/ Podcast / Pathways to Prosperity For Health Coaches, With Reed Davis

Pathways to Prosperity For Health Coaches, With Reed Davis

We hear it all the time: You know you’d make a great health coach, and you’ve even found a training program that will arm you with the skills, knowledge, and certification you need to start working with your own clients. But what happens next? How do you set prices, get clients, find your niche? In short, what does the step between coach-in-training and successful health coach look like? Joining Dr. Sandi in this episode is Reed Davis, Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition®, who delves into opportunities for health coaches, particularly those who are just starting out.

Reflecting on his journey, Reed shares how his earliest clients shaped him into the curious, creative, and successful health coach he is today. Often, those clients came to him frustrated and hopeless, desperate for a root-cause solution to their health problems after conventional doctors prescribed strong drugs and failed to offer a listening ear. Reed helped them get better—all without diagnosing or prescribing anything.

“Health coaches can do a lot in this world. We’ve actually been doing it for a long time, and now the world’s catching up. It’s recognizing the power.”

Reed Davis

Reed found his voice as a health coach by listening to his natural coaching instincts: collaborating and leaning into the client’s intuition, rather than critiquing or preaching at them. He prioritized clients who were actively invested in making change and would take ownership of their healing, and he found that these clients would often refer their friends to him, thereby expanding his client base. And by pricing his services appropriately, Reed was able to build a sustainable coaching business and grow it to support the life he wanted to live.

Ultimately, Reed and Dr. Sandi both do this work because it is so rewarding, personally and professionally. Health coaches empower others to improve their quality of life, and that work in turn gives the coach an incredible sense of purpose. Those mutual benefits are becoming more and more accessible as health coaches are increasingly integrated into the healthcare system. If you’re a mission-driven person curious about becoming a health coach or a new coach seeking inspiration for this next phase of the journey, have a listen.

Episode Highlights

  • Reed sees health coaches as holistic care partners, enabling physicans to address lifestyle change more effectively
  • He highlights some key insights into the business of health coaching, including setting fair prices and creating a sustainable business model
  • Hear Dr. Sandi and Reed—two leaders in the health coach training field—discussing the sense of purpose and meaning they derive from their work, and the personal fulfillment it brings them
  • Get a peek at the future, where health coaches are fully integrated into a healthcare system that personalizes care and prioritizes quality of life improvements

Meet the Guest

Reed Davis, HHP, CNT

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition

Reed Davis, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) and Certified Nutritional Therapist (CNT), is an expert in functional lab testing and holistic lifestyle medicine. He is the Founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) and the FDN Certification Course with over 4,000 graduates in 50 countries. Reed served as the Health Director at a Wellness Center in Southern California for over 10 years and with over 10,000 clients is known as one of the most experienced clinicians in his field. Reed serves on the Advisory Board of the American Natural Wellness Coaches Board and the American Association of Natural Wellness Coaches.

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Episode Transcript

Dr. Sandi: Welcome to “Health Coach Talk.” Today, I have a very special guest. He has been training health coaches and health practitioners for quite some time, and we share the same mission, which is to grow the health coaching profession. He has a training program. He is somebody who I would consider an old-timer just like me, and we have a great conversation about health coaching, about the business of health coaching, and where he thinks this field is going. So, listen in.

But, first, let me tell you a little bit about Reed Davis. He is a board-certified holistic health practitioner and certified nutritional therapist. He’s an expert in functional lab testing and holistic lifestyle medicine. He is the founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition and the FDN Certification Course. He’s trained over 4,000 graduates in 50 countries. Reed served as the health director of a wellness center in Southern California for over 10 years with over 10,000 clients. He’s known as one of the most experienced clinicians in his field. Reed serves on the advisory board of the American Natural Wellness Coaches Board and the American Association of Natural Wellness Coaches.

So, without further ado, let’s bring on our conversation with the one and only Reed Davis. Welcome, Reed.

Reed: Well, thanks so much, Sandi, for having me here. It’s a real pleasure, and we have been on the same path and mission for a long time. And it’s been great to know you all these years, and I look forward to many more.

Dr. Sandi: Well, I can certainly say the same. So, let’s start by just talking about this whole field that’s grown so much of health and wellness coaching. What have you seen? What are some of the changes that you’ve seen since the early days when health coach was just getting started?

Reed: Well, the biggest thing I’ve seen is that doctors have finally started to hire health coaches and understand their value. And we’re not just helping Mrs. Smith with diet and exercise. There’s a whole psychology and importance to get people to want to be healthy, and to follow all of the things, whether it’s what their doctor recommended or… Because doctors are great at medical things, but what about everything else? What about the holistic side of life that many physicians just aren’t able? They don’t have time to go over that. And so health coaches fill a very important role, I think, way beyond just medication compliance.

And I know you feel me on this, because if health coaching was just “take your medicine,” that would just be medicine. It would just be as if that’s the only way to get healthy, and we know that’s not true. So, we do take that holistic approach. So, I’ve seen doctors start to appreciate that the holistic approach has better outcomes. Physicians are trained very well to do what they do, and they do an amazing job. And I’ve always said, if you have some acute traumatic thing or a car accident, you’re not going to call your nutritionist. You’re going to go and get the attendant and immediate care that you need, and that’s a beautiful thing. But physicians are trained in what they do, and that’s good, like I just said. But as to how much nutrition training they’ve had or training even more holistic approaches like even knowing their patients very well, that’s something that a health coach could bring to the table.

Dr. Sandi: That is so, so true. I also find that bedside manner is disappearing. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but doctors used to be trained in that in medical school, how to look people in the eye, and really deliver bedside manner, which is more important than the advice they’re giving, being able to connect, and that’s disappearing. What have you seen?

Reed: Well, I could tell you from personal experience, because I’m 70 and I’ve always been in good health but somehow things catch up with you later. I always say I have a well-used body, and I just mean that I used it really…every kind of sport and crazy thing you could do. So, I did some damage. Now I’m paying for that. I’m having to go to see physicians who are standard. I need a hip replacement frankly. I’m not proud to mention that, but I got it from kickboxing. So, yeah, I was an athlete. I did stuff that now has caught up with me. Arthritis from overuse of something. And I was in a profession where I’m not sure I did my liver a whole lot of good. So, these things, again, that can catch up to you.

Because I’m over 65, I’m a medicare doctor, and you get one, and you could change but not give everyone a chance. And the first question they ask me when I walk in the door is, “Can we see your ID? And what’s your favorite pharmacy?” And that’s okay. They probably expect to write a prescription or two for a guy my age. But, yeah, the bedside manner thing to answer your question is not what it used to be, especially in just certain offices. Some are better than others. Some are pretty much…it seems like a mill to people. That’s, again, where a health coach could step in, “Look, the doctor’s busy, but I’m here to help you with your life and integrating the things that we want you to do.”

And by the way, at some point, you might not need that physician. I think if health coaches did their jobs really well, we’d get people so healthy, they would only need that doctor for attendant and acute. Something happened, you could catch something and you could have an accident. And, again, some of your old things might eventually catch up to you, but we’d be there to prevent those things from happening. And if they did, once you’re out of the woods medically, take them onto longevity, anti-aging, and all these kinds of things.

Dr. Sandi: That is so true and that really resonates with me. In fact, I’m writing a book, “Your Health Coach Will See You Now.” I believe health coaches will be the new primary care. I’m not saying they’re going to replace doctors. As you said earlier, we need acute care medicine. If there is something wrong that you break your leg, you don’t need a health coach. But if you are suffering from those lifestyle-related conditions, which so many people are, health coaching—because they focus on lifestyle medicine—is the new primary care, and the doctors are consultants. And, yeah, I mean, that experience you described is so common where they’re just interested in, “Let’s get your pharmacy connected and what medications are you on.” But they never really ask about your life and listen to your story, which is what coaches do.

Reed: I’d agree. That’s my bone to pick. Again, not to be unfair in that standard medicine where you could get caught up in the machinations of how they deliver, the person who owns the, let’s say, lab results is often not…they don’t even know who that person is maybe. They know it’s a person that came in their office and they ran some labs, but they’re really treating the paper in a lot of cases. This is, again, not to talk down on doctors because they do what they do so well, but sometimes whose test result is this matters, especially the person who…that’s their test result. And physicians who don’t find out more about that person, their lifestyle, their employment for instance, and married/single, kids/no kids, personal information is very important, not just what medication you prescribed. And that’s where the health coach could fit in so nicely in every… I can’t think of an office that couldn’t use a health coach.

Dr. Sandi: Oh, absolutely. And they are what we used to have. I remember and you may remember as well back in the day where you had your family doctor, and they knew you and they knew your family. And it was consistent that, when you would see the doctor, that’s the person you would see. But now you may go to urgent care, or you’re in this big conglomerate factory-style medicine, that practice may have a hundred doctors and you may see a different one every time you go in. They don’t know you. They’re just trying to look up something in your chart often, again, they don’t even make eye contact.

So, we’re talking about health coaches working with medical practices, and I totally agree. This is where it’s going, and this is what we’re working so hard to see initiate. But what about the coach who wants to have their own business? They’re entrepreneurial. They have this vision of going out into the world and setting up their own business as a health coach. Can you talk about that initiative?

Reed: Yeah, I think I could talk a lot about that. God bless the entrepreneurial spirit that drives so many of us to… What I noticed about this independent health coach, and I love the independent health coach versus, let’s say, the institutional where they might just work in a doctor’s office and help Mrs. Smith take her medication according to schedule, the institutional versus that independent. So, the independent is someone who wants their own business and is willing to step up to the plate to run their own business. There’s no magic formula. You have to work pretty hard to establish your own business, get your own customers, and then you have to manage those customers, and you have to manage your own life pretty well, too, because you don’t want it to overwhelm you.

You want to set an example for your clients so you need time to yourself. You need to be working from wherever you like to where… You see a screen behind me, so I could have that screen… I could be in Cabo, Mexico, or I could be in San Diego or New York and no one knows because you can do all of this independently, do most of it through distance coaching of some sort, and you can charge your own prices, work your own hours and, again, from wherever you want as long as there’s a good internet connection. That’s freedom in a lot of ways. And if you can learn to charge the right fee, if you can get your fee structure right, right for you, right for your clientele so that you take in more than you spend, that’s what business is. If you don’t have that, then what do you have?

Dr. Sandi: That’s true.

Reed: A hobby.

Dr. Sandi: Yeah, that’s right.

Reed: You know, I mean, I have hobbies, so they all cost me money. None of them make me any money.

Dr. Sandi: That’s right.

Reed: So, as a professional health coach, you have to have your fees together, have your packaging together. How are you going to work? And it’s your business, so you dictate. Not your client. They don’t dictate to you how you work. You get to choose. And of course, there’s some very ethical and fair ways and lots of software to help you and all the things to get some clients charged with fair price, fair to you, and don’t price yourself out of the market. Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve seen some of that. And everything should work out okay. You’ll get more than you spend, and you can support your family and live wherever you want and eat the good food. I eat expensive food because I don’t want herbicides and pesticides in it. We go to only special restaurants and have a personal trainer and stuff that costs money to live the lifestyle that you want to set as an example for your clients.

Dr. Sandi: It sounds like business training is just as important as getting that training and learning the skills to be an effective health coach.

Reed: Man, you said a mouthful there, Sandra. And I teach people to take it easy at first. If you’re in business, let’s say you have a college degree and a couple of certificates under your belt, and you’ve already been in the workspace for a while. You may even have an independent business, whether it be nutrition or personal training or something, and you might uplevel your coaching skills and want to take on more people and charge more money and things like that. You’re upgrading an existing business.

But the person who just really wants to help others, they just have it in them, they really want to help others, and also usually you tell me, if you’ve noticed this, Sandra, most health coaches have their own health problem and somehow overcame it in the process of… You don’t have to be perfect to be a health coach. You just have to be in the process. But to those people, I would say, “Look, business isn’t that hard.” You go to the bank. You start a DBA account. So, you need a business checking account. You need to be able to take credit cards. And that way, money can flow in. And then just don’t spend it all. You have to have money left over and then you’re in business. It’s not a hobby at that point. And eventually you can get someone to help you and hire. So, yeah, all that’s really important, but start really simply. If you’ve got your training under your belt and you feel ready, sometimes ready or not, you got to go get someone and help them. That’s what’s going to set the ball rolling. That’s what happened to me 25 years ago, you helped your first person.

Dr. Sandi: That’s exactly what I experienced because I was a psychologist for many years. And many people who were in private practice, like I was, were freaking out like, “Oh, how do I get clients? And I just am fearing asking for money. How do I raise my rates?” And I found it I just started with one, and it was just your network. And as Joe Pala says, “Your network is your net worth.” And so you start with people you already know. Let everybody know what you’re doing. In this case, that you’re a health coach, but can you comment on that? Because we hear it so much in our community like, “How do I get my first client?” They’re just afraid to go out there and think that they need the right website, they need the most clever business name as opposed to just making these connections.

Reed: Well, I like to tell people that my first successful venture in this field, I had a pager and a fax machine. So, folks, all of the bells and whistles and smoke and mirrors and everything else, I beat the pavement. I did lecturing in libraries, I did lunch and learns, and I did all the things that didn’t require sophisticated technology. I can recall sending out a report of findings about an inch thick to someone who lived far enough away that they didn’t want to drive to the office. When I started lecturing 60 miles from the office, I knew those people wouldn’t come in. So, we helped develop distance coaching.

And so you can do all of that and charge fair rates and do very well for yourself without a lot of technology. Now, just think, if I did that back then, I had a practice that was so busy that my vendors, the labs and the supplement companies, they asked me, “Who the hell are you? You do more work than any five people we know.” And I had no clue I was doing that. I just was really enjoying myself. I go, “I don’t know. I just like to do it, so I do a lot of it. And that’s just the way it is.” And they said, “Well, you should be teaching,” which is why I started teaching.

So, back in the day, pager and a fax machine and mailing out packages that thick. So, just think what you could do today with your cell phones, and your internet, and your Zoom calls. You don’t have to mail anything. It’s all electronic, and there’s all these software programs and things to help you. So, back to your question about business training and whatnot, the one thing I think besides that it’s much easier now, you’ve got the World Wide Web and all that, you need some training in onboarding. You need to know how to select the right person to work with because if you pick wrong, it could be a nightmare for you and you’re not helping them either. So, you learn to pick people who are going to be pretty successful.

Back in the day, as you like to say, I took a course in NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, to try personal coaching. So, I didn’t call myself a personal coach, but I took the training. And people, they want to do better, and there’s a way to question them to see if they’re going to be a good candidate. One of the people I trained from back then, my point, said, “I do a smoking cessation coaching, and I have an 80 percent success rate.” And I called him a liar. I said, “Nobody has an 80% success rate when you talk about quit… You help people quit smoking 80%?” He said, “Yes, Reed, it’s all in how I identify who to work with.” And if you identify who’s going to be a good client, then you’ll have a happy practice. And if you pick people who aren’t going to be compliant, they have all of these other personal problems, you can’t deal with everything in their life. You can deal with lifestyle, but things are going to come up you’re not an expert in. So, you can take on people who just aren’t very good customers. And, yeah, I think that’s… And I have my ways of interviewing, but that’s really important. Don’t take on people that aren’t a good match.

Dr. Sandi: That is such an important point, and also this could relate to what you specialize in. Do you have a niche? And if you’re attracting people who resonate with you, perhaps you had… And we mentioned earlier people who have medical conditions themselves, perhaps they saw an integrated functional medicine doctor. Now they’re sold. They want to serve others. That same population suffers similarly. And so you’re passionate about it, and they will flock to you and then word of mouth. You just need one success and then you’ve got your testimonial and then they will refer others.

Reed: It’s so true. So many early cases where I helped someone… And I used to think it was by accident because I had a lot to learn. I had nothing to unlearn. I’ll have to say that for myself. I wasn’t indoctrinated in some rigid way. I was open to new things, and willing to experiment, and had really good clientele who would do almost anything to get better. But the idea was that… you’re saying, people, if you take the wrong ones, they’ll be wrong. I had a lady who was coming in for chiropractic care and she said… One day, she was really down like down on herself, and just sad, and eyes on the floor. And I was walking her back to the chiropractic treatment room, one of them, and I said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “Oh, it’s this weight, Reed. I’m 40 pounds overweight. Everyone can see it. And it’s really disgusting. And I’m just so unhappy.” Now, me being a neophyte health coach and helper dude, I was taking nutrition classes, and personal training, and all this, and working in the clinic. And I knew a little bit about lab work that the doctors were running there. And I wanted to say… I kept trying to butt in, but she wasn’t having it, Sandra. You’ll really get this. She said, “I’m on this medication, Reed, for the hives and it makes me gain weight. I’ve been on it for two years, and I’ve gained 40 pounds, and it’s just sickening.” And I’m about to say, “Well…”

And she’s, “Oh, and I went to the doctor the other day for a checkup, the guy who has me on this. And I told him how frustrating it was to be 40 pounds overweight because of this medication for the hives.” According to her, he said, “Well, lady, you could be fat or you could have the hives.” So, no wonder she felt so horrible and didn’t feel very well treated and stuff like that. And then she said to him, “Well, doctor, that’s very depressing.” And according to her, he said, “Well, I’d be happy to write you a prescription for antidepressants on top of what you’re taking for the…”

So, when I said to her… In that clinic, we did a lot of lab testing and I said, “Well, how come you didn’t ever try to find out why you get the hives.” And her face just lit up all of a sudden. She’s, “What do you mean?” “It may be, I’m not sure, but there’s some tests you could run to look for why you get the hives.” And long story short, she took on some tests. She did them, and then we gave her a report of findings, changed some things in her diet and lifestyle, and within nine days, she was off the medication. And that was just by a health coach. I wasn’t diagnosing anything in particular, treating anything in particular. This is what made me think of it when you mentioned most health coaches attract people with the same problem they had. I didn’t have any problem, but I could get to the bottom of it in a lot of these cases. And it certainly changed her life and made me feel really good and kept me going for years.

Dr. Sandi: That is such an inspirational story. And you have one individual who makes that kind of change and sees those results and then word of mouth. They’re going to tell others about it, and that’s really how you grow.

Reed: She did a lot of referring to her…

Dr. Sandi: Yeah, I bet.

Reed: Yeah. Another one real quick, Sandra, because this is what has kept me going over the years, but some of the early ones were most memorable because they just really changed me to that guy who’s going to health coach. I didn’t want to be a doctor. Nobody wanted another diagnosis anyway. They didn’t want it. I don’t want another diagnosis. I want to know what’s really wrong. So, this lady was coming in for chiropractic and nutrition, and she asked me, “Do I work with kids?” I said, “Why?” And she said, “Well, they’re trying to send my kid home from school. If I don’t put them on,” back then it was Ritalin was the drug of choice, “They said, if I don’t put him on Ritalin, they’re going to kick them out of school.” That’s what she said. I said, “What do you mean? There’s a doctor at the school that prescribed Ritalin?” And she goes, “No, it’s the teacher and the principal.” And I said, “What? It doesn’t sound right. Does your kid have a Ritalin deficiency?” And she didn’t think that was funny. I was joking. She just got mad actually and says, “No, I don’t want to put my kid on drugs. Can you help or not?” And I had to say, “I don’t know, but we could run some tests and see, look at transmitters, look at food sensitivities, look at…” So, again, within a very short period of time after the report of findings, it changed his lifestyle, new homework time, new bedtime, new diet, really purified his diet with the food sensitivities and things. And sure enough, within three weeks, Sandra, I got a call from the principal of the school and he said, “I tracked you down through the mom and, Mr. Davis, I have to tell you, this is a different kid. Billy now pays attention. Billy doesn’t poke the other kids. He doesn’t outburst in class. He’s actually just become a different kid.” And I’m sitting there just really… This is stroking me just the way I like to be stroked. But then he goes, “What’d you put him on?” which kind of took the wind out of the sails, because what’s the magic?

Dr. Sandi: Yeah.

Reed: So, I explained we put him on a better diet, a better schedule, and that didn’t work well for him. But the joy that I got out of hearing that was still really good. And this lady was really happy. And you know what? Believe it or not, that kid was only nine years old. They wanted to put him on drugs.

Dr. Sandi: Oh, wow.

Reed: A nine-year-old.

Dr. Sandi: Wow.

Reed: So, health coaches can do a lot in this world. We’ve actually been doing it for a long time, like you have, and now the world’s catching up. It’s recognizing the power.

Dr. Sandi: Yeah, I’d like to talk about what you see as the future of health coaching. But before that, you brought up something that I want to get back to, and that is how you feel when you were working with these individuals and you saw the success, you saw the life-changing benefit of the changes that they initiated. And we hear time and time again that when you study to be a coach, when you become a health coach, no matter what profession you came from, whether it was in healthcare or not, it is personally life-changing. It is transforming that this is a career that’s bringing people joy in terms of you, the coach. I wonder if you could comment on that.

Reed: It’s a beautiful part of the whole experience, obviously, and the purpose. So, I think this speaks deep human nature and needs. To be happy and joyful, you really have to have a purpose, in my opinion. Because people without a purpose are usually depressed, and they’re unhappy, and they’re searching, and they’re getting in fights or whatever with whomever about things and they’re distracted because they have no purpose. So, this is a purposeful endeavor. This is something that you can wake up every day and be proud of and that you’re going to help someone that day or numerous people, whatever it might be. So, the joy that I felt when that lady lost the hives, she never had… I had kids with asthma. It went away. The stuff with ADD, the symptoms I was telling you, that’s joyful stuff. That’s emotionally rewarding. And so it reinforces that no matter what happens, and stuff happens in life, you get up each day with a purpose, and you have a better chance of having a good day. I guarantee you that.

Dr. Sandi: That is so well said. And it reminds me of an article I just read that people who are in their 70s, 80s, 90s, even people in 100 are working because it’s giving them a meaning and purpose. And what better type of work than health coaching? Because as you said, you could do it from anywhere. And so people who are planning for their non-retirement, I know you like I are over 65 and we’re still working and the joy it brings us…

Reed: Yeah, way over 65. And so there’s a legacy to be left too by people with a purpose. It should carry on to some extent. I know yours will, and your mission will carry on beyond your working days and mine will too. I don’t anticipate retiring anytime soon.

Dr. Sandi: You’re not.

Reed: But should something happen, the legacy will go on. Why? Because the purpose is so important, and it’s now a mission as well. So, purpose, mission, they’re synonymous. I think they satisfy a psychospiritual aspect. And by the way, that’s another thing you don’t hear much about in a doctor’s office. You might hear about emotional well-being, but this is beyond that. It’s a psychospiritual…even deeper than just joy and happiness. There’s something missing from people who don’t have a mission. And let’s just hope it’s a good mission.

Dr. Sandi: Well, that is so, so true.

Reed: Something to contribute. Sorry.

Dr. Sandi: Yes, so well said. So, any thoughts on where would you like this profession to go? What’s the future holding for health coaching?

Reed: Every doctor’s office should have some health coaches. Whether they’re the institutional, they’re just there to help you follow doctor’s orders, that’s not a bad start. And if from there you get yourself out of the woods, your medical condition gets handled, now you can start to explore what’s it like having just more energy, more peace, more focus, and the ability to pursue a mission. So, you could change the quality of life for human beings. Absolutely.

Dr. Sandi: Love it. Change the quality of life for human beings. So, true. So, well said. Well, this has been wonderful to have this conversation with you, Reed. You are one of the people I so admire. And where can people find you?

Reed: Well, back at you on that first of all, because, Sandra, you and I, we’ve been friends for a long time. And I know you’re doing excellent work, too. And I’m looking on my computer screen for the correct URL. I’m not sure they gave me one…

Dr. Sandi: Oh, we’ll have it in the show notes because…

Reed: Yeah, put it in the show notes and wish you the very best with this endeavor, putting the speakers together and getting the word out about health coaching. It’s a phenomenal career, folks. If you’re coming out of some training and it’s not really working for you, just go get a customer and help that person and find your way, or you can get jobs, too. But, yeah, excellent work, Sandra, and I know you’re going to keep it up. I’ll see you at all the events.

Dr. Sandi: Yes, we attend a lot of events together. Collaboration is key. A rising tide lifts all boats. We teach that. We need to collaborate with one another. And so many opportunities lie ahead. Well, thank you so much for being with us today.

Reed: Thanks, Sandra.