what is health coaching

By Jim McNerney

When people find out that I’m a Health Coach, their first question is usually “what exactly does a health coach do?”

My in-a-nutshell answer is that a health coach is a well-trained expert who educates, mentors, motivates, supports and partners with his/her clients as they work to achieve their health goals. The coach caringly guides the client through a series of gradual, realistic, and sustainable lifestyle and behavior changes.

Health coaches like me are usually very well educated in the fields of nutrition, wellness, exercise, and bio-individuality. And even more importantly, we have extensive training in the use of coaching techniques, tools, and methods that help empower our clients and make their journey to improved health a success!    

But Health Coaches Offer So Much More Than That

A successful sports coach prepares a detailed game plan before each and every game. The sports coach prepares their team to play a particular opponent, not just any opponent. After all, each opponent they face is unique. And the coach wants their team to be fully prepared to win, to have success.

In this regard, health coaches are similar to sports coaches…but a little different.

As health coaches, we don’t create a detailed coaching plan before we first meet with a new client. We discuss the client’s health goals and co-create a custom designed and detailed coaching plan with each client.

Health Coaches Know Each Client is Unique

To effectively guide and mentor you, we first need to understand the specific health goals you want to achieve AND the unique set of strengths, resources, experiences, and challenges that you are bringing to our coaching relationship.

We partner with you to create a goal achievement map tailored especially to you. As you and I both know, there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all formula for achieving your health goals.

If that was the case, there’d be one diet book, one exercise book, one healthy eating book, one stress reduction book, one how to increase your energy book. You’d read it, follow the instructions and…WALLA, you’d be on your merry way.

But is just doesn’t work like that. Because we’re all different. It’s called bio-individuality. What you read in many of the “eat this, don’t eat that” and “do this, don’t do that” health improvement books is what worked for the person who wrote the book. If what they’re prescribing doesn’t feel right for you, chances are very slim that you’ll actually stick with it.  

Health coaches are focused on what you want to eat, what you want to do, what feels right for you. We work together to custom design your personal health goal achievement plan. You can think of it as writing your very own health improvement “book”.

And that’s the book that will work for you. Why? Because we’ll be writing it based on your health goals, your personal health history, and your specific dietary, exercise, and other health related wants and needs. In others words, what will work for and feels right for YOU!  

Health Coaches Focus on the Whole Person

Losing a certain number of pounds, exercising “x” number of days a week, or any other health improvement goal is only worthwhile if it’s part of an overall wellness plan that benefits the entire YOU. This is the holistic approach that good health coaches employ.

As a result of my training in Positive Psychology, through the Wholebeing Institute, I use the SPIRE Model as my holistic blueprint. SPIRE Well-being encompasses the Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational and Emotional Well-being of the individual. Together, the five elements of SPIRE make up the Wholebeing of the individual. These five elements combine to shape our overall health, our wellness and our lives. We explore each of them in crafting your unique health goal plan.

Health Coaches Motivate You to Take Action

Have you ever been all excited to make a change after reading a self-improvement book, listening to a self-improvement lecture or making a New Year’s resolution? And then pretty quickly forgotten all about it? My guess is we all have.

Health coaches are experts in motivating you to take action during coaching calls AND, even more importantly, between coaching calls. It’s out in the real world, during your day-to-day life, that you’ll be practicing the changes you’ve committed to. That’s how achieving your health goals becomes a reality.

Health coaches are supportive partners who help you map your route to goal success. We keep track of where you are on your health journey and help you celebrate each success along the way.

Together we’ll explore how to most effectively leverage your unique set of strengths, experiences and resources to inspire you to take action, to stretch beyond your comfort zone, and to keep you focused and moving forward on your health improvement journey. We’ll also find ways to resolve any internal or external roadblocks standing between you and better health.  

Health Coaches Remind You that Improving Your Health is Accomplished One Step at a Time

It’s human nature to want what we want NOW. That’s why you’ll see advertisements like “Lose 30 Pounds In 30 Days”. Savvy marketers take full advantage of our innate desire for quick and easy results. They make a ton of money and leave an awful lot of very disappointed people in their wake.

As health coaches, we are committed to your long-term success. We’ve been trained in what actually works, why it works, and how to guide you in successfully implementing it into your life. A series of small, realistic, incremental changes to your health habits is the secret to making sustainable lifestyle improvements. And these lifestyle improvements are what will ultimately lead to the creation of the new, healthier YOU!   I like to think of every healthy action you take as another drop of water falling into a bucket. Drop by drop, the bucket fills up to the brim. In the exact same way, with time, action, and effort you can be brimming with great health!