I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years in the health and wellness space: A transformation and redefinition of the word coach.
See, there are more and more people in the world calling themselves health coaches nowadays. Or holistic health coaches. Or wellness coaches. Or integrative coaches. The list goes on and on with tens of slight variations on the same theme. And while I’m thrilled that so many more folks are getting fired up and passionate about helping people prioritize their health, I hear from a lot of my readers and listeners that they’re getting confused about what a health coach really is. And more importantly they’re unclear about the role a health coach plays - and doesn’t play - when it comes to their own personal health and wellness goals.
So today I’m going to break it down for you. What is - and is not - a coach.
Let’s start by disconnecting and defining the terms coaching and consulting - because the blending of these two terms is the biggest misconception out there. There are a lot of health, nutrition, or exercise consultants out there that are marketing their services as coaches. And so the confusion continues...
(Side note: Let me be clear and let you know that I absolutely value the work that consultants do. Consults like nutritionists and personal trainers can co-facilitate seriously beneficial change into people’s diet and lifestyle and I don’t want to devalue their work in this post. My intention here is to be as transparent as possible around the differences in these styles of work so that you, as a consumer, have total clarity of understanding when you hire a consultant or a coach.)
So what are coaches?
Coaches are people that hold space for you, allow you to discover what you really want, and help you create a plan of action to get there. Coaches believe that you are the expert when it comes to yourself and your health - and because of that, you hold all the necessary answers within. Coaches help advise you as you create your own plan, and support you as you follow through with it.
So what are consultants?
Consultants are people who are trained or skilled in a specific field and who are called in to assess a specific situation and come up with a game plan to make the situation better. Consultants create the plan and teach you on how to follow it.
So you’re probably thinking now, “OK, great definitions Amy, but what does that really mean in practice?”
This means that when working with a traditional health coach, you can expect to work with someone that accepts you fully and wholeheartedly where you are today. This means that while they will ask you to show up fully, authentically, and give 100% to your time working together, they won’t push you into making decisions or changes that you’re not ready to make yet. You won’t have someone telling you have to stop eating this one food or you must start exercising in this specific way. Those pushy, aggressive, and authoritative words aren’t part of a coach’s lingo.
This means that when working with a traditional health coach you’ll find someone whose belief in your ability to change is stronger than your own self-doubt. Your coach won’t be just a cheerleader on the sidelines patting you on the back and telling you “good job.” Your coach’s confidence in you will help energize and challenge you to reach for and meet even higher goals when the time is right.
This means that when working with a traditional health coach sometimes you’re gonna get stuck in emotional mud and mindset blocks. And that’s okay. Your coach isn’t going to rescue you or give you a quick fix to get out of it. They’ll sit with you there and give you tools to find your own way out - because they know that sometimes that’s exactly what you need in order to build up desire and energy for long-lasting positive change.
This means that when working with a traditional health coach you won’t get a generic blueprint, map, meal plan or any other one-size-fits-all health fad of the day. Your coach will work with you to help you discover what foods, activities, and stress reducers work best specifically for you and your body. You’ll come up with a plan of action together to help you reach the goals you set for yourself on day one.
What to expect when you work with a health coach?
- Someone who accepts you fully and wholeheartedly where you are today.
- Someone who holds space for you to dive deep and discover what your picture of ideal health really is.
- Someone who asks you to take charge in your life and health.
- Someone whose belief in your ability is stronger than your doubt.
- Someone who stays with you while you figure out what truly nourishes you - mind, body, and spirit.
What NOT to expect when you work with a health coach?
- Someone who will diagnose and treat you as a practitioner.
- Someone who constantly puts on their expert hat and tells you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
- Someone who pushes you to do something in the same way and manner that they do it.
- Someone who has all the right answer or the quickest fix.
Someone who knows what’s best for your particular body, mind, situation better than you do.
Still not sure if you’re interested in working with a health coach or a health consultant? Here’s a couple questions you can explore to help you figure it out:
- Have I done the discovery work to define what my health goals truly are? What does my picture of ideal health look like? Am I looking for a quick fix or sustainable change?
- What kind of support am I looking for in a health coach? Do I respond better to specific direction and instruction or do I learn best from exploring options for myself and uncovering answers on my own?
I’ll leave you today with one of my favorite lines from my coaching training at Wellcoaches:
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**The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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