Nutrition and health coaching is a specialisation in the field of coaching that aims to meet objectives related to food and diet. The goal of the people interested in being coached is to obtain healthy eating habits.
One of the current aims of coaching, aside from being used more in the field of personal change (since, until only recently, coaching was focused almost exclusively on the business world), is to specialise itself. One of its latest tendencies is for the coaches to specialise even more closely in niches in the market, specific types of client, and to take on progressively more concrete objectives.
Within this specialisation we find nutritional and health coaching, which can be defined as a work methodology based on helping people make changes to their dietary habits, which would otherwise be difficult for them to achieve. Through nutritional and health coaching, the person therefore identifies and overcomes obstacles, creates the appropriate environment, and adopts the necessary attitude and determination for achieving the desired dietary change, while at the same time improving other aspects of themselves and their lifestyle.
Do Nutrition and Health Coaches Substitute Nutritionists?
Nutritional coaches not only design diet plans, but they ensure that the coachee (the client) is the protagonist, responsible for their own process of changing habits. In no case does a nutritional coach replace the work that a health and nutrition professional carries out (endocrinologists or nutritionists); rather, the coach complements their technical knowledge and advised treatment by offering the necessary support for allowing the coachee to reach the state of mind and level of motivation required to achieve their lifestyle change.
Nutrition and Health Coaching: Technique and Behaviour
Nutrition and health coaching covers two areas: the strictly technical nutritional aspect, and the behavioural or motivational aspect. On occasion, coaching is not even necessary because the client only needs nutritional advice, so the coach would offer them some guidelines, which the client then follows them by themselves.
Nevertheless, there are also people who, despite knowing what they must do, do not know how to do it—how to reach their objective, how to boost their motivation in order to reach it, how to improve their self-efficacy, and so on.
It generally addresses behavioural aspects that affect eating habits. Nutritional coaching identifies these habits and makes the coachee aware of them. Then the coach and coachee begin to work on them in a way that is as therapeutic for the client as possible; in other words, that allows the client to change their eating habits and as well as other habits (exercise and anxiety management, for instance). All of these changes allow the client to lead a healthy lifestyle.
In nutrition and health coaching sessions, the coach does not only assess the coachee nutritionally, but, perhaps more importantly, also works on a psychological and emotional level, in order for the coachee to become self-aware and responsible for their own process of change. This leads them to incorporate long-lasting, healthy habits into their lives. In order to achieve this, the coach must motivate and guide the client towards their objectives, promoting their self-esteem and making them trust their own abilities in a way that makes it possible for them to pave their own path towards achieving their objectives.
The Differences Between Nutrition and Health Coaching and Diets
One of the main differences between nutrition and health coaching and the traditional health model when it comes to diets and nutritional changes has to do with the role that the professional and the patient adopt.
In nutritional coaching, the professional is not considered the only active subject. This is because the client is the one who determines their own objectives and strategies through guidance, which they receive through powerful questions and active listening.
The client actively participates in coaching, since only giving information and advice as an exclusive method of reaching objectives is ineffective in the long-term. Coaching recognises that something more is needed in order for habits to change.
This “something more” is related to a proactive methodology like the one that coaching provides, in which the concept of the client as a passive subject is flipped around to turn the client into the person with the responsibility over their own actions, aware of the importance of taking care of themselves.
This perspective is loyal to the original approaches of coaching and turns the subject into the centre and origin of all possible solutions and improvements.
Coaching for Personal Well-being
The personal well-being or health coach position, although still a new professional field, is experiencing rapid growth. Health coaches respond to the real desires of their clients from a holistic and personalised health perspective.
Health coaches are professionals trained in coaching techniques that help their clients to lead a healthier lifestyle. They are not exactly personal trainers, dedicated mainly to designing personalized physical exercise programs, but rather are able to work with their clients in order to help them change whichever aspect of their life that is unhealthy, including eating habits, physical exercise and smoking habits, among others.
Wellbeing coaching establishes a relationship between coach and client to analyse personal health in a holistic way, to attempt to develop ideas for improvement and to design a personalised change programme to increase the physical and emotional wellbeing of the patient.
It is not about limiting the coaching process to abandoning certain behaviours and adopting others, but about the personalised work between coach and coachee to find out how their current lifestyle contributes to unhealthy behaviour and to determine what can be done to facilitate a change in behaviour
We would love to know what you think about this new direction that Coaching is taking and how it can benefit the field of nutrition and the processes of change for healthy lifestyles.