Published: August 7, 2020
Functional Medicine Health Coaches make nutrition happen. They connect the dots between a client knowing “eat more of this, eat less of this” and actually making those healthy changes stick.
How do they do it? What’s the role of the Functional Medicine Health Coach when it comes to nutrition? How do they translate science into everyday action? What can they teach clients, and how do they help keep them on track?
Nutrition and Behavior
All clients come into coaching with some knowledge of nutrition. It’s usually the doing, not the knowing, that’s the challenge when it comes to healthy food.
Health coaches make the connection between the science of nutrition and the everyday actions it takes to actually implement healthy food habits in a lasting way.
Dr. Mark Hyman, who is a tireless advocate for Functional Medicine Health Coaching, has said repeatedly that “the most powerful decision you make every single day is what to put the end of your fork.” That’s food as medicine PLUS behavior change—a.k.a., Functional Medicine Health Coaching!
What Exactly Do Coaches Do?
In our recent webinar, founders Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D., IFMCP and Elyse Wagner, MS, CN, LMHCA explored “How Nutrition Fits into Your Health Coaching Practice.” (Check out the replay here!) We pulled our 4 favorite questions from the webinar and answered them below:
1. Do Functional Medicine Health Coaches specify or prescribe diets?
A Functional Medicine Health Coach will guide and educate a client who is interested in trying a particular food plan. Prescribing is for doctors and nutritionists, but Health Coaches help their clients process the underlying thoughts and emotions that drive the decisions they make, including decisions about diet. When guided to become the CEOs of their own nutrition, clients realize that they have the power to make their own good choices. And as they become food detectives and use tools like the IFM Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Journal, they begin to track changes—how they felt when they ate a particular food, when certain cravings come up—to help them notice patterns and make better decisions.
2. How does a Functional Medicine Health Coach implement a food plan?
The Functional Medicine Health Coaching perspective sees the bigger picture of health, and food is a part of that healthy picture. Health coaches often work with clients on areas beyond nutrition, because things like stress, relationships, exercise, mental health, and more are just as impactful on our health as the food we eat. It’s amazing when clients see how this bigger-picture view can open up new avenues for change—avenues that a hyper-focus on food can close off.
3. Does the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy teach nutrition specific to particular needs (i.e., cancer, diabetes, arthritis, celiac disease, etc.)?
Functional Medicine Health Coaches are equipped with the behavior-change tools to help a client navigate through a prescribed protocol. If a client’s goal is to diagnose or treat a specific disease, then health coach will work in partnership with a healthcare practitioner to carry out the plan of care.
4. What is the Health Coach’s scope of practice when it comes to nutrition?
When it comes to nutrition, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coaches are behavior change specialists. They know how to use the coach approach to ask questions that put the client in the driver’s seat. If a client decides on their own that they are going to try a particular way of eating, then as a Health Coach, you will support and educate them to help them make those changes. There may be times when it’s really important to guide your client to seek a consultation with a nutritionist or doctor first.
Are you ready to start your journey as a Functional Medicine Health Coach? Learn more here.