Podcast: Behavior Change with Jerry Painter
In this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, we’re discussing behavior change and supporting others in adopting healthier lifestyles. We sat down with Jerry Painter, Clinical Manager at Onlife Health, to talk about the complex topic of readiness to change and how his team helps individuals replace bad habits by taking small, achievable steps. We discuss barriers to behavior change, how to improve wellness in the workplace and how health coaches help support healthy lifestyle goals.
“My belief is that we are made to move. As an exercise physiologist and a registered dietitian, I can tell you, we are meant to move and we are meant to eat healthy foods. The more we sit and the more we medicine we take, the more critical our health conditions become.”
Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our discussion with Jerry Painter, Clinical Manager for Onlife Health.
Jerry: My belief is that we are made to move. As an exercise physiologist and a registered dietitian, I can tell you, we are meant to move and we are meant to eat healthy foods. The more we sit, and the more we medicine we take, the more critical our health conditions become.
Host: This is the Well-Being Experts podcast and you just heard from Jerry Painter, Clinical Manager of Onlife Health. We had the chance to talk about the complex topic of readiness to change and how his team helps others look at health differently.
Jerry: Throughout my career, one denominator has always been fitness and a healthy lifestyle. I found that no matter what career I was in, either on the mental health or the business side of my career, physical fitness and healthy nutrition was always a major part of that.
Host: On our ninth episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, brought to you by Onlife Health, we’re discussing behavior change. Jerry Painter has many experiences with supporting others to live healthier lifestyles.
Jerry: As my life has evolved, as my journey has continued, my path has led into me into being this clinical manager and it’s just a great fit for me because I’m able to preach that with which I live. To me, it’s just second-hand nature to be able to talk about living a healthy lifestyle and helping people want to make this change.
Host: For more content like this, go to onlifehealth.com/resources. Enjoy the conversation!
Jerry: I’m Jerry Painter. I am the clinical manager at Onlife Health. I have been with Onlife Health going on five years and I am in charge of the clinical team. We have clinical specialists, we have a clinical quality analyst, and we have a clinical coordinator. We coach on eight different topics – physical activity, nutrition, weight management, blood pressure, cholesterol, tobacco cessation, preventive health and stress reduction. We believe that through adhering to a lifestyle that incorporates all of those conditions, you can lead a much happier and healthier lifestyle.
Host: What is a health coach and what is a health coach not?
Jerry: That’s a great question. I think that if I walked out of here and asked any given person, “What is a health coach?” the answer I would get would be most likely, “It’s someone who helps me with my health.” But then my next question would be, “Well, what is health?” and that’s where people really take a pause because it’s a multifaceted answer. Does it mean I don’t have a cold or does it mean I feel good? Does it mean I sleep well at night or does it mean I don’t have cancer? Health is different things to different people.
We go a step beyond that and think, well, you know, it’s well-being. Health is well-being, and a health coach ties directly into well-being. We want you to be holistically, organically, a healthy person. We want you to eat food. We want you to eat unprocessed whole foods. We want you to eat whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables. We also want you to exercise. We want you to move your body. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and run marathons or sweat daily, but it does mean you need to stop being so physically sedentary – to move your body as much as possible.
We find that by-products of this healthy lifestyle are that your stress levels begin to decrease. When your stress levels begin to decrease, your body responds in a very nice, healthy way, and you begin to feel better and you begin to sleep better.
There’s a factor called happiness and happiness equates, quite nicely, with health. When you feel good, you feel happy, you feel well, and it just works nice. Health coaches help bring that picture together. They help combine all the elements and lead you into a lifestyle that is purely a life that you make. You’re not reliant on drugs. You’re not reliant on doctors. You’re not reliant on surgeries. You can lead a healthy life, you can eat a healthy diet, exercise, and reap huge benefits.
Host: I know your background. You grew up on a farm. You have had a lifetime of doing it right in a lot of ways, just from the environment you lived in. What would you say is your why?
Jerry: Life is hard and I think you need every benefit you can get to get through life. When it’s as simple as going for a walk, when it’s as simple as eating a healthy diet, those two things alone can have such a profound effect on someone’s life. As I grow older, I see around me people who adhere to this lifestyle and there is just no comparison with them and the people who don’t live that lifestyle. I have friends who are nurses and work in emergency rooms and constantly hear these horror stories from them about the people coming into the emergency rooms. The obesity, the diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, the cancers; so much of that can be totally reversed through a healthy lifestyle. We’re not offering a magic pill here; we’re offering apples and oranges, and broccoli and cauliflower. If I can eat those instead of taking an antibiotic, by all means, give me the whole food. That’s my lifestyle and I think that’s where health needs to go. We have been way too reliant upon medication and have given up on the wonders, the profound wonders, of the human body.
Host: Previous topics on this podcast, we’ve talked a little bit about the psychology of change and ways to look at that change and how do you actually make a successful implementation. But, for people who are just getting the insight, “Hey, I need to change my lifestyle,” and if they don’t want to change their lifestyle, what types of feedback are they getting and what’s the barrier? I would like to hear that from you perspective.
Jerry: A couple of different views on that question. One would be people have to understand that good health is an intrinsic value as opposed to an extrinsic value. By that I mean that they have to get it. They have to adopt a way of life that is purely healthy and it has to mean something to them rather than, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds and my employer is going to give me $100.” You can lose the 10 pounds and get the $100, and then you can gain 20 pounds, and what have you gained and what has the employer gained? Really, not a lot.
We look at a couple of different things when we look at behavior change. We look at how do we make this intrinsic for you, as opposed to extrinsic? Although, certainly, I’m open to an extrinsic [incentive]. If it takes $100 to get you to lose weight and then you continue to lose weight, it becomes intrinsic at that point, then great, let’s do that. We also look at readiness to change. If my mom has cancer, if my son has cancer, if my best friend has cancer, or if my best friend is overweight and they’re having health problems; I probably want to examine my life and see, “Well, gosh, I don’t want that to happen to me. What can I do? How can I improve my life?” It’s, again, as simple as a healthy diet and exercise and stress reduction. I think that behavior change is someone’s journey – it’s your journey in life. When you’re ready to change, the road will change and there are people there to help you.
Host: How do you begin the conversation with someone who needs behavior change?
Jerry: As a health coach, our health coaches are trained to meet members where they are. That means, if a member’s not ready to change, then they’re not ready to change. If I smoke and you tell me I need to quit, and I’m not ready to quit, I’m not going to quit. But you know what? I’m not going to quit smoking, but I might be willing to walk a little more, I might be willing to change my diet, I might be willing to try some stress reduction. If I can get my stress reduced, then maybe I can smoke a few less cigarettes.
I think the biggest misconception in behavior change is that it has to happen overnight, and time and time again we say, “No, we want you to set long-term goals.” We can certainly set short-term goals, and maybe that’s, “Instead of six cigarettes, I have five cigarettes,” that’s a change, that’s a positive change. The long-term goal is we want you to quit smoking – smoking doesn’t do you any favors. The same with exercise, the same with eating right, making the small steps is a great way to start. Coaches are trained in all these skills, and that’s another benefit and beauty of a health coach, is they want to meet you where you are. Whether you are extremely ready to change or you need an advancement in your exercise regime, or you’re just not there yet, we’re going to provide you with information that maybe will help you get there.
Well-Being Experts is supported by Onlife Health. Onlife Health is a comprehensive wellness provider serving health plans and large employers nationwide. With over ten million members and 20 years of industry experience, Onlife takes a high touch, high-tech approach to wellness that creates real results for your population. Find out more at onlifehealth.com.
Host: We’ve been talking a little bit about getting someone at that point, having readiness to change. Let’s zoom out. We were looking at the individual; now we’re zooming out to a large population. What does behavior change look like from that vantage point, and why does that matter to the employer, and also on the health plan perspective?
Jerry: We find that the more engaged a senior leadership team is in a company, then the better their employee group as a whole is going to respond. Health coaches are a valuable asset, an on-site health coach is also a valuable asset. But you know who’s the most valuable asset? It’s the CEO who says, “You know what, senior leadership team? We’re going to go for a lunchtime run, and I want to gather some of the employees to go with us.” When that happens, then the magic in the company begins to happen because it becomes herd mentality at that point. The boss is doing it, the head honcho’s out there doing it, and I want to look good to them, and then as a consequence of that, I’m gaining great health benefits. The more consistent a senior leadership team is with their fitness, the more consistent the employees will be with their fitness.
Host: What does that change look like to the executive team? Is that more challenging than employees below that management level?
Jerry: I find it’s generational. For some employers, it is a paradigm shift. I’m of an age that was raised that you start to work at 8:00, and you end at 5:00, and you get 30 minutes for lunch. If you want to work out, you do it before work or after work. As time has gone on, I believe we’re seeing a younger generation coming in saying, “Hey, I would love to be able to do a yoga class at lunch. I’ve got other things to do after work, and I want to sleep until it’s time to get up. But I can’t do that because you’re making me work all these hours, so I’m going to go work at a company that does let me do those things.”
Paradigm shift, I think, is going to be key over the next 15 to 20 years and I think that the new employer, the new-age employer, is going to be much more open to a healthy lifestyle. The on-site yoga classes; meditation classes are just awesome. A ten-minute meditation class where an employee can come in, not have to change their clothes and just sit and meditate for ten minutes is a brilliant idea. Seeing incredible response rates to that; we’re getting great turnout when we do that in our own company. The cost; we have seen absolutely no loss in productivity because of this. It’s ten minutes, you come sit, you meditate, you feel better, and you go on with the rest of your day. Over time, people are saying, “Wow, I didn’t realize what a big difference it makes,” or, “I didn’t realize how full my body was of stress, and how tight I was in my shoulders and my neck, and just this ten minutes has made a huge difference.” That’s all it takes.
Host: Just talking about that, I feel relief in my shoulders.
Jerry: That’s good.
Host: That’s a really great next conversation I’d like to have with you. Some of those low-hanging fruit items for a company to implement, because that’s going to help everyone who’s involved – so a healthy employee, lower medical bills because they’re healthier, all of that. We know those things to be true. What are some of those easy-to-implement ideas – the meditation for ten minutes? Also, when we talk about the ideas, maybe one or two ways – it’s not just the idea, but how that’s implemented. In that case, you talked about what needs to come from your management team, so, “Hey, come join me and do this,” and then so on. Are there other ideas that you like to talk about?
Jerry: Yeah. For example, we have a healthy vending machine. As a clinical manager and a dietitian, I was asked to help provide some ideas on healthy things that go into our vending machine, and that, again, boy talk about a paradigm shift. You go to the vending machine and there’s no M&Ms, there’s no Snickers, there’s no Cokes? What? Instead, we have almonds, we have whole-grain foods, we have zero-calorie drinks, and that was an easy win.
But again, you look at someone who is really ready to change, that, “Gosh, I just got a call that my sister had a heart attack and I am ready to change,” then there’s a great low-hanging fruit. That’s somebody who is high risk, who’s very highly ready to change, and that’s a win-win. That’s your most expensive employee, and that’s one who is most ready to change. Well, buddy, that’s where you’re going to see your biggest return on investment. They’re ready change, well, we’re ready to help them.
Host: Meditation, that was one way. What does that look like in a workplace?
Jerry: Well, meditation, again, is a vague term. It’s like yoga. There are million types of yoga and there are million types of meditation. Even, for example, you take any given week and you offer five different ten-minute classes in meditation and maybe one is a guided meditation and relaxation, maybe one is staring at a candle, maybe one is listening to music, maybe one is lying on the floor – it doesn’t matter. It’s whatever is going to resonate with somebody and you have to give it a try and see what works for you. So that’s the beauty of having these options. It’s only ten minutes, it’s not a big investment of my time, and yet I can gain great benefits just by investing these ten minutes. If I like these ten minutes, then maybe I’m likely at home to try this same technique and do it for twenty minutes and I’ll get even more health benefits.
Host: That’s really interesting. What are some of those benefits? What are the benefits and are there any most surprising benefits that you get responses back?
Jerry: Well, from the clinical perspective and from clinical data that we’ve seen, the highest cost an employer can have is a highly-stressed, high-depressed employee. Some scientific studies have shown very compelling evidence that through reducing stress, we begin to see lessening of chronic diseases. For some people with depression, meditation has been a great resource, or PTSD, meditation has been a great resource. A by-product of meditation is that you feel more calm and you’re not more likely to go and stress eat, so you may lose weight, and when you lose weight, you’re going to get even more health benefits. Simply by sitting and just focusing on something for ten minutes or focusing on nothing for ten minutes, it becomes this really profound rippling effect throughout the rest of your life. It’s a very organic process, and just the benefits, I don’t think we even begin to see all the benefits.
Host: You talked a little bit about data, just a moment ago, from some of the studies and research that you’ve seen. Are there other pieces of information that have surprised you over your career?
Jerry: I think the one that has surprised me, and continues to surprise me, is just how impactful physical inactivity is to the human body. My belief is that we are made to move. As an exercise physiologist and a registered dietitian, I can tell you, we are meant to move and we are meant to eat healthy foods. The more we sit and the more medicine we take, the more critical our health conditions become. It just seems to me like daily I’m reading more and more that you’re lessening years in your life by sitting on your couch and watching television. While it may feel comfortable, your body doesn’t want to sit and watch meaningless TV for hours on end. Your body wants to move, it’s the physiological nature of the human body.
Host: When a health plan knows these small changes really do add up, what are some of the things that they’re thinking about that can be achieved with these small adjustments in someone’s life?
Jerry: I just think that if an employer counted the hours that employees sit in meetings alone, it would be pretty impactful. Maybe one day of the week, you set aside as walking meetings, and it’s just one day, but again you’re going to see greater benefits. You’ll also find your meetings don’t last nearly as long if you’re walking than they do if you’re sitting – you tend to get to the point quickly. I think that’s one of the cool things is it’s saying that these meetings where we sit around and just blabber all day long, as opposed to a meeting where we’re walking and we actually say what we need to say. It just seems to me it’s much more efficient, from a business perspective, to get to the point and get the meeting over with than just sitting, carrying on for long periods of time. Why not start with one day dedicated purely to walking meetings, and let’s just see what happens from there, and then maybe we can go to two days, or maybe we can incorporate group walks at lunch time. One thing can build on another, but you have to find where the engagement lies with the employee, what’s going to resonate with them. But I don’t think it takes a lot and I think it can get overwhelming if you overthink it.
Host: When I’m looking at all these options, there’s a lot of routes to go. What are some of the benefits to a wellness program to help you navigate those different paths, to make sure you’re able to not only get the change but keep the change?
Jerry: Accountability is such a big issue. If I am going to depend upon myself to go work out, I might get distracted by something else. But if the person next to me is going to say, “Hey, Jerry, it’s 12:00, we were supposed to go walk,” then most likely I will go walk. I think, ultimately, it comes down to, is somebody going to come after me if I don’t work out? Well, that’s a good thing. Is my dog going to give me the bad eye when I go home because I ignored him saying he wants to go for a walk? Well, yeah, that’s hard for me to live with. I don’t like doing that, so yeah, I’m going to take my dog for a walk. I’m going to go walk with my best friend.
Accountability, and it’s that transition from extrinsic to intrinsic. At some point then my friend’s not going to be there and I’m going to think, “You know, I’m used walking at this time of day, so I’m going to go walk,” or, “You know, I really do enjoy walking with my dog. I just want to go home and get my dog and go for a walk.” At that point, you’re set for life. Intrinsic value, it’s a good thing.
Host: When you’re watching television, there are all those shows where it’s just go in berserk mode to lose the weight and tear your life apart. Literally, take a pause on our lives to go onto the show and to do this. What type of culture does that create to an employer and to a health plan?
Jerry: Well, a couple of thoughts on that – the reality TV version of health and wellness, certainly, I think we would all agree that it’s not the real world. I think the follow-up shows, even on the people who have lost weight, show that they did gain the weight back, unfortunately, because they didn’t do it the right way. It came off fast, it comes on fast, and ultimately, was that really good for their health? Well, maybe half of that was when they lost the weight, but then they gain it back and most likely will gain back even more.
The benefit of a health coach, again, is we are standing behind you with that plan B. You want to go on that high protein, low carb diet? Great. We’ve had a lot of members lose weight on that type of diet. You can do it. But I tell you what, when you start craving carbs, when your body’s saying, “Hey, I got to eat something,” give me a call and let’s come up with this plan B. That’s the beauty of a health coach, because they’re not going to tell you not to do what you’re doing, but they’re going to say, “Hey, when that starts failing, I’m right behind you to support you.” That’s what a health coach does.
Host: When you have that accessible resource, how does the outcome look different than someone who does not?
Jerry: The outcome’s different because we began by meeting you where you are and you set the goals – we don’t set the goals. I can say, “Hey, John Doe, you need to lose 50 pounds, and you’re going to be in better health,” but John Doe’s saying, “Whoa, that’s a big commitment. I’m doing good if I can lose three pounds.” Whereas if we just let John Doe say, “Hey, you know what? Give me a couple of months, and let me see if I can come down five pounds and then let’s talk,” perfect. Then you’ve set the goal. We’re here to help you reinforce that goal, reinforce your motivation, not putting any judgment on you at all, whether you lose it or don’t lose it, but, again, just helping you out.
I made this analogy on the way here this morning. It was kind of a foggy morning here and I’m not used to this part of town, so I was using my online navigator. I took a wrong turn and instead of saying, “Hey, you’re lost, you better go home,” it said, “Just take a right at the next street and you’re going to be back on track.” I was thinking that’s a lot like a health coach. A health coach is not going to say, “Oh, you’re lost, this is never going to happen. You’re doomed, just give up.” They’re going to say, “You know what? You took a wrong turn, but let’s just get back on track. You fell out of balance. I want to get you back in balance and you’re going to be fine. I’m going to help you with the end of the road. I can see where you want to go and it looks beautiful to me too. Let’s get there together.”
Host: Are their any final thoughts that you have to share?
Jerry: Well, we live in a high-stress world and it’s not going to change. The stress we have now has, unfortunately, become the new normal and so we can either give into it or we can conquer it. If we can conquer it on our own, purely through reducing physical inactivity by reducing our stress levels, increasing our dietary habits to healthier lifestyle, then why not? This can be a life changer, literally a life changer, for us if we can just adopt easy-to-do simple behaviors that have such a profound effect on your whole life.
Host: Wonderful. Well, I really appreciate you sharing your insight and taking your entire career, and all these different experiences you’ve accumulated along the way, and distilling some really actionable, helpful advice. I really enjoyed it.
Jerry: Thanks. Me too.
Host: Thank you to today’s guest. And a big thank you to you for listening along with us. Well-Being Experts is brought to you by Onlife Health, a comprehensive wellness solutions company that has spent years working with health plans and large employers nationwide.
Today’s podcast and additional perspectives from the Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome your comments, questions, feedback, and all of the above at email@example.com.