Podcast: Culture of Health with Dustin Graham


In this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, we’re discussing what it’s like to be a health coach and how it helps others. We sat down with Dustin Graham, Health Coach at Onlife Health, to talk about some of the common questions he receives as a coach. We talk about stress and the workplace, and the importance of leadership’s involvement in supporting individuals who want to change.  

“Our agenda is to help them and when they realize that we’re here, we’re going to listen, that it’s a partnership – then they can open up.”




Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our discussion with Dustin Graham, Health Coach at Onlife Health.


Dustin: Our agenda is to help them and when they realize that we’re here, we’re going to listen, that it’s a partnership – then they can open up. So, I think that’s a big part of it.

Host: This is the Well-Being Experts podcast. You just heard from Dustin Graham, Health Coach at Onlife Health. He’s one of the most down-to-earth coaches I think you’ll ever meet. He was really fun to talk to you about some of the common questions he receives as a coach.

Dustin: I’m not here to tell you this is A, B, C, D… this is what you have to do. I’m here to find out what you want to do. I think that really is the key factor and really builds a relationship.

Host: On our sixth episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, brought to you by Onlife Health, we’re discussing what it’s really like to be a health coach, and how coaches help others. We talk about stress and the workplace, and how to get leadership involved within an organization.

Dustin: I’m a certified health and fitness instructor with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. My background is in exercise science. I started out working at a corporate wellness center for a couple of years, and I’ve now been with Onlife Health for around eight years now, and I really enjoy working with the role that I have now. Anytime that you can come to work and do this and do something you enjoy, and do something that you love, and help others reach their goals; it is great.

Host: In working with individuals as a professional health coach, Dustin shined a light on what it’s like to be in his role and his passion for relationships. For more content like this go to OnlifeHealth.com/resources. Enjoy the conversation!

Host: How do you get someone to go from the culture or the mindset of, “I don’t know if I really want to change, yet, I’m interested,” or maybe I’m not interested – how do you help coach someone to get over that bump?

Dustin: I don’t think there’s one particular strategy for every person. Everyone is so different. Going back to trying to find out what is important to this member, why do they want to make this change, what are they wanting to accomplish in the future, and when are they ready to get started. And, taking that approach to having that relationship with them – really listening – finding out what’s important to them, and helping them accordingly do that.

Host: Do they always know what it is they need help with? Or is it just sometimes, “Hey, I know I need help with this?”

Dustin: I think it’s both. You’ll find some that know what they need and what they want. And those are right in our wheelhouse. We know exactly what to do. They say, “Give me this plan; this is what I want,” and we can give that to them. This is what you can do to achieve that. And then there’s those that don’t quite know what to do, and that’s where we’d go back to trying to talk to them to find out more about what’s important to them and how to help them make the change.

Host: What are some of the things that you’ve seen that have worked? I know it’s not a one solution for everyone, but have there been things or approaches or ways to engage with individuals who may not, out of the gate, be really strong on wanting that support?

Dustin: I think it’s an approach where we work as a team, and then we build that rapport and build that trust, and later on it’s easier to help them make those changes, and you see better results.

Host: And then part of that experience – with them maybe not knowing the results that they want or what they’re capable of – are there any best practices you’ve used before, that you’ve seen, to help members see that these are the types of goals you could reach. Are there any kind of thoughts around that?

Dustin: I think our wellness portal is really good. We have a lot of tools and trackers they can use. We have courses that explain things and can kind of help bridge that gap of things they may not be sure of knowledge-wise, and help them be more engaged even when they are not speaking with a coach. They can take advantage of that and they have a way to participate on their own, on their own time, at their own pace.

Host: I like it. So, one thing I’d like to ask you is: what does wellness mean to you?

Dustin: I would take it more towards a quality of life. You can eat well, you can be in great shape, but it’s more of an overall look at your health and your quality of life, and putting it all together. Not just one aspect of health. It’s more of an encompassing of all the different aspects of health and putting those together. Living a quality life and having just good overall well-being. And just, quality of life.

Host: Within each of the workplaces out there, what are some of the things that create a culture of wellness or culture of health within an organization? Maybe these could be things that help improve it. Maybe these are things that detract from it. I’m curious to hear just any of your general thoughts on what are some of the things that make up a culture of health within an organization?

Dustin: I think you need leaders in the organization to get this out, promote it, and let the employees know what they have and what we’re trying to do. What we are focused on doing. Getting that out to the employees and letting them see that, and their effort, really makes a big difference.

Host: So, from a health coach perspective, are there ways that you’ve seen the leaders of an organization get bought into wellness and bought into what the goals are that the company has for their team members?

Dustin: I think when they have an understanding of what wellness can bring to their company is when you can have the buy-in. Understanding how a healthy employee, how much more productive they will be, and what they can provide to their company. It works altogether and it just creates all this positive energy to help their company and help it ultimately succeed.

Host: How do you describe healthier employees? What does that bring to a company? What are some of the benefits?

Dustin: You know, I think there’s a lot. There’s camaraderie, there’s productivity, more of a positive attitude. I think along with all of those things comes creativity. When you’re healthier and you feel better about yourself, about your company, and when everyone’s working together, and your team’s working together, you have more opportunity to create new ideas. You get more done, and when you work as a team it really helps you to succeed and push forward with your company goals and what you want to achieve.


Well-Being Experts is sponsored by Onlife Health. Onlife Health is a comprehensive wellness provider serving health plans and large employers nationwide. With 20 years of industry experience and over 10 million members, Onlife takes a high-touch, high-tech approach to wellness that creates real results for your population. Find out more at OnlifeHealth.com.


Host: If you could give someone just one or two bits of advice to get closer to creating better habits, do you have any thoughts on that?

Dustin: Exercise is something that can be difficult for folks to maintain in the long-run, so finding something that they enjoy is crucial for them to stick with it. And having some success in the short-term can really help them. And realizing that they can start with just a small amount and how small amounts lead to big things.

Host: Let’s talk more about that; the small things that lead to big things. What does that mean to you? How does that play out in the workplace with wellness?

Dustin: Well touching back on exercise, with small amounts we know that just doing as little as ten minutes you can get benefits from that. A lot of folks think that you have to do 60 minutes of exercise to get any benefits. They may find they have some time in the day, but they don’t do it because, “I don’t have 60 minutes. I don’t have the energy.” But, just knowing that, “I do have the energy to take a ten-minute walk. I can do this,” at the end of the week, they can accumulate a lot of activity that they didn’t know they could. And then they may have time to do more on a day off. Just taking that approach that some is better than none at all.

Host: Now what about similar advice, but for eating? How do you give one or two bits of advice for just taking the first steps for eating better?

Dustin: I think that’s kind of building on the taking small steps; same thing with eating habits. Some folks think, “I made a bad choice. The day is over.” Well, they can realize that it’s not over, that you can have things you enjoy and still eat healthy and live a healthy life. So getting back on track. I know we have a busy lifestyle. We have a lot of things that come up – and just realizing that just because I had one bad meal or one bad choice doesn’t mean the day is over. It doesn’t mean that I have failed.

Host: So it comes back to the motivation. That’s a big insight. It’s not about step 1, 2, 3 to stay on your fitness goals. It’s really about what motivates you and you stay engaged and keep that in mind. So, are there any thoughts you have of how someone can keep that motivation of why they started, how they can keep that constantly on their mind?

Dustin: That’s where we come in. We are here to help those who are in that stage. We are here to work with them, to talk about their motivation, and to help them think about, “Why was I successful in the past? What am I looking to do in the future?” When they have the conversation with us they start to bring those things out. They say, “Hey, this is more important to me. I can do this. I’ve done it before. I’m ready to get started again.” And that helps them kind of refuel and recharge. That’s where we come in, to help these folks that are on the fence of making changes and keeping them going.

Host: So if you have a lot of people and you bunch them altogether, and they are the people who are like, “I don’t know if I have the time; it’s not really that important to me,” how do you change that culture? I mean this is a big issue, and it’s not going to happen overnight, but how do you take steps to try to change a culture of people who don’t want to change? As a health coach, what are some of the first thoughts you have?

Dustin: Well, for those who don’t want to change it’s important to have respect for them. It’s their health, it’s their life, and we respect that. We respect that if you are not ready to make that change, we’re not here to tell you to change. We’re here to help you when you’re ready, and to find out when you are ready and what you are motivated to do. And then, a lot of times you’ll find when you go along with this relationship that they open up more. They may want to make changes at first, but they may not tell you, but deep down they do want to make those. As you build that rapport with them, later on they open up and you are able to start making those small changes to help them.

Host: Do you think it’s connected to something deeper? Why do you think it is that on the surface they don’t want to do this, but then you start to find out there’s something else there?

Dustin: I think it could be a combination of the journey. It’s just hard. They feel it’s just going to be too hard to do this. They’ve done it before and just can’t keep it up. And also, the relationship with the coach. Maybe they have some kind of idea about who we are and what we’re trying to do, if we have an agenda. Our agenda is to help them and when they realize that we’re here, we’re going to listen, that it’s a partnership – then they can open up. So, I think that’s a big part of it.

Host: This might sound like a silly question, but how do you form a relationship with someone or engage with them in a conversation about a topic like wellness or health? How do you talk to somebody who might not want to engage and reciprocate that conversation back to you?

Dustin: Again, it goes back to what’s important to them and letting them know, “Is there something you are working on, something you’d like to do?” And just having that open line of communication of the, “I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m not here to tell you this is A, B, C, D… this is what you have to do. I’m here to find out what you want to do.” I think that really is the key factor and really builds a relationship.

Host: So what I’m hearing from you, you’re there to coach and be a guide and be a resource. You’re not there to be someone who says, “Do it like this. Do it like that.”

Dustin: Right, there is a lot of knowledge and a lot of folks know what to do. So, it’s not always telling them what to do. We believe here at Onlife that they are more likely to act on their ideas than when we say this is what you need to do. So it’s really kind of working with them to help bring that out and they’re more likely to act on it. They have ideas what they want to do and most know what to do. It’s just kind of getting them to bring that out and guiding them to do that.

Host: I love that. And so, what’s it like for you when you are able to help either party? You just mentioned one group. They know kind of what to do and they have some knowledge, but on the other hand there’s some people that don’t know anything. They don’t know when or what is the best time or anything. What’s it like when it does click for them?

Dustin: It’s really neat. You can hear it in their voice, the excitement, “Hey, I tried those techniques we talked about last time. I was really struggling with managing my stress and they really do work.” Then they have kind of bought into this can really help me and really does work.

And what we do here, we got into this because this is what we love. This is our passion. Anytime we can help someone it’s just great. It’s what we do. It’s what we love.

Host: How do you overcome setbacks? What does that look like from the health coach perspective and how do you overcome that?

Dustin: Well, setbacks are normal so it is kind of helping them realize that there’s going to be plateaus, there’s going to be challenges. It’s not final. It’s just one day and it doesn’t define their success in the long run. So being there for support. This can be an emotional roller coaster for some folks depending on what they are working on. Realizing that just because you have a failure, it’s not final.

Host: When someone is having a setback or having a hard time or maybe just trying to get even more engaged – what are some of the ways a health coach can help add value to the individual as it relates to the entire culture of health that is available to them?

Dustin: Having resources available, letting them know that they are out there. Especially the EAP can be huge for folks who need more help in different areas. And there’s a lot out there that can help them. It can be from counseling to maybe some financial help. Even just knowing there’s maybe a discount on their gym membership. It’s cold, they don’t have a place to go, they don’t have a place to workout, they would really like to go somewhere, but they just don’t know that they had this available to them. So, letting them know there are opportunities and gyms available. Those too can be really big.

Host: Are there one or two suggestions you have for individuals who are trying to better manage their stress levels?

Dustin: I think it’s a combination of trying to find some kind of coping skills that work for them. There are several things they can do, and finding something that could help them. If it’s just taking time out with their family, doing something they enjoy like a hobby, or maybe applying more effective time management skills. And also adding some relaxation techniques to the mix, too. Practicing those maybe if they can daily, it’s really helpful. Maybe some deep breathing, some imagery, things of that nature. That combination can really help manage your stress a lot better.


Today’s podcast and additional perspectives from Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome any comments, questions, feedback, anything at engage@onlifehealth.com. Thanks.