Jobs like ‘health gurus’ didn’t exist 10 years ago, now they’re everywhere

What does a ‘health coach’ even mean?

At some point during the last few years wellbeing became sexy. The term used to be associated with hippies seeking spiritual enlightenment and primary school conversations about fibre. But then people started taking it seriously.

Health guru, wellness mentor, life coach – these jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago but are now big business. They’re the new nutritionists, counsellors and personal trainers, with everyone from Blake Lively to Pippa Middleton getting in on the act. It’s hard to know when or how or why this transition happened, but it’s clear that “wellbeing” – in all its vague, indefinable guises – is appealing and profitable.

But what exactly does a health coach do? Their blogs might claim “plant-based diets” help people “achieve health goals” and “become better versions of themselves” but, beyond buzzwords, what does it take to be a health guru?

What are the hard, practical processes behind the work? Can you coach health or mentor wellbeing? Is there really more to it than posting #yummy Instas of #avotoast?

We asked the people behind the pictures to find out.

Madeleine Shaw, Health coach and author

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‘A health coach is someone who coaches another person to health’

A health coach is someone who coaches another person to health. I was living with Sydney and started working in a health café. I loved cooking and learning about nutrition and wanted to deepen my knowledge, so I started a blog and studied at the Integrative Institute of Nutrition to broaden my knowledge which allowed me to help my audience get healthy. Every day is different which keeps me stimulated and excited. Some days I’m at home in the kitchen cooking, teaching yoga, or filming recipes, and other days I just have to sit down and get through my emails, it all balances out.

Studying health coaching gave me such a holistic approach to health, looking not just at the food but mindset and lifestyle as well. You can eat all the kale in the world but if you are stressed out you won’t feel good. That’s why my Glow Guides is broken down into Move, Munch and Meditate – you need all three to balance your body. Social media has been amazing at spreading the word, inspiring people and making them think outside the box. We are now beginning to understand the importance of food and how it can heal us.

Jordan, Lifestyle blogger

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Jordan says ‘you don’t need to be young and photogenic to be a health blogger’

I focus a lot on health, wellness, yoga, nutrition and fitness because those are some of my greatest passions. I usually explain being a full-time blogger as having an online diary, which is awesome. Many bloggers who write about health don’t take the place of a doctor or nutritionist – we simply write from experience and share our experiences with everything from fitness studios to diet choices to eating disorder recovery. My blog started as a hobby but eventually morphed into my full-time job over time.

I grew most of my blog audience on Instagram to begin with, through imagery that I knew worked well on the platform and also through relevant hashtags. But you don’t need to be young and photogenic to be a health blogger. You don’t even need to be in your blog photos, so you don’t even need to make yourself a part of it. I think there is always vast benefit to be gained from hearing someone else’s experience. It’s like talking to a friend.

Laura Bond, Health coach and journalist

Laura, left,

Laura, left, at work on a plant-based pedal station

As a nutritional health coach I help people make diet and lifestyle changes that allow them to get the most out of life. That might be helping a busy CEO find on-the-go foods to beat stress, or providing a meal plan for a new mum to support her body while she is breast feeding.

People are surprised when I tell them sushi is really unhealthy. Most high street brands use farmed fish – which are typically crammed into cages and fed on a diet of grains and antibiotics.

Lisa McManus, Wellness coach

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‘Wellness is about trying to connect the mind, body and spirit’

Wellness Coaching is coaching someone back to Wellness. I focus on holistic health, trying to connect the mind, body and spirit with all my clients – when you have all three working for you, that is true Wellbeing.

A typical day starts at 5.30am, I often try to get to yoga or swim early. I try to keep client sessions to 3-4 a week, as they can be intense, they take around 2 hours per client and there is a lot of follow up work for me to do afterwards. Afternoons could be writing articles, writing up client plans, updating my websites, meetings or prepping talks that I may have on that evening.

It’s really important that health coaches offer knowledge backed by some sort of qualification or extensive self-learning, combined with an empathetic disposition and real life experience.

Harriet Waley-Cohen, Health and Wellbeing coach

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Harriet is worried too many health coaches are under-qualified

I’ve been through a number of huge life changing transformations myself – 13 years in recovery from additions, leaving a financial career for coaching, walking away from an unhappy marriage – and my mission is to inspire contagious belief in the possibility for life changing transformations in others. One of the things I absolutely love about health coaching is the way we step back from isolating small segments of life – diet, or relationships, or career – and see everything as connected.

Direct coaching takes up about half of my working hours, but my business is as much about inspiring and empowering others through speaking. At the moment, the health coach field is unregulated in the UK. A large group of health coaches that all trained at the same school as myself, IIN, are looking to change that. I feel it would give credibility to those of us that are trained. I worry that someone who hasn’t been trained in appropriate professional boundaries could put a client at risk because of trying to help in areas that they are totally unqualified to help with.