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Understanding Health Coaching – Letting the Client Lead

Health Coaches are trained to take an interesting approach in implementing a plan to help their clients. Successful Health Coaching programs have designs within that let the client set their own path to better health. That’s right. The client is often the one to determine which actions to take in obtaining, or retaining, the next level of better health that they hope to achieve. 

Does this sound crazy? Well, if you think about the way things work in the world of sports, it makes great sense. Coaches coach and players play. The “player” in this instance is the client and the client is playing the game of life. It is their life. It is the client’s game to play. A coach’s role is to prepare the player (or person with the desire to improve their health) for action. A coach is there to guide. A great coach is one that asks the right questions; questions that bring awareness to the client’s needs and ultimately provide answers which will empower the client to proclaim their own path forward.

This is not to say a coach does not have a philosophy to which they adhere, or a knowledge base used to guide their clients. Nor does it mean that a coach will not step in and offer a more sensical path if the client chooses a step that clearly is not beneficial, or worse, potentially harmful. It simply means that the client can take the lead in determining the direction of their greatest gift, their own health. Instead of leaning on the coach like a crutch for support, the “player” stands on their own two feet.

Being told what to do and how to act is not a very effective way for making wholesale lifestyle and/or behavioral changes. The growth must come from within. The client must see and feel the importance of each step for themselves. Empowering the client to be aware enough to see the next possible, available, or achievable step is rewarding and the key to long-term growth.  

It is common for a Health Coach, especially at the very beginning of the coach’s and client’s time together, to ask the client to simply observe their own behavior. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Seems simple, right? It is simple. The path to better health does not need to be complicated.

Pay attention to your own behavior and make note of what you observe. Or better yet, write down what you observe.

  • What do you see in your own life?
  • How well do you eat?
  • When do you eat?
  • What do you eat?
  • Do you snack?
  • What do you snack on?
  • When do cravings occur?
  • Do you notice your food when you eat (pay attention to how you see, smell, and chew your food)?
  • How well do you sleep?
  • What is your energy level like throughout the day?
  • Do you notice any sort of “crash” during the day?
  • How often does your mind drift?
  • Are your thoughts generally positive or negative?
  • Do you reach for technology often?
  • What are your relationships like?
  • What is your level of physical activity?
  • How does this activity make you feel – before, during and after?

…And on and on. These are just a few observable daily occurrences that a coach may suggest keeping an eye on to prime the pump, so to speak. 

Asking a client to be a witness to their own life, their actions and how it relates to their current state of health, to be a detective and gather evidence on their own behalf is a sure-fire way to have the client detect their own tendencies, positive and negative, invest in their own progress and unturn areas that can propel them towards improved health. 

Learn more about health coaching… register for Brian’s webinar with MedFit Classroom, What is Health Coaching?


Brian Prendergast is the Founder and Head Coach of High Five Health and Fitness, and Co-Creator/Co-Host of The Two Fit Crazies and a Microphone Podcast. Brian is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, and USA Track and Field (USATF) Level 1 Coach and Competitive Masters Runner.