Many people don’t visit a doctor unless they are sick. Then, they may only see their primary care doctor for 10 or 15 minutes to diagnose their condition and treat it. However, a Health Coach can prevent getting sick and treat conditions through changes in your diet and lifestyle.


What Health Coaches Do

The concept of coaching is applied to help clients in a variety of ways. They can help clients lose weight, get better control of chronic illnesses like diabetes, or help them change their habits so they have more energy and stamina. The first step most coaches take when meeting a new client is to sit down with them and talk about their reasons for being there.

Provide Accountability

They don’t map out diet plans as that is what a dietician does or exercise plans as that is what fitness trainers do. Instead, they encourage clients to eat healthier, exercise or take better care of themselves through accountability and making better decisions.

Accountability happens through meeting with a coach on a regular basis, such as every week or every two weeks. Other coaches may call their clients once a week and arrange to see them face-to-face every month or two. It depends on what works best for the client.

Most people who are accountable to someone for their actions are more likely to follow through with plans to eat healthier, exercise, and give up bad habits. Another way clients are held accountable is through tracking what they eat, when they workout, and what they do throughout the day.

Not every client writes down their habits, but it is a tool many coaches use to help people make changes in their lives. When people write down what they’ve been doing, they can see where they need to make improvements. Journaling can help people achieve goals and develop better self-discipline.


Provide Advice

Even though they may not provide diet plans or exercise routines, health coaches have the knowledge to give clients advice about them. If something isn’t working with their diet or exercise regimen, for instance, they are not losing weight, the coach can examine their journal and discuss what they are currently doing to try to lose weight.

Then, they can help the client tweak what they’re doing by changing the type of exercises or advising them to stop eating certain foods to help with weight loss. By studying health and wellness, they can help clients change their habits and health for the better.


Modify Behaviors

Part of getting healthier is modifying behaviors that are contributing to being unhealthy. Health coaches are trained in behavior modification to help their clients stop bad habits like smoking or to improve positive habits like working out.

A coach may suggest ways to quit smoking or teach a client how to substitute healthy foods for less than healthy choices. To help modify behaviors, they may check in with you or have you write down what you’re doing to change your habits, so you’re held accountable for making changes.


Health Coaches Education

Health Coach

Image via ACE Fitness

Health coaches not only help clients with their nutrition and workout routines, but they may also help clients with behavior modification if they are trying to learn how to reduce stress, stop smoking, or modify some other type of habit.

Many educational programs designed to teach health coaches offer onsite and online classes. For instance, Duke Integrative Medication offers two programs, a certified and foundation program, that can be taken on campus or online.

To earn certification, the foundation course must be taken and completed. This program teaches students how to use coaching to help clients set goals, assess their progress, and coach either one-on-one or in a group setting. It also shows them how to help clients modify behaviors.

Many people who are already in the health or fitness field may get certified to work as health coaches. Ideally, someone wanting to work in the field will have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field and some experience in it. The in-person coursework for the Duke program takes 12 weeks, while the online course is 18 weeks. Once that is completed, you can then take the certification course to become certified in the field.

Other ways to become a certified health coach is through either ACE, or the American Council on Exercise, or NSHC, which is that National Society of Health Coaches. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to get accreditation from these programs. Many students only an associate degree and certification in:

  • Fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Healthcare
  • Wellness
  • Human Resources
  • Another related field.

The accreditation would be through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or NCCA. It is only the examination for certification because you are required to complete an educational program in health coaching to take the test.


Where Do Health Coaches Work?

Once they have completed coursework to work as health coaches and earn their certifications, several places hire coaches. They include:

  • Wellness centers
  • Day spas
  • Medical centers
  • Health food stores
  • Doctors’ offices

Many health coaches work in doctors’ offices and work closely with doctors to help their patients lose weight, control diabetes, high blood pressure, or learn to modify behaviors to handle stress better, stop smoking or other habits.

Working with a doctor can help those with chronic illnesses have better control over them by adjusting their diet, start or adjust an exercise program, and changing their lifestyle habits. Many doctors who have a holistic approach to medicine, such as those working in Integrative Medicine, may have health coaches on their staffs.

Integrative medicine is a field that fits between traditional and alternative medicines. In many cases, along with using nutrition, exercising, and behavior modifications to help patients, coaches may also introduce supplements to their patients’ diets.


Integrative Nutrition

Health coaches who work in the field of Integrative Medicine know that sometimes changes in diet and exercise may not be enough to make patients feel better. They may also consider their occupations and relationships to try to discover any problems with they’re having.

If a person doesn’t have a fulfilling job or has a failing relationship, then that could be the cause of their medical issues, such as stress and high blood pressure. One of the main concepts that health coaches learn is called Primary Food.


Discovering Primary Foods

Primary Food isn’t the food that’s in a person’s diet, but an idea that when people are fulfilled in other aspects of their life, such as their relationships and work, then nutrition becomes secondary. Although their diet is still an essential component of their health, it isn’t the primary source of being healthy.

Some of the things that coaches may consider Primary Foods are:

  • A fulfilling job.
  • A healthy, positive relationship.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • A spiritual connection of some sort.
  • Being creative.
  • Being playful and having fun.
  • Self-care that doesn’t involve diet.
  • Discovering and following passions.

Health coaches work with clients to discover what their Primary Foods are and help them to achieve them. Depending on where health coaches study this type of nutrition, they may learn over 100 theories about diet, how to start a coaching practice and concepts like Primary Food and bio-individuality.


What is Bio-Individuality?

Bio-individuality recognizes the uniqueness of every person and how their diet, exercise, and other needs differ from others. Using this concept, health coaches can design programs to meet the goals of each client. While one person, even someone in your family, flourishes doing yoga, you may prefer to swim.

A program recognizing your differences and preferences will including swimming as your exercise of choice and help you meet your fitness goals using it. By learning a variety of dietary theories, a health and wellness coach can help you find one that fits your needs and recognizes food allergies or preferences.

The diets they study and then suggest to clients are based on fresh foods that are not processed and may be organically raised and grown. It helps coaches choose a dietary style that meets clients’ needs and goals and includes foods that they like eating.

Along with diet and exercise, coaches can help clients discover their dream job, how to de-stress, learn to communicate with their partner, or take on new challenges without fear. Making these choices can lead clients toward a more fulfilling life that is also a healthier life.


Learning Healthier Habits

Instead of going to a doctor and being treated for your illnesses, a health coach can help you discover healthier ways to live by tweaking your diet, helping you find exercises that you like doing, and modifying your behaviors.

By learning a healthier way of living, you can gain better control of a chronic illness like diabetes or lose the weight with which you’ve been struggling. You can also discover ways to make other aspects of your life better to help your health flourish.

By learning to be accountable to health coaches and taking their advice about modifications to your lifestyle, you may learn how to have a healthier, happier life.

Feature Image via Healthista