If you do a quick online search for a “weight loss coach,” you’ll probably find a plethora of experts (and so-called “experts”) claiming they can help you reach your goals. But how do you know what’s trustworthy and what’s not when it comes to navigating weight loss with a coach? Do you want to work with someone whose sole focus is on weight loss, or would you prefer someone who explores a more holistic approach that takes you—and the many different facets of your health—into account?
Find out why the latter approach might be your best bet when it comes to weight loss.
Digging Into Your Coach’s Background
Technically, anybody can call themselves a “health coach,” a “weight loss coach,” or any number of other similar titles. But what do we really mean when we talk about working with these different types of coaches? And what should you be looking for in terms of their qualifications?
“You will know a coach is legit if they have credentials that can be easily verified and can authenticate their training,” says One Drop coach, Chauntel Herrod, MS, certified diabetes prevention specialist.
For example, if you know you want to work with someone who can help you fine-tune your nutritional goals, specifically, for weight loss, you’ll want to look for a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN)—meaning, someone who won’t just give you an arbitrary calorie goal or number on the scale to aim for, but rather, someone who’s trained to support you with everything from learning new cooking strategies to finding substitutions for your old diet staples to ensure your meals are nutritious, yet still delicious.
To find a qualified nutrition expert near you, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the world’s largest organization of nutrition and dietetics practitioners) has an online locator that allows you to search based on your zip code. Or, become a One Drop Premium member and get matched with one of our coaches who are qualified to help you in several areas of health, including nutrition, weight management, fitness, nursing, diabetes care, heart health, and more.
In addition to confirming titles and qualifications, you can also dive into your coach’s evidence-based methodologies, and the results of those strategies, both in published research and in the coach’s own experience, says Herrod. For instance, One Drop coaches use science-backed techniques and clinical protocols, following guidelines set forth by organizations such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
“We also receive ongoing training in behavioral change techniques,” effectively helping you to stay motivated as you navigate the ins and outs of your health journey, adds One Drop coach, Alexa Stelzer, RDN, certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES).
By combining these different skills, explains Stelzer, health coaches can not only provide guidance and expertise but also empower you with the knowledge you need to make the right decision for your self-care.
Knowing What Your Health Goals Are Before Meeting with a Coach
Maybe you want to lose weight as part of your game plan for managing diabetes, or perhaps your doctor suggested weight loss as a way to help prevent that heart condition that runs in your family. Whatever the reasoning is, try to have an idea of what you want to accomplish with a coach’s guidance, and why, as you do your research.
For instance, if you live with diabetes, then you might know you want to work with a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES), who has comprehensive knowledge of how weight management relates to your chronic condition, or even a registered dietitian, who can help you figure out an eating approach that gets you closer to your goals. Someone who only calls themselves a “weight loss coach,” on the other hand, likely has a single objective: to move the number on the scale down, regardless of other aspects of your health, says Stelzer.
“A health coach takes a much more holistic approach, focusing on all the factors that make you healthy—not just the number on the scale,” she explains. “The coach is there to support you in preventing or managing chronic conditions, improving your physical fitness, optimizing the nutritional content of your eating plan, managing stress, and so much more.”
Put another way: Health coaches consider long-term, sustainable goals, not just what’s possible in the short term. “We’re here to help you become the best version of yourself and to maintain a level of health that supports you in achieving your lifelong goals,” says Stelzer.
If those goals include weight loss, great. But the truth is that health coaches help you to achieve goals effectively and thrive in so many other ways that have nothing to do with weight, says Stelzer.
How Health Coaches Can Support You with Weight Loss, and So Much More
A so-called “weight loss coach” might give you a fixed workout routine or eating plan to follow, but they may not necessarily understand that weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all process—or that there’s a lot more to it than just diet and exercise, notes One Drop coach, Sandra, RD, CDCES, and certified wellness coach (CWC).
“In addition to identifying an individualized eating plan and exercise program, a health coach can guide you through your weight loss journey by providing motivation, accountability, and resources,” explains Sandra. “This type of coach also helps you find your own values and motivation to make long-lasting changes that would ultimately lead to achieving your goals.” You just won’t get that level of support from a weight loss coach who doesn’t have the same training and qualifications.
In other words, health coaches aren’t really there to just tell you what to do; rather, they can help you figure out what works and what doesn’t for you, personally. Their approach is more individualized; guidance is provided directly to you instead of being automated. It’s a relationship—in many ways, a give-and-take relationship. For instance, when One Drop coach, Hanna, RDN, CDCES, works with people who want to lose weight, she begins by finding out if they’ve tried to lose weight in the past and, if so, how that experience went.
“I’ll ask if there are any strategies to repeat, such as food logging, and how that may have opened your eyes to what you’re eating every day,” she explains, noting that she’ll also dig into the strategies that haven’t worked in the past—for example, cutting calories at dinner only to get hungry and overeat late at night.
Or, if you haven’t tried to lose weight before, Hanna says she’ll ask about your general food routine: How much of a routine do you have, if at all? Do you like to cook? Do you dislike it? What’s going well in terms of your food routine? What’s not going well? What nutrition questions do you have? “Get it all out on the table,” says Hanna. “That is important.”
From there, continues Hanna, a coach can offer you recommendations—that is, of course, if you want them. Again, it isn’t about just doing what your coach tells you to do. It’s about working together to get closer to achieving your goals. In many cases, that might mean visiting your primary care doctor or other specialists between conversations with your health coach to confirm you’re checking all the boxes that you need to. After all, finding good ways to lose weight is a different process for everyone.
Whatever your relationship with your coach looks like, “it really comes down to your thoughts and opinions of what can work for you, combined with our expertise as coaches,” says Hanna. “The plan depends on you and your situation, capability, and motivation.”
Bottom line: There are endless options when it comes to finding effective ways to lose weight. Some people have tried working with weight loss coaches, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. Every step toward a healthier lifestyle is a good step. But, in order to be effective at weight loss, the behavioral element that health coaches can deliver is key.
Ready to kick off your weight loss journey? Join the One Drop community and get to know our coaches, who can support you as you navigate weight management, weight loss plateaus, and everything in between.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of clinical operations and program design at One Drop.