What to Look for in a Health Coach

By Nicole Martin

December 29, 2016

First, a disclaimer: I am a health coach, and nutrition coach, and a life coach. And I have a lot of coaches, myself.

But how do you find the right coach? I can tell you that my experience has taught me a heck of a lot more than my certifications.

So, we’ve compiled a pretty exhaustive list of what to look for in a health coach. Some of this is based on our own experiences over the years at the Wellness Training Institute. Some of it is based on the horror stories our members have told us about their previous experiences with health coach-types before they joined with us. And, well, some of it’s just good old common sense.

Whatever the origin, if you’re looking for a health coach, here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Are they where you want to be or beyond?

Never trust a four-hundred pound health coach. There’s something about living what you’re preaching that is going to radically shape how you teach those things to others.

Over the years, having gone to a staggering number of conferences across the country, I’ve met some life coaches. Some seem to have it together. Others, though… well, if you’re going to teach me how to live the life you’re living, thank you, but I’m gonna probably pass.

And by “probably,” I mean “definitely.”

So, look at who’s doing the coaching. If you want their life, then great. If not, find someone better.

Do they listen?

Picking a health coach is sort of like picking out a dog from the pound. If it’s obvious that the dog isn’t going to listen to what you have to say, the relationship is going to be a messy one. (This is literally true in the case of the dog.)

There are a number of reasons for this.

First, your health goals are not going to be the same as someone else’s.

Secondly, your body is different than everyone else’s. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. Although we’re all genetically 99.9% the same, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Third, the coach-coachee relationship is an intimate one. And if you’re going to start up that kind of relationship, you’re going to be frustrated if you don’t feel like you’re being heard.

You should be able to pick up on this in your initial meeting with a potential coach. If it feels like they aren’t listening, it’s time to cross that name off the list and find someone else.

Want more great information about the foundations of a healthy life? Download the first installment of our NEW 7-part eBook series The 7 Habits of Highly Healthful People for FREE right now, right HERE!

Are they willing to be wrong?

The “my way or the hi-way” approach isn’t going to work. Sure, you want an expert in the field, but part of being a real expert is knowing that everyone is different and has different challenges… and that compromises have to be made.

It’s also true that there’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to this sort of endeavor.

Just on the diet front, for example, you might have 10 different foods that might be triggering negative reactions in your body. The coach might speculate on which one (or more) is the true culprit, but you’re going to have to go through an elimination diet to really determine the facts.

If the coach is humble and shows that they’re willing to be wrong, that’s a pretty good indicator that they know what they’re doing. New data is always coming out. What we thought was definitely true yesterday might be shown to be completely false today. A good coach knows this reality—but at the same time isn’t a know-it-all.

Put simply: They understand that adaptation is the name of the game.

Are they offering quick fixes?

This should be a red flag from the start. If someone is claiming that results are going to come quickly and easily, that’s your cue to stand up, nod a polite thank you, and run screaming out of the room.

There are no quick fixes.

Instead, when you’re looking for a health or nutrition coach, you need someone who is focused on the long-term.

Which is a perfect segue into #5:

Is their system promoting lasting change?

Because, if not, you’re wasting your time and money.

A good way to determine the answer to this question is to determine their methodology (and philosophy) when it comes to health.

Are they focused entirely on one or two areas of wellness? For example, is most of their attention focused just on what you’re eating and how much exercise you’re getting?

Both of those are important, of course, but they’re also just parts of a much bigger whole.

A good health coach is going to tackle the whole width and breadth of your wellness. Not all at once, of course. But there needs to be a system in place that deals with diet and exercise, but also addresses cultivating your awareness, reducing your stress, analyzing your relationships, developing your breathing habits, and everything in between.

Health is so much bigger than just losing weight and counting calories.

You’re looking for someone who takes a holistic approach, and understands that the lasting change is always the goal.

Do they understand that it’s a two-way relationship?

This one might be a little hard to determine up front, but I’m including it because it might be the most important requirement of all.

Sure, they might listen. They might make compromises.

But the best health coaches are the ones that understand that your health journey is also theirs. They’re invested in your success and at the same time open to being changed themselves as they guide you down that path.

And guide is a great way to look at the relationship. Some of the best stories ever written involve a hero and a guide (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Rainman, the list is endless).

And in the best of these stories, it’s not just the hero who is changed. The guide is also tested and tried and, if there’s a happy ending, comes out better for the experience.

Part of what I do at the Wellness Training Institute falls in to the health/nutrition coach category, so I know first hand how it feels to guide someone from sickness and brokenness into long-lasting health. I also know what those experiences do to me. I’m teaching them and, at the same time, they are opening my eyes to things I couldn’t see before.

And at the core, that’s what a health coach needs to be. A partner who understands that yes, the end goal is there, but the journey itself is really where the true magic happens.

(If you’re looking to make some changes for the sake of your health, I would encourage you to register for one of our FREE Wellness Training Institute Seminar Dinners. You can learn more and register here.)

Similar Posts