When it comes to health and fitness, most people are used to subscribing to a plan, diet, or philosophy that’s been dictated by someone else as a means of solving their problems and achieving their goals. This someone else may be an expert in their field. It may be a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a doctor, or a social media fitness influencer. It might even be their mom. They are handed a convincing plan—or guidelines to follow—that will “fix” them. It seems promising enough. However, when they try it, it ends up falling apart. That’s where health coaches come in.
Such prescribed plans often don’t work because they don’t account for the reality of people’s lives: who they are, what they care about, and how they spend their time. The way to get different results is to establish different behavior patterns, and the best way to do that is to build a plan that is specifically for them with their life circumstances and priorities front and center. Health coaches help with this.
WHAT IS A HEALTH COACH?
Have you ever wondered what health coaches actually do and how they help people?
Let’s start with what they’re not. A health coach is not a primary care physician or a naturopath. They are not therapists or nutritionists. Neither are they fitness trainers or mental health practitioners. However, they can and do work with some or all of these people in order to support their clients’ health goals.
So what exactly is a health coach?
A health coach is like your own personal health cheerleader, guide, and partner. They use effective coaching methodologies so that their clients get what they most want for their health while feeling supported and empowered. In fact, they do this by helping them transform their habits so that they can let go of old ones that are no longer serving them well. At the same time, their clients learn how to let in new ones that are aligned with what they most want for your health.
Health coaching isn’t about telling someone what to do. Health coaches work with their clients to get them “unstuck” by helping them figure out what’s keeping them from reaching their health goals. Through regular check-ins over a determined period, a health coach will pose questions to their clients that get them thinking about how they can overcome the challenges they’re facing.
HEALTH COACH VS RELATED PROFESSIONS
Health coaching is a growing field, thanks to a bigger focus on wellness by individuals and the healthcare industry. However, it can be easily confused with other professions that provide services that complement this type of coaching.
Here’s how a health coach career differs from other professions.
Health coaches partner with clients to help them create lasting changes that improve their health and lower potential health risks. They typically earn a certificate from a health coaching program. They can also obtain a certification to demonstrate their expertise, although this credential isn’t required.
Dietitians provide food and nutrition services, counseling, and education to individuals and groups. They typically earn a bachelor’s degree, train in a supervised program, and take a national exam to practice. In some states, they also must be licensed.
Nutritionists help people use food to heal, optimize wellness, and fight disease. Nutritionists typically need at least a nutritionist’s certificate to practice, but many earn a bachelor’s degree and even a master’s. Licensing is also required in some states.
Personal trainers use their knowledge of human anatomy, basic nutrition, and exercise science to design fitness programs to help their clients achieve their health and fitness goals. Personal trainers can earn a certificate and qualify for certification without a degree, though many have a bachelor’s in exercise or kinesiology studies.
Life coaches guide clients through a range of changes typically aimed at improving life skills and in some cases professional performance. Life coaches typically earn a life coaching certificate and can qualify for certification.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BECOMING A HEALTH COACH
1. You can work anytime, from wherever you are
As a health coach, you don’t necessarily have to be in the same location as your clients. Whether it’s in the comfort of your own home or during a cruise to the Caribbean, you can work from anywhere. All you need is a way to communicate with your clients and a quiet, comfortable spot that will be free from distraction for the duration of your work session.
2. You get to be your own boss
Depending on your lifestyle, you can create a schedule that works for you and your clients. Basically, you get to live in such a way where you prioritize what’s important to you. For example, you can choose to work 3 days a week in the mornings only! It’s all about achieving the perfect work-life balance, which ensures a healthier, happier you.
3. You get to meet amazing people from all over the world
Health coaches get to connect with like-minded people through coaching sessions, social media platforms, and online events. The best part is, these people are not limited to a specific geographic area—they can be from all over the world!
4. You can choose to diversify your income
Yes, you can generate revenue from health coaching individual clients. However, what happens when the 10 clients you had one week reduce to 7 the following week? On the other hand, there’s a lot you can do with your health coaching certification. For instance, you can write an e-book or a hard copy cookbook. Alternatively, you can also create an online e-course or host wellness retreats and health conference workshops.
5. You get to become the healthiest version of yourself
Here’s a fun fact: health coaches end up improving their own health as they help others seek their own health transformations. With all the knowledge you acquire in your health coaching journey, the first person you’ll likely implement that information on is you. As a result, you’ll start to eat and feel better and there’s even a chance that you’ll get to resolve your own lingering health problems.
Bonus: You can learn how to become a health coach from the comfort of your own home
Once you’ve decided that becoming a health coach is something that you can actually do, there are plenty of health coach certification programs that are available online. However, not all programs are reputable. Look for a program that has stood the test of time. Also, it should provide you with a solid nutritional foundation as well as the necessary skills to make health coaching a career. I personally studied at IIN, which has been in operation for more than 25 years and gives you access to the best instructors and speakers in the nutrition space.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What exactly does a health coach do?
Health coaches support their clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior modifications. They mentor, inspire, guide, and motivate their clients to cultivate positive health choices while keeping them accountable.
How much do health coaches make?
Health coaches earn anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 per year. However, this can vary depending on the city you live in and the cost of living in that area.
Is a health coach legit?
The skills and knowledge of a health coach depend on where their credentials came from. One of the ways to become a “legit” health coach is to enroll in a program that offers certification that is recognized by state bodies. For example, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s program is licensed by the New York State Education Department as a certificate program in Health Coaching. Also, the institution is recognized by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching as an approved program provider.
If you would like to learn more about the awesome health coaching program that I attended at Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), feel free to check out their sample class or download their curriculum guide.