What is Health Coaching?

With an increasing awareness of the importance of wellness as a part of your overall health, more people than ever are focusing on their well-being.  The concept of nourishing yourself in both body and mind have brought many practices that used to be considered ‘new-age’ or taboo into the mainstream.  A recent study found that in 2016 over 15% (36 million) Americans report practicing yoga, and 75% agree that yoga is ‘good for you’ - more than double the amount from 2008.  With this popularity has come a dramatic increase in the demand for wellness professionals and has led to the creation of new fields to help people achieve that feeling of well-being.

So, what exactly is a health coach?

A health coach is a support system who helps guide you to better yourself through lifestyle choices.  As a client, you receive an individualized plan that is meant to help you create your own path to wellness.  In coaching, the client is considered to be the ‘expert’ and have the power to transform their own life.  This inner wisdom will guide you towards identifying your core values and creating achievable goals to make meaningful changes.  The role of the coach is to help you identify what those core values are and to provide accountability and support will you work towards your goals.

What Health Coaching Is Not

Part of the reason there seems to be so much confusion around Health Coaching is due to a misunderstanding of how it differs from other methods of accomplishing goals or behavior change.  Let me try to clarify by explaining what health coaching is not:

 

  • It's not Therapy: In therapy, the focus is on the past and fixing a particular issue.  It tends to look deep within a patient’s life and analyze each part individually, including both the conscious and the subconscious.

 Coaching, on the other hand, encourages you to focus on the present.  The focus here is to achieve a set of particular goals, not to fix a problem or dysfunction.  In coaching, you accept yourself as a whole.

  • It's not Mentoring: Mentors tend to be those within your field that help you to work towards improving yourself regarding your career.  They give you advice as an expert of your community to give you the tools to succeed.

Although there are coaches that work exclusively with other coaches, the intention is never to give advice.  Seeing as you are the expert on yourself, you already have all of the answers as to what is best for you, and your coach is simply there to guide you through the process of sorting through them.

  • It's not Consulting: The role of a consultant is to identify a particular problem and solve it.  They tend to have knowledge in one specialized area, and all work they do revolves around this particular issue.

While there are specializations within the field of coaching (weight loss, prenatal, athletes), there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to any particular problem.  Coaching looks at each person as an individual with needs that are unique to them.

 

Not just about weight loss

One of the biggest misconceptions concerning coaching is that the focus is exclusively on weight loss.  While many clients do seek out coaches to reach this goal, this is only one of the many reasons to begin work with a health coach.  A coach can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses along with what opportunities or challenges may arise in your attempt to reach your goal.  This awareness can not only help with something like weight loss but with other issues as well.

Coaching is an umbrella term that encompasses people of many different backgrounds.  Some of these have a focus on nutrition or food while other have more of an emphasis on physical training (yoga, personal training, CrossFit, weight lifting, physical therapy).  

There are others who come from the medical or psychology field and have chosen to add coaching as an addition to their existing practice.  With such diversity, and being a new field, it is easy to see why there can be some confusion when it comes to whether or not you should see a health coach.  Regardless of whether you choose to see someone with a specialty or a broad focus, the most important thing is to make sure that person has been properly trained and has legitimate credentials.  If you are unsure about this, just ask.

 

When should you see a health coach?

  • You want to improve your health but have no idea where to start
  • You are at a crossroads in your life and don’t know which way to go
  • You are looking to strengthen your interpersonal relationships
  • You love having accountability to achieve your goals
  • You are thinking about making a drastic life change
  • You want to be a positive role model that sets an example for others and their health
  • You value the importance of meaningful conversation
  • You are looking for a more personal approach from a professional that appreciates you
  • You are interested in being the best version of yourself

We could all admit that there are parts of our lives we wish to improve.  One of the unique things about coaching is that we are right there with you.  Personally, I do my best to ‘walk the walk,' but there are always things I am working on improving as well.  In fact, much of that comes from what I learn when working with others.  There is no hierarchy or feeling of pressure to perform.  Instead, you get a safe space to focus on yourself without judgment or bias and the support of someone who truly wants you to succeed.  So, if you like the idea of having a cheerleader or a detective help you sort through all of the thoughts racing through your head and get down to business, health coaching might be right up your alley.

If you have any questions about coaching, credentials, or anything at all - please do not hesitate to contact me.  I am happy to help.  I also encourage any health coaches reading this to share their own perspective on what being a health coach means to them.

Sara Simon

Asbury Park, NJ

Sara Simon is an Integrative Health Coach and a freelance blogger with a passion for collaboration between health and wellness professionals.  She is currently working to expand her own practice and help others find creative new ways to expand theirs.