What exactly is health coaching? How is it different from working with a nutritionist, or even a therapist? What does working with one look like?
I had the opportunity to sit down with Tara, the founder and CEO of Rupa Health, a company who connects patients with integrative and holistic practitioners. I answered all these questions and more!
So Katie, let’s start with the basics! Where do you work and what is integrative nutrition health coaching?
I have a private coaching practice, Whole Nourishment, and am affiliated with several clinics including SF Advanced Health , HAVN Collective and Soluna Health. I help women who are dealing with digestive issues or emotional eating (or some mix of the two!).
“ Integrative Nutrition health coaching is the process of partnering with and guiding a client through overall lifestyle changes, with a focus on nutrition and wellbeing.”
I help them find foods and lifestyle practices that are right for their own body and goals. The integrative part refers to my focus on balancing all areas of life that relate to self-care.
“Food is only one form of nourishment in our day.”
Health is the interplay between not only what and how we eat but also other forms of nourishment like managing stress, self-talk and rest during the day. I also address the connection between our emotions and digestion and gut health - that’s whole health.
How does integrative nutrition relate to integrative medicine?
I see integrative medicine as piecing together various forms of healing modalities to contribute to overall health and well-being (like acupuncture, therapy, meditation, nutrition and more), instead of putting all your eggs in one basket like nutrition or exercise.
Integrative nutrition connects the dots between mental and emotional wellness and your actions. It’s how clients eat, how they think about food and their body, and how they show up for themselves every day (and how that impacts their food choices).
What’s the difference between a health coach and a nutritionist?
Nutritionists focus on the impact of dietary changes primarily. Health coaches provide nutritional guidance while also addressing other factors that impact health such as self-care practices, rest, mindset and emotions.
So… are you kind of like a therapist?
I help clients bridge the emotional awareness they’ve learned from therapy and put that into action as it relates to food and self-care choices. How do I manage anxiety with food and weight? How do I not feel guilty or shameful around food? I help them see the connection between food, emotions, digestion and overall well-being.
What type of client is a good fit to work with you?
“I help clients bridge the gap between what we want to do and how we actually put it into practice. This includes baby steps in moving toward our goal or vision.”
My ideal client is someone who:
Is ready to take action
Recognizes already that there isn’t a quick fix to forming sustainable habits. Working with me is a long-term partnership.
Recognizes there’s an emotional aspect to their food choices
Most of my clients are dealing with either emotional eating or digestive issues. For digestive issues, that ranges from irregular bowel movements to bloating and constipation. Some have been diagnosed with IBS. They recognize, and are ready to address, both the physical and emotional component to healing.
What type of client is not a good fit?
Someone who just wants a meal plan and to be told what to do. If that’s their expectation, I guide them to an RD.
What kind of goals do clients come to you with, and what’s your approach?
Some clients’ goals are as broad as, “having a more mindful relationship with food”. Other clients are more specific, with goals like “improving my digestion”, “cooking more plant-based meals” or “not emotionally eating out of boredom, stress or numbing”.
I have a non-diet approach, or a ‘no diet mentality’- I help clients look beyond the “good” and “bad” food lists to find what foods are right for their own body. I teach them research-backed tools for body awareness, making peace with food, and mindful eating so they can make food choices out of self-care and respect rather than fear or control.
Do you do lab testing for your clients, or help them through elimination diets?
No, but I do work with a functional medicine physician who can do lab testing. If someone is looking for a food plan or elimination diet, I send them to work with a Registered Dietitian.
What kind of training do you have? How do Health Coaches get trained?
In general, they’re trained to support the whole person. They learn the power of nutrients and superfoods. But they also learn how to assess the web of factors in a client’s life that influences health and food choices such as personal connection, mental wellness and sleep. Coaches are trained in active listening and asking high-mileage questions to guide clients to listen to their own bodies and become aware of triggers around food.
As for me, I’m a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. From undergrad, a Masters in Epidemiology (MPH) and nutrition school, I’ve studied integrative nutrition, health education, the mind-body connection, behavior change psychology and habit formation to help clients integrate habits into everyday life to achieve a sustainable and healthy relationship to food and body.
What does it cost to work with a health coach?
There’s no official standard with health coaching - but here’s how I work. I offer a complimentary 30-minute consult to get to know a client, hear her goals and challenges and share my approach. From there, if we decide it’s a good fit, we commit to a long-term partnership.
We meet every other week for a minimum of 6 months. I charge $200/hr, which includes detailed follow-up notes, supplemental material and e-mail access to support the client’s practice between sessions. It’s a real partnership.
There’s a lot of handholding involved at the beginning which transforms into the client feeling a strong sense of ownership, competency and self-confidence. I support clients in this unique way because there’s something incredibly healing about personal attention. This level of tailored support is missing in the health care model today.