What a great question; I’m glad you asked! When people hear that I work as a Health Coach I often get asked, “Oh, so you’re a ‘health guy’, but what exactly is it that you do?” Since “Health Coach” is a relatively new title in the health industry, it is that people know little about the specifics of the position. Health coaching involves many areas of health, such as healthy eating, exercise, reducing/managing stress, etc. What really sets Health Coaches apart is the emphasis on disease prevention and behavior change through motivation, goal setting, and accountability.
Health Coaching goes beyond just sharing knowledge on health topics. An in-depth research journal described Health Coaching as, “A patient-centered process that is based upon behavior change theory and is delivered by health professionals with diverse backgrounds.” (Wolever 2013) Health Coaches often focus on the “Why?” Understanding the motivation behind someone’s goals is integral for him or her to reach long term success. It is also important to address past successes, past defeats, and future challenges that will affect someone’s outcome when addressing an area of his or her health. Health Coaches need to have the ability to fully flush out these issues to have a good understanding of the individuals they are trying to assist reach their goals.
I often get asked, “How does someone become a Health Coach?” It is important to have both qualifications and personal skills. Necessary skills for a Health Coach include listening, caring, motivating, and teaching others. Qualifications can vary for a Health Coach. All Health Coaches need to have basic knowledge of health topics. Having a degree in a health related field, such as nutrition or exercise science, lets people know that a Health Coach has spent much time and effort acquiring his or her expertise. Also, certifications are a great way to become more knowledgeable and qualified. These can include certifications as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga specialist, etc. One can also be certified as a Health Coach, such certifications usually deal with combining effective behavior change, nutrition, and fitness aspects. When looking to work with or to become a Health Coach, it is vital to have both the necessary skills and qualifications.
Having worked several years as a Health Coach, I understand the wide variety of people that you work with. Some people lack the basic knowledge of what healthy foods they should eat more and what foods they should eat less, whether it be for a healthy lifestyle, to lose weight, or to reduce blood pressure. Other people that I have worked with like nurses, dietitians, and even physicians, have that knowledge but struggle with putting those healthy habits into place due to stress, lack of motivation, or poor time management skills. A Health Coach needs to be versatile to help people with different problems and varying knowledge of health topics. A Health Coach should always strive to make the people he works with self-sufficient so they can live a full healthy lifestyle long term.
Wolever, Ruth, et al. “A Systemic Review of the Literature on Health and Wellness Coaching: Defining a Key Behavioral Intervention in Healthcare.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine (2013): 38-57. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833550/
CHES, ACE Health Coach, AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant