Security Health Plan: How a dreaded chore became a treasure: health coaching changes teacher’s life

MARSHFIELD – “I found success because health coaching wasn’t the chore I thought it was going to be. It felt like talking to a person who really cared and wanted to know what was going on in my life.”

Laura Rothstein is a special education teacher at North High School in the Eau Claire Area School District. She’s been a Security Health Plan member for about six years.

She groaned when her doctor checked the box that indicated she wasn’t meeting her health metrics at her yearly checkup and had to begin a health coaching program with Security Health Plan.

“It’s funny because I think of how reluctant I was to even accept the first phone call,” Rothstein said. “It’s not the hassle that even I thought it once was.”

Rothstein, like many of us, is busy. She has three small kids under 5 years old and teaches full time. In September of 2020 when she began her health coaching program with Security Health Plan Health Coach Angie Pero, Rothstein’s husband had been in a serious car accident and required a lot of care at home as well.

“Laura’s story isn’t a straight up Cinderella story,” Pero said. “Conversations we’ve had have been full of joy and full of tears.”

When Pero called to begin the health coaching relationship, the two talked about a few different goals.

“There were probably kids screaming at me while trying to find a quiet place to talk!” Rothstein said. “Angie asked me about my goals and how I thought I was going to meet them – which didn’t have to be about my weight even though that was the box that the doctor checked.”

Weight loss has actually turned into the smallest part of what they talk about. Stress management and overall nutritional goals have been huge areas of struggle and improvement over the last few months.

“I’ve had three kids in four years, and then COVID happened. Weight has always been kind of a battle for me, but it’s not even so much about weight – what I talk to Angie about a lot is just health. I just want to be healthier for my kids – I’m not too concerned about my weight as long as I’m healthy.”

What started out as the recommended three phone calls for 10-20 minutes each has turned into a biweekly and then monthly check in phone call where the two women catch up on life and assess Rothstein’s progress toward her goals.

“At the end of our third call Angie asked if she could call me back in a week, and I was overjoyed – so excited,” Rothstein said. “Maybe it’s because of where it landed in my life. There wasn’t a lot of ‘me’ time, and Angie’s been really good at making sure that I take time to think about me. To have someone to talk to who would go over MY goals was amazing.”

Health coaching has helped Rothstein look at things differently. Diet and exercise are important, but most of all, Pero has helped her see that it’s OK to leave the kids with a sitter and go get a massage, go to counseling, whatever is needed to keep herself healthy.

It didn’t take long for Pero to recognize that one of the things that made Rothstein’s journey so amazing was her tenacity. 

“If for even a moment, there was a setback or things out of her control got in the way, she was quick to recognize what she did have control over. Laura would take a step back and try again from a different angle. She was so willing to not give up and to work with me to find a solution.”

Pero’s coaching was not like a babysitter checking up on her, Rothstein said. It was simply someone who was waiting to hear how she was doing, and that helped her be accountable. She’s been successful because Pero cheers her on for taking baby steps and hitting the small marks, which she says is even more important than any grand, big goals they set.

“She holds me accountable without making me feel bad. So if I’m having a rough week and I eat three extra Reese’s Eggs, she laughs and tells me to watch that for the next week – and then asks me what vegetables I ate!”

The flexibility of the health coaching program was another key component that made it work for Rothstein as well.

“If I missed Angie’s call it wasn’t a ‘ding’ on my report – I could call her back when I had time. If that was a day later, a week later, that was fine,” Rothstein said. “With three small kids, working full time, it’s hard to set a schedule for certain things, as important as coaching is. The flexibility is great.”

She never felt that it was a burden or just one more thing on her plate.

“It’s so easy for us to file it away as one more thing we have to do. But it’s really changed how I see myself,” Rothstein said. “I’ve learned that wellness isn’t being able to look as good in a bikini as I wanted to – it’s the whole package. Eating better, making better choices, and having someone to talk to who’s an objective third person – you can really tailor it to what you need.”

Rothstein would recommend Security Health Plan’s health coaching program to anyone, not just to those whose doctor checks the box that tells them they need a health coach. She is confident all the health coaches at Security Health Plan are outstanding, just like Pero was for her.

“There is more than one path to a destination,” Pero said. “We had a great time finding the right trail for Laura and she paved the way.”