By Delia Quigley for Care2.com
It’s the latest, and some say the fastest growing, career for individuals interested in health and nutrition. The health coach is a new breed of healthcare professional whose job is to guide individuals through the minefield of dietary and lifestyle change. They support clients to make behavioral changes by utilizing techniques such as goal setting, identifying obstacles, and just good old positive reinforcement and support. It is kind of like having a best friend to discuss why you went back for that third helping of double Dutch ice cream; but with no judgment and plenty of sound advice.
A common complaint is that busy doctors spend little time helping a patient make better dietary choices. They are needed to provide a diagnosis and then treat according to an allopathic, pharmacological protocol. A good doctor might mention that the patient should cut down on saturated fat, but offer no further instructions as to how this should be done.
Enter the health coach who provides the assistance that the medical establishment cannot. This is accomplished by partnering with a client to create an individualized program based on achievable goals, regular contact, motivational encouragement and the understanding that each individual is unique and no dietary program is one-size-fits-all.
The Integrative Nutrition program, a well-respected Health Coach training, instructs students in how to support their clients in achieving all of their fitness, health, relationship, and career goals. Now that’s a tall order and one that needs the right kind of training. Unless coming from a previous job in medicine, health coaches are not medically trained. They are trained to help facilitate a positive outcome in programs for weight loss, quitting smoking, managing diabetes, eating a quality diet and getting the right types of exercise. Training can consist of years of intensive instruction with multiple instructors to a 2-week online certification course. As you can see, it is best to do some research before hiring just anyone as your coach.
In 2023 Dr. Karen Lawson, Program Director for the Health Coaching track at the University of Minnesota and Margaret Moore, Co-Director of the Harvard Institute of Coaching, took the initiative to create national standards for health coach training. As quoted in the article, Can Health Coaches Help Fix Our Healthcare System? By Monique Brouillette, Dr. Lawson states, “There is a huge lack of understanding from within most conventional healthcare clinicians as to what health coaching is and how it is different from case management, disease management, nurse education and health navigators. Part of the need is for us to come up with a cohesive definition and clarification of credentials to be able to hold our own in this ground where there is a lot of confusion.” This clarification could lead to health coaches becoming a big part of the primary care system with possible pay-per-service reimbursement.
Although hiring a health coach is an out of pocket expense, you might want to consider the special advantages to having a personal health trainer- especially to help get you over obstacles that prevent moving forward with your diet and exercise goals. Having a trained health coach to talk to may just be the key that allows you to move your life from ordinary to extraordinary. Consultations can be done by phone from wherever you are, so no need to leave home for an appointment and a little guidance from someone who cares can go along way towards helping you find optimal health and well-being.