Truly, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A HEALTH COACH?
You know, this is a very good question. Before I enrolled in nutrition school and even after I was already head deep into my classes, I still had ZERO clue what a health coach was. So, let me share what I’ve learned and give you the “correct” terminology that will clarify what a health coach does and doesn’t do.
****First things first, make sure you are getting a CERTIFIED health coach. Someone who has done educational classes and training. Some people sell these multi-level pyramid scheme “healthy foods” and are calling themselves health coaches. They sell protein bars, shakes, “vitamins”, cleanses, etc. and call themselves heath coaches. They are not, no hate or judgement on them, but they aren't. Legally, they are not considered health coaches. As a group, we are trying to put an end to this and are now requiring certifications and at least a year of training (or as in my case, an accelerated program that crammed a year into 6 ½ months), followed by taking an international test. So, before you work with someone make sure they are qualified!!!!!****
Now, back to the definition of what is a CERTIFIED heath coach:
“A Health Coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority who helps others feel their best through individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals. Often times, Health Coaches provide their services in private coaching practices with one-on-one and group coaching” (1).
So let’s break this down, why don’t we…a health coach is just like any other coach. We help our players get to the point of where they want to go, wherever that may be. We can help them get there by putting them through different exercises, giving them guidance, and “game plans”. We want to work with people who want to play the nutrition game! And we like to help our players by doing the extra research and behind the scenes work to help them achieve their goals.
Health Coaches do MANY things but one main aspect is that we work with our clients DIETS. As a now Certified Health Coach, I have studied over 100+ nutritional dietary theories and know the pros and cons of all the dietary theories. I also know what foods are and aren’t included in these theories, as well. Here is a list of the top 25 most popular diets I have learned about: 90/10 diet, Atkins, Ayurveda, Blood Type, Calorie Restriction Diet, Candida, DASH, Elimination, Flexitarian, Glycemic-Index, Gluten-free, Macrobiotics, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Paleolithic (Paleo), Pescatarian, pH, Raw Food, Superfood, TLC, Vegan, Vegetarian, Volumetrics, Weight Watchers, and Zone! There’s another 75+ more but I won’t bore you with ENTIRE list.
As a coach, I don’t “prescribe” you ANYTHING. What I can do is tell you the general theme of all the diets or help you navigate which diet you want to try and help you track, recognize, and record the changes you notice. Like I said, I can give you the pros and cons list of different diets you’re interested in. The reason I don’t prescribe one type of diet for everyone is truly because each person is different and it depends on their body’s needs. This term is known as Bio-individuality, i.e. one man’s healing agent can be another man’s poison. I’ll explain this term later (in later posts) in further detail, but for instance, with all my issues I know I cannot handle caffeine. At all!! In comparison, someone else might burn caffeine off quickly and can handle a cup or two a day with no problem. Same thing with nightshades, a lot of books regarding Thyroid disease tell you not to have or include nightshades in your diet, but for me personally the only nightshade that makes me feel sick is potatoes (which is truly a crime, since I love potatoes).
There are many different diet books out there and they all tell you different things. Do this diet, don’t eat that, do eat this, honey will cure you of everything, etc. These are all blanket statements trying to help the majority of people who are eating way too many processed foods in general. However, this doesn’t help people who are really wanting to hone in and fine tune their diets and are already eating pretty good. Most information out there is geared towards people who eat junk foods 24/7 and have no idea why they are so sick or why they feel bad. A health coach can help you tailor each diet to suit YOUR needs based off of YOUR results and YOUR GOALS.
Do you ever read a book and it tells you to not eat over 100 things and it just doesn’t sit right with you because you’re left wondering what you can eat? I know I have. Health Coaches can help you navigate these seemingly troublesome waters. Not only can we help with guidance on what to include and not include but we can help you apply this information by providing recipes, cooking classes, meal prepping tips, and tips to help you stick with it!
On a personal note, this is helpful in my opinion, because when I first got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I read every single book there was out there on the subject. Each and every book I read had another diet that was slightly different then the others. At the end of my investigative research, I had spinach, berries, and only spring water not from plastic bottles on my list of things to eat/drink. It was beyond overwhelming, which is why Health Coaches can be so helpful.
Please know, I don’t condemn anybody who writes a health book or has what I call a blanket statement or diet!!!!! SERIOUSLY. Some of these people are doctors and other people who are doing their absolute best to create a general diet that will help the public! I will never ever fault someone who wants to help others. What I’m saying is that I can help take the information they are providing and make it customized to YOU. And honestly, 90% of the time their diet will help you because it makes you stay away from the controversial 5 (dairy, soy, wheat, sugar, caffeine). What they are doing is amazing, but it’s not individualized, so that’s where health coaches come in and can help tweak and fine tune these plans based on YOUR needs.
Another thing a health coach can do is help you get the tools you need so you no longer need US. Yeah, you heard me right. I don’t want you to be my client forever, I mean unless you truly want that, which maybe we need to explore why. I want to teach you the skills to learn how to listen to your body and make the best choices for yourself. I want to teach you how to meal plan, how to navigate trying different diets, how to decode your cravings, how to change your diet up when you are feeling like it’s no longer benefiting you, how to cook certain things, how to make goals and actually achieve them, how to listen to your mind/body connection, how to approach your doctor about different subjects, and so much more. A good health coach wants to give their players the tools so they can graduate and go play their sport in the big leagues without us!
Let me give you some statistics:
Did you know that 70% of deaths each year are caused by chronic illnesses, but only 3% of our healthcare dollars are spent on preventive care? Also, did you know that the average visit to the doctor only lasts eight minutes, the average Health Coaching session is 50 minutes twice a month (or however often you choose)?
THIS IS HOW WE CAN HELP! Health Coaches work with doctors, dietitians, dentists, acupuncturist, chiropractors, physician assistants, nurses, you name it we will work with them. I would love nothing more to work with your doctor and help you get the BEST care you can get. Do you know how helpful it is for a doctor to know that you are going to be eating a better or healthier diet and they are also helping you on the medical side of things. IT’S A TEAM EFFORT. I’m not sure where we got into this mindset of people having to pick “healthy living” or living a “standard lifestyle” like, why can’t we do both? Doctors don’t have time to make sure you aren’t living at a fast food restaurant, so this is where we come in and can help. Also, an example of this would be that your doctor says you are borderline diabetic (prediabetes) and wants you to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats, white bread, pasta, fruit flavored yogurt, breakfast cereals, flavored coffee drinks, honey, agave nectar and maple syrup, etc. You know who can help with that? ME! Seriously put me in!!! I would love to discuss with your doctor what things they want you to stay away from or things they want you to incorporate into your diet and then HELP YOU DO THAT! I’d love to be a part of your patient care strategy!
Health coaches know about the importance of PRIMARY FOOD and how your emotions truly effect your body. This is the mind body connection. Even if you’re eating all the kale, but you’re completely stressed out and not sleeping, you might not be able to heal. Diet alone is not the only answer, as there is also an emotional aspect to healing that we are trained to help deal with.
As a health coach, I have also learned about goal setting, time management skills, financial skills, and how to get clients to actually get to the goals they set. The difference between a wish and a goal is “action”. In order to reach your goal, you must act. And a good health coach can keep you motivated to keep going. Now this is key, because remember the New Year’s resolution you made that you blew off on January 9th? Well, I have the tools to help you make these resolutions LAST! I’ll see you through to your end goal!
Overall, health coaches can do a lot of things: we can help with diets (knowing over 100+ diets), meal prepping, weight management, what to buy and what not to buy from the grocery store, recipes, how to cook, what to cook in, what to use and not use while cooking, fitness, time management skills, financial planning skills, stress reduction, plant nutritional content, breathing exercises, meditation, all the things I listed above in this article, and so much more. I’m sure I’m leaving out some important things and I know as soon as I post this I’ll remember them. But that’s okay, nothing will ever be “perfect” and you just have to try your best! That's life.
I hope this sheds some light on what I do and what my industry does as a whole. If you have any questions about what health coaches do and don’t do, please feel free to reach out to me! I would love to answer any questions you may have. Wishing you the best health!
Never forget to ASPIRE for more, follow your dreams, and be kind to yourself and one another.
xx Kimberly Ann