they tend to gather a lot of information.  A health coach may be able to provide some of the reasons as to why a specific suggestion or protocol would have been recommended, or guidance on what kind of adaptations may be appropriate for their given needs.  Alternatively, they may be able to guide and empower them in advocating for the desired changes to a protocol, if that does seem more fitting.


Moving onto Rebels…


Rebels, one of the smallest of the 4 groups, resist all expectations, both inner and outer.  They are often thrilled to do things in a way that is different from others.  They’ll do things in their own way, in their own time, and ONLY if they feel like it.  They also like to do things that make them feel as if they are being their true self (which in my opinion is actually a great thing).  If asked to do something, prompted or reminded in any way, they’re even more likely to resist.  So, if there is something you want a Rebel to do, it’s best to propose it in a way that will make it seem like their own idea or a great way to express their true identity.  You can also play up all the reasons how what you need them to do is different than what most would do in the situation.


Furthermore, according to Gretchen, rebels tend to respond well when presented with information, consequences, and choices.  For example, a rebel may ask, “Well, why should I do ___?”  Maybe it’s exercise they are wondering about.  You could present the ways in which exercise is beneficial, explain the consequences of not exercising, and then offer some exercise choices, especially ones that may seem “out of the box” or that use an activity you know they already enjoy.


So, how could a health coach be beneficial for a Rebel?  Honestly, this is definitely the most challenging group with which to work.  I have a son who is a very strong-willed Rebel, and let me tell you, it’s not easy.  But sometimes even rebels become annoyed with their own unwillingness to do the things they desire to do.  For instance, Rebels may want to change their diet, but once their doctor and everyone around them has told them they should too, they become more resistant  A health coach can help a Rebel tap into their own motivation and help them create their own goals and system for achieving them, rather than simply prescribing them with a generic plan.  Furthermore, a qualified health coach can help provide information, along with consequences and choices, which is often very empowering, especially for a Rebel.  If a Rebel feels as though they are doing something by their own power, there is likely to be greater success.


Lastly, the Upholders…


Upholders tend to be very good at – you guessed it – upholding both inner and outer expectations.  However, they can also experience something Gretchen calls “tightening,” where they become more and more obsessive or strict about upholding certain expectations, to the point that sometimes it can become unhealthy.  For instance, if it was recommended to an Upholder by someone they trusted that one hour of daily intense exercise was healthiest, they would be likely to adhere to that recommendation very strictly.  But then they may start to take that a step further and make it two hours, and then three, and so on.  This may feel to them that they are even exceeding expectations, which is thrilling for Upholders.


So, do you know how a health coach may be best at helping Upholders?  Recognizing, perhaps, when they’ve taken expectations too far and when they’ve become unhealthy.  Another example of this is when Upholders eliminate certain food groups for health reasons and are successful at alleviating symptoms.  They may then keep eliminating foods in an attempt to make things even better – “tightening” – but end up over-restricting foods to the point that it becomes unhealthy.  Or they may resist reintroducing foods after a time because they feel so stuck adhering to the initial expectation.  A health coach can be exceptional at helping to healthfully shift the expectations.  Furthermore, a health coach can be very helpful at helping Upholders to identify when it’s appropriate to question expectations.  They often uphold rules and expectations without asking why, and therefore may follow rules or expectations that actually don’t serve their health and well-being in the most optimal way.  Again, this can really help an Upholder to become more inquisitive and empowered to advocate for their best interests.


So, there you have it!


Those are some of the ways in which hiring a health coach can be beneficial for any of the Four Tendencies groups.  It’s interesting because when I started to write this post, this wasn’t the direction I intended to take at all.  But Gretchen’s Framework has become so integral to how I work with people now that this had to be shared first (which is exactly why I suggest her book).  So, you know what that means….I’ll be writing a second post where I share more general reasons you might hire a health coach! 


P.S.  Even after all the studying I’ve done on the 4 Tendencies, I’ll be honest and say I’m not exactly sure into which group I actually fall.  Gretchen says that everyone really does fall into one category, but may lean toward another one connected to it (see her Venn diagram on her quiz page).  So, I’m either an Upholder with Questioner tendencies or vice versa.  Here’s a funny story…the first time I took the quiz, I got Questioner.  I was sure I’d get Upholder and when I questioned the results, my husband (also a Questioner), pointed out that since I was questioning the results, I MOST LIKELY WAS a Questioner!  Good point!  Haha!  However, about a year or more later, I took the quiz again and got Upholder.  Interesting!  I know I’m DEFINITELY some of both!


What Tendency are you?  Let us know in the comments!  

Deanna Wilcox


  • Michelle Desranleau
    December 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Interesting article! I’m not sure where is fit either after just reading your explanations! Thanks for sharing.

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