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What is Health Coaching?

Updated: Feb 29


A woman accomplishing her goals with a health coach

I often get the question "What is health coaching?". On the surface it is a lot like what you may imagine: Recurring meetings or "coaching sessions", goal setting, accountability, discussion, guidance, education and action. However on a deeper level it is so much more. I'll do my best to explain different sides of it here. In short, health coaching is a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, but one that you don't have to journey alone.



First of all coaching is fun. Don't get me wrong. I didn't say it was easy, but it should definitely be fun and feel good. Positive self-change is difficult to achieve if the means we are using to attain results is something we despise. Life is too short to spend our days worrying and depriving ourselves, and honestly it just doesn't work, at least not in the long-term (queue yo-yo diets and that unused gym membership).


In order to achieve better wellness, we need to find activities and habits that fulfill us and are sustainable. Wellness is not a prescribed path with a defined beginning and end. Wellness is a way of life.


Health coaching is all about exploring and discovering new ways to live that fill you up and let you feel your best.


So... like literally what is health coaching?

At the most basic level health coaching revolves around the coaching relationship. It all begins with a client working with a coach on specific needs and goals, and the coach guides and supports the client in attaining these goals over a period of time. However, personally as a coach I am also looking to instill habits, lifestyle changes and behaviors in clients that will last beyond the coaching engagement, to last a lifetime.


It all begins with a prospective client and coach having an intake/discovery session to ensure that coaching is the right fit for what the client is looking for. A health coach is just that, a coach. We are not doctors or therapists, nor do we treat, diagnose or prescribe. So this intake session is for the client to better understand what the coach offers, and for the coach to ensure that it's a good fit for a client.


It's not really possible to create, measure or develop lasting change with one-off coaching sessions, so health coaching typically comes in set durations of time i.e. three months or six months. During this time a lot of things take place and every coach is different in their approach.


I look at coaching relationships in three parts: Foundation, Implementation and Sustainability.


The stages of health coaching

Foundation

The first part of coaching usually involves very foundational things like understanding goals, reviewing health histories, information gathering, and discovering some very important things about ourselves like "why" are we doing this. Without that "why", that drive, that passion, we are likely to give up when it gets hard. A lot of my foundational work revolves around this. And of course the beginning stages of goal setting, action and accountability are established.


Implementation

The implementation phase is where the real work starts taking place. Coach and client have ideally found a good rhythm at this point and client is consistently working toward goals and refining things where they need. The vision is clear. This is also the phase where we really start looking at what happens when we don't live up to our goals and how we bounce back from that. New habits are starting to form, client is becoming more knowledgeable and confident in their abilities and activities, and coach is continually supporting, guiding and educating along the way.


Sustain

The sustainability phase is the final phase of the coaching relationship where the client has met or is close to meeting their goals. During the whole coaching relationship I am always looking for improvement in self-efficacy, as in, how confident has the client become in acting on their own accord and how likely is the client going continue with this lifestyle once they are done with coaching. This is what the sustainability phase is all about: Finalizing a plan for continuing a healthy lifestyle into the future and building resiliency.


Day to Day - What Do We Do?

In general you can expect to have recurring coaching sessions usually once a week or bi-weekly, in-person or online. The coaching session is where a lot of the magic happens, but more on that below.


It is really up to the coach and client to create what happens from there. It is hard to define what that looks like in a general way since every coach and client is different. There are all kinds of tools and activities that can be used within the coaching relationship: Exploring new recipes or ways of eating, journaling, new ways to workout or get movement, learning about food and ingredients, exercises/assignments, reading, brainstorming, mindfulness or spiritual practices, creative pursuits, etc.


This is very unique to the coach and what they offer, as well as what works well with the client. My personal approach to coaching is unique in that I am also a NASM certified personal trainer so I also include personal training programming and workouts for my clients as well. Sometimes coaching sessions get really fun and we end up on a hike somewhere or at a local farmer's market.


Which Coach Is Right For Me?

Some coaches may be general in nature and others focus on specific niches such as weight loss or beating diabetes. Ultimately find a coach who you feel is knowledgeable and capable of helping you reach your goals and ideally someone you can learn from.


A young man feeling healthy with a health coach

Also important is ensuring your coach is someone you can connect with and feel safe around. While coaching is not therapy, it does have its highs and lows so make sure your coach is someone you feel comfortable and confident in. Most coaches usually offer a free consultation so you can both get a feel for each other before moving forward.


Most coaches have attended formal training or education. Ask what a coaches background and experience is. I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and graduated from their Advanced Coaching Practicum (a Board prerequisite). There's a National Board for Coaching (NBHWC) and certification is considered the gold standard.


How does coaching work?

Growing on the notion of a coaching relationship, the magic of coaching takes place within this safe and supportive environment. At first glance coaching may seem a bit "earthy" or intangible, however when you think about it, we utilize coaching in so many different aspects of our lives such as in business or athletics, both formally and informally, personally and professionally.


There is magic in human relationships, to have someone who is vested in your well-being and healthy outcomes. Someone that is attentive and knows how to listen. And someone who walks the walk.


Coaches usually have extensive training and are educated in behavioral change theories, habit building, positive psychology and effective communication techniques, but the real magic of self-discovery and lasting change happens when two individuals put their hearts and minds together toward a common goal. THAT my friends, beyond all the fancy talk and techniques, in my opinion, is the true magic of the coaching relationship.


So now what?

If you or someone you know is interested in health coaching I am always happy to answer any questions. I look at coaching as an investment into your health, happiness and future, just as you would anything else such as a gym membership or buying organic food. But health coaching goes deeper, way deeper. And the changes I have seen in people who are striving for healthier and happier lives still astounds me all the time.


If you are interested in what I can offer as a coach, my health coaching information is HERE.


To book a coaching consultation click HERE.


Be well friends,

Erik




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