What It’s Really Like to Be a Health & Wellness Coach

behind the curtain

Maybe you’ve been thinking about becoming a health and wellness coach but haven’t jumped in because you’re not exactly sure what it’s like. Or, maybe you’ve already dipped your toes in the water and started practicing but have either stagnated or lost focus. Either way, you’re probably wondering what it’s really like to be a fully committed health and wellness coach. We recently talked to two amazing coaches, both of whom were among the first group to become nationally board certified, and who pulled back the curtain to reveal what drives their coaching passion.

More than diet and fitness

Many people new to the idea of health and wellness coaching think that it’s all about teaching people to eat better and exercise more. And, while diet and fitness are definitely part of the larger picture, overall wellness comes from a multi-faceted approach that digs much deeper.

“My favorite type of client is someone who doesn’t yet have that spark of ‘I can do it, I can try this, I can stretch myself,’” says Jamie Cook, a nationally board certified coach and registered nurse who has been professionally coaching in corporate wellness since 2014. “That is really unique to the coaching relationship, because that’s not something that will have been drawn out of them in other avenues in their life.”

What Jamie’s talking about is discovering that need within a client–and it varies with every client–and how coaching can help them identify and fulfil that need by identifying and removing the roadblocks.

We also talked to another long-time coach, Cindy Dagg, who has been professionally coaching in corporate wellness for over eight years. For Cindy, it’s about giving clients a “comfortable space to be uncomfortable.” She gives an example of a smoker or an obese person, where significant change needs to occur.

“The stages of change really come into play here,” she says. “It’s very methodical.”

For the smoker who may not actually be ready to quit, it’s about building up trust and a strong relationship, and finding out the reason behind the behavior. For obesity, there can be so many struggles going on: self-confidence, depression, stress.

“Once they see change start to happen, it changes their whole life,” she says. “I’m walking along on their journey. I love giving the hope and encouragement.”

You learn more about yourself.

Cindy says she was always an active person throughout her life–a triathlete who also enjoys mountain biking, skiing, and hiking, and considered herself to be generally healthy. But during her training and research, she discovered that maybe she wasn’t the best version of herself.

“I always bring up the fact that you never really know how bad you felt until you start feeling really good with my clients, because they also think they’re pretty healthy and I can relate to that,” she says. “But when we start making those little changes, like stopping soda or getting a little bit more active, you really see a difference.”

Jamie says her experience has increased her empathy and improved her personal communication skills, which, in turn, has made her a better nurse.

“I really feel that coaching style can spill over into so many different areas,” she says, adding that her family life is one of those bonus areas. “Our whole home life has an emphasis on big picture wellness and the different dimensions of wellness.”

You are the catalyst for real change.

Jamie talks about a client who initially only wanted help establishing a fitness routine that she would stick to after having failed for years to be consistent and see results. But through their conversations, Jamie discovered that her client’s work-life balance was off-kilter, her stress level was high, and her sleep and nutrition were lacking. All of these things were pieces to the bigger puzzle of why her client couldn’t stick to a routine.

“So, we put a little pin in the exercise and weight loss and talked about some of these other things,” says Jamie. “Through our conversations, she addressed those obstacles preventing her from exercising and losing weight.” They worked on her work-life balance so that she had more family time, which improved her relationships with her spouse and children. They prioritized sleep and nutrition, which gave her more energy throughout the day. The exercise and weight loss was almost a by-product of those key issues.

“It was really amazing to see that kind of growth across the board,” says Jamie.

Now that you’ve heard a little about what it’s really like to be a health and wellness coach, it’s time to take action. If you’ve been on the fence about coaching, think about the insights shared above and what your own personal strengths are. How can you help other people out there, and what can you learn about yourself in the process? If you’re already coaching but feeling stagnant, the same advice applies. Look to your strengths, and what ignited your passion in the beginning. What small changes can you make to reset your path?

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