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What is a Health Coach and how can one help you?

Are you on a quest to live your happiest, healthiest life?

Are you looking for more support in reaching your health and wellness goals?

A Health Coach could be just what you need…

I recently graduated as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. And, while I understand the immense value a Health Coach can offer, many people aren’t too familiar with what exactly a Health Coach is. And so, let’s start from the beginning…

What is a Health Coach?

A Health Coach is basically a mentor that supports and guides you on your health and wellness journey.

Health Coaches don’t prescribe or diagnose, like other medical professionals. Instead, Health Coaches focus on helping you find clarity on what your important health and wellness goals are. And then they help you get there through individualized food and lifestyle changes.

Remember that there are also different kinds of Health Coaches out there. I trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to be an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. IIN describes what a Health Coach is well in this article – here is an excerpt:

“A Health Coach is a supportive mentor and welness authority who helps others feel their best through individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals.

Health coaching isn’t about one diet or one way of living. Instead, Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches focus on bio-individuality – the idea that we’re all different and have unique dietary, lifestyle, emotional, and physical needs. This means that we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness. Instead, Health Coaches work with clients to help them discover how to fuel their bodies and become the healthiest, happiest versions of themselves.

Health Coaches also emphasize health beyond the plate as they approach wellness through primary food. At the core of the Integrative Nutrition curriculum is the idea that there are areas of your life that impact your health just as much as the food you eat – your relationships, career, spirituality, and physical activity.

In general, Health Coaches use the concepts of bio-individuality and primary food, along with over 100 dietary theories explored during the Health Coach Training Program, to take a holistic and proactive approach to health.”

A guide on the side, not a sage on the stage.

One of my favourite descriptions of a Health Coach from the course is that “A Health Coach is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage“. This emphasizes that a Health Coach is not there to tell clients what to do and what to eat. A Health Coach is, instead, there to guide clients in figuring out for themselves what works for them. So, although a Health Coach shares lots of knowledge and valuable support, the goal is to help clients take charge of their own health, to listen to their bodies, and to start making better and more sustainable lifestyle changes, based on their unique needs.

In a nutshell, a Health Coach is a clients biggest cheerleader. When you’re going on a health and wellness journey, it can get tough. And Health Coaches play a pivotal role in supporting and motivating clients every step of the way.

How can a Health Coach help you?

There are many ways a Health Coach can help you, depending on your unique needs. Below are a few examples.

A Health Coach can help you…

Get clear on your personal health and wellness goals.

Everyone has different goals they want to achieve. Whether it’s to lose some excess weight, build better eating habits, feel more energised or manage stress and anxiety.

And a Health Coach is essentially there to help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

When it comes to your goals, a Health Coach can help you get clear on the WHY behind them.

Getting clear on the WHY – the reasons behind WHY you want to achieve them – is a powerful step. This process of setting clear intentions behind each of your goals will help keep you motivated throughout the journey.

For example – your health goal may simply be to lose weight. While this goal is okay, it’s not motivating enough. It feels far more like a chore that could easily get side-lined over time. By digging deeper, you may discover that the WHY behind this goal is to feel healthier and more confident in your bikini next summer… Because you love the beach and want to really enjoy your time more without feeling uncomfortable and insecure. This takes the previously ’empty goal’ further. Instead of just losing weight, you have a much more vivid goal. You can visualise going to one of your favourite beaches, feeling comfortable, confident and vibrant in your gorgeous new bikini. You are glowing and feeling alive and well. This goal now evokes a feeling worth working for.

Make progress towards your goals with regular accountability.

Accountability is a powerful tool. Especially when you’re paying for it.

Once your goals and intentions are clear, a Health Coach will help you take the necessary steps to achieve them.

In one-on-one Health Coaching, in particular, you’ll meet regularly, usually every 2 weeks. This will help keep you on track, as your coach holds you accountable for the actions you’re taking. This can seem a little daunting to some, but it’s an incredible motivator.

Your Health Coach is your bigger supporter, and deeply want to see you thrive. So, even when you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, a great coach is not going to get upset with you. He or she will simply keep supporting and motivating you until you do eventually take action.

And, as you take action, one small step at the time, you’ll start to build up the inner motivation yourself.

Approach ‘health’ holistically and find a better balance in your life.

A Health Coach can help you develop a much more holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

Health is not just about eating your vegetables and exercising. Health is all-encompassing.

You can eat all the broccoli in the world, but if you’re in a toxic relationship or a job you hate, you’re never going to feel your best.

Primary and Secondary Food:

And so, Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches look at nutrition both on and off the plate:

At Integrative Nutrition, we have a philosophy about food – it’s that everything we consider as a source of nutrition is really just a secondary source of nourishment.

The foods you eat are secondary to all the other things that feed you – your relationships, career, spirituality, and exercise routine. Those are the things we call Primary Food – IIN –

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, we share a tool with you called The Primary Circle. With it, we look at all areas of your life, like your relationships, spirituality, career and physical activity, amongst others. When you use this tool, you notice imbalances in your life, and slowly take steps to find a better balance. And, over time, you’ll notice how nourishing one area of your life, has a positive effect on other areas.

This holistic approach to health – nourishing yourself ON and OFF the plate – is hugely fulfilling.

Instead of just focusing on eating healthily or working out, you start looking at activities around self-care, joy-based living, creativity, your home environment and so much more. This makes ‘getting healthy’ a lot more interesting.

Dig deep and work through your challenges in a safe space.

One of the main objectives of a Health Coach is to create a safe and non-judgemental space for their clients. This space becomes a sanctuary where a client feels comfortable talking about anything of importance.

Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches are trained particularly well to be fully present, practice active listening and ask high-mileage questions during sessions. All these skills help clients dig deeper and find clarity.

Stop restrictive dieting and start listening to your body.

We are all unique and no one-size-fits-all – uniquely shaped by our heritage, gender, height, weight, activity level, location, and lifestyle. All these factors influence how our bodies assimilate the food we eat.

That’s why diets don’t work. Each with a unique makeup and set of needs, it’s crazy to try and find one perfect diet for everyone. And even you and your dietary preferences will change over time. What works for you now, may not work for you tomorrow or a year from now.

Also, diets aren’t sustainable. They are often focused on what you can’t eat, which can promote a restrictive mindset and negative eating habits.

Bio-individuality instead of diets.

Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches learn over 100 Dietary Theories during their training, to develop a well-rounded perspective on the dieting world. However, instead of dieting, Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches focus on Bio-individuality.

Bio-individuality means that no one diet works for everyone. Each and every person has unique needs. Just like we all enjoy different styles in fashion and different music and movies, we also intuitively understand, on a very deep level, that one person’s food is another person’s poison.

– Joshua Rosenthal, Founder of The Institute of Integrative Nutrition –

A Health Coach can help you stop restrictive dieting, and the yo-yo-ups-and-downs it usually brings. And instead, they can help you start listening to your body and building healthy eating habits. This approach leads to sustainable change.

Apart from bio-individuality, Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches also focus on eating more of the good stuff, rather than focusing on what you ‘can’t eat’. So, for example, instead of deciding that you must ‘stop eating sugar or refined carbs’, a Health Coach would encourage you to ‘start eating more vegetables and fruits’. This focus on nourishing yourself with more good food, instead of focusing on what you ‘can’t eat’ is hugely helpful in building more sustainable healthy eating habits.

Learn diet and lifestyle recommendations that make health simpler.

Getting healthy is often over-complicated.

With so many messages flying around, 100s of recommended diets and trends, it can be really tough to know what to do to get healthy. This can often lead to yo-yo-ing between diets and exercise ups-and-downs, which can be hugely disheartening.

While we are all unique and have our own needs, there are some simple strategies that can help anyone feel better – Eat more natural whole foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Get enough sleep.

Along the way, your Health Coach will support you with valuable knowledge, experience and resources like recipes. And, by taking baby steps, one by one, with a cheerleader by your side, you’ll start to make healthier habits a part of your life.

Understand and manage your food cravings.

Many people struggle with food cravings. And many associate this with a lack of will power, which can be demoralising.

But, food cravings can go a lot deeper than simply a lack of will power.

What drives your food behaviours?

An Integrative Nutrition Health Coach can help you deconstruct your food cravings.

They will help you build awareness around what triggers your food behaviours. Your coach may recommend keeping a food journal to monitor your daily behaviours. Through journaling, you may discover some emotional connections. Do you feel a certain emotion when you binge on comfort foods? Are these foods giving you some kind of comfort? Are you perhaps hungry for something else…

Sometimes your food cravings can be a signal that you’re craving something else beyond food. This is where the Primary Food, mentioned above, comes in. An Integrative Nutrition Health Coach pays attention to how you’re nourishing yourself ON and OFF the plate. By using The Primary Circle tool, you’ll notice other areas of your life beyond food – like in your career, relationships, or spirituality – where you are lacking and need nourishment. Through this exercise and by nourishing these areas, you’ll start to feel a shift and re-balancing, which can greatly influence food cravings.

Instead of just thinking it’s all about you having no self-control and beating yourself up about your latest binge, your coach will help you build awareness around what’s driving your behaviours.

It may feel like a far-reaching concept, but the effects can be incredible. I’ve seen it in my own life. A Health Coach can open your mind to these concepts. And as you work on nourishing all areas of your life, you’ll start noticing how it can affect your food behaviours, and ultimately, your food cravings.

That said, what you eat does play a big role in your food cravings, as it directly influences the balance in your body – like your blood glucose levels, which influences food cravings. Your Health Coach can help you understand what goes on in your body and can help you start incorporating nutritious whole foods into your diet that can help curb cravings.

Crowding out.

Another interesting concept that Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches use is called ‘Crowding Out’. This is essentially crowding out bad foods by eating more good foods. This connects with the above point about stopping restrictive dieting. For example, instead of focusing on ‘not eating refined sugars like sweets and cookies’, focus on ‘eating more sweet fruits and vegetables like pumpkins’. Sweet whole fruits and vegetables contain a good dose of sugar, which your body may be craving, but because they are whole foods, they also contain lots of other essential nutrients that nourish your body. They also contain lots of fibre that prevent sugar spikes. So you can give your body some sweetness but in a healthier way. Over time, you can start to re-program your tastebuds and find a new balance in your body that slowly craves less of the refined sugars.

Over time, all the above strategies will help you gain control over your cravings and find a much better balance in your body.

Build self-awareness and take charge of your health.

Note: Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches are not meant to replace other medical professionals. They serve a different role to other professionals like doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, psychologists, and therapists. And, when conditions are more serious, Health Coaches have a responsibility to recommend that a current or potential client go and seek specific professional help.

While more serious conditions do need specific professional help, Health Coaches will inspire you to take charge of your own life and your health. They’ll encourage you to build your self-awareness, listen to your body, and make healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices that support your wellness goals. You’ll start to realise that the choices you make every day can have a dramatic compound effect on your health and happiness.

Choose to nourish yourself.

And… by making simple healthier lifestyle choices – like eating more whole fruits and vegetables, drinking more water and getting enough sleep – you’ll naturally get healthier and feel better.

Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches work a lot in preventative care space – Encourage you to make healthy lifestyle decisions that keep you strong and prevent chronic diseases. This all-encompassing natural approach to health can be a powerful shift to make in your life, as you stop relying so heavily on medicating. Instead, you start to nourish your body in a way that supports it in healing itself.

For example: When you next get a headache, instead of heading straight for the medicine cabinet and popping some headache tables into your mouth, consider why you have a headache. Perhaps you haven’t drunk enough water? Or perhaps it’s your lack of sleep and excessive screen time?

Another example: Next time you feel the flu coming on, instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet and popping some flu tablets, stop to think about your lifestyle… Have you been over-working and sleeping less lately? Could your body be run down and burning out? Perhaps a warm homemade veggie soup in the evenings and a couple of extra hours of sleep could be just what you need to start feeling better?

An Integrative Nutrition Health Coach can help you build this awareness. Over time you’ll start to really listen to your body and make little adjustments to your lifestyle to support it in its natural healing processes. You’ll start to really value that your body is a highly intelligent bio-computers that, given half the chance, will start to heal itself in many cases.

Are you thinking of working with a Health Coach?

I hope that this has given you a better idea of what an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach is, and how one can help you.

Reaching your health and wellness goals can be very challenging. And it’s easy to start beating yourself up when you fall off the wagon. But, it’s normal. The goal is to keep getting back up and build resilience. And that’s exactly what a Health Coach can help you do.

An Integrative Health Coach is your biggest supporter, cheering you every step of the way.

And, man oh man, some extra support can be life-changing. Having someone rooting for you and genuinely wanting you to succeed in your important personal health and wellness goals. Someone to deeply listen to you, providing a safe space to go deep and get to the bottom of your big challenges. A rich source of unbiased knowledge and strategies to try out. Someone with you every step of the way – celebrating all your successes, big and small, and being there to offer support when things get tough.

If you’ll on a mission to be your best self – happy, healthy and full of vibrant energy – think about trying out a Health Coach.

Here’s to you and your journey to health and happiness!


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