For someone looking to make a career in the world of nutrition, it can be a little overwhelming at times.
There are just so many different certifications out there, each aimed towards a specialized position. And if you don’t know that much about these certifications, picking the right one can be difficult.
Let’s take a health coach and a nutritionist, for instance.
How do you know what the difference is between them? In most people’s minds, particularly if they didn’t have any prior knowledge of both fields, they seem pretty similar.
But they not!
So in this blog, it is our aim to show you the difference between the two. Not only in terms of what it is they do, but also from a study and qualification point of view.
Let’s take a look.
How a nutritionist can help people
So what is a nutritionist and what do they do for their clients?
Well, without a doubt, in the world of nutrition, one of the most qualified people you can find are nutritionists. That’s because to become a qualified nutritionist, you would need to earn a degree. And that’s a number of years of study, right?
A nutritionist helps people by looking at their lives from a nutritional standpoint. Depending on their client’s specific needs, a nutritionist will advise them on a healthy lifestyle primarily focusing on their nutritional intake to do so.
Now obviously the first thing that comes to mind when you think of how a nutritionist can help someone is with weight loss. And yes, they can but there are so many more areas where nutrition can play a vital role.
In fact, they can help people that:
- Need to lose weight
- Need to gain weight
- Have nutritional problems due to eating disorders
- Need nutritional advice to help overcome medical problems, for example, irritable bowel syndrome or gluten intolerance
And how does a nutritionist do this? Well, there is a number of steps that they would follow for each of their clients.
First up, a nutritionist will assess their clients. This is done over a series of one-on-one meetings where the nutritionist and their client discuss what it is the client hopes to gain from there consultation, what problems they might have and how it can be solved through nutrition.
It’s also a time for the nutritionist to help the client set some goals as to what it is they wish to achieve over the course of their treatment. This is perhaps the most important step in a client’s treatment and requires utmost honesty on their part, especially if they expect an effective treatment program from their chosen nutritionist.
Once the one-on-one introductory assessment sessions are over, a nutritionist will draw up an action plan for their clients. This plan is formulated to help each client with their unique problem and to reach their specific goals as laid out during the assessment phase.
This may take a nutritionist some to devise as it is tailored made for each client. Certainly, like no two clients are the same, there are no cookie-cutter plans for a nutritionist to draw from.
Each one will be totally unique and will draw on all the knowledge a nutritionist has to help them come up with something that not only can be implemented but that can be sustained over a long period.
Guide and motivate
After the plan of action has been drawn up and implemented, a nutritionist will meet on a regular basis with that client to help guide them as well as motivate them.
Making changes can be difficult. For example, Imagine someone looking to lose weight.
Going from eating anything you like to a calorie-controlled diet is tough! And while the motivations levels will be high to start off with, there are times when they will drop significantly.
This is where a nutrition coach works on a psychological level, helping to keep each client motivated in a way that appeals to them. And that’s why getting to you what makes a client tick is imperative for success.
Now, let’s take a look at a health coach.
So what’s a health coach then?
As we take a more in-depth look at what it is a health coach does, you will see there are many similarities. But there are also major differences.
The first thing to tell you is the fact that a health coach certainly cannot help someone as thoroughly as a nutritionist can.
That’s mostly due to the fact that to become a health coach, your study period will be far shorter than that of a nutritionist. But more on that later.
Health coaches are employed in a variety of situations. They can be found at gym chains, colleges, wellness centers, and hospitals as an example.
They perform a range of roles here including:
- Helping people manage stress
- Setting up very basic fitness or exercise programs
- Helping to control medical conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure
- Helping people with addictions such as smoking, alcohol or even substance abuse
- Helping people with weight management
- Focusing on healthy eating
To help their clients, a health coach will use similar methods that a nutritionist or other fitness professionals would make use of. That involves assessment, an action plan and then monitoring/motivating.
When a potential client approaches a health coach, the first thing they will find out is what exactly that client needs help with.
This generally takes place over a single session but more may be needed.
Assessment is a crucial part of helping the health coach find out exactly it is their new client expect from them. Sometimes, expectations are wide of the mark, for example, a client wanting to lose weight an impossible rate and in the shortest amount of time.
Formulate a plan of action
One the client has been assessed, a health coach will formulate a specific action plan to help them.
Let’s take the case of someone who has a problem with stress for example. Here, the health coach’s plan will include trying to reduce those things that might be some of the stress creators in their client’s life.
That’s not always easy.
For that reason, a health coach will look to improve a client’s diet, introduce some form of exercise as a way to combat stress and teach mindfulness or meditation techniques that can help them cope when stress overwhelms them.
The action plan will also include the goals that both the fitness coach and client agree upon as where they should be headed together in their partnership.
Keep them going!
One of the often-overlooked areas in which a health coach needs to excel is motivation.
As humans, we tend to ebb and flow in terms of our ability to be motivated to do something. And clients working under a health coach are no different.
In the beginning, they certainly will be fired up to do as well as they can by putting into practice all the points from the action plan drawn up by the health coach.
As success begins to tail-off – think slower weight loss here as an example – people tend to lose motivation.
It’s in these situations in which a health coach needs to step in, keeping their clients on the straight and narrow and helping them overcome periods in which they could sabotage themselves.
This is usually done by monitoring the client through regular meetings, taking measurements if need be, given them additional literature to read and just by showing that they are with them, every step of the way.
Study time comparison: Health coach vs Nutritionist
We touched on it a little earlier but let’s look at the difference in the time it would take to qualify as a health coach compared to a nutritionist.
And the difference is massive!
Without a doubt, a nutritionist is a very skilled professional with in-depth knowledge of everything in the world of nutrition and how it can be used to help people in many ways.
That comprehensive knowledge, however, comes with the need to study a four-year degree. To become a health coach, however, you only need to complete a certification course.
These in-depth courses can be completed online at your own pace but most can be in just months if you work on them for a period every day.
Once you have completed the course, its a case of taking an exam to receive your certification as an accredited health coach.
And what health coach online certification do we recommend?
If you are looking to become a health coach, there are plenty of online certifications that will have you up and running in no time. One of the best is the Health Coach Certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
American Council on Exercise Health Coach Certification
ACE offers two health coach certifications, a “basic” course at $599 and a “plus” package which includes a few extras at $799.
But what do you get for your outlay?
Recently updated, ACE’s health coach certification can be completed online in a few months, especially if you are prepared to put some time into it each day.
The curriculum includes everything you need to know to become a health coach, putting you in a position to easily enter the world of fitness as part of a team, or acting independently.
The course consists of the following:
- Course ebook (textbooks and audiobooks are included for the “plus” package)
- Comprehensive video lectures for each chapter
- Audio coaching sessions
- Chapter quizzes for you to gauge if you understand the content of each section
- Other practice quizzes to help with preparation for the certification exam
- Access to an online portal, ACE Answers where you can ask experts about any questions you may have regarding course material and concepts
“The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching” course work ebook provides every bit of information you need to prepare thoroughly for the certification exam.
Without a doubt, this is one of the top health coach certifications out there!
So there you have it.
You now know the difference between a health coach and a nutritionist. And while you might want to go the nutritionist route at some point in your career, the easiest way to enter this exciting part of the fitness world is by becoming a health coach.
With enough dedication, you could be certified in around three months, ready to help clients in need.
And the scope for employment is huge. You could become part of a team or go out on your own, that’s up to you.