Why health and wellness coaches need to have such a broad spectrum of health knowledge

Quite often we have people enquire about our training who are passionate about working in a specific health or lifestyle related area – Food and Nutrition being one. They may have experienced a challenging health journey themselves and had success in overcoming this which they naturally want to share and help others with.

With the aim to work with a ‘niche’ or specialty health group often meaning this is the only area of health knowledge they wish to be trained in, we always talk about the flaws in taking this training approach. People often forget that when we coach people to better health, we are working on a holistic health approach so the need have health knowledge across a number of key health areas rather than just one is a must!

At Wellness Coaching Australia, we train students across 4 main pillars of health and wellbeing. These are sleep, physical activity, nutrition and managing stress and mental wellbeing. These areas provide a solid foundation of health literacy from which students can choose to build upon on after their formal certification studies. These health and lifestyle specific study units are in addition to the core health and wellness coaching units which provide the coaching competency skills and structure to our practice.

Why is it so important to consider all the varied areas of health as one entity…

Here are some examples of how sleep, movement, food and stress interplay with each other and how improving one may have a flow on effect to the others and how choosing to only be trained in one health area will impact your ability to support your client. Identifying where to start is the magic of health and wellness coaching.

A client comes to us for help in their eating plan. Jane, a busy mother, short of time skips breakfast and drinks multiple coffees through the day to keep her going. She feels that if she ate better, she’d function better. This is highly likely to be true. However, a good coach will ask deeper questions around her lifestyle routine. The coach discovers that jane has such poor sleep that she wakes on an alarm, often feeling depleted and under pressure before the day begins.

There are so many possible areas for change but the coach knows that it is important to start with the one that a) will be easiest to create change and b) will deliver the greatest benefit for the least effort. Jane admits that she has fallen into the habit of scrolling through social media until late in the evening (as a way of unwinding). We can see that there are changes that will help, but Jane admits that lack of energy and tiredness is the biggest obstacle to her developing a routine that allows her to eat better. So the coach supports her in creating better bedtime habits. After time, jane starts to wake earlier, finds time to exercise and as a result has more motivation to eat breakfast. Now this story could have panned out in several ways and various changes may have helped. However, the client determined where they felt they could start.

You can see if the coach only trained in Nutrition and therefore was only fixated on her eating habits, it would have narrowed down the issue and possibly caused defensiveness and a lack of engagement. If we can help our clients find one area for success, it can act as a catalyst for change in others.

Bob is seeking help with his exercise. He knows he should be more active but instead he uses alcohol as a way of de-stressing at the end of each day. After lengthy exploration of what lies behind his current behaviour, the coach uncovers a deep need and desire for Bob to switch his brain off in a more healthy way. Something that allows him to be better connected with his own values and also to be closer to his family. Going for a run might have seemed the answer but he realises, with the help of a coach, that finding a way to switch off that is more in line with his philosophy of life will give a better result. He begins to practice meditation on the way home before he joins the family. He loses the desire to lose himself in alcohol.

We train our coaches across a wide range of areas and knowledge of safe guidelines in all four of the above is essential. Knowing where to support the client in starting comes down to how well we listen to our clients!