Does Health Coaching Work?

(NB: The terms “health coaching” and “coaching” are used interchangeably in this article).

(Spoiler Alert: the answer is YES)

Over 1,100 clinical trials and meta studies for Health Coaching conclude that:

  • Behavior change and results occur reliably when there is a helping relationship (coaching) that;
  1. Addresses an individual’s health and fitness goals,
  2. Is collaborative and motivating, and
  3. Encourages active learning.

Evidence from the majority of the research is that Health Coaching leads to improved outcomes (compared to non-coaching) in the following areas:

  • Increased weight loss
  • Better nutrition and diet
  • Increased strength and fitness
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved lifestyle habits
  • Improved self-image
  • Increased health knowledge
  • Improved self-care
  • Improved management of chronic conditions
  • Improved medication adherence
  • Decreased health-care costs

Studies On Health Coaching Effectiveness

  1. Ruth Wolever, PhD and her team produced a comprehensive review of the literature in the 2014 issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine (2013: 2 (4) 38–57), in which 800 studies were identified.
  2. The Evidence Center of the National Health Service did a detailed examination of 275 studies about Health Coaching to support behaviour change in the UK, Europe, North America, and other counties.
  3. Kivela, Elo, Kynga and Kaarianinen’s systematic review of studies with health coaching by professionals published in October 2014 included 13 studies with outcome measures. Results were that 11 of the 13 showed statistically significant improvement such as improved physiological measures (body weight loss, lower hemoglobin A1C), improved behavioral outcomes (increased physical activity) improved psychological outcomes (self-efficacy and mental health) and improved social outcomes (social support)
  4. In terms of empirical outcome research, several studies stand out. Frates, Moore, Lopez and McMahon, in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2011 90: No 12: 1074–1082 that found that health coaching led to improved outcomes in cardiovascular disease , diabetes, cancer pain and asthma. Vale, et al found a drop in cholesterol 3 times higher with coaching versus the control group. The Whittemore study with coaching and diabetes found “better diet self-management, less diabetes related distress and higher satisfaction with care.” Wolever’s et al study of patients with type 2 diabetes found significant education in hemoglobin A1C among those with baseline over 7.
  5. WebMD Health Services found that individuals who completed coaching program had $507 per person, per year in decreased health-related costs — and 72.6% of high-risk and 61.6% of moderate-risk participants in the program improved one or more modifiable health risks.
  6. In a first-of-its-kind study on the impact of health coaching on a behavioral weight loss program showed that participants who worked with a professional health coach lost more body weight than those working with a mentor.
  7. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported results of a study done to examine health plan members’ satisfaction and success with voluntary telephonic health coaching. It concluded that such coaching programs can be an effective way to help patients achieve their wellness goals related to healthy weight, healthful eating, and physical activity. Of those participants who had completed 2 or more coaching sessions, 70% reported being satisfied with the program and 71% would recommend health coaching.
  8. Wikipedia notes that several studies have shown Health Coaching to be effective in improving various aspects of health:
  • One study on type 2 diabetes concludes that after six months, individuals who were coached showed improvement in medication adherence. Coaching had a positive effect on patients’ knowledge, skill, self-efficacy and behavior change while a non-coached control group did not show any improvement. [16]
  • A study on coronary heart disease indicated that patients in a coaching program achieved a significantly greater change in total cholesterol of 14 mg/dl than the non-coached patients, with a considerable reduction in LDL-C. Those involved in the coaching program showed improvements in secondary outcomes such as weight loss, increased exercise, improved quality of life, less anxiety, and improvement in overall health and mood.[17]
  • Another study shows that telephonic coaching is an effective program for assisting individuals with self-efficacy and weight loss. Confidence to lose weight increased from a baseline of 60% to 71% at three months, 76% at 6 months and 79% at 12 months. The average body mass index significantly decreased during this interactive coaching study. Average baseline was 32.1%, and then documented at 3 months (31.4%), 6 months (31.0%), and 12 months (30.6%).[18]

More scholarly research oh Health Coaching here and in the Reference section below.

Who Uses A Health Coach?

Health Coaching is one of the biggest health trends according to

  • A 2015 survey by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM),
  • A 2016 survey by firm Survata,
  • Health Coaching has been rising in the top 20 health trends since 2010.

So exactly who is using Health Coaches and why?

  1. Physicians
  • Physicians have started using health coaches as a relatively new “value add” for their medical practices and it results in increased patient satisfaction and outcomes.
  • Traditionally doctors focus on addressing a patients chief complaint and make a diagnoses and proscribe a treatment.
  • While they almost always suggests improved “diet and exercise” to a patient, the truth is doctors are simply too pressed for time to review lifestyle habits or create personal health plans.

2. Hospitals

  • Similar to Physicians above, Hospitals also use Health Coaches (study here).

3. Business Leaders

  • Effective and busy leaders put health at the top of their list:
  • Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has stated that working out gives him at least four extra hours each day to be productive.
  • Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and ranked as the fifth wealthiest person on Earth, follows a disciplined gym routine to maintain his strength and stamina.
  • Elon Musk, founder Tesla and Spacex, co-founder PayPal and multibillionaire businessman works out regularly, swims, and plays tennis.
  • Tim Cook, CEO Apple Inc. is known to be a fitness freak and loves cycling,hiking, and hits the gym on a regular basis.
4

4. Celebrities

  • Celebrities such as Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men), Leonardo Di Caprio (The Revenant) and Gerard Butler (300) all use specialized Health Coaches including personal trainers to get them into shape for their movie roles.

5. Employers

  • An increasing number of employers are offering health coaching according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
  • Some companies offer “carrots” (such as discounts) to motivate employee health.
  • Other companies are finding that “sticks” (increase premiums) work better for increasing employee health.
  • The reason why? Health-related productivity losses account for 77% of all employee productivity losses according to this study.

6. Insurance Companies

  • Similar to Employers above, Insurance Companies use Health Coaches (study here).

7. Individuals

  • Survey firm Survata, asked 500 US adults about their awareness, interest and knowledge of health coaching and found that:
  • 80% have never been offered health coaching.
  • 66% of people who want health coaching want it to “feel better”.
  • 60% wanted health coaching.
  • 60% of people prefer digital health coaching.
  • Twice as many people have been offered coaching by their health plan than by their doctor.
  • 40% of people think coaching would take longer than 6 months to achieve results.
  • (Studies show it can happen in as little as 1 month).
  • People age 65+ are least likely to want health coaching.

Does Online Coaching Work?

Traditionally, individual coaching is done face-to-face and is usually confined to a fixed setting. Technologies like smartphones and wireless internet can now replicate the functions of an in-person session. The result?

Face-to-face coaching is evolving to online coaching.

Geographical locations and fixed schedules are no longer barriers because online (sometimes also known as digital) coaching can be done via phone, video conference, email, text message, WhatsApp, FaceBook and a myriad of other apps.

A study published in The Annual Review of Public Health highlights the effectiveness of digitally enable health promotion in improving positive behavior change and improved outcomes among patients. This analysis focused specifically on mobile text-message strategies and concludes:

“Our review found that the majority of published text-messaging interventions were effective when addressing diabetes self-management, weight loss, physical activity, smoking cessation, and medication adherence.”

This conclusion is strengthened by other recent meta-studies such as Mobile Text Messaging for Health: A Systematic Review of Reviews that showed :

Remote telephonic and web-based health promotion yielding nearly identical positive behavior change and outcomes with patients to regular face-to-face visits.

A 2011 study on the Comparative Effectiveness of Weight-Loss Interventions in Clinical Practice published in the New England Journal of Medicine found:

“In two behavioral interventions, one delivered with in-person support and the other delivered remotely, without face-to-face contact between participants and weight-loss coaches, obese patients achieved and sustained clinically significant weight loss over a period of 24 months.”
  • This research compared the effectiveness of face-to-face visits with patients against health promotion through telephonic and web-based remote strategies for weight loss among patients with at least one cardiovascular risk factor.
  • The control group in this study, who was tasked with pursuing “self-directed weight loss” saw almost no improvement — lost an average of 0.8 kg, compared to the average 4.6 kg and 5.1 kg lost by remotely coached and in-person coached patients respectively.

Studies like these highlight the effectiveness of digitally enabled health intervention strategies and hint at the massive potential for digital Health Coaching programs in the future.

Does online health coaching work? In a word, ‘Yes’.

Is Online Coaching Right For You?

Online health coaching is part of a broader trend of digital health, fitness apps and wearables, and telemedicine.

And online coaching has clearly been shown to work.

Online coaching is well suited for busy people on the go with no spare time, those who travel a lot, and those who don’t like going to the gym.

Here is a short checklist to see if online coaching is right for you:

Online Coaching Checklist

  1. The number one factor to consider in virtual coaching is your level of technology savvy.
  • Are you comfortable doing video conferencing or instant messaging on your smartphone or do you require a PC and IT support?

2. Does it fit your personality type?

  • Studies show that introverts tend to perform well in electronic conversations, and even prefer a healthy distance over face-to-face conversations.

3. Can you build bonds and express yourself easily in writing?

  • Aside from audio and video, much of your communication with your coach will be in text (email, text messages, etc).

What Are Your Health & Fitness Alternatives?

The health and fitness market is large and competitive. As a result there are many alternatives to choose from.

Most people try several alternatives in their pursuit of health and fitness. So let’s review your alternatives, and their costs and effectiveness.

How fast we progress through our heath and fitness alternatives depends on a couple of things:

  1. How much we want to “feel better”.
  2. How frustrated we are with our extra weight or low energy.
  3. Whether our doctor advised us to “be more healthy”.
  4. The value (price) we put on our health or image.
  5. Whether we have upcoming special event (wedding, reunion, vacation).
  6. Whether we compete in recreational sports (about 15% of the population).

When To Consider A Health Coach

Sooner or later your health or fitness plateaus or even gets worse:

  • You gain weight but can’t seem to lose it.
  • You can’t shake off your fatigue.
  • You can’t sustain healthy eating for more than a few days.
  • You can’t sustain a fitness program for more than a few weeks.
  • You realize you simply can’t keep going on the way you are now.
  • You realize if you could do it all by yourself, you should have done it by now.
Most of us know the fundamentals of healthy living, but are not consistently following them.

Eating right and exercising is not a new concept, and everyone knows the basics of nutrition and exercise.

The open secret of health is “eat your vegetables and go play outside with your friends”.

You know what you should be doing. But are you actually doing it?

It turns out that we humans need others for accountability, motivation and a sense of becoming and belonging. It’s the missing ingredient from health apps and fitness wearables.

Here are over 100 signs it might be time to consider a Health Coach to give you the support and structure you need to accomplish your health goals:

  1. You are not happy with the way you look or feel.
  2. You have reached a tipping point with your health, weight, energy level, or fitness.
  3. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  4. You doctor has advised you to “eat better and exercise more”.
  5. You have tried multiple diets and none of them worked for more than a few months.
  6. You have tried several exercise programs but just can’t seem to stick with them.
  7. You have tried multiple diets but still gained weight afterwards.
  8. You have tried different fitness programs over the years with no results to show for them.
  9. You have a bunch of unused exercise equipment sitting in your basement or garage.
  10. You are struggling to eat right and lose weight.
  11. You feel lost and just want someone to tell you exactly what you need to do.
  12. You have no time or interest in researching health or fitness.
  13. You stress-eat or binge on junk food.
  14. You used to have willpower, but now you struggle to stay motivated.
  15. You are not getting results from your current diet.
  16. You are not as productive as you used to be.
  17. You are not sleeping well.
  18. You want to be around to see your grandkids grow up.
  19. You are interested in playing recreational sports again.
  20. You have less libido than you used to.
  21. You are tired of hearing contradictory or piecemeal health advice.
  22. You would rather zone in front of the TV than play with your kids.
  23. You are stressed and finding it harder to deal with the pressure.
  24. You don’t have enough time or energy for yourself.
  25. You want to look good for your summer family vacation, school reunion, or wedding.
  26. You start a new health program with lots of enthusiasm, but then taper off.
  27. You can’t keep your New Years resolutions past February.
  28. You can’t resist sugar or junk food.
  29. You don’t like your pictures friends post in social media.
  30. You feel lost in the supermarket, kitchen, or gym.
  31. You saw yourself in the mirror one day and wondered what happened to you.
  32. You eat too much when dining out or traveling.
  33. You want to be a good health role model for your kids.
  34. You realize you can’t stay healthy all by yourself.
  35. You can’t get through the day without lots of coffee or energy drinks.
  36. You enrolled in a charity sports event to raise funds for a good cause.
  37. You know what to do, you just need some help to make sure you do it.
  38. You want to feel the same energy and enthusiasm you had when you were younger.
  39. You are too busy and can’t find time to eat right or exercise.
  40. You don’t have enough time for yourself after taking care of everybody else.
  41. You want to eat better and need someone to tell you exactly what to do.
  42. You have a chronic condition and need help following your doctor’s proscribed health protocol.
  43. You find it hard to maintain healthy habits when socializing with friends.
  44. You find it hard to eat healthy during vacations and family get-togethers.
  45. You would like easy and simple access to resources on nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle.
  46. You see that lots of health studies seem to contradict each other or seem faddish.
  47. You would like to lose weight quickly but safely.
  48. You would like to get fit quickly but without injury.
  49. You feel that something in your diet is causing problems with your health.
  50. You want eat better but your not sure how or struggle with temptations or stress eating.
  51. You have tried all the other non-coaching alternatives without success.
  52. You wake up exhausted.
  53. You can’t see your feet in the shower.
  54. You are experiencing nagging aches and pains.
  55. You don’t feel physically attractive.
  56. Your significant other commented on your unhealthy appearance.
  57. You want to start dating and/or are getting divorced.
  58. You wonder if you will be around to see your kids grow up, get married, and have grandkids.
  59. You can’t deny any longer that your health and fitness need to change.
  60. You are competing with younger co-workers who have more drive and energy.
  61. You ran out of holes in your belt and your clothes are too tight.
  62. You are tired of shopping for XXL clothes.
  63. You know you are not eating right and aren’t active enough.
  64. You worry that others judge your appearance as unhealthy or unfit.
  65. You want to look good naked.
  66. You want to live a long and productive life.
  67. You want to protect and take care of those you love.
  68. You want to enjoy life (and sex) more.
  69. You want to look better than your peers.
  70. You want to look younger without resorting to surgery.
  71. You want to feel stronger and more self confident.
  72. You want inspire your kids and family to be more fit and healthy.
  73. You are tired of buying baggy clothes to hide your body.
  74. You know if you don’t change you are going to have a heart attack … or worse.
  75. You are too tired to enjoy your life.
  76. You are afraid you will die of the same illness as your parents
  77. Your friends joke about your weight.
  78. You can barely function your job because you are exhausted
  79. You can’t remember the last time you saw your doctor for a checkup
  80. You feel vulnerable seeking out help
  81. You know you eat too much fast food
  82. You know you are too sedentary
  83. You can’t remember the last time you exercised
  84. You avoid hikes and camping trips because your not sure you can keep up
  85. You doubt your own ability to achieve self-mastery
  86. You are afraid of aging
  87. The pain of doing nothing feels worse than the pain of making changes
  88. A family or career crises is taking a toll on your health
  89. You wonder if you will be around for your kids
  90. You wonder why you are struggling so much to keep up with the pace
  91. You feel miserable about the numbers on your scale
  92. You feel like asking for help isn’t tough or manly
  93. Your afraid you will fail again if you try to lose weight or get fit
  94. You feel more and more depressed as your weight keeps climbing
  95. You don’t feel well physically
  96. You don’t like to have your picture taken
  97. You worry others judge you by your appearance
  98. You want the freedom to move comfortably and easily
  99. You want to indulge in pleasurable foods without guilt
  100. You want to feel attractive
  101. You hate feeling slow and lethargic
  102. You are ashamed buying larger size clothes
  103. You see you friends get healthy and think “I want to do that too”
  104. You want to win the battle of self-control with yourself
  105. You don’t want to wind up in assisted living later in life
  106. You haven’t had a good nights sleep for ages
  107. You are not sure where to begin changing your health or fitness
  108. You don’t have time to workout or go to the gym
  109. You can’t stay motivated
  110. You feel that man men are supposed to be strong
  111. You have pain from old injuries
  112. You feel too overwhelmed to start a health or fitness program

What Does A Health Coach Do?

Wikipedia defines Health Coaching as a process that facilitates healthy, sustainable behavior change by challenging a you to

  • Identify your values,
  • Develop your self-mastery skills,
  • Transform your goals into results.
The ultimate goal of a Health Coach is to improve your quality of life through healthy habits and effective changes.

Health coaching draws on the principles from positive psychology and the practices of motivational interviewing and goal setting. Many employers, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies are now referring patients to Health Coaches for support in bettering their lifestyles and overall health.

Health Coaches have a body of knowledge in healthy eating, fitness, stress management and life-balancing tools and techniques. They can create a plan for you based on your health history and goals, body type, and your past experiences with weight loss and exercise.

Health Coaching can be delivered in many formats including in person, by telephone and online and may be offered to individuals or groups.

“With a Health Coach as your wellness co-pilot, you’ll work together to develop a customized plan that takes your individual physical, emotional and lifestyle factors into account and fits with the way you live — and ultimately leads you to permanent, positive change.” — Dr. Frank Lipman, expert on sustainable wellness.

Types Of Health Coaches

There are several categories and types of Health Coaches (admittedly these are not formal definitions and overlap between types is possible).

I mention these definitions now because later they become important when selecting a health coach who is a good fit for your personality and needs (see How To Hire A Health Coach).

And its quite possible you don’t even need a Health Coach (see your non-coaching alternatives).

Health Coaches come in several varities. Here is your quick guide to tell them apart:

  1. Types of Health Coaches
  • There is a broad spectrum of Health Coaches. On one end, there are those who have no training or certifications. On the other are doctors and licensed medical practitioners who offer coaching as part of their services. Here are some of the most common types:
  • Health Coach: is a authority in multiple disciplines who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices in nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, etc. The majority of Health Coaches are certified.
  • Registered Dietitian: Someone who has formal schooling in the biology and biochemistry of the human body. RD’s must complete at least a bachelor’s degree, work in a supervisory program for approximately 1 year at a health care facility, and pass a national examination to get their license.
  • Nutritionist: There are no specific requirements for this term, with the result being that many different types of professionals who have a wide range of experience in wellness and nutrition calling themselves nutritionists.
  • Life or Holistic Coach: approaches every aspect of a person’s life — body, mind, and spirit — in relation to the whole. Typically health coaching is not their area of specialization.
  • Wellness Coach: this term is admittedly a bit fuzzy, falling somewhere between a Life or Holistic coach and a Health Coach. Many Wellness Coaches are not certified.
  • Personal Trainer: a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction. Most Personal Trainers are certified.
  • Naturalist Coach: while not always visibly identified as such, these coaches favor organic foods and are biased against processed foods and Western medicine.

2. Generalists versus Specialists

  • Health Coaches offer a variety of services that can be quite general or very specific.
  • At one end of the spectrum you can have life coaches who deal with health in very broad terms.
  • At the other end of the spectrum you can have Health Coaches who specialize in single issues such as nutrition or sports.
  • A good analogy are doctors:
  • At on end of the spectrum you have generalists like your family doctor (general practitioners aka GPs).
  • At the other end of the spectrum you have specialists like ENT’s (who only deal with ears, nose, and throat).
  • Why not use my doctor for my health and fitness?

3. Non-Targeted versus Niche

  • Health Coaches sometimes specialize in well-defined types of clients.
  • For instance there are niche health coaches such as coaches specializing in women’s health issues or coaches who specialize in executive health.
  • On the other hand, many Health Coaches offer general services such as ‘wellness’ that are ‘one size fits all’.
  • Here again, a good analogy again is your family doctor:
  • One the one hand, your doctor may be the one that happens to be closest to where you live (non-targeted).
  • On the other hand, given a choice you may prefer a doctor who speaks your native language or shares your cultural preferences (niche).

It’s up to you to decide if you’re comfortable with the level of training, specialization, experience, and type of coach you intend to hire.

If you have a particular health or fitness concern, ask about their experience working with individuals similar to you.

Benefits Of Using A Health Coach?

A Health Coach will give you specific insight and knowledge into how your body and mind work and what it needs in order to improve your health and fitness.

Research data shows demonstrable improvements in the health and fitness of people who use Health Coaches.

One problem is that the outcomes from health research studies are usually stated in clinical or technical terms for anonymous sample populations.

Likely you are more interested to know if YOU can personally benefit from a Health Coach.

Here are Health Coach benefits summarized in simpler terms:

  • Lose weight
  • Get stronger
  • Look younger
  • More motivated
  • Increased energy
  • Better sex
  • More time
  • More productive
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Less stress
  • Less fatigue
  • Sleep better
  • Better posture
  • Control cravings
  • Eat guilt-free
  • Less back pain
  • Reduce illness
  • Reduce disease symptoms
  • Reduced doctor’s visits
  • Keep weight off
  • Stay stronger
  • Live Longer

You can also achieve some of these benefits without a Health Coach.

A key difference is that a Health Coach provides a complete solution who can help you with:

  • Motivation,
  • Self-Sabotage,
  • Nutrition,
  • Fitness,
  • Stress,
  • Sleep,
  • Time Management
  • and most importantly create sustainable habits that will last your lifetime.
A Health Coach can be a helpful guide on your journey to living a healthier life. You can achieve your best health and you will be able to achieve your goals with a professional coach who has the proper knowledge and experience on your side.”

Are You Ready For Coaching?

Coachees who desire “success” are everywhere. Coachees who are willing to be coached to develop success skills — these are the exceptional ones.

Research and data are conclusive that Health Coaching is effective.

Nevertheless, coaching is not always right for some people.

As highlighted at the beginning of this article, coaching is not suitable for everyone and you have other alternatives.

If those alternatives have not been able to deliver or sustain the results you want, then you may be a candidate for health coaching.

Ask yourself if the following are true for you or not:

  1. Things Must Change
  • Believing that we should change is not enough.

2. I Must Change Things

  • Others can coach me, but I’m responsible

3. I Can Change Things

  • I created my current results, therefore I can also change them.

Any changes you make will only be temporary unless you make yourself — no one or nothing else — responsible for your own change.

Your temperament is important and you will still need to overcome obstacles even when using a coach.

Example: Many executives I health coach have a strong desire to learn and grow and create change. Several of them use coaches in other domains such business strategy, public speaking etc.

Do You Have The Right Mindset?

If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. — Henry Ford

Candidly ask yourself if you are coachable (hint: not everyone is).

  • Are you willing to do things differently and break away from your old patterns that produce unwanted results?
  • Are you prepared to put in the time, energy and work between coaching sessions to achieve new levels of success?
  • Will you hold yourself accountable to your coach and your agreed actions?
  • Are you willing to be open and completely honest with your coach?
  • Coaching relationships and your results move at the speed of self-honesty.

Make Sure You Are Ready To Do The Work

  • A coach can certainly help increase your motivation and sustain you through slumps that sometimes occur.
  • You should clearly understand that while a coach is responsible to you, they cannot be responsible for you.
  • Research indicates that that the desire to achieve the skills associated with success is more highly correlated with achievement then the desire for success for itself.

Be Prepared To Invest Your Time Into The Process

  • Sometimes you can overcome blocks or make positive changes in as little as one coaching session.
  • Many Health Coaches offer 3 or 6-month programs, although this may seem like a long amount of time, you are committing to your long term health.
  • It takes at least three months, if not longer, to make long lasting habit changes permanent.

Look At What Worked For You — And What Didn’t In The Past

  • Looking back to examine the underlying reasons why you are having trouble staying fit or healthy is important.
  • Are physical, mental or emotional reasons a factor?
  • It’s important to be comfortable honestly discussing those issues with your coach.
  • Interviewing and feeling comfortable and confident that your chosen Health Coach is the right one is important to your success.

Common Coaching Obstacles

Every person’s health situation is unique and personal obstacles must be addressed in order to create successful results. There are some obstacles that must be faced prior to the start of any coaching relationship.

Here are the five main obstacles that prevent people from working with a coach:

Fear

  • Fear of taking risks, failing, making mistakes, experimenting, seeking out challenges, and implementing new habits.
  • Fear you won’t be able to change your health behaviors.
  • Fear you won’t get the fitness results you want.
  • Fear you will get the results you want (odd as it seems, some people fear success).
  • Fear you’ll waste you time and money.
  • Fear that your spouse won’t support you.
  • Fear of what coworkers, friends or boss might say.
  • Fear the coach will disappoint you.

Cost

  • Cost is often at the forefront of everyone’s mind when considering paying for a service.
  • Health Coaches offer a variety of expertise and packages at difference price points.
  • Experienced coaches with a track record of results have higher fees.
  • Longer duration coaching packages offer higher discounts.
  • A Health Coach may offer the best bang for your buck.
  • Health Coaching is more cost effective than hiring a nutritionist and personal trainer separately.
  • Medical professionals are focused on the treatment of specific disease complaints.
  • Dietitians can talk about food but not exercise.
  • Personal trainers specialize in exercise but not nutrition.
  • Health Coaches that specialize in a niche can get you faster results because their expertise makes them more efficient.
  • A coach should be able to clearly explain their fee structure to you
  • Individual coaching sessions can cost from $125-$225
  • Monthly coaching can cost from $250-$500
  • A 3-month coaching package can cost from $750-$1,500
  • A 6-month coaching package can cost from $1,500-$2,500
  • A 12-month coaching package can cost from $2,500 and up
  • On average, health coaching costs $5–8 a day (about the same as a Starbucks or pack of cigarettes)
  • Longer duration coaching packages offer better value for money
  • Remember that the primary value in coaching comes from one-on-one time they spend with you, not from ebooks or video course
  • Many Health Coaches recommend entering a three to six month program — after all, you didn’t gain weight or become unfit overnight.
  • By the time your program is finished, you’ll have mastered the health and fitness skills you need for the rest of your life.
  • decades of quality life with loved ones (invaluable)
  • if you are a health role model, decades of quality life for your loved ones (invaluable)
  • You can’t really put a price on the time you can spend with your family or extra time to be healthy and make contributions to society. Not to mention the difference you make in the lives of others.

The Cost Of Doing Nothing

  • What happens if you don’t hire a Health Coach?
  • Each year, millions of people die preventable deaths.
  • Studies show that about half of all deaths in the United States are due to preventable behaviors and exposures.
  • Leading causes included cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, physical injuries, diabetes, and certain diseases.
  • This same study estimates that 400,000 people die each year in the United States due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.[2]
  • When your health declines, its often harder and more expensive to remedy/fix it
  • Prevention is 10–100X cheaper than treatment.
  • Repairing your body is expensive: $324,000 for open heart surgery according to Investopedia.
  • Average lifetime cost of a stroke is $100,000 for each survivor according to the American Stroke Association.
  • Two of the new cancer drugs cost more than $35,000 each per month of treatment according to the NY Times.
  • Heart stents are $23,000-$200,000.
  • Since 2010 the median price of typical cancer drugs has been around $10,000 per month. A decade ago the cost was $4,500
  • Total retirement health care expenses for that 45-year-old couple planning to retire at age 65 will come to $592,275 in today’s dollars and $1.6 million in future dollars, HealthView Services projects (the projection assumes the male member of the couple will live to 87 and the female to 89).
  • You’ll have to spend time going to doctors and specialists; copays for appointments and medications; out of pocket expenses; pain and possibly suffering.
  • out-of-pocket cost savings on prescription medications (~$100’s-$1000's)
  • out-of-pocket cost savings on medical copays (~$100’s)
  • long term chronic disease management (~$10,000+)
  • needless sick days (potentially months over your lifetime)

Lack Of Time

  • A common objective to getting Health Coaching is that people are too busy and don’t have enough time.
  • In my experience you can achieve good health and fitness in as little as 1 hour a week as follows:
  • 10 minutes for nutrition (30sec food logging x 21 meals)
  • 10 minutes cardiovascular fitness (10 high intensity intervals)
  • 10 minutes strength training (5 bodyweight exercises x 2 minutes each)
  • 30 minutes coaching session (generally can be done online)
  • The general rule-of-thumb that Health Coaching “pays for itself” in terms of increased energy and productivity.
  • Richard Branson states that working out 1 hour gives him 4 extra hours a day of productivity
  • At the very minimum you can expect to “break even” on the time and money you spend on your health,
  • PLUS you will feel better, look better, live better, and live longer.

Self-Sabotage

  • These are typical mindset obstacles and self-sabotage that coaches see in coaches:
  • Coachee wants coach to fix them, but really they DON’T want to be fixed.
  • Coachee didn’t anticipate the commitment they’d have to make to achieve their specfic goal.
  • Coachee didn’t realize what was possible and underestimated their own capabilities.
  • Coachee wasn’t fully conscious of all of their motivations and didn’t want exactly what they thought they wanted.
  • A significant person does not support (or objects to) coachee changing their diet or fitness routine.

What to Look For In A Health Coach

There are two basic rules for hiring a coach:

  1. Make sure that you are ready and willing to be coached.
  2. Choose a coach who fits your needs and you are willing to work with.

According to Harvard Business Review, these are the ranked success factors to consider when hiring a coach, health or otherwise:

  1. Coaching Experience and Track Record (65%)
  2. Clear Written Coaching Methodology (61%)
  3. Quality Client References (50%)
  4. Return On Investment (32%)
  5. Coaching Certification (29%)
  6. Similar Role Experience (27%)
  7. Psychology Training (13%)

(percentages indicate those who rated factor as ‘Most Important’)

  1. Coaching Experience and Track Record
  • Experienced coaches cost more but are also more effective at getting results quickly (and thus are a good value for your money).
  • Coaches who have dealt with many clients will be more versatile and offer more tools and techniques to support you.
  • Example: The Healthy Executive’s focus on personal health psychology is unique in an industry full of gym trainers, yoga classes, and registered dietitians.

2. Clear Written Coaching Methodology

  • Different coaches use different motivation techniques and health methodologies.
  • Example: Some coaches rely on pre-defined templates for nutrition or exercise, while others rely more on psychological motivation and behavioral feedback.
  • Top Health Coaches are very clear about what what they can deliver and what they do and don’t do.
  • If a prospective coach can’t tell you exactly what methodology they use — what they do and what outcomes you can expect — move on.

3. Quality Client References

  • Although coaching experience and clear methodologies are important, a great credential is satisfied clients.
  • Before you sign on the dotted line with a Health Coach, make sure you talk to a few clients they have coached before.
  • Many Health Coaches will provide you with client references.
  • Previous clients should be willing to talk with you about their coaching experience and health results.

4. Return On Investment

  • Hiring a versatile Health Coach is more cost effective than separately hiring a personal trainer, nutritionist, meal plan, etc.
  • A Health Coach should be able to explain what health outcomes are feasible for your particular situation.
  • They should also clearly explain why their programs and rates are structured the way the are, and what their refund policy is.
  • Many Health Coaches require you work with them for a sufficient period (ie. 3–9 months) to ensure that build health habits achieve and behavioral changes that produce sustainable results.

5. Coaching Certification

  • Although Health Coaching is not a licensed industry (anyone can call themselves a health or wellness “coach”), it is a distinct profession.
  • Trained and certified Health Coaches are taught specific strategies, techniques, methodologies and tools to help clients in the process of lifestyle transformation.
  • A Health Coach should be able to provide you with evidence of their training and certification in nutrition, fitness or exercise, and coaching psychology.

6. Similar Role Experience

  • As noted above by Harvard Business Review, coaching chemistry is an essential ingredient in achieving results.
  • Good chemistry is more likely if your coach shares a similar background or role as yourself.
  • Most coaches make their niche or specialty clear as an aid to help you identify them easier
  • For example, I specialize in coaching executive men.

7. Psychology Training

  • Certified Health Coaches are taught to apply core competencies of coaching psychology drawn from:
  • evidence-based behavioral psychology,
  • counseling,
  • motivational interviewing,
  • positive psychology,
  • adult learning theory,
  • and solution-oriented analysis.
  • A coach should be able to provide you with evidence of their coaching psychology training .
  • A professional coach will have Supervision (this where the coach is audited by a Master Coach)

How To Hire A Health Coach

Prior to talking with a prospective coach, you should decide what type of Health Coach best suits your needs and personality.

Research data supports this emphatically: Willingness and good chemistry were by far the most frequently cited ingredients of a successful coaching relationship.

  1. Shop Around Before You Commit
  • A great place to start is with a referral from a friend or colleague.
  • Explore the websites of potential coaches where you can find lots of information about a coach’s background, training and style.
  • Most coaches offer a complimentary session or consultation so talk with with several coaches before making a decision.
  • Many online coaches work with busy people work by phone, Face Time, Skype, etc.
  • Working with a coach in this way gives you flexibility based on your schedule and location.

2. Do They Understand Your Health And Fitness Goals?

  • Your goals are the first thing you and your Health Coach will discuss. For example:
  • Is weight loss your primary goal?
  • Are you dealing with underlying health issues or an illness?
  • Do you want more energy?
  • Whatever your reasons are for getting healthy, they should be what motivate you.
  • Make sure you feel that your prospective coaching is working towards your goals, and not trying to fit you into their standardized template or program.

3. Ask About Personalized Plans.

  • Your health or fitness objectives are specific to your personal needs and circumstances. A good coach use your goals, preferences, needs, and time limitations to design a health and fitness program that works just for you.
  • Are you improving your performance or your mindset?
  • Do you want to overcome limiting behaviors or habits?
  • No nutrition or exercise plan is one-size-fits-all.
  • You are a unique individual with specific biochemical and physiological needs.
  • Many peoples bodies can respond differently to the same food or exercise.

4. Ask How They Work With Real-world Circumstances:

  • Helpful coaches understand the real world. They know you are busy and don’t have the time to shop for obscure foods designer health food stores or go to them gym 9 times a week.
  • A good health coach will take into account the real-world context of your health such as your family and social support, work stress, travel schedule, etc.
  • They will work within your schedule and circumstances to create an affordable nutrition and exercise program to reach your goals.

5. What Are Their Tools For Helping You Get Unstuck?

  • Everyone hits plateaus. Many people seek the help of a Health Coach when they’re stuck. Even though you’re doing everything correctly, the scales aren’t budging. You’ve tried to make changes but have found blocks, resistance and challenges.
  • That’s where a Health Coach comes in. They’re problem solvers who can connect the metabolic dots and evaluate nutrition, fitness, stress, and other lifestyle that might be stalling your progress.
  • Usually when clients are “stuck,” it’s because they haven’t explored the physiological, motivational, or stress factors that affect their health.
  • Ask your prospective Health Coach what their approach is for addressing psychological areas.
  • You want to be comfortable when exploring fears, resistance, self-sabotaging behaviors and self-defeating beliefs.

6. Can Your Health Coach Keep Up With You?

  • Can they follow your train of thought as you shift between phone, text, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, and a myriad of other apps?
  • Is your coach available 7 days a week?
  • Do they offer a guaranteed response time for communications between scheduled sessions?
  • Response times and availability are key factors when coaching across multiple time zones and geographies.

7. When Would A Coach Refer You To A Licensed Medical Provider?

  • It’s important your Health Coach be clear with you what their scope of practice is.
  • Most Health Coaches are not medically trained and are not licensed to diagnose or treat medical illness.
  • Just because a Health Coach has worked with people with a certain lifestyle diseases doesn’t mean they’re certified or qualified to treat you medically.
  • A good Health Coach will know their limitations and be willing to discuss them with you.
  • They should be comfortable admitting, “I don’t know how to help you with this” or saying, “I think a more thorough work-up by a health care provider is needed.”

8. How Do They Hold You Accountable?

8.1 A Health Coach kindly but firmly holds you accountable for your behaviors and results.

8.2 Because they care about your success, a Health Coach will take every measure to ensure adherence.

8.3 At the same time, they’re not babysitters or responsible for your behaviour.

8.4 Occasionally they will give you a little tough love, but only because they want you to excel in your goals.

8.5 Most Health Coaches will set up weekly one-on-one sessions with progress check-ins during the week.

8.6 Some Health Coaches will make themselves available to you between sessions handle any unexpected situations you might encounter.

9. How Do They Handle Confidentiality?

  • There are two key aspects of health Coaching confidentiality you should consider:

9.1 The first is your workplace privacy.

9.2 The second is your health data privacy, particularly for online coaches.

  • You should ask a prospective coach what systems they use to protect your data and maintain compliance with:
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) in the US
  • American Medical Association Telehealth Guidelines
  • Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC in Europe
  • Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) in Canada
  • Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

10. Personal Compatibility

  • After talking with a prospective Health Coach you should have good sense whether you have good chemistry with them.
  • Is your coach good match for you?
  • Do you trust their references?
  • You should have a clear sense that the Health Coach is someone you like, can trust, and has your best interests in mind.
  • A good coach not only lets you speak: they really hear what you have to say.
  • A coach is confidante and provides positive encouragement (or in some cases, just listen).
  • Health Coaches use a variety of coaching approaches and styles.
  • For example, nutrition styles might include the use of a food diary, teaching about different dietary theories, reading food labels, looking at the emotional aspect of eating, proper portion sizes and caloric needs.
  • For example, fitness styles might include the use of strength training, cardio, high intensity intervals, bodyweight, or natural movement.
  • Not all clients response to the same approach, so make sure your prospective Health Coach is flexible and can offer you more than one approach.

What to Expect from Your Health Coach

“’I’ve never worked with a coach before, just what can one do for me?”

A Health Coach offers a complete array of expert advice concerning nutrition, fitness, exercise, motivation, behavioral change, diet, health history, etc. that make sense for your unique personality and circumstances.

A Health Coach works with you to create your personalized lifestyle plan that targets the strategies to overcome your health obstacles.

Together, you will explore your health issues and fitness goals and examine the barriers to achieving those goals.

Here are some things a Health Coach can do for you:

  • Work with you to determine the best nutrition for your goals
  • Guide you on the best exercises for your fitness goals
  • Educate you on self-care and relaxation
  • Make food upgrade and recipe recommendations for you and your family eating style
  • Show you stress-reducing methods that work for you and your lifestyle
  • Health Coaches coaches teach.
  • They will tell you how to do something, why you should do it, and and the results you should expect.
  • Health Coaches improve your health and fitness by patiently encouraging you.
  • Health Coaches individualize your support process, according to who you are, your goals, your life, and never give you a “one size fits all” approach..
  • Health Coaches motivate, but they can’t do your pushups for you.
  • Health Coaches set goals and project your fitness, or life, into the future.
  • For example, where will you be 90 days from now, 6 months or a year?
  • Every workout should be part of a longterm plan with an expected outcome.
  • If the Health Coach can’t, or won’t, do this, get a different coach.
  • A Health Coach will help you get out of your own way pointing out the behaviors that aren’t working for you.
  • It is good to be challenged and it is good to get an independent perspective.
  • A Health Coach should challenge you to your limits, but never push you harder than your capabilities.
  • A Health Coach should have the depth to keep you challenged as you progress.
  • In other words, as you get better, he or she has more techniques to help you maintain progress.
  • Any good coach will have enough knowledge to keep you moving over time.
  • Health Coaches understand that your goals are your goals and should never impose their personal standards onto you.

Heath Coaches Provide You With Context:

  • To provide a experienced, objective perspective
  • Complete confidentiality
  • The opportunity to “vent”
  • To observe the line between coaching, medicine and therapy
  • To show genuine concern for your welfare and future
  • To demonstrate respect for your perceptions, learning style
  • To be “present and flexible,” attentive to your needs during the coaching session
  • To help you achieve your goals
  • To provide information and tools that are useful to you
  • To provide you with resources that you probably wouldn’t have found or sought on your own
  • To be accessible when needed as a sounding board

Health Coaches Motivate You To Action:

  • To inspire you, provide encouragement, offer effective strategies to overcome your obstacles, and help you persevere to stay the course.
  • To empower you and teach you practical, easy-to-implement strategies to handle nutrition or exercise with confidence and clarity.
  • To “role-play” situations you want to rehearse before you attempt them
  • To bring out the best in you, and challenge you to stretch your “comfort zone”
  • To tailor your sessions to your needs
  • To communicate the goals of your coaching agreement
  • To establish clear agreements and keep promises
  • To integrate and build on your ideas and suggestions
  • To ask questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment and action
  • To help you see new viewpoints and find new possibilities for action
  • To brainstorm with you and assist you with defining actions that enable you to demonstrate, practice and deepen new learning
  • To challenge your assumptions and perspectives to provoke new ideas
  • To help you stay on track between sessions by holding attention on the coaching plan and outcomes, agreed-upon course of action and topics for future sessions

What A Health Coach Can’t Do:

  • Diagnose, treat, or cure disease
  • Write prescriptions
  • Guarantee success
  • Give you a magic pill for instant results

The Health Coaching Process

Health Coaches usually talks with you every week or every other week.

This allows you to take time to implement the changes discussed in the previous session.

  • The longer you commit to a Health Coach and their program, the better results you will see.
  • These programs typically include more hands-on attention and education.

The weekly check-in session is where you and your Health Coach will review your progress, set new goals, identify obstacles, and find solutions.

During weekly coaching conversations, you’ll review progress on the past week, identify any difficulties encountered, strategize around roadblocks, and set action goals for the upcoming week.

  • You can expect a session with your coach to last between 30 and 55 minutes.

Most Health Coaches will provide follow-up phone calls or text messages to make you stay on the right track.

They will also provide additional materials, such as health and fitness tutorials, articles, and even books to help educate you on healthy living.

The average Health Coaching relationship lasts anywhere from three months to a year — it depends on you and your goals.

  • Occasionally, a month or even a single coaching conversation can have a powerful impact.
  • Although most Health Coaches have a standard package for first-time clients, many are willing to create a package based on the client’s ultimate goal, time constraints and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Not My Doctor?

There is very clear distinction between a doctor and a health coach. The doctor treats acute conditions; the Health Coach helps patients help themselves. The doctor prescribes; the coach motivates and builds confidence. The doctor relies on skills and expert knowledge; the coach relies on patient self-awareness and insights. The doctor strives to have all the answers; the coach strives to help patient’s discover their own answers. The doctor focuses on the problem; the coach focuses on what is working well. And finally, the doctor advises and the coach collaborates.

While doctors are getting better at informing their patients when their body mass index is too high, they often do not tell them how to lose weight.

Fat? Your Doctor Can’t Help

Many doctors report they don’t have time to talk to patients about health strategies, while others struggle with being overweight or unhealthy themselves and feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with a patient. Many doctors simply haven’t been trained.

Why Not A Dietician or Personal Trainer?

Many clients have worked with trainers or dietitians, both of whom are qualified to help people within their subject-matter expertise, but may not always have the knowledge or skills to help people make changes they can sustain for the long-term (once the prescribed diet or exercise program ends).

A Health Coach may offer the best bang for your buck.

  • Health Coaching is more cost effective than hiring a nutritionist and personal trainer separately.
  • Dietitians can talk about food but not exercise.
  • Personal trainers specialize in exercise but not nutrition.
  • Medical professionals are focused on the treatment of specific disease complaints.

Most people know exactly what they need to do in terms of eating better and exercising more. It’s taking action on this knowledge that is the challenge. Health Coaches are trained to ask the tough questions that will have you exploring your deepest motivations for change, and connecting your goals and behavior so that acting on what you know you need to do becomes second nature.

Why Not A Life Coach?

Coaches come from all kinds of backgrounds and careers. The common thread amongst them all is a deep and strong desire to help people thrive and reach their fullest potential.

There is a core difference between a life coach and a Health Coach. Life coaches may come from any field of education or experience, and they often help people make broader changes in their lives (relationships, parenting, organization, careers, etc.) rather than specializing in health-related goals. A certified Health Coach has a background specifically in a health-related field (fitness, nutrition, medicine, psychology, etc.). Many have worked in the health field for several years before adding coaching to their services. For most, health coaching is an extension of the work that they have already been doing.

Health Coaches believe that wellness is the foundation of personal growth and development. So, no matter why you hire any type of coach, the coach begins with a focus on self-care. Change is difficult, and when working to reach your greatest potential in your health or fitness, the Health Coach believes you must begin with a healthy perspective (i.e. ‘take care of yourself first’).

Health Coaching is not an evolution of Life coaching; it is a different specialty. Health Coaches help people develop individualized strategies for improving their health, exercise and eating. Life coaching addresses the individual’s entire life.

Coaching vs. Consulting vs. Therapy?

It is important to understand that Health Coaching is not therapy. Coaching recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. Individuals come to coaching when they are eager to make changes in their lives that they believe will lead to higher functioning, health and/or happiness. They are asking how to learn new skills and behaviors that they can incorporate into their routines to better their lives.

Therapy, on the other hand, begins with the premise that the patient is in need of healing. It is often a result of a clinical diagnosis such as eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or dysmorphia. People who choose therapy generally feel that they are not functioning well, and are seeking greater self-understanding by exploring the reasons why they feel this way. Often, the therapeutic conversation is exploring old issues, past emotional pain and discomfort with a desire to find resolution and healing from the past.

Health Coaches never diagnose a client or write prescriptions, and the coaching conversation is present and future-oriented. Health Coaches may spend time looking back to learn from your experience in order to use that knowledge to help you move forward. It is imperative that the Health Coach knows when to refer a potential or current client to a therapist (also know as ‘referring out’). Occasionally, clients might be working with a therapist and Health Coach at the same time.


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