What is a “health coach?”

I sometimes feel like Chandler Bing on “Friends;” no one, not even his very closest friends, knew what he did in his job.  When I tell people I’m a health coach, about 90% of the time I get that deer-in-the-headlights look.  To be honest, I actually prefer the title “Wellness Coach,” because I think it more accurately describes health in general.  Health is way more than just what you eat or how you move – spiritual, emotional, sleep, addressing past trauma and having fun are all important elements of holistic health.  Currently however, it seems the term “health coach” is the most often used, so we’ll just go with that in this post.

Simply put, health coaches educates and supports clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior changes that generate sustainable healthy lifestyles choices.  This helps clients manage or possibly avoid, some common diseases, like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to help them thrive.

Additionally, a health coach is an integral member of the holistic health community. We believe that being healthy begins with knowledge. Knowledge is power! Hiring a certified health coach can be a serious game changer for people who are caught up in the obesity epidemic, live a sedentary lifestyle, have diabetes, poor eating habits, chronic stress, and more!

What should you look for in a coach?

At the time of this blog post, health coaching is an unregulated industry, so anyone can call themselves a “health coach.”  It’s important to look for some important markers of who you hire.

  • Does your health coach hold any certifications from nationally recognized schools?  I hold certifications from Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, from where I obtained my master certificate in coaching techniques and specialities in particular  demographics.  I then obtained certification from the Institute for Functional Health Coaching, which does a deep dive into hormonal and genetic issues as well as business techniques.
  • Is your health coach affiliated with a multi-level marketing company, or any company, selling a product?  This is not to say that some products are not worth promoting.  Although I’ve chosen not to sell supplements or other products related to health, it doesn’t mean that I may not do so in the future if I find a product worthy of promoting.  However, if your “coach” is ONLY affiliated with these companies, then be aware that their knowledge is most likely limited to whatever their company tells them, and the ultimate goal for them is to increase their income.  Very few of the people that call themselves “health coaches,” or even “certified health coaches,” have actually gone through programs other than what is offered through the company of the product they’re promoting.  Just like dietitians and nutritionists have problems with health coaches calling themselves nutritionists, I have a problem with people who call themselves “health coaches” that don’t have some further education.  I’ve put many years and lots of money toward my education and certifications, and know enough that using the words “nutrition” and “diet” are outside of my scope of practice.  If you don’t know state laws, many times these coaches are also breaking their state laws.
  • A simple way to test your coach’s credibility? Ask them what color their state is.  If they don’t know, or don’t understand the question, steer clear.

Now that you know what a health coach is and does, I need to be clear on what a health coach doesn’t do.

We are not doctors. (obligatory disclaimer to follow).

 

Health coaches cannot diagnose conditions, treat, cure, prescribe medications, or recommend lower or higher doses of your current medications. Although I happen to also be a personal trainer, many health coaches are not, although we teach the health benefits of exercise and safe movement. And just in case you don’t know me personally, health coaches are also…

 NOT drill sergeants.

We do not scream orders at you, or berate you for not meeting your goals in a specified amount of time, nor do we embarrass you in front of other people. We simply understand that life happens, and we work with you and support you in every way we can to achieve optimal wellness.

Health coaches are at the forefront of today’s health revolution, and provide the lifestyle guidance that society desperately needs to find its way back to optimal health. Health Coaches are needed so seriously because at no time or place in history have we been at such a juncture where:

  • Obesity rates are climbing at an alarming rate
  • Not only are diabetes rates also climbing at an alarming rate, more and more children, as young as 12 (possibly younger), are being diagnosed as Type 2 diabetics, a disease once reserved for adults.
  • Children are also being diagnosed with other formerly “adult” diseases, like high triglycerides, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), heart disease and liver disease.
  • Alzheimer’s is being recognized as more of a lifestyle disease, and is sometimes referred to now as Type 3 diabetes.

As I’ve said in previous posts, these are not the inevitable results of aging.  With awareness, we can help avoid having to manage one of these diseases in our lives.  It’s not just about quantity of life – who wants to live years with a disease?  Quality of life is being recognized as of utmost importance.  The work starts early, and a health coach can help!

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