When you have questions, concerns, or aspirations about your health and wellbeing it can be tough to know which professional to turn to. It’s easy to feel stuck, overwhelmed, or confused about making diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes. Many of us have tried to make changes to our health and well-being but they haven’t worked. Perhaps you just had your annual physical, your doctor suggested some lifestyle changes and you aren’t sure how to go about making them. Maybe you’ve had a big transition in your life, like a new baby or career move, and are struggling to find balance. Or maybe you are at your wit’s end with dieting and want to find a sustainable way to make holistic, lifestyle changes that aren’t stressful and restricting. Health Coaching, a profession that’s growing in popularity across the country every day, might be just what you are looking to reach your health goals.
A health coach is an expert in the health and wellness field who uses a holistic approach to create personalized wellness plans that support and empower you to reach your goals. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the largest nutrition school in the country, defines a health coach as “a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.”
A good health coach is going to listen to your individual needs and turn them into achievable goals that create sustainable, long-lasting changes. They will help you discover what’s most important to you and why. In addition to diet and exercise, they will invite you to explore how relationships, spirituality, mental health, or financial wellbeing can also play an important part in your overall health. Health coaches know that one size doesn’t fit all, and each person has their own unique health needs. They will meet you where you are at without judgment, and take the confusion and stress out of making lifestyle changes. They create a safe space to explore health goals and ideas, ultimately helping you find what works best for you.
It’s important to remember that a health coach is not a doctor. They do not diagnose or treat conditions or disorders. They cannot prescribe, increase, or decrease your medication. They also shouldn’t be a drill sergeant! While they will help hold you accountable to your goals, they should never make you feel stressed out, berated, or pressured to do anything.
So, what should you look for in a health coach? Most importantly, you want to find someone you feel comfortable with, treats you with respect, and validates your individual needs. They should not be pushy or try to sell you a product. They are there for you, not a brand or company. Anyone can call themselves a health coach, so it’s important to make sure they are certified. It’s also good practice to inquire about other areas of specialty, training, experience, or professional degrees.
Some health coaches might specialize in meal planning while others focus on mindful eating. When starting to work with any new health professional, ask what inspires and motivates them, and see if that speaks to you and your needs. Finally, a health coach should be open to working with your other health professionals if needed. They should take information and recommendations from other professionals seriously when helping you make decisions about your health. You can think of a health coach as the expert motivator and supporter outside of your doctor’s office!
Health coaches understand that there are no miracle fixes and small supported steps lead to sustainable results. They are expertly trained in helping you cultivate your best self. Whatever your physical, mental, or emotional health and wellness goals are, a health coach can provide all the ongoing support and motivation you need to reach them!
Emily Betros is a licensed clinical social worker, certified health coach, and owner of Reclaiming Health, LLC. She helps clients put together an individualized plan to meet their health goals. Emily enjoys hiking, traveling, vegan-izing recipes, and spending time with her husband and daughter.