So what exactly is a health coach and how are they different from a nutritionist or dietitian? Health coaching has been around for the last several decades and no one knows what they are!?! I am wondering how that is possible, so I am going to try to change that and would like to clear the air so people can stop getting confused. A health COACH holds a certification, not a degree. This means they have taken part in a program that certifies them once they have completed the courses. Many of these professionals could also hold degrees, certifications or licenses in other areas of practice; a health coach however purely requires a certification.
Health coaches are trained in many areas not just dietary theories. Additionally, they have a focus in stress management, disease prevention and finding balance in everyday life. The common engagement requires looking at all areas of a person’s existence to determine which lifestyle choices could be causing potential health issues. This sometimes means that they look at other areas of a persons life, including why you can’t stand your job or why you haven’t gotten anything out of the relationship you’re in. They are there to lend support and to guide you through your journey to better health.
A friend of mine once explained it beautifully, “A health coach is like a regular coach, we stand on the sidelines and let the players do their thing; guiding them and training them where they need it but ultimately they are the ones that do the work.” Health coaches usually work independently from an office, training center, yoga studio, wellness center or other wellness settings. Some work alongside doctors and other health professionals and they tend to integrate themselves into the wellness community.
Many people also get health coaches confused with personal trainers. There are some people that are personal trainers and health coaches but fitness isn’t something we purely focus on as health coaches. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to be fit and plays a big part in your health, but generally we aren’t going to tell you to start running or lifting kettle bells to help you with your health problems. Okay, now that its cleared up…….moving on!
Now, a registered dietitian has formal schooling. They must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in health science and have one year experience working in a medical facility under supervision. They are also required to pass a national exam to obtain their license. So that’s a lot of schooling and training! They are also overseen by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which may be cool and all because everyone likes standards; but they have to adhere to certain guidelines when working with individual’s health needs. They also aren’t really trained in things unrelated to dietary practice.
There are some who focus outside of symptom and disease management but they aren’t trained to facilitate change in non-dietary aspects of life. So chances are you will be talking to someone who will look at more of what you’re eating and less on the fact that you have been fighting with your spouse and it is causing you to binge eat.
Dietitians do however have an in with doctors which makes them more accessible with insurance and collaborating with the medical community; this is where they have an advantage over health coaches. They also have a background heavy in science and theory. So they understand the human body and how it functions on a scientific level but as we learned growing up in this harsh harsh world we are all unique individuals that may look similar but are very different.
This is mostly just a title that people are familiar with and feel comfortable with. There is no education requirements and no legality behind the title. This can get confusing because dietitians, health coaches, personal trainers and many other people with different backgrounds use this term. There is no regulation for this term and you must proceed with caution when consulting with somebody using this title because it varies in meaning and educational background.
In a nutshell (Look at the size of this nutshell! My god that’s a lot of omega 3s!) we all have a passion for working with health, wellness and that wonderful relationship we all have with food but we all have different levels of education and different approaches to our practice. I guess at the end of the day you need to decide who is a better fit for your wellness goals. If you want someone to look at you as a whole and be there as a support system (like best friend/ healing hippy/ mentor for inner mind body connection), then try a health coach. If you’re looking for more the mainstream medical approach try one of those other guys. They should be just as much fun…..right? Boy that didn’t sound biased or anything….
As always you can email me at wellnesssidekick.com with any questions or a topic you would like to cover next. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!