Everyday Healthy Lifestyle Advisors are changing people’s lives in the Telford community. We asked Katie, one of our advisors, to talk about what they do and why she loves her job.
by Katie Baker
The Healthy Lifestyles team is made up of Healthy Lifestyles Advisors (HLA’s for short) who work out in the community in Telford. The Healthy Lifestyles service ‘helps and supports people to make healthy lifestyle changes’.
I know that sounds vague but that’s only because what we do is so broad. It’s also brilliant. You meet some amazing people on so many different journeys. I’ve bumped into clients before in Tesco’s and they are so proud to show me what they have in their shopping trolley! It’s just nice to see people taking our advice on board. You can see the difference it makes to them.
The best part is when you are working with someone, and you see them make the change that they have been wanting to make, and they realise that actually they can do it! That gives them the confidence to keep going as well. It’s a really lovely job.
When I first started this job it was just a six month secondment because I wanted to build my confidence and I knew I would have to meet and talk to lots of new people in this role. Before I started I would never have randomly approached a stranger and struck up a conversation but the more you do it the more you realise it’s not about you, it’s about helping them. Five years later I’m still here!
In the local community
Our team is great, we have a real mixture of ages, backgrounds and life experiences. We hire people who are passionate about improving the health of people in their local area. Our team of people know Telford really well and are a big part of their communities – this is extremely important to us.
Each of us is allocated to a particular area i.e. Brookside, Donnington, Wellington, Oakengates etc that we can get to know that area and what is happening locally.
Most importantly this means that the communities get to know us too so they know where to go if they want healthy lifestyles information. We also do a lot of promotional events to help raise awareness and often to let businesses know that we can support their employees too.
We do so much
People often see ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ and assume we are just about helping people to lose weight or stop smoking but actually it is so much more, yes we do help people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight but we also talk about so many other things. The most common requests that people come to us with nowadays are about being more active and about feeling isolated or lonely. It surprises a lot of people to hear that.
We can give out very brief advice about health, give people information about health-related services or groups in their area if that’s all that they want, or we can do health checks for people and continue meeting with them to support positive behaviour change and help them to achieve their goals. So some people we just see the once but others we can see up to 6 times.
There are lots of different ways that we help people and what is really important is that we are very informal and flexible, so people feel comfortable coming to us and we will work in a way that suits them.
All the activities that we signpost people to are low cost or free and I think that’s a real strong point of our service – because we are a free service, funded by the council, we aren’t trying to make money out of anyone. We aren’t trying to sell anything, we just want to help people become healthier. This means that when you talk to us, you know you are getting reliable advice and information – we aren’t going to start selling you gym memberships or protein powder!
Loving the job
What I enjoy the most about my job is that I love working with people! I genuinely have an interest in health and I really enjoy helping people to improve their health and because of that, their lives.
If I could do anything with my work, I would really like to raise awareness of the Healthy Lifestyles service so that more people can benefit from what we offer. There’s always people wanting to get healthier, be more active, feel a bit younger or just fill their time with something constructive and I wish people knew that we could help!
I also think it’s a common myth that you can be ‘too old’ to make a change. A lot of people hit 40 or 50 or 60 and tell us that they are too old or too set in their ways to make a change– this isn’t true at all! We help people of all ages make a change, the most important step is wanting to do it and the second step is coming to us.
The first ever client
I just bumped into my first ever client the other day. I remember he had been referred to us by his GP because he was pre-diabetic and feeling tired all of the time, even though he was a healthy weight and he thought he had a healthy diet. The GP thought he could benefit from our support.
The client was Polish and there was a bit of a language barrier but I soon realised that he was eating a lot of ‘hidden sugars’ in what he thought was healthy food. I remember I brought in a glass and bag of sugar from home and showed him how many teaspoons of sugar there were in the honey nut cornflakes and in the regular fizzy drinks he was having by measuring it into the glass and showing him! He really couldn’t believe how much sugar he was actually consuming.
I saw him for a few appointments, by the end he had achieved all of his goals and when I saw him the other day he came over to thank me! He told me that since he made those dietary changes he had been able to manage his blood sugar levels better, he still remembers that glass of sugar and now has a lot more energy to play with his children.
That stays with you.
Healthly Lifestyles competition
You can win a number of great prizes just by going for a health check with Kate or one of our other Healthy Lifestyle Advisors this November.
It’s free, could really help your own health and could win some great prizes. What have you got to lose by checking it out?