wellness Nutrition spotlight

What is a Wellness Coach and Why Are They Important?

Jacqueline Kaminski
Jacqueline Kaminski

You wouldn’t believe it would take a nutrition expert to understand the basics of nutrition, especially when eating is a necessity of life. However, you’d be really surprised to know that many people don’t even know what an example of a protein is!With so much misinformation about nutrition on the internet, it’s helpful when you come across an individual who has a credible background to help you sift through all the mess.

That's where wellness coaches come in!

If you have a passion for general health and wellness, want to gain more knowledge, and be a reliable resource for your clients, you can become a wellness coach!

What a Wellness Coach Is

A wellness coach is a trained mentor that acts as an accountability partner for their clients to achieve lifestyle changes and create better living habits. While nutrition is most definitely a focus for wellness coaches, many other factors are taken into consideration to develop a holistic approach to helping clients.

A wellness coach might talk with their clients about eating habits, sleep, exercise, work/life balance, stress management, and social environments. By gaining information in these various areas of life, a wellness coach can then develop goals and plans of action with their clients to assist with behavior changes that will lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Essentially, a wellness coach can assist in creating personal health goals for their clients, help uncover barriers that might be preventing them from reaching their goals and guide them through behavior changes.

The Duties of a Wellness Coach

Some functions a wellness coach might perform include:

• Dispelling common nutrition or training myths

• Providing clients with evidence-based guidelines on how to structure meal timing throughout the day

• Help clients calculate their macronutrient and daily calorie needs

• Advise on recommended daily activity goals, assist in creating grocery lists

• Perform body composition analysis

• Increase knowledge and understanding of health conditions and various disease states

• Utilize motivational interviewing and assess a client’s readiness to change

• Help uncover barriers to wellness.

Most importantly, a wellness coach should be knowledgeable in the research for nutrition and fitness to provide clients with general recommendations on how to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

What a Wellness Coach Can't Do

When performing nutrition, exercise, and psychological interventions, a wellness coach needs to be aware of their scope of practice and what limitations exist for them since these are areas that might need more professional attention.

Let’s talk about what a wellness coach CANNOT do:

- Wellness coaches cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions.

- Wellness coaches cannot prescribe supplements or meal plans.

- Wellness coaches cannot prescribe or suggest medication.

- Wellness coaches cannot provide exercise prescriptions.

- Wellness coaches cannot conduct psychological counseling or therapy.

- Wellness coaches cannot prescribe plans or therapy to treat disease.

Therefore, an important aspect of becoming a wellness coach is to be knowledgeable in signs/symptoms regarding nutrition, behavior, and fitness. When red flags appear, it’s also the responsibility of the wellness coach to refer appropriately if a condition requires more professional intervention.

For example, perhaps you become aware that your female client has some serious food aversions, is losing weight very rapidly, has an extreme fear of gaining weight, experiencing some hair loss, and now just told you she is no longer getting her period. These are classic signs of an eating disorder, in which it would be appropriate to refer this client to a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, and/or a clinical dietitian.

Another example could be a client that is complaining of chronic fatigue, even though they consume plenty of food. You may also notice that they are abnormally thirsty or have excessive urination. This may be an indication of diabetes. At this point, a wellness coach would refer their client to a doctor to get tested.

Putting Wellness Coaches to Work

Wellness coach jobs exist in multiple areas of health, fitness, and business industries. Wellness coaches can work in schools, gyms, health food stores, wellness centers, and even corporations!

For example, a wellness coach working within a corporation can be responsible for organizing health fairs and educating team members on healthier food choices in the cafeteria. If the corporation is patient-centered, a wellness coach’s responsibilities would be to conduct basic health evaluations of patients, collect health data and share it with team members, provide basic education on preventative care measures for clients, and help increase communication between patients and the health care team.

The work of a wellness coach does not go unnoticed! They can serve as very vital positions within a company or organization and are rewarded well for it.

According to salary.com, zip recruiter, and glass door average salaries within the United States for wellness coaches are quoted around $60,000/year, $56,000/year, and $46,000/year (an average hourly rate of $25). Not bad! For individuals that have more advanced degrees or certifications, those salaries increase.

How to Become a Wellness Coach

So, what are the steps to becoming a wellness coach? Most organizations will prefer at least a bachelor's degree in health sciences, counseling, psychology, fitness, or related field. A certification through the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching would help during the application process as well!

The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching was developed in 2012 and is partnered with the National Board of Medical Examiners to help create an educational and trusted certification program for health and wellness coaches.

Qualifications for Wellness Coaching Exams

According to the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching, to qualify for their exam one must:

- complete an NBHWC approved training program. Which entails a minimum number of hours of training and education in approved areas of study.

- complete 50 health and wellness coaching sessions.

- have an associate’s degree or higher or 4,000 hours of work experience in any field.

Other wellness coach certifications that have been approved by the NBHWC include American Council on Exercise (ACE), Precision Nutrition, and Mayo Clinic. A more extensive list of other approved certifications can be found here!

Having more individuals that are properly educated in areas of nutrition, wellness, and fitness will serve individuals seeking help in tremendous ways! Becoming a wellness coach can be a great way to incorporate more preventative care measures to prevent common diseases and promote healthier lifestyles. If you have a passion for health, exercise, wellness, and helping others, then becoming a wellness coach might be the perfect opportunity for you to make a difference in someone’s life.

The Author

Jacqueline Kaminski

Jacqueline Kaminski

Jackie Kaminski is a registered dietitian/ nutritionist with a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology & Sports Nutrition from Florida State University. Her first introduction to working with professional athletes was back in 2017 when she worked at the UFC performance institute in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, Jackie has worked with various professional fighters and other clientele and now operates under her company she started back in March, The Fight Nutritionist LLC. The Fight Nutritionist is dedicated to providing the most effective nutrition plans to ensure her athletes are performance at their absolute best. All of her plans are individualized to the athlete and are backed by the latest research to ensure complete safety and efficacy. Jackie is also a member of the international society of sports nutrition, where she often participates in different research projects and data collection with other ISSN members from Nova University. When Jackie isn’t working, you can find her at Combat Club where she trains kickboxing and Muy Thai. As a sports dietitian, Jackie’s aim is to provide her athletes with the necessary fuel to excel in training and provide the proper education to ensure her athletes are engaging in the safest health practices (as they relate to combat sports).