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Why I’m Proud to Call Myself a Health Coach

JFC Health Coach

JFC Health Coach

There was an article in the Viva section of the NZ Herald on Wednesday warning people to vet online health advocates carefully. You can read the article here.

To be honest, I agree with some of the article’s message

And, I unreservedly agree that you should always vet online health advocates carefully. Just as you should vet all your health professionals carefully. And, let’s not forget your lawyer. Or, your accountant. Or, any other service provider you may choose to engage.

The rise in celebrity health evangelists has been receiving quite a bit of media coverage here in Australia recently. There are a number of high profile ‘health gurus’ who’ve been attracting attention.

Of all of these, possibly the most alarming, is the Belle Gibson saga. A woman who created a wellness empire – website, Apple app and book deals, along with hundreds of thousands of followers – based on lies. Belle falsely claimed that she had healed her three different forms of cancer by adopting holistic practices. Only, she hadn’t. Because she’d never had cancer in the first place.

Discovering Belle’s duplicity has left a particularly sour taste for us collectively because many of her followers do suffer from cancer. To deceive those who already have such monumental personal battles to fight is somehow inhuman.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you any answers about Belle Gibson. I suspect we’ll never have the full story.

I will say that, sadly, I believe there are people like Belle in almost every profession.

Health Coaching is a new and emerging industry. It is still in its infancy. Even now, there is an International Association for Health Coaches with it’s own code of ethics in development.

Where I don’t agree with the NZ Herald’s journalist is in her definition of a health coach.

In simple terms, health coaches are knowledgeable advisers who provide ongoing support and guidance as you set goals and make sustainable changes that improve your health and happiness.

If you were to place your health on a continuum, a Health Coach would be the bridge between needing to see your doctor and optimal health

A health coach is not a doctor. And, unless, like me, you manage to find a qualified doctor who is also a health coach, we don’t make that claim. Given the average doctors appointment time here in Australia lasts for 15 minutes (or less), that can only be a good thing, I think. Your health coach will spend time with you listening to your health concerns and working with you to find solutions. Of that, I am sure.

And if they are not equipped to deal with your individual needs, they will refer you to someone who can help.

Like doctors, health coaches, more often than not, do specialise in a particular area of interest. Weight loss, family health, allergies, mindfulness, adrenal fatigue, eating disorders – the list is endless. Most coaches have personal experience in their area of expertise – and often this is what drove them to the profession in the first place. And, a good health coach will be happy to work with your doctor.

The statistics on our growing ill health are alarming. Consider the following:

JFC Illness Statistics


And, that is just here in Australasia. The numbers in the United States are even more scary.

“Chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes wreck our quality of life and cost a fortune. In recent years, a new and intriguing concept has emerged in the prevention and treatment of chronic illness: the health coach.” – CBS News, October 2009

And, if you are diagnosed with a chronic health issue, it can be both overwhelming and isolating to deal with, especially if you are feeling sick. A health coach can work with you to navigate the diet and lifestyle changes that you may choose (or need) to make. They are part of your support team.

My story

With a degree in psychology and over two decades in corporate human resources, I chose to become a health coach because I put my (at the time) undiagnosed Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) into remission through implementing diet and lifestyle changes.

HS is a chronic skin condition that affected me for over twenty years. Despite seeing many doctors, none of them could diagnose my very painful problem. And, not one of them suggested that dietary changes might help alleviate symptoms. Doctors don’t know everything.

I used Dr Sarah Ballantyne’s Autoimmune Protocol as the foundation of my healing. Sarah is a medical biophysicist with a strong interest in immunity and inflammation. Hers is a scientific approach. And, I now apply the principles of this protocol to my health coaching practice.

So I say yes – take the time to investigate if the health coach you want to engage is right for you. But don’t let anybody tell you the right coach can’t make a difference. 

If you would like to learn more about whether health coaching with me might be right for you, I invite you to contact me for a free introductory call.



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Comments (6)

I’m going to share this with my sister who is interested in becoming a health coach. I think we need health coaches like you, Joanna, because mainstream medical systems are really lagging in their ability to support people. I think more and more people will be turning to alternative health care providers, including coaches, who I see as playing the vital role of supporting the change process. Naturopaths tend to prescribe, just like mainstream doctors, though their prescriptions are different. But like doctors, they don’t tend to be very effective in supporting the change process, which I see as being the weak point in the alternative health system. I know very skilled naturopaths who mostly give people long list of supplements and practices and… that’s it. That approach only costs people money, generates cupboards full of expired supplements, and makes people feel guilty if they don’t actually get to the point of instituting the changes. It is really challenging to change old patterns, first because changing patterns is just difficult, and second because the media, advertising, doctors, family members, neighbours, the grocery store and government are all still actively advocating the status quo. Supporting the change process is where a health coach can make all the difference.

Petra, I couldn’t agree more – well said!

Petra – thanks for taking the time to write such a supportive comment. It’s very much appreciated!

Changing the way we eat and live is always difficult – especially when we don’t have the support of our nearest and dearest. I think the growth of health coaching as an industry is a testament to how both the standard diet and our high stress environments are failing us. People are seeking answers and support.

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