Health Coaching: What It Is, and Why It Is so Powerful

Updated on October 19, 2018
Darleen Barnard profile image

Darleen Barnard is Certified Health Coach and Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in weight loss and habit change.

As a Certified Health Coach and a Certified Personal Trainer, I am often asked about the difference between the two disciplines. Almost everyone knows what a Certified Personal Trainer does and we usually think of treadmills, weights, and physical activity. But what do we think of when we hear the words Certified Health Coach? The answer isn’t as clear.

By using personal training as a comparison, this article will clear up the confusion and will help you decide if health coaching is the missing ingredient that you need in on your health and wellness journey.

What's the Difference Between Health Coaching and Personal Training?

Let’s talk about personal training first since most people are familiar with that.

Personal Training

Personal trainers or athletic coaches are fitness experts who share their knowledge with their clients. They use their experience and their knowledge to develop and implement unique fitness programs based on the needs of their clients. They conduct health-history interviews and assist clients with goal-setting before designing a program to achieve those goals. They teach correct exercise methods and form using cueing and spotting techniques. They may train in a one-on-one setting, or in a small group at a gym or fitness center. That seems clear enough!

Health Coaching

Health coaching is very different. Although the end goal may be the same—lose weight, improve strength, improve eating habits, etc.—a very different approach is used. Health coaches focus more on psychology than on physiology when working with clients. It focuses on the process of change by using mindset strategies, motivation, goal setting and accountability.

Health coaches facilitate self-discovery and help the client close the gap between who they are now and who they want to be in the future. They may work with clients one-on-one or in small groups, and they may meet in an office, over the phone, or through video-conferencing.

Bridging the Gap Between Thought and Action

Most people know they need to eat better and be more active. That isn’t the problem. Just because we know we “should” do something—and we may even “want” to do something—doesn’t mean we “will” do it. This is where health coaching comes in.

Why Work With a Health Coach?

Coaching facilitates the behavior change process by helping clients explore and build their internal motivation for change. Personal training uses an “expert” approach where the trainer is the expert and tells the client what to do. Coaching uses a “collaborative” approach with the assumption that the client has the answer within him or her and the coach is the guide to help raise the client’s awareness.

The client is in the passenger seat when working with a personal trainer and is in the driver’s seat when working with a coach.

Health coaches empower clients to find their own answers using motivational interviewing techniques, powerful questioning, and reflection. Coaches help their clients understand why they do what they do which often ties back to self-limiting beliefs or a disconnect between their values and actions.

12 Reasons to Work With a Health Coach

As discussed by Wellcoaches, there are 12 themes or reasons why someone decides to work with a coach.

  1. They are tired of quick fixes. They are ready to make a lifestyle change.
  2. They have decided that their health and wellness is their most precious asset.
  3. They are ready to get off the fence and take action on their wellness goals.
  4. They realize that well-being is more important than weight loss.
  5. They want to be in charge of their health and wellness journey instead of delegating the responsibility to physicians, nutritionists, and trainers.
  6. They want to develop their own unique style of health instead of using meal plans and prescribed exercise regimes.
  7. They know what they need to do and how they want to master the mental aspects of living a healthy lifestyle.
  8. They recognize that to be at their best professionally and personally, they need to improve their health and wellness.
  9. They are ready to take small, consistent steps to move in the direction of their goals instead of crash diets and extreme weight loss programs.
  10. They want to build their confidence in their ability to master wellness.
  11. They want to succeed at the wellness game instead of starting diets only to stop.
  12. They want to close the gap between where they are today and where they want to be in the future.

If you have tried countless diets only to go back to old eating habits or if you lack consistency in your exercise routine, health coaching may be for you. By exploring current behaviors, values, goals, habits, and motivation, a health coach can help you uncover what has been preventing you from reaching your goals.

© 2018 Darleen Barnard

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