5 Steps to Becoming a Health Coach
1. Decide if Health Coaching is Right for You
Working as a health coach is hard work. To be a successful health coach, you need to be self-motivated and driven. People will not just find you and throw money at you (though that did happen a couple of times.)
You have to put in the work to see the results. You have to study hard and be open to a lot of different ideas. You also have to be willing to accept that people will have different ideas than you do and that is okay.
A big part of working as a health coach is changing your clients’ relationships with food and allowing your clients to make their own decisions about their diets. Making judgments about your clients and their beliefs about food is a surefire way to lose a client. You must be ready to become a stronger person, to check your judgments at the door when you walk into a session.
Health coaching is different than working as a nutritionist because you are taking into account the whole picture of a client’s life. You are teaching them to make time for their relationships, their personal well being, their mental health, AND their diet and exercise. You aren’t just writing out a diet on a piece of paper and sending them out the door.
2. Research All the Available Schools
I chose the Institute for Integrative Nutrition because the credits are transferable to certain colleges. I also loved how the program was flexible, but also had deadlines. You had to stay on task, but you could still work full time and have a social life as well. I also felt like the Institute for Integrative Nutrition covers all your bases as far as exposing you to all of the dietary theories that you could be exposed to (there are 100 in the course), an emphasis on mental health, spiritual health, and a section on business development. To learn about the course structure, you can download a course syllabus and information packet here.
3. Take a Sample Course
If you want to see what it is like to take a class, I would highly recommend it. Most schools will let you take one for free. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition lets you take a class before signing up - you can do so here.
I think this is a great way to get a feel for the structure of the program that you are going to commit a year of your life to and what you will have to look forward to.
4. Reach Out to Other Health Professionals in Your Community
Find out about the available job opportunities in your area. Odds are, right off the bat, you won’t be starting your own business. Most likely, you will work for someone while you fine-tune your craft. Halfway through the program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, you can begin to work under a temporary certification, so building relationships early on can get your foot in the door somewhere and help you find a position. Chiropractors, fitness centers, mental health groups, weight loss centers, and naturopathic doctors offices are a good place to start.
Look around your city and see if there are jobs available and if they are jobs that you might enjoy. You might even be able to sit in at a job or two to get a feel for how things are.
5. Practice on Friends and Family
I cannot emphasize this enough. Meet with friends and family and ask them about their health goals. Ask them to keep logs of their meals and share them with you. Go over their logs and make judgment-free observations. "Did you notice that you went a few days without eating vegetables?" comes across much differently than "You don't eat enough vegetables, you should change that." Your goal is to empower your client.
If you enjoy this, you are probably off to a good start. The awkward part of health coaching is getting people to open up about relationships and mental health - ask your friends if they make time for themselves and practice self-care regularly. If you hate doing this, well, you might not enjoy being a health coach!
If this all appeals to you - check out the Institute for Integrative Nutrition!
If you still aren’t sure, do your research. Practice coaching yourself - read an excerpt from the school's book and work on building a Joyful, Balanced, and Healthy Life.
If you think this is for you, give it a shot and APPLY! (You will speak with someone from the school and find out even more about the program before you will be required to pay.)
**If you have any questions, ask away!