What is a Health Coach?

A Health Coach is a supportive partner who helps their clients feel their best through dietary and lifestyle changes that meet their individual needs and health goals.

Think about your last doctor visit. How much time did your doctor spend with you? Did you discuss your health habits, nutrition, lifestyle, or activity levels?

Generally, the answer is no. Most doctors only have a few minutes to spend with each client. Not that they don’t want to spend more time with patients, they simply don’t have enough time. Today’s doctors focus on sickness.

Most conventional doctors aren’t trained in the skill set of how to develop a long-term plan to keep you healthy and motivated while holding you accountable.

Today’s doctors have less time for personal interaction and are required to have more in-depth knowledge in a narrowly defined niche.

Additionally, the landscape of healthcare has changed. Chronic disease far outweighs acute illness.

According to the CDC, “As a nation, we spend 86% of our health care dollars on the treatment of chronic diseases. These persistent conditions—the nation’s leading causes of death and disability—leave in their wake deaths that could have been prevented, lifelong disability, compromised quality of life, and burgeoning health care costs.”

This is where health coaches can help. Many chronic diseases are preventable through diet and lifestyle changes. Health coaches have the time to support clients on an individual basis.

Purpose of a Health Coach

The primary goal of a health coach is to help clients achieve their health goals. In other words, a health coach provides personalized care. Health coaches not only help clients work through lifestyle and behavior modifications, but they also mentor, inspire, guide, and motivate to cultivate positive health choices.

When it comes to healthy eating, we understand you already know what is healthy, and what isn’t. However, there are a lot more factors to consider, which is where a health coach comes in handy.

Health coaches have the time that medical doctors don’t have to delve deeper into the how’s and why’s of preventative care. Many doctor offices are even starting to add health coaches to their staff, which is a huge win for patients.

Health coaches provide guidance and management in the components of health, including diet, physical activity, and overall wellness. In short, health coaching is a collaborative effort between the client and the coach.

Specific examples of a health coach’s role may include:
  • Assessing a client’s current health condition.
  • Helping clients understand their “why,” for the goal and their motivation for change.
  • Provides motivation, support and accountability to reach their goals.
  • Co-creating health goals with a client.
  • Providing dietary education services.
  • Discuss client’s goals, progress, and challenges and come up with strategies to work through them.
  • Conducting behavioral health screenings.

Health Coaching Overview

Health coaching utilizes evidence-based clinical interventions which incorporates a three-pronged approach:

(1) the best available research evidence bearing on whether a treatment works and why
(2) expertise to identify a client’s individual health state and risks
(3) client’s preferences and values

Methods of health coaching involve motivational interviewing to facilitate behavior change, the transtheoretical model of change, goal setting, and active listening.

Each of these in more detail can be described as:

  • Motivational interviewing (MI) is a client-centered counseling approach for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to identify strengths and weaknesses for meaningful change.
  • Behavior change refers to efforts to address and change personal habits to prevent disease and achieve wellness.
  • The transtheoretical model is a means of assessing an individual’s readiness to act on a new behavior to provide adequate strategies of change to guide the individual.
  • Goal setting is a personal development tool used by health coaches to create an action plan designed to motivate and guide individuals toward a specific goal.
  • Active listening is a communication technique used during sessions where a health coach fully concentrates on what an individual is communicating to establish an appropriate plan of action.


Many health coaches earn specialized certifications, and there are many different organizations available to choose from for their education.

Requirements for various certification agencies differ with some requiring licensed health professionals or bachelor’s degrees, while some support individuals coming into this field without any medical background.

Requirements may also vary by state, check with your local regulatory board for more information.

Client & Coach Process

Many coaches follow a health coaching model. The first step involves establishing a relationship. Building trust through rapport is essential for a successful client-coach relationship.

The second step is motivational interviewing for building strong communication strategies. This step helps clients become aware of personal problems and limitations. The goal is to focus on the present and explore the individual’s core values and goals. It is most important for clients to express a desire for change rather than being told change is necessary.

The third step is co-creating a wellness vision, which can include physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial realms of their life. A wellness vision is used to help clients reach optimal wellbeing by connecting them to their own truth and wisdom that is held within.

Lastly is setting goals. The coach will help the client by acting as a guide through the goal-setting process. This is a collaborative step between client and coach. Setting appropriate goals is crucial when helping clients achieve wellness and success.

The Role of a Health Coach

It’s important to keep in mind a health coach may not be a licensed dietitian. Many states require a separate license for prescribing specific diet plans. However, a health coach can help you understand the fundamentals of nutrition.

The following describes the role of a health coach to facilitate a client’s wellness plan:

  • Offers support for client self-management. This can include providing educational resources and helping problem solve.
  • Help clients become well versed in the health care system and medical resources.
  • Providing emotional support.
  • A health coach can be useful for building a relationship with medical providers by helping clients keep health histories to provide their medical doctors.
  • A health coach will provide support throughout health and wellness efforts made by the client.

Importance of Health Coaching

Health coaches are increasing in demand to help fill the gaps in traditional medicine. The future of health care is reshaping with the focus moving from treatment to prevention. While conventional medicine specializes in acute illnesses, chronic disease is now noted as being an epidemic today.

Because acute and chronic diseases act differently in the body, traditional medicine simply cannot (and does not) have the necessary approaches in place.

Fortunately, health coaches can help. The holistic care they provide is truly the future, treating the whole person, not just symptoms.

Here are a few approaches utilized by health coaches that conventional care simply doesn’t have the foundation for:
  • Focus on holistic care
  • Making a personal connection
  • SMART Goals
  • Retraining the brain
  • Self-reliance
  • Lifestyle habits

Focus on Holistic Care

Health coaches have the unique ability to focus on a holistic approach.

Holistic health is defined as ‘an integrated approach to health care that treats the “whole” person, not simply symptoms and disease.’ The concept is based on the idea that the human being is multi-dimensional. Therefore, health and wellness approaches need to consider the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the person to achieve optimal health. Health coaches do just that.

Health coaches work one-on-one with clients to focus on the emotional, physical, behavioral, nutritional, and lifestyle factors that are needed to enhance overall health and well-being.

Making a Personal Connection

Another aspect often lacking in traditional healthcare settings is an established bond between the patient and the doctor. Instead, health coaches work hard to provide genuine and meaningful interactions by building respect and trust with their clients.

Health coaches take the time to get to know clients to help set up obtainable goals. By understanding the psychological, behavioral, and emotional needs of clients, a health coach can provide a truly personalized client-centered experience.

By understanding lifestyle factors, for example, someone being too busy to cook a healthy meal every day, a health coach can provide alternatives and tips for healthy eating while taking into account a client’s busy lifestyle. The goal is a positive change. Of course, this cannot happen without understanding what a client is and is not capable of.

Smart Goals

By understanding fitness style, personal interests, past successes, failures, health and fitness attitudes, and beliefs, a health coach can work to establish attainable goals.

Goals will be assessed as an ongoing process for both short and long-term objectives. A health coach will help you take vague ideas, aspirations and transform them into reality by setting SMART goals with you.

Setting SMART goals provides structure and trackability to help clients be successful. They provide clear milestones and an estimation of the attainability of each goal.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound

Your health coach will work with you to answer the following types of questions for setting your SMART objectives:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Where?
  • How?
  • When?
  • With whom?
  • What are the conditions and limitations?
  • Why exactly do I want to reach this goal?
  • What are the possible alternative ways of achieving the same?

Retraining the Brain

Health coaches offer support in various ways.

One specific technique is to help clients identify negative thinking patterns about themselves and their health to change how they look and feel.

By identifying negative, irrational, and erroneous beliefs, health coaches help clients establish positive internal dialogue, or otherwise known as self-talk.

Retraining your brain to think more positively takes work, but is very effective. By shifting your focus on the positives rather than the negatives, your health outcomes change as well. For example, instead of saying “I hate to exercise” remind yourself “I feel great following a workout!” Over time, your brain will automatically shift to a more positive way of thinking without much effort.

It’s time to experience the power of positive thinking.

Becoming Self-Reliant

It’s important to understand we all have the power to be responsible for our health. Traditional doctors help treat your symptoms, but they can’t prevent illness the way you can for yourself – not even your health coach can do this for you.

Your health coach wants to help you succeed and will be there every step of the way, but they can’t do the work for you. Instead, a health coach gives you the tools to foster an environment for success.

Being self-reliant will increase internal motivation and aid in the adoption of healthy habits. Developing healthy habits and being self-sufficient helps individuals maintain independence later in life as well.

Health coaches understand the need for people to feel empowered and can help provide the means for encouraging the very valuable confidence and growth everyone can benefit from.

Lifestyle Habits

Healthy lifestyle habits can last a lifetime. The better care you provide yourself, the better you can care for others as well.

Health coaches enable individuals to see the value in reaching their health-related goals as well as building a meaningful connection between their lifestyle choices to experience a truly fulfilling life!

Behaviors such as the foods you eat, the amount of sleep you get each night, and how physically active you are, significantly impact your health. Each of these behaviors can either positively or negatively affect your overall health in significant ways.

Ultimately, a health coach will enable you to take ownership of your experience and create positive, lasting lifestyle changes.

Being a health coach is something I am extremely passionate about. I love watching others while they achieve their goals and supporting them along the way.

If you have any questions, please post them below or send me a note here.


– Melissa

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Hi, I’m Melissa. I’m an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Food Blogger. Here you will find Simple >> Healthy >> Delicious recipes.

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