Wondering if you should become a dietician or a health coach?
What is the difference between a Nutritionist or Dietician and a Health Coach?
Nutritionists and dietitians receive different training than health coaches do, and thus they are qualified to provide different services. Unlike health coaches, nutritionists and dietitians evaluate the health of their clients and create food plans based on their findings. Nutritionists and dietitians first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, followed by an internship or practice program, after which they may sit for a national examination and practice as an R.D., or Registered Dietitian. They are experts in food and diet and are considered healthcare practitioners.
A health coach is part wellness authority, part supportive mentor, and part behavior change specialist. They partner with clients who are seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes in alignment with their values. Health coaches often work with clients to implement individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet the client’s unique needs and health goals. In the course of their work, health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in clients’ capacity for change. They honor that each client is an expert on their own life, ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.
Health coaches provide their services in a few ways. They may provide one-on-one or group sessions offered through their own private coaching business or in collaboration with doctors and other wellness providers. Their role includes but is not limited to:
- Providing a positive relationship that empowers the client to make lasting changes for better health and well-being
- Offering clients support, accountability, collaboration, education, and resources
- Translating a practitioner’s plan of care into a plan of action
- Assisting with dietary changes, food plans, and physical activity protocols
A nutritionist or dietitian may choose to add a health coaching certification to their credentialing to strengthen their behavior change skills, build competency in new approaches to health, and add value to their practice. Additionally, health coaches may work alongside nutritionists or dietitians to help motivate clients and guide them through dietary changes using positive psychology and coaching tools and techniques.
What program should I choose?
Knowing what foods you should and should not eat, and the importance of nutrition and of nutritional values, can be confusing concepts for many. A nutrition degree provides knowledge of how food and diet affect the human body. Qualified professionals working in the field of nutrition and dietetics can be considered either Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Registered Nutrition and Dietetics Technician, Licensed Nutritionists, or Non-Licensed Nutritionists. They are all specifically educated and experienced health care professionals who work in a variety of settings to advise, educate and instruct clients in what foods they should and should not eat, as well as the nutritional values of all foods.
Your health coach certification through FMCA signifies that you have the skills and knowledge required to partner with clients and collaborate with practitioners as a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC). It means you have successfully completed an academically rigorous program in the principles of Functional Medicine and nutrition, positive psychology, mind-body medicine, and the art of coaching. FMCA graduates may also choose to sit for the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) examination in order to become a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach. Your FMCA certification is also a globally-recognized coaching credential.
When choosing the best program for your goals and needs, consider these factors:
- Is the health coaching program approved by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC)?
- Is the dietician or nutrition program approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)?
- What is the curriculum composed of?
- Who are the faculty members providing the training?
- What support is offered after graduation?
- Is the program approved for continuing education?
- Does the community align with my values?
- What career paths can I take when I’ve completed the program?
In the end, besides comparing and contrasting programs, considering which career path to take is a personal decision. It is imperative to take a step back and consider your passion and purpose—and ask yourself, “What would I like to do?” “Where do I see myself?” If you have questions, we are here to help guide you along the way. Schedule a call with our admissions team today!
Published: May 21, 2021