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Health Pros Share Their Biggest Coaching Highs and Lows

by: Jenn Maples
Published: July 16, 2019
Updated: June 23, 2022

Our goal here on the Primal Health Coach Institute blog is to provide you with the tools and resources to build and grow a successful health coaching practice. We also strive to give you a real-life look behind the scenes, showing you what it’s really like for coaches and other professionals working in the health and fitness industry, like we do in our Day in the Life series and Graduate Success Stories.

For today’s post, I talked to six health pros, from a Primal Health Coach to Restorative Wellness Practitioners to a New York Times Best Selling Author, and asked them to share some of the highest highs and lowest lows of their careers so far, as well as any advice they have for health coaches just starting their journey.

Fran Dargaville | Functional Nutritionist, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, Yoga Instructor

Years in practice: Over 3.5

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“There have been so many exciting moments, but right now I’m celebrating that I’m wrapping up the first round of my online sugar detox program! It’s incredible to be able to share my nutrition knowledge with people around the world!”

How about your least favorite one?

“I am learning to see the challenging moments as lessons and part of the process, but my biggest tech fail would have to be an online webinar I did a few years back. Everyone could hear me, but nobody could see the slides! I didn’t find out until after the webinar, but I managed to send everyone a recording after the fact, with slides.”

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

“If coaching feels right for you, go for it! Keep showing up and make it happen!”

Abel James “Fat Burning Man” | Health Crusader and NYT-Best Selling Author

Years in practice: 8

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“Coaching grandfather of 5, Kurt Morgan, to drop 87 pounds in 3.5 months and win first place in ABC’s TV show, My Diet Is Better Than Yours.”

How about your least favorite one?

“Getting my organic reach throttled on my social media channels.”

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

“This is a marathon, not a sprint. Experience is the best teacher.”

Andre Obradovic | ICF-Accredited Coach and Primal Health Coach

Years in practice: 4

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“Influencing my children to attain optimal health by following the approach I take. Not by telling them or coaching them, but by showing them how I went from 80kg and looking old and tired to being 64kg at 54, and being abundantly healthy and looking great. They brag about my health and fitness to their friends, but most importantly they value health and wellness.”

How about your least favorite one?

“One of my clients went AWOL on me. She had paid for 3 months coaching, did 3 sessions and then disappeared. It was horrible, I felt like I had failed her. On reflection, I realized that it was not my job or role to make her turn up. She had to be committed to do the work.” Eventually she came back when she was ready.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“I would say the most important thing is to be a great coach in the true sense of the word. To me that means instilling the confidence within your clients that they can reach their goals no matter how big those goals are. If you can do that, your clients will achieve great things.”

Elaine Pauly | Holistic Health, Functional Medicine, Longevity Coach

Years in practice: 5

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“The experience I had with my first client. She was struggling with her weight, energy, and a condition called Barrett’s syndrome, which is beyond my scope of practice. However, she was intent on doing all she could naturally. It was early in my practice and I hadn’t figured out my rates yet, so I never even charged her. It was a totally unconventional, informal coaching process, but we were having fun and connecting regularly. Several months later, after our correspondence had diminished, we met for coffee. I’ll never forget it—she breezed in and I barely recognized her. She was leaner, happier…literally glowing.  She had gone from trying to force her weight loss through intense gym sessions to following the plan we created together and healing her body from the inside out.”

How about your least favorite one?

“My worst moments are what I refer to as my ‘head trash’ time—my own negative internal dialogue that wants to stop me in my tracks with messages like ‘you’re not good enough,’ ‘you don’t know enough,’ and ‘who do you think you are, you don’t even have an M.D. next to your name!’ That ugly little voice can show up any time and totally set me on my heels. It’s especially loud when I’m taking on a new project that feels scary or beyond my comfort level. It’s always there, waiting and hoping to keep me contained and playing small. I now live with two general mantras: ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and ‘everything will work out as it should,’ and move forward daily with little steps that get me closer to where I want to be with my practice.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“Be your own work-in-progress. Never stop learning and advancing yourself. The best lessons I have learned started with me, searching for a cure for myself, digging into something new because I was curious, helping someone else deal with something difficult. Never stop learning. Never stop growing. Never lose your curiosity for life!”

Cait Crowell | Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner

Years in practice: 3

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“The greatest moments I’ve had have always been in regards to my clients. Making major lifestyle changes for the long-term is no easy feat, and I’ve felt so much joy and happiness being able to be a source of encouragement for my clients who needed someone to believe in them when they felt they were at their lowest. Watching a client go from destructive, negative self-talk, daily chronic health challenges, pain, and fear to being empowered, healing, trusting, and loving themselves again is something you can’t help but be proud of. My clients will never know the gift they have given me to be able to help them in such a powerful way. Their wins, no matter how big or small, are my greatest moments.”

How about your least favorite one?

“When I first started my business, I struggled with just about everything—from finding new clients to learning how to open an LLC and a business bank account to being uncertain if I was even capable of helping other people. I still struggle with challenges and that’s just part of the process. But my least favorite moment as an NTP was at the end of the year last year when I was absolutely burnt out from working with hundreds of one-on-one clients, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I needed to scale to stay sane and energized to continue working with people, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to scale. I ended up creating the Gut Instincts Group Program, which has been AMAZING, but I really loathed that time period of feeling frustrated, helpless, and lost with my own business and what I wanted to do next.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“Having something done is better than having something done perfectly. I always envision things being perfect before launching, before working with clients, before XYZ—but the key is to just GET STARTED. It’s not going to be perfect the first, second, or even third time around. Remember, you know more than you think you do, and you’re more than ready to start helping others!”

Holly Higgins | Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Whole30 Certified Coach, Reiki Master Practitioner

Years in practice: Almost 4

What’s been your greatest moment so far?

“My greatest moments are when clients share breakthroughs with me, big or small. Whether they’ve been able to overcome a debilitating condition or they’ve finally been able to shift a persistent negative habit, I get to celebrate their wins alongside them. There is no better feeling.”

How about your least favorite one?

“Nobody talks about this, so I will: clients will ghost you. They will book appointments, not show up for them, and then you will never hear from them again. It can be heartbreaking, but it’s a reality of practice. You have to be brave enough to look at both sides of the relationship. On the one hand, the client might not be ready and they might be afraid to communicate that, so they’ll ghost you to avoid a difficult conversation. But on the other hand, you have to ask yourself, “Have I created an environment where my clients feel safe enough to express themselves?” If you haven’t, that’s a great area to work on. Make sure your clients understand your style, your boundaries, and your expectations up front. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting them know that this work isn’t easy and you’re willing to have difficult conversations if things come up.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“Your clients’ successes have nothing to do with your worth or value as a practitioner. Clients will come to you in different places. Some will be super motivated and compliant. Others will be resistant to change. Your role is to guide, encourage, and walk beside them. When you’re working with clients who are struggling, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. You can’t play the “what if” game and say, “…if I only had the right tools or additional training or more experience…then maybe my clients would want to change!” It’s a very dangerous place to get trapped. I’ve found myself going down that rabbit hole many times and it’s been my biggest area of growth. Stop. Breathe. Remember where you end and your clients begin—and that their struggle is part of their growth and healing path. If you take away their struggle, you take away their learning. Return to unconditional love, always.”

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