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What Do Clients Expect to Get Out of Health Coaching?

by: Jennifer Wannen
Published: July 6, 2016
Updated: June 23, 2022


As health coaches we know the passion that brought us to our chosen career, but how that purpose plays out in our daily work depends largely on our client’s situations. What brought them to us? What goals do they have? What is their history—both health and personal up until this point? Because we work in partnership with our clients toward their desired ends, our experience is in constant interplay with their expectations. Let’s examine several of the main reasons clients seek out health coaching as well as key issues we can consider in our relationships.

They’re looking to lose weight.

Maybe it’s 10 pounds or 110. Either way, most clients have likely tried losing weight already on their own—maybe time and again. They spent money (possibly a lot of it) on memberships and programs and special food. They’ve hit the gym and sworn off this or that food or skipped meals. They’ve done some things right and made some mistakes. They’ve read up and tried applying what they’ve learned and heard—for better and worse. Most of all, they’ve mustered their courage and recharged their motivation time and again.

But now they’ve come to you, and they’re here because whatever success they may have achieved hasn’t stuck. They’ve come to the end of their own devices. They’re likely looking for answers and explanations as to why their past efforts haven’t panned out and approaching you in faith (or desperate hope) that you’ll have a better plan. And while they gathered the initiative to hire a health coach, their drive may be worse for the wear at this point. They’re looking for a guide and a believer at this point—someone who can inspire as well as instruct.

They’ve been spooked by a diagnosis.

Maybe it was their last lipid test or blood sugar reading. Perhaps it was news that those symptoms they’ve been struggling with for months or even years point to celiac, IBS, MS, fibromyalgia or some other major condition.

At this point they may be scared or angry, regretful or grieving. But they’re also here for help. As much as their diagnosis is troubling them, as unsure as the future seems, they’re not accepting the news as the final verdict. They’re taking responsibility for what they can change at this point—even if they don’t know how much or what kind of influence their efforts can have over their condition. As such, they’re looking for someone who can help them put their condition’s health impacts and lifestyle measures into perspective as well as someone who can help them feel empowered in the face of fear and uncertainty.

They’re out of shape and want to get fit.

Perhaps they used to be fit, even athletic. Or maybe they’ve never known what true fitness feels like. Whether or not they carry extra weight, they’ve hit a critical threshold of dissatisfaction. They’re no longer interested in living the same way anymore.

They may not understand what it will take to move forward in the ways they desire, but they’ve made the choice to show up for the possibility by investing in the support of a health coach. They’re looking for clearcut guidance and concrete structure that will help them quickly experience a taste of their bodies’ expanding potential, but they also probably recognize the need for long-term encouragement to help them stay on the path for greater gains and continual progress.

They want to reach a new goal.

While many people come to us with big issue and high stakes weight loss or health concerns, others come with surprisingly targeted objectives. Sometimes we may find ourselves working with very healthy and fit clients, even ambitious athletes.

This type of client is generally self-disciplined and well motivated. Most have worked with some kind of professional in the past such as trainers, etc, and many may work with a “team” of support figures.

They find themselves seeking you out because they have a new aim, a performance related goal for which their previous efforts and approaches haven’t proven effective. They’re open to a new philosophy, a different way of working. If they are hiring a health coach, they likely know all elements are on the table for this purpose—not just fitness practices but dietary strategies, sleep supports and stress/recovery techniques. Still, they might need some instruction and nudging in the bigger scheme of lifestyle behaviors, particularly as they relate to the Primal Blueprint.

They’re coming out of a personal transition.

Clients often come to us as they are moving through or beyond major life shifts such as divorce, death of a loved one, or cancer remission. Having made their way through difficult challenges, they’ve developed a certain courage and hopefulness in making it to the other side. They often feel emboldened and are ready to move into new health territory to match their psychological or logistical changes.

These clients have a lot of positive energy to work with, and they also may appreciate the emotional support a health coach can offer more than other clients might. Depending on their goals, they may need to cultivate patience with their health and fitness process, or they might benefit from taking time to clarify their vision, aligning their processes with their individual personalities and overall lifestyle.

They’re trying to overcome injury.

Sometimes we work with clients who are healing beyond either fitness related injuries, which have forced them to halt, slow or revamp their training routines, or with those overcoming other kinds of injuries such as car accidents.

Clients in these situations are likely looking for those who can support their recovery in more personalized ways than the physician specialists they have typically seen or continue to see. Because of the intricacy of their healing, they need a coach who will operate well as part of a team of professionals, staying abreast in most cases of their ongoing care and assigned therapies.

Likewise, most clients in this category benefit from a support figure who can encourage patience and inspire motivation through the often slower progress and potential setbacks.

They’re required by their insurance companies.

Increasingly, insurance companies and employers are leveraging the benefits of health coaching for their bottom lines. Customers and employees with support for their health mean fewer claims and more productivity. But even if companies anticipate this benefit, not every client that comes to you for this purpose might be.

In their minds, they may be looking to simply cross off a task on their list to keep their standing or lower premiums with their health insurance plan. This might seem convenient for them, but it can leave us as coaches in an odd situation. It’s not our place to impose discussions, services and suggestions a client isn’t willing to hear, and yet we may feel we’re not living up to our professional integrity if we only end up having a cursory conversation with a client, especially one who has significant health concerns.

In our approaches, we can do our best to invite clients to see the coaching connection as an opportunity for their vision rather than a mere obligation for their insurance. help them see the opportunity as more than an obligation. Without forcing, we have the chance to couch our services as a wholly personal endeavor, guided by their interests.

While they may have picked up the phone or met with us to just check off a list, they have the chance to come away from or, better yet, continue the connection for something that they’ve always wanted for themselves and their health. A simple question in addition to any form or script we must follow can open the interaction in a whole new way: what is one thing you’d like to do for your health this year?

They want to redefine the age they’re at.

Some people reach a certain age and realize they don’t feel like they’d hoped to. They’re losing strength or agility, flexibility or speed in ways or degrees they hadn’t anticipated. Maybe they sense they’re losing muscle mass or worry about their bone strength.

Alternatively, they may still be in relatively good shape but have higher designs. They aren’t satisfied with looking good or doing well “for their age” (whatever that is). They feel called to a personal challenge to redefine what their age means to them, whatever the larger society or their family legacy tells them.

Perhaps they have a clear idea of what they want to achieve (e.g. a certain aesthetic look, a certain ability), or perhaps they are coming to you with a general sense of wanting to “feel younger.” Their process might necessitate some deeper reflection about their beliefs around aging as well as their definition of vitality, but their inclusive work on both the psychological questions and the physical practices will undoubtedly lead them toward new levels of fulfillment.

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