You may have heard the term "health coach" popping up in nutritional circles and appearing randomly in magazine articles and on TV. However, I often find when I tell someone that I'm a health coach, they have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. Health and wellness coaches are popping up in doctor's offices, spas, gyms and private practices all over the country. They often offer services and fill gaps that doctors, nutritionists and dietitians don't have the time or resources to fill.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the largest nutrition school in the country, defines a health coach as "a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments." To put it simply, health coaches like me are highly educated guides in the fields of nutrition, wellness, bio-individuality and mentoring.
There are many different types of health coach certifications out there; however, the most recognized and thorough certification comes from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Graduates of this program, including me, are trained in over 100 dietary theories and lifestyle coaching techniques to help you discover exactly what will bring you success, and what is holding you back. It takes a year of training to become credentialed as a health coach through the institute. Health coaching focuses not only on the food you eat, but also your lifestyle. We help you to maximize the results of each.
Have you ever been given a list of "eat this, not that?" Have you found that making drastic changes at once are unsustainable and don't work for you long-term? Perhaps a friend of yours lost a bunch of weight on one particular diet, but when you tried it, the results were minimal at best? That's where health coaches come in. We help you implement small changes, little by little, at a pace that's comfortable for you so you can meet all your health goals. We work with you to help you discover your bio-individuality. There is something that will work for you -- the trick is finding it.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, increase energy or just get healthy, health coaches take the time to listen to your concerns, help you discover where and why you are struggling, and help you navigate the world of contradictory nutritional advice to figure out exactly what works for your body.
Everyone is unique and different. That's why no one diet works for everyone, or only works for a small amount of time. Health coaches don't promote one specific type of diet, or one specific way of eating. They help you experiment with finding what will work for you specifically, and how to change up your diet and lifestyle as you continue to grow and make strides forward.
Doctors and nutritionists are also fantastic resources for you in terms of health and wellness. Many doctors are starting to partner with health coaches for their patients who are obese, diabetic or need to change their behaviors in order to improve their health and keep lifestyle-related illnesses at bay.
Many health coaches also work in private practices. My practice, Whole Green You, works one-on-one or in small groups of individuals who want to lose weight, increase energy and get healthy in the most efficient ways. You can even schedule a complimentary breakthrough session with Whole Green You to discuss your objectives, struggles and plan of action. One of the best parts of most health coaching practices is that you can do all the mentoring from the comfort of your home via telephone or Skype.
It's also important to know what a health coach is not. A health coach is not a doctor. Health coaches don't diagnose conditions, prescribe medications or recommend lower or higher doses of your current medications. Many health coaches are not personal trainers (although some, like me, are certified in personal training), so it's important to know what certifications yours holds if he or she is recommending specific exercises for you. A health coach is not a drill sergeant. We do not scream orders at you, or berate you for not meeting goal in a specified amount of time. We understand that life happens, and we work with you and support you in every way we can to achieve optimal wellness.
Health coaches are at the forefront of today's health revolution. At a time when one in five people will die of lifestyle-related disease, as well as when diabetes and obesity are at an all-time high, health coaches provide the nutritional and lifestyle guidance society desperately needs to find its way back to health.
Sarah Haskins is the founder of Whole Green You, a holistic health coaching practice that specializes in helping busy men and women around the country increase their energy, improve their relationship to food, lose weight, deconstruct and control cravings, and reduce their toxic load. As a U.S. Army veteran with 11 years of active duty service to her country, Haskins' holistic nutritional approach has been implemented with many U.S. Army soldiers to enhance their focus, energy and athletic ability both on and off the battlefield.