Talking about coaching in the field of nutrition and health can leave many people confused. After all, what is coaching? How can it help me? Do I need a nutritionist or a coach?
Coaching has gained increasing recognition as an effective and applicable methodology to everyday life—including health! Not surprisingly, nutrition and health coaching is becoming evermore relevant. However, it’s important to be aware that where nutrition is concerned, you should always seek the services of a registered nutritionist (the same goes for other health areas).
Nutrition and coaching are completely separate things, but they can complement each other too!
Let’s take a closer look at the main differences between nutrition (health science) and coaching (methodology).
Coaching is a methodology used to put an individual on a path towards their goals. Through specific tools and techniques, a coach advises their clients, leading them to reflect, make choices, set targets and draw up a rational plan of action to achieve their goals. With coaching, you yourself set your targets, identify solutions to your issues, and define the necessary approach to be taken. One of the principles of coaching is “biting the tongue”, meaning that the coach will never offer any type of orientation or opinion, suggesting that “you should or shouldn’t do this or that”, but will instead ask you questions designed to stimulate self-reflection.
Nutrition, however, is a science dedicated to the promotion, recovery and maintenance of a healthy life, through food. A nutritionist is responsible for the nutritional diagnosis of individuals, and is the only professional trained to draw up food plans and prescribe specific nutritional supplements (irrespective of whether their clients are healthy people or have specific problems).
A nutritionist will traditionally conduct a complete nutritional assessment—an analysis of clinical signs, laboratory tests, food consumption and body composition—and from there will define a specific nutritional approach for each case. Such measures may include, for example, the prescription of nutritional plans and/or nutritional supplements, nutritional (re) education strategies, specific exercises, and even the application of coaching techniques and tools (if trained to do so).
Coaching is a methodology and can be very revealing when applied ethically and professionally. However, it is not a substitute for a nutrition professional (if the question is nutritional), a physical educator (if the goal is to exercise), a psychologist/psychiatrist (if you wish to address psychological issues), and so on.
In the next article, we look at applied nutrition in the field of aesthetics. Don’t miss out!