Introducing the Health Coach: Your Personal Wellness Guide

As we navigate the complexities of modern life, the landscape of holistic health and well-being is ever-evolving. More than ever people know what they should be doing in order to be healthier and have, at their fingertips, access to an abundance of ideas, resources and experts to help them to do it!

So why, in this era where we are almost drowning in knowledge about health and wellness, are we not all at the pinnacle of health? Why are we still struggling to eat well, move more, put down  our tech, manage our stress and get enough sleep? 

The answer lies in the areas of motivation, accountability, planning, preparation, and support. We need someone in our corner who connects us to our bigger ‘why’, who helps us think through the obstacles and prepare for them, and someone who knows how to keep us motivated on the tough days. 

Enter the health coach. A health partner who provides guidance, accountability and support. The ally we need to direct us to credible sources of information, who is trained in the skills of changing behaviour, who knows how to help us get ‘un-stuck, and light the fire of motivation to get us back on track.    

So what is health coaching and how can it help create sustainable habit change?

Understanding the Basics: What is a Health Coach?

A health coach is a behaviour change specialist, trained to empower individuals to achieve their health and wellness goals through personalised guidance and support. Health coaches know that health is holistic, and support clients to tackle the areas of health (and life) that matter to them. Whether a client’s goals are to gain strength or fitness, up the nutrient content of their diet, find that elusive work life balance or un-hook from social media, a health coach supports clients to move from “I should change this behaviour to ‘I want to change this behaviour!. 

Through the process the client learns about their patterns, triggers, mindset and barriers, and connects to a deeper understanding of what they want out of life, and how good health can help them. The client is always leading, choosing the goal, the priorities for action, and ultimately deciding when they want to start, and what they feel ready to change. The underlying principles are curiosity in place of judgement or assumptions, experimentation and learning instead of pass/fail, and self responsibility rather than ‘tell me what to do’. 

Differentiating Health Coaches from Personal Trainers, Nutritionists and Therapists

A health coach will support a client to consider a spectrum of factors that contribute to overall well-being, including physical activity, nutrition, stress management, and lifestyle choices.

Personal trainers focus primarily on increasing physical fitness and writing exercise routines, while Dietitians and nutritionists create nutrition plans based on a client’s preferences and goals, Health coaches support their clients to stick to the plans and routines written by the trainer or nutritionist. Their focus is to support the client to implement these plans, focussing on the practicalities of when, where and how for the planning and preparation, troubleshooting obstacles and keeping them connected to why they started in the first place.

Therapists aim to explore and heal the past, while health coaches support clients to move forward with their learnings from the past, and refer clients who can’t move forward back to their therapists.

Health Coaches work synergistically with all members of the health care team, helping clients to action the plans, routines and recommendations designed for them by health professionals. They don’t diagnose, prescribe or modify management plans, however they empower clients to have conversations with their health professional when something isn’t working. They refer clients to health professionals to seek expert guidance. 

In this way health coaches work collaboratively with individuals and the wider health care team considering the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional well-being to create sustainable lifestyle changes.

Conditions Health Coaches Can Help You With

Health coaches are equipped to assist you to change habits and behaviours that will help prevent and manage a myriad of conditions, and live as the healthier version of you. Whether your goal is weight management, stress reduction or chronic disease prevention, health coaches support you to define what you want to achieve, the areas of your life you want to work on and tailor their approach to meet the unique needs and goals of each individual.

How Health Coaches Work

Health coaching is a dynamic and collaborative process that typically begins with exploring an individual's big picture vision, defining short and long term goals, and understanding the lifestyle factors that act as barriers and facilitators. Through active listening and open communication, health coaches establish a supportive partnership, providing support and guiding individuals towards achievable and sustainable health goals.

The Crucial Support Role of Health Coaches in Chronic Health Conditions

Health coaches provide invaluable support to individuals navigating conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and autoimmune disorders. People with these conditions often know the changes they need to make, and may have a management plan from their health care provider, but often feel overwhelmed with where to start, disheartened from past failures or haven’t connected to how the lifestyle changes will help them to feel better and live life more fully. The empowering approach of a health coach helps them to build confidence, as they create a plan that feels realistic and achievable. They explore the physical, emotional and mindset barriers and create a plan to move forward, a plan that will create a more positive life where symptoms and risks are better managed. 

Exploring Health Coaching Practices

Health coaches employ a variety of evidence-based practices to empower individuals on their wellness journey. These may include motivational interviewing, positive psychology principles, and cognitive-behavioural techniques. By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment, health coaches inspire lasting behaviour change.

How Health Coaches can work with you

Health coaches are equipped to assist you to change habits and behaviours that will help prevent and manage a myriad of conditions, and live as the healthier version of you. Whether your goal is weight management, stress reduction or chronic disease prevention, health coaches support you to define what you want to achieve, the areas of your life you want to work on and tailor their approach to meet your unique needs and goals. 

Health coaching is a dynamic and collaborative process that typically begins with exploring your big picture vision, defining short and long term goals, and understanding your lifestyle factors that act as barriers and facilitators. Through active listening and open communication, health coaches establish a supportive partnership, providing support and guiding you towards achievable and sustainable health goals.

A health coach serves as your dedicated ally on the path to optimal well-being. Through their holistic approach, personalised guidance, and unwavering support, health coaches empower you to take charge of your health and make meaningful and sustainable lifestyle changes. 

Written by Sharon Curtain

B.Sc. MNutrDiet. AccHWC

Sharon is a Dietitian and HCANZA Accredited Health and Wellness Coach. Passionate about the difference health coaching makes to client outcomes and the effectiveness of a health professional’s consultation, Sharon trains health professionals to become Health Coaches in her business Accredited Health Coaching Australia and as a lecturer in the James Cook University Lifestyle Medicine Qualification.

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