What do you picture in your head when you hear the term health coach? Do you imagine Ted Lasso saying things like, “More protein, Norma Jean,” or Roy Kent yelling, “WHISTLE” every time you eat a cookie? Or maybe you think of some ultra-skinny yoga instructor in the lotus position whispering that you need to live your truth . . . and your truth is a dry clover salad with soy-quinoa seaweed crumbles after a three-hour pilates cleanse.
Well, listen, if health coaching did involve Roy Kent, I’d hire him in a second just to get to hear him cursing at me all day. (If you’re not a Ted Lasso fan, my apologies . . . but also, why not?)
But health coaching isn’t soccer coaching, and it isn’t mystical either. If you’ve wondered if it’s punishing or frivolous or some kind of mind trick, I’m here to dispel a few myths and misconceptions about wellness coaching and give you a clear, accurate understanding of what we do and what we don’t do during a health coaching session and throughout a 6-month program.
As you could probably tell from the end of the last paragraph, being someone’s health coach is a temporary gig. Our standard health/wellness coaching program is 6 months long. It’s not because we think it should only take half a year to solve all of your health concerns or meet all of your wellness goals. And no, there is no rule against starting a second 6-month program after the conclusion of the first.
But one really helpful feature of a wellness program is creating a structure for that particular part of your journey that gives it a beginning, a middle, and an end. So throughout the course of the program, we will walk through several different phases over those six months: Another great thing about health coaching is a coach doesn’t only help you reach your goals, we empower you with a system for creating, meeting, and evaluating your progress and your plan. To use the old cliche, I don’t just make sure you have enough fish—my goal is to make sure you know how to catch fish. In other words, I don’t want you to progress on your journey for only 6 months, I want you to learn to navigate your way for life.
Does that mean you’ll never benefit from a health coach again? Not at all. There’s always more to learn, and there are always more goals to set and more advanced techniques to help get you there. And any time you want help learning and objectively evaluating your progress, I’ll be ready!
This question is often disguised as another common myth: my health coach is Jiminy cricket. As your coach, I am very happy not to be your conscience. I don’t show up out of nowhere and swipe pastrami sandwiches out of your hands. I don’t look over your shoulder and say, “Tsk, tsk,” when you eat ice cream. Our sessions aren’t confessionals.
I help you come up with a plan for how you want to approach food and how it will fit within your wellness plan. And I will assist you in evaluating your needs and preferences and examining how the food you eat or the way you eat make you feel emotionally and physically. But I don’t make the rules. I’m not here to tell you what is good and what is bad.
One of the biggest benefits of having a health coach is being able to trust that you are making decisions objectively according to the guidelines you want to follow instead of navigating strictly by emotion—which is the way almost everybody does it when we do it on our own. This is the myth I think clients are the most surprised to discover really is a myth. I swear, even as you read this article, you’re probably still thinking, Yeah, right, we both know you’re going to yell at me when I eat fried chicken.
I promise you, that’s not how health coaching works.
As your health coach, I will not give you a meal plan. As a health coach client you will probably create a meal plan, and I will gladly assist you in doing so. But if a meal plan is going to work, it has to be based on what you like and what you’re reasonably and happily able to incorporate into your life.
Ok, no, yeah, this is totally true. Every morning, I drive around and wake up my clients at 4 am and we all run 10 miles together. It’s like a scene out of Rocky. It’s amazing. And at the end, anyone who doesn’t finish the run gets their picture posted on the Wall of Shame for all to see.
Ugh, can you imagine? I need to scrub that image out of my brain.
Of course I don’t force anyone to work out. There’s no visor, no whistle, no yelling. We will explore movement and what makes sense for you, but finding the right exercise plan and the right goals is something you will do with a little bit of guidance. A health coach is much more of a sounding board for you to ask about your ideas and your questions regarding exercise and movement and overall activity levels. If you tell me you want to climb Mount Everest after six years of doing nothing all that physically strenuous, I’m probably gonna nudge you to give that plan some more thought. On the flipside, if you tell me your goal is to spend as much time reclining on the sofa as humanly possible, I will probably invite you to ponder the merits of that strategy. But my role as a health coach is much more boring-nerdy-advisor than amped-up-cheerleader-motivator.
I help you collect data, test, experiment, plan, analyze, and evaluate. I’ll help you discover a set of habits and rituals and cultivate your experience with whatever form of movement you want to try out. The goal is to discover a way of life that leaves you feeling good on a regular basis, not to reach a particular destination weight or muscle mass that you won’t be able to sustain without someone yelling “YOU CAN DO IT” all day long. We will learn what you enjoy and what boosts your mood and cares for your body and enriches your mind. You’re developing skills and assembling a toolbox for taking care of yourself. It’s not just a list of rules and a workout routine.
Look, concepts like self-talk, mindset, and mindfulness are really important to developing personal wellness. For some people these ideas might seem foreign or even a bit awkward to talk about, especially if you’ve never given them much thought. But I am not your spiritual guide. and I would never ask anyone to do anything that runs contrary to their own personal beliefs, traditions, or cultural practices.
I think this kind of question comes from a general level of unfamiliarity with having a personal coach, and for most of my clients it’s a new experience.There are times it might feel a bit like therapy. In general, coaches are more goal-oriented than therapists. Each one of us brings some personal baggage from our past into our daily routines, and if something under the surface is affecting the way you feel about food or your body or just the way you talk to yourself, that is absolutely going to affect your overall wellness. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a health coach if I let you ignore the obstacles in the way of making progress toward your goals.
I also think it’s pretty safe to say that most people who even think about hiring a health coach are looking to change something. And it’s really difficult to change the results you’ve been seeing in your life without trying anything new. But rest assured, you are at the helm of this process, so you really don’t need to worry about doing anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. As a health coach, I’m your helper, not your boss.
My health coaching clients have developed goals that include all of the below (and more):
The list gets longer every time I welcome a new client. Every single person has a unique set of goals because everyone creates their own. There really is no end to what a health coach can improve in your life.
So tell me: what do you want a health coach to help you do?
March 23, 2023