Earning a living as a health coach can be difficult…

…if you teach your clients exactly how to take charge of their health.

That’s because they will soon no longer need you. A Google search for “certified health coach” yields over ten million results. The first two are the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the third was the National Society of Health Coaches. The next few on that first Google page were individuals who were running their own certification programs.

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It seems that almost anyone can certify other people to be health coaches as there appears to be no regulatory authority. A few questions come to mind:

  1. What does it really mean to be a health coach?
  2. What kind of services will you offer your clients?
  3. How will you acquire your clients?
  4. Can you make a living being a health coach?
  5. If you teach your clients how to “take charge of their own health,” will they still need your services?

How do you make a living in the health coaching business?

Question # 5 is where the rubber meets the road. For the past 518 blogs, I have written often about the fact that there is simply not much money to made by everyone becoming healthy. Most medical doctors in private practice depend on a base of patients who return with routine frequency for renewing prescriptions, annual physicals, and the occasional new health problem.

If most of their patients suddenly learned how to take charge of their own health, the future viability of the physician’s practice would be greatly compromised. He or she would soon be out of business. The same dilemma arises in the “health coaching” business. What happens to your health coaching business when your clients no longer need you?

Following my article about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one reader posted the following comment:

Jim, Is there a course available for health coaching besides the T. Colin Campbell Foundation online course? Education is the answer to our health problems in western societies and I would like to be a health coach. Regards, Les

These two “health coaches” are targeting large organizations—helping them save money on healthcare.

My response. Thanks Les. Sadly, to my knowledge, there is no such course. Since there is no money to be made by people getting healthy, there is not a single for-credit course on plant-based nutrition at a single school of nutrition in the United States—and possibly the world. (If there is, Dr. Campbell and I don’t know about it)

As for health coaching, my son Jason (shown here with me) is a certified personal trainer and has a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies with eCornell. In my opinion, that’s about the best combination you can have for health coaching. But teaching people how to take charge of their health can be hazardous to your income. Read on:

For 3 or 4 years, my son worked with a client whose primary goal was weight-loss. And although Jason told him repeatedly that his food choices had much more to do with his weight than “working out,” he continued with his “meat and dairy” habits—-until recently.

Around Thanksgiving of 2010, Brian (a doctor himself) finally decided to adopt our 4Leaf Program. Since then, he has lost 46 pounds (207 to 161), discontinued ALL of his meds and…

Has fired his health coach/personal trainer.

Dr. Hurley on his way to vibrant health and a total weight-loss of nearly 50 pounds; almost 25% of his beginning total.

All those years that he “worked out” under Jason’s direction, he was really trying to lose weight. But when he decided to “pursue vibrant health” instead, the excess weight took care of itself. And although he no longer needs Jason’s services, they still remain very good friends. In fact, he often tells Jason—and others—that Jason saved his life. For an update on Dr. Hurley, click here.

The Bottom Line. There is not much money to be made by people becoming healthy. That being said, our book, this blog, my speaking engagements, my consulting work—essentially everything that I do is aimed at telling people everywhere EXACTLY how to take charge of their own health.

You won’t find that information at the IIN, the NSHC, the AHA, the ACS or the ADA. You’ll mostly find confusion. Maybe that’s why their patients and clients continue to “need” them indefinitely. See my very popular blogpost at:  “Confusion over clarity” at schools of nutrition?

Handy 5-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? 

Take our free ONLINE 4Leaf Survey (takes two minutes)

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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9 Responses to Earning a living as a health coach can be difficult…

  1. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this article. I am looking into health coaching and have been wanting to get into this field for sometime. I have already taken Dr. Campbell”s Plant Based Nutrition course and of course follow several of our plant -based doctors but it is good to go into things with your eyes open. All of the health coaching schools of course talk about what a growing field it is but what you say makes sense. I still want to do it though because most of us WFPB people want to share what we know with everyone and help others achieve better health and also help the planet. I am thankful to have your input though as I consider investing our limited financial resources into this venture. Still, even if clients don’t stay with you isn’t it all worth it to see them healthy? There should be personal satisfaction in seeing them not need you anymore. I would also hope thst success would lead to a flow of new clients. Or maybe I am just naive and optimistic.

  2. Kat Spangler says:

    In response to Les, there is another course to become a health coach: Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s online training program trains you to become a certified health coach in one year.

  3. While I agree with your premise that your clients will eventually fire you, I think given the state of this nations health there are enough people out there that need help that a good coach should have no problem finding a steady stream of clients. It is like any other type of coaching. The goal is for you to outgrow the need of the coach eventually. It has been my experience that this is a pretty long term process. If a health coach helps someone take charge of their health, they are helping to create a ripple effect in our society. Most of the coaches I know are more interested in helping people than in making money, but I don’t think they need to be mutually exclusive.
    Thanks for all your great work,

  4. Brian says:


    Awesome!!  Though I never thought about it this way!!  You are right, however, if your teacher is able to teach you well, you learn for life. Yet, look how long it took me too get it and now I have Vibrant Health and friends for life, including you. Priceless!!!

    Forever Grateful,


  5. Nathan says:

    I think it is worth mentioning that there Are ways in which a medical system can find it profitable to encourage and promote true vibrant health.
    England, for example has a medical system wherein doctors are not paid per patient visit (indeed going to see the doctor is free at the point of purchase) Doctors are indeed handsomely paid large government salaries and earn substantial bonuses if they keep their patient population healthy. Because the government covers the cost of medical care, they are very interested in accountability, and lowering the cost of medical care. The profit system is flipped, because more and more expensive medical care means losing money, never gaining it for the government who ensures care, and the doctors who provide it. Thus convincing your patients to stop smoking, lose weight, and essentially “never darken your door” by being healthy, means doctors earn big bonuses and lots of money (essentially the opposite of the USA, where doctors on congratulated on having “very high admission rates this month”, or scrutinized when “your admissions are way down”. Having a host of chronically ill patients constantly requiring tons of expensive medical procedures is great in the US system, but in England, it’s very bad.

    Now, I’m not going to claim that the British medical system is all pretty flower gardens and perfect (it has many problems), but conceptually, the paradigm incentives true vibrant health in a way the US does not. According to the world health organization, the USA ranks 37th in the world and spends over $8000/person on healthcare (the highest spending in the world), England is 18th and spends ~$2000/ person (26th highest spending in the world). France, which uses a single payer health insurance model, wherein the government negotiates reduced medical prices by leveraging a population of 60 million french people has the number 1 spot in healthcare, they spend around $4000/person, making them the 4th highest spending nation per person, but still half what the US spends for a far inferior result.

  6. Jean Myers says:

    Another option is the NET certification offered by Dr. Joel Fuhrman – science based and thorough but not cheap! See http://www.nutritionaleducation.com/ for more info

  7. Debbie says:

    Dear Jim,
    As an Acupuncturist and a person who took T. Colin Campbell’s course, I have the best of both worlds helping people become healthy. As you may or may not know, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture are the most continually practiced medicine in the world for thousands of years and it is a medicine based on Prevention not early detection. When you couple Chinese Medicine with a plant based diet, I have patients coming in all the time. People do have mishaps and pull their backs out or have other bouts of pain. Also, I teach my patient’s that coming in 4 times a year for maintance is very important. People take better care of their cars than their bodies. During their maintance visits we often tweek their diets as well.
    Hence, I don’t find it difficult to be a health coach when combined with another holistic practice that is being covered by insurance more and more. Acupuncture is the perfect medicine with no side effects and completely natural.
    Best regards,

  8. Robert Thatcher says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if doctors and researchers could focus on diseases that aren’t preventable? Diseases caused by environment versus poor eating choices. It sounds like your son is the best kind of health coach – teaching his clients “to fish”… to live healthy on their own. We sure need a few hundred of his kind in Tennessee! Thanks so much for the daily post!


    Physician heal thyself! – Luke 4:23. To protect the guilty, I’ll not mention any names, but over the years I’ve met many doctors who were anything but healthy. Some had large guts. With few exceptions, nutrition was NOT a topic of conversation. I really like “before” and “after” reports and pictures of those who have transformed their lives. The site of “J. Morris Hicks” performs a service to the intellectually curious in presenting such stories. Real world examples of excellence help.

    Resource lists citing videos, audios, books and presentation notification are also invaluable. Again, to protect the guilty, I sometimes see – even with my favorite gurus – a “NIH” syndrome showing an apparent reluctance to cite kindred spirits who ALSO have parallel findings.

    NIH = Not Invented Here.

    (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain
    (2) thet when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and
    (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment. Bertrand Russell – Let The People Think (1941)

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