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What it’s Like to Work With a Health Coach

2012 January 4
by Jess

This post has been a long time coming. Last year I spent six months working with a health coach. Marissa, who you’ve heard about numerous times over the past year served as a game changer for me in 2011.

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Today, I want to tell you about the process and clear up a few myths regarding health coaches.

I’ll be honest, in the back of my mind I’ve always thought a health coach was a fake Registered Dietician (it’s okay you can admit you’ve thought the same thing). I’m passionate that professionals should have the correct credentials and not just pay a few hundred dollars to take a test and call themselves a pro, so I’ve been skeptical of the term “health coach” for the past several years.*

As my personal idea of wellness have grown and changed over the years, I let some of my stereotypical beliefs go to the side. I decided to be more open about the number of ways health professionals can gain credentials and and started to look at different types of wellness professions. When I initially met Marissa, I was still a little hesitant, but mostly I felt like having her as my health coach was exactly what I needed.


Before we go any further let’s talk about what a health coach isn’t:

  • Someone pretending to be an RD
  • Someone who took a short-cut in education to give other’s health advice
  • Someone who diagnosis illnesses or treats illness with food
  • Someone who prescribes specific foods/diets/ways of eating

How many of you know what you need to do to better yourself and your health but have a hard time doing it?

When I first met with Marissa, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was eating all day long instead of eating real meals and I was stuck in a cycle of a yuck funk. At the end of the six months I felt like a new person. Sleep was no longer an issue and I switched from eating several times a day to eating three meals a day. A health coach helps you do the things you know you need to do, but are having a hard time doing without support and guidance.

How did I reach my goals with Marissa?

From the first time we met, Marissa and I worked together to set goals for the two weeks we wouldn’t be seeing each other between meetings. Weekly goals included everything from making a new recipe with dandelion greens, figuring out what to eat for long marathon training runs, going to bed by 9p.m and taking time for self-care. At the following meeting we would discuss what worked (changing my breakfast routine) and what didn’t (going to bed at 9:00pm).


Throughout the entire time, Marissa would introduce me to new recipes, new foods I hadn’t tried and new ways of making sure I was taking care of myself both emotionally and physically. Working with a Health Coach is more than about what to eat and how much you weigh. It’s about finding what serves you best in almost all areas of your life.

Working with Marissa helped me to become an improved version of myself and I’d work with her again in a heartbeat! She’s knowledgeable, has a 100% non-judgmental approach, and knows just what to say when you need to hear it.

Have you ever worked with a Health Coach or thought about working with one?


*Clarification, health coaches do not pay a few hundred dollars to take an exam, but many other certifications are that easy to obtain.

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28 Responses leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012

    never even heard of a health coach, good to know and she sounds great. I need the recipe for that veggie and tofu dish asap :-)

  2. January 4, 2012

    Great post! I think a lot of people feel like you said – that health coaches are masquerading as RDs and that they are maybe a little “quacky”. But I have a good friend who is a health coach and exactly like you said, she supports people in doing what they already know they need to do, in asking themselves the hard questions and to bust out of a rut. I got a lot out of my one-on-one with my friend.

    I understand how RD’s would find them annoying though. One of my pipe-dreams is to go back to school to become an RD. The other is becoming a health coach. Another is writing a screenplay (just in case you wanted to know:) )

    • Jess permalink*
      January 4, 2012

      I did want to know that! What would the subject of your screenplay be?

  3. January 4, 2012

    I have loved your posts about your work with Marissa and your transformation (hello mason jar with green smoothie). Admission, I am an RD and while I think it’s not so much the degree but the person I worry about a Health Coach for people that aren’t basically healthy. I don’t know how I’d advise someone going through chemo or dialysis etc had I not spent time in a hospital setting. This doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of RD’s I would never send a family member to or a number of amazing health coaches it’s just not the same training. My 2 cents fell free to ignore/delete.

    • Jess permalink*
      January 4, 2012

      That’s sort of my point. For the most part I don’t think they are trying to act like an R.D. I think that’s a myth. I’m sure there are health coaches that do, but Marissa certainly isn’t one of them and that’s not what they’re trained to be doing. That’s why I said they don’t diagnose nor treat illnesses (as an RD may in a hospital setting). They are two completely different things in my mind.

      No matter what one’s career is in the health field one must always be aware of their scope of practice and be aware of not crossing any of the fine lines that may put someone’s health in danger.

    • Melissa Burton permalink
      January 13, 2012

      Ditto. Well said Lauren – you echoed my RD thoughts.

  4. January 4, 2012

    I start my certifications to become one in just a few weeks and I am very excited about it!

  5. January 4, 2012

    Wow! Thanks for the glowing review!

    Just wanted to clarify that while a Certified Health Coach is not an RD, they are trained professionals and many can help people who are sick and specialize in doing so. Everyone is different and often patients decide that they want to go the holistic route to heal their illness or have had a less than positive experience with more traditional treatments – or maybe even want to try a blend of holistic and traditional treatment. Health Coaches can partner with medical professionals in this way, provide holistic support to those who seek it and also work with patients whose illness is in remission to maintain their health through nutritional means. As in any profession, it is important to be clear about limitations and know when to advise clients to seek medical support and a good Health Coach will know when and how to do so.

  6. January 4, 2012

    i too worked with a health coach, i was unaware at first that it was different than a nutritionist or RD, however i was VERY happy with the service. it made me realize that it was more about your entire lifestyle and what was going on with you and your surrondings that just your food. i too highly recommend a health coach. they are so passionate as well.

    • Jess permalink*
      January 5, 2012

      Love that you too had a great experience working with one!

  7. January 4, 2012

    Health Coach is one of those terms you hear a lot but has always seemed so vague to me, so I loved reading about your experience with one. She is obviously a very good Health Coach too since your experience was so positive! How did you find her?

    • Jess permalink*
      January 4, 2012

      Through social media! The way I find everyone these days! =)

  8. January 4, 2012

    As a health coach and a licensed social worker myself, I really appreciated this post! Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. My journey to becomming a health coach began after having such a positive experience working with one myself! I’m happy to provide any further information on how to do this if anyone is interested!


  9. January 4, 2012

    I actually had not heard of a health coach before reading your blog. I find the whole idea of being a health coach very interesting! I’m glad Marissa had sucha positive impact on you. I am curious, however, what she basis her nutrition recommendations on. I’m not accusing her of anything, I’m truly curious!

  10. January 4, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading this post – I’ve also heard the term thrown around so many times and didn’t really know what they do – sort of like a life coach.
    After reading your post, part of me feels like i would benefit from one – I stay up late, I don’t always eat well, and could really use someone pointing me in the right direction -
    Thanks for the open and insightful information!

  11. January 4, 2012

    I also work with marissa and found her through Vital Juice. Two thumbs up for having 100% support 24/7! :)

  12. January 4, 2012

    I’ve thought about going the health coach route since I like preventative health a lot, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about IIN (where Marissa got her certification) regarding its credibility. Great to see you had a good experience!

  13. January 5, 2012

    What an inspirational post! I hadn’t really given health coaches much thought but your point about getting on a healthy schedule hit home. I am so happy for your journey and what a hawt health coach!

  14. January 5, 2012

    That’s great! I’ve heard of life coaches but had never heard of a health coach…sounds like a huge help in reaching your goals. Thanks for sharing!

  15. January 5, 2012

    I’m so glad you had such a positive experience with your health coach! I am a RN and am currently enrolled in course on health and wellness coaching. I will be earning my certification at the end of the course. Even though this field is wide open and growing, I wanted to be certified to add to my credibility as well as educate myself on what I don’t know. I hope the goals you set and knowledge you gained from Marissa will stay with you for a very long time.
    By the way, I’m salivating over the picture of that veggie dish, what is it and can you give the recipe?

  16. January 5, 2012

    I’ve actually just finished training to be a health coach and the #1 thing I come across (even within my own family) is that people think I’m a fake RD or just going to make them eat kale every day. This post was really helpful and a great look at what goes into working with a health coach. Thanks for this! I hope everyone else found it helpful, too, and even learned a little bit. Or, even better, became inspired to work with a health coach! :)

  17. January 6, 2012

    Thanks again for this! Jess made some really great transformations during our work together and when she got back into her Fall clothes after the summer was over, they fit her better than ever!

    I am always happy to answer any questions from anyone about health coaching or the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I was guided to health coaching after spending too many years in an un-fulfilling corporate job which left me a raging sugar addict. What I love about health coaching is the focus not just on food but also on other areas of our lives like relationships, spirituality and careers which affect our health and wellness sometimes even more than we may realize.

  18. April 23, 2012

    I took one of Marissa’s cooking classes- she rocks!

  19. Laura Namvar permalink
    July 19, 2013

    Firstly, thank you for this post it’s great to see honest and positive views on health coaches – Marissa, I am in the same boat as you were in – stuck in a corporate job and desperate to change and follow my passion – I have been looking at the IIN and seen mixed reviews and wanted to understand if their course was the key element (in terms of qualifications) in driving professional success? Any advice would be really appreciated. thanks, Laura

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