Do you know what a health coach is or does? I didn’t before I started this journey. If you’re curious about what a health coach can do for you, read on!
What is a health coach?
A health coach is a guide who helps educate and motivate people to adopt healthy, long-term behaviors to improve their health.
We partner with clients who want to become healthier and to create sustainable habits that work in their own unique circumstances. Health coaches operate out of respect and nonjudgement, maintaining the perspective that clients are the expert of their own lives.
Health coaches are growing in popularity, as health coaching has been proven effective and can fill in the gaps of our modern medical system.
The current “healthcare” system in North America is actually one of sick care. When something is wrong, we go to the doctor. We spend very little time with this medical professional who often knows very little about us. They may give us medication to make the problem go away, but the focus is on the specific sickness, not wholistic health.
Contrastingly, a health coach will spend adequate time with a client and learn about what makes him or her unique as an individual, discovering motivations and roadblocks to optimal health. A health coach doesn’t replace a doctor’s care but can improve health by helping clients make small changes at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
Whether you want to eat more nutritiously, start exercising more, reduce alcohol intake, or just have more energy, a health coach can help you discover where and why you are struggling. He or she can help you navigate the world of contradictory advice to figure out exactly what works for your body. Your health coach should support self-discovery and help you move toward your own self-directed goals.
So, that’s a little bit about what a health coach is. There is overlap with many other professions. But there are some important distinctions to make between health coaches and other professionals.
What a health coach is NOT:
- a psychologist or psychiatrist
- a doctor who prescribes medications and diagnoses conditions
- a nutritionist who advises specific foods or supplements
- a personal trainer (though some have additional certifications, as I have)
- a spiritual director who tells you what to believe or how to practice
- a drill sergeant who gives you orders and berates you if you don’t perform well
OK, then, what does working with a health coach look like?
What Health Coaches Do
Firstly, working with a health coach will likely begin with a holistic assessment of your lifestyle.
A health coach will ask you open-ended questions intended to help discover your motivation to change. A doctor might say, “You need to lose weight.” While a coach might ask, “How do you think your life would be different if you lost the weight that you’ve been trying to lose?”
People who are changing for their own reasons and on their own terms are far more likely to succeed than when someone tells them what to do, according to Peter Grinspoon, MD, on the Harvard Health blog.
Lack of time is the most frequently reported reason for why people don’t exercise, says health coach Karen Shopoff Rooff. Health coaches work with clients to help them discover how to realistically include activity in their days. As stated above, a health coach is not necessarily a personal trainer, just as a personal trainer may not be trained as a health coach. I have been certified as a personal trainer and also have an ACE group fitness certification.
Similarly, I think most people know how to eat healthy, but they don’t always do it. For example, you know it’s not going to help you to binge on an entire chocolate bar. But it’s been a stressful day, and you’ve devoured the whole thing before you know it. We can help uncover that impulse to indulge and work to find ways to make healthier choices in the future.
Setting up Accountability
Research shows that social support makes people more likely to stick with behavioral changes. A health coach will help you think about how the people in your life help or hinder your progress.
Rooff says, “in order to maintain positive changes long-term, you need reliable support systems. Sometimes this involves suggestions for altering high-risk behaviors. While this sounds really scary, it can mean changing a simple habit like snuggling on the couch with your sweetie, while watching TV and eating a bowl of ice cream every night.”
Your friends and family can hold you accountable, but only to a certain extent. Your health coach is also an accountability partner who helps you track progress and set goals.
Goal setting is an aspect of health coaching I love!
Let’s set big goals and dream “impossible” dreams! We can break big goals into small steps that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
When you know you will have to report back to your health coach, you are more likely to follow through with the goals you’ve set. I encourage clients to set goals for mind, body, and soul, which may relate to fitness, nutrition, self-care, sleep, healthy thoughts, spiritual practices, and overall wellness.
Health coaching is currently an unregulated industry. Therefore, anyone can call themselves a coach. It is strongly recommended that you choose a certified coach to ensure that they have adequate training and experience.
I am now a Certified Health Coach through ACE, the only health coach certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
If you’re interested in chatting about my health coaching services, please enter your information here for a complimentary 15-minute call.