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What is a health coach? Do I need one?

October 18, 2021 katiegibbas

What is a health coach? Do I need one?

October 18, 2021 Katie Gibas
Smiling woman and wellness coach

Health coaching is becoming more popular. Recent numbers show more than 128,000 people are health coaches. That’s up 9% from 2006 and projected to grow at a faster rate in the next few years, as some surveys show more than 60% of Americans want health coaching.

In fact, the State University of New York at  Buffalo’s Wellness Coaching Program is in its third year and has already more than tripled its enrollment. Participants in the program have said, “It’s a very calm, no-pressure environment where the coach cares about your situation and wants to help you. You get to choose what you are going to do about your problems, and the coach is there to help you brainstorm and hold you accountable.” 

What is a health coach?

“Health coaches are trained professionals such as registered nurses and dietitians, nutritionists and social workers. Most health plans provide free access to health coaches to help you reach your wellness goals in the areas of weight management, stress, tobacco cessation and more,” says Jennifer Johengen-Vogel, RN, CCM, Vice President, Health Management at Highmark Western and Northeastern New York. They can help create a plan to “identify and overcome barriers and understand what resources are available in the community or through your health plan.”

Both Harvard Medical School and Cleveland Clinic describe a health coach as “your personal health cheerleader, guide and partner” to help you achieve healthier and happier lives.

Health coaches or wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his/her life while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental,” says Sharlynn Daun-Barnett, coordinator of UB’s Wellness Coaching Program.

Jon and Alena Winters completed a one-year online curriculum through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become certified integrative nutrition health coaches and now run Living Wellness and Yoga. “A health coach’s primary goal is to meet their clients where they are right now, helping them to find balance in all areas of their life: nutrition, physical activity, relationships, career, and spirituality, and supporting them to become their happiest and healthiest self,” they say.

These health and wellness coaches say they can also work in conjunction with their client’s medical team as an advocate for their overall treatment plan.

Who can benefit from a health coach?

Studies have found many people can benefit from lifestyle health coaching, and even if it’s administered remotely or virtually, it is effective in modifying behaviors and risk factors for chronic conditions.

Kim Fenter, ND, CHNC, is a health coach at Audubon Women’s Medical Associates, P.C.  “Anyone who desires to improve their health and wellness, anyone who is concerned about their weight and is looking for guidance and accountability, anyone who is feeling sluggish and uncomfortable in their own skin…the key word is anyone can benefit from a health coach,” she says.

Fenter helps her clients focus on creating healthy habits, setting and achieving personal goals that empower them and discovering an inner confidence to help them create the life they desire.

How do you find the right health coach for you?

“The right health coach for you is the one that you feel most comfortable with,” says Alana Winters. “Your health coach should listen to you, support and guide you toward your goals and challenge you on your journey to your happiest and healthiest self.”

If you’re not sure where to start, ask for recommendations from your medical team, friends, or family.

Fenter says it’s important to interview potential health coaches to help choose the one who makes you feel the most comfortable. . “Finding the right health coach for you is very personal. You want to meet with a health coach before working with them so you are able to convey your personal struggles, habits, successes and goals. You want to be sure that the personality of your coach is right for you… Do you respond to positive reinforcement and guidance, or do you respond better to firm guidelines that are not flexible or designed for you personally?”

Katie Gibas

Katie spent 12 years as a journalist, including hosting a monthly national Healthy Living show. You can usually find Katie and her husband traveling, skiing, and scuba diving. Of course, Katie is a huge Bills fan, even naming her dog Chug Flutie.

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