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Living your healthiest life can be very difficult if you are not a trained expert.

We live in the time of a global pandemic and never before has immune health felt so relevant, especially considering how common lifestyle diseases (such as diabetes) are among all ages.

We also seem to have less time than ever before, despite having an abundance of time-saving technology available to us. And, to make matters worse, we have fast convenience-food at the tips of our fingers – no matter where we go!

We are sleeping badly, extremely stressed and moving less than ever before, due to sedentary jobs and long stretches of time sitting in our cars or watching television.

One could say there are just too many obstacles stacked up against our quest for better health and that’s why reaching out to a health-coach for help can lighten the load, help you stay motivated and find sustainable habits to implement. Once a journey to your best health is under way, you will be amazed at how your self-esteem, energy and creativity improve and return.

But what exactly is a health coach… and what distinguishes a health coach from a nutritionist or dietician?

Health coaches are part of the movement dedicated to reversing the physical inactivity and convenience/ unhealthy food epidemic. A health coach helps educate and motivate people to adopt healthy, long-term, sustainable behaviours to improve their health. They coach people to create a life that avoids many lifestyle illnesses and health conditions.

Dieticians and nutritionists, on the other hand, can help with blood tests to look for imbalances and deficiencies and help with nutrition plans as well as the recommendation of supplements. They play an important role in our society’s health but, with respect, what these experts lack is the motivational and appropriate goal-setting aspect a coach can offer you. Often dieticians and health coaches can work side by side to transform a client’s health.

So whether you want to start exercising more, eat more nutritious meals, stop smoking, or just have more energy, a health coach can help. And don’t worry – you won’t be judged. Health coaches want to help you feel better and live a longer life with more vitality. We focus on positive changes that add value to your life. A health coach works to facilitate holistic healthy lifestyle changes through three areas: physical activity, nutrition education and behaviour change.

Working with a health coach begins with a holistic assessment of your lifestyle. Lack of time is the most frequently reported reason why people struggle to incorporate a healthier diet and exercise.  Health coaches work to help clients understand how, realistically, to include home-made nourishing meals and movement in their days. Health coaches are not necessarily personal trainers (and vice versa). 

Coaching behaviour change is at the heart of a health coach’s job. Using psychological methodologies, the health coach helps clients evaluate their starting point. From there, the coach can introduce small mindset shifts to set off a snowball effect of positive change.
Another role of the health coach is guiding goal setting. Depending on the client’s starting point and desired main goal, the coach helps clients set goals related to fitness, nutrition, self-care and overall wellness. The health coach ensures that goals are realistic, appropriate and achievable for the client.
Weight management coaching includes a blend of psychology, fitness planning, and nutrition evaluation and education. Health coaches have advanced study in both the psychology of weight management as well as the science of physiology. This unique blend places health coaches as central figures in fighting the obesity epidemic. If you’re wondering why your metabolism is slowing down, a health coach can help you understand all the variables. (And what you can do about it!)


Life’s demands on your time and energy often take their toll: your career, exercise and eating habits are all part of a balancing act that can easily get the better of you. With so many expectations and demands, it often feels as if you’re merely surviving day to day.

What you really want is to:

  • Wake up feeling refreshed and energised;
  • have time on your side with a comfortable pace for the day;
  • feel confident in who you see when you look in the mirror;
  • find exercise you love and that makes you feel strong;
  • embrace healthy eating for consistent energy that fuels you;
  • have fun and connect with others doing things you love.

But, it’s so hard to know where to start.

With limited time, you don’t want to waste it spinning your wheels on solutions that don’t work.

Plus, you know it will be hard to keep yourself motivated with everything else going on. That’s where a coach can really help.

A good health coach has an iron fist with a velvet glove (they will hold you accountable without making you feel guilty) as well as being a golden retriever in human form (loyal and dependable to the core).

They need to provide the guidance and accountability you need to move forward without feeling overwhelmed or wasting time on quick fixes that put you back at square one.

Should you feel you are ready to find a partner in your quest for your best health, here are a few helpful questions you can ask your prospective health coach to make sure you find a coach you can trust and who will suit your needs.

What are your qualifications and certifications to be a health coach?
Ensure that the health coach holds nationally-recognised certifications. Because health coaching is not an entry-level certification, the candidate should also hold a certification in personal training, group training, Yoga, nutrition, or a related health and wellness field.

What is your coaching philosophy?

Does the health coach believe in zero tolerance, or is she more of a cheerleader? Which type of personality do you need to help you reach your goals?

How do you conduct coaching sessions?

In person, or via email/ telephonically, or Zoom/ Skype? Or a combination of some of these.

How does their fee structure work, (‘per hour’ or for a period of time, i.e. ‘a six-week plan’).A health coach may invoice you by the hour, or give you a structured programme fee that could be anything from six weeks to six months. It is up to you and your coach to negotiate a payment structure for a programme settled on.

Can your health coach help set up a meal plan for you, complete with recipes?
Meal plans are essential to some, they need step by step guidance and recipes that suit their time-management and preferences – be sure to ask your health coach if they can provide you with a detailed meal plan.

Am I going to have to buy supplements or equipment?
The answer should be no. Be wary of a health coach who also sells supplements. While you may need to purchase a few supplements that are recommended, ideally they should be purchased independently from your coach. You and your coach should have discussions about exercise equipment and, again, ideally this should be a minimal, or no investment area. A good health coach will help you use what you have with as little new investment as possible.

In conclusion, hiring a health coach is a wonderful investment in yourself and taking the time to make sure you find someone who is perfect for you is worth a little trouble. Hopefully this article has inspired and equipped you with all the information you need about ‘what a health coach can do for you’. You won’t regret it. And remember, an investment in your health now may ensure many savings on health costs later in your life.

Marlien Wright

Marlien Wright is a nutritional therapy coach, healing-retreat facilitator and the author of two cookbooks; The Yoga Kitchen and The Mandala Kitchen. You can get in touch with her and learn more about her food and meal plans and workshops via www.yogakitchen.co.za