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How to Know If Your Health Coach Is Legit

by Marissa on February 9, 2015

marissa vicario explains how to know how to choose the right health coach - Brooklyn Bridge

When I became a health coach almost six years ago, the term – and idea of health coaching as a career – was fairly new.

Now that wellness is becoming top of mind in a more mainstream way (a very good thing), the term “health coach” has become more prevalent and a little more loose. 

Because of this, you’ll see my title changing from Certified Holistic Health Coach to Certified Integrative Health and Nutrition Coach over the coming months. 

Besides just a title, how can you identify someone who is certified and credentialed to work as a health coach? 

  • Look at their training and education: Have they gone through an educational program that qualifies them to practice as a Health Coach? If so, what did that program entail? At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I got my health coach certification, the Health Coach Training Program lasts one year and is focused on nutrition, primary food, coaching techniques and provides marketing and business resources. In fact, the education is so extensive that it’s the equivalent of a full year of college. There are 1500 colleges that have partnered with IIN to grant some level of credit and others that offer masters degrees and incoming credits toward degrees for IIN graduates.


  • Understand the results they’ve achieved with other clients: Sure, it’s important that your Health Coach has made healthy food and lifestyle changes in his or her own life but be sure to ask for anecdotes from past coaching clients. Whenever I’m speaking with a potential client, I weave these into our conversations naturally because they help illustrate exactly how I work with my clients. The stories are also available on my web site. If you have the opportunity to speak with your prospective coach, think about how you feel once you get off the call. I want to give my prospective client a taste of what it feels like to work with me so I’ll actually coach them during an intake session by asking questions and probing deeper into the answers. I get excited about the myriad ways I’ve helped people become healthier and it shows. Hopefully the same is true for anyone you’re considering working with too.


  • Ask about product and diet promotion: I need to preface this one by saying this is always a matter of personal preference and not everyone feels the same but be wary of someone who promotes their individual diet or is a cheerleader for a specific brand of supplements, cleanse products, protein powders, etc. Many of these are multi-level marketing schemes. While there’s nothing necessarily dishonest about them, I made a conscious decision as a business owner and health coach that I wouldn’t participate in these programs mostly because I strongly believe that what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. Likewise, just because I eat a certain way, doesn’t mean I promote that way of eating for my clients. My job is to hold space for the client to navigate food and lifestyle and find what works for her. I may make recommendations based on what I think may work in specific scenarios, I may recommend certain brands and products that I like when I’m asked, but it’s not a condition of working with me and I don’t get compensated if a client chooses to purchase these products. Note: There are plenty of legitimate and credentialed health coaches who do choose to participate in these programs and attract clients who want to use their products. The clients I work with, however, typically aren’t interested in this.

I know there are plenty of people reading this who are aspiring health coaches and are thinking about pursuing an education at IIN. 

First, let me say that it’s absolutely necessary that you get some kind of education or certification before you begin to practice as a Health Coach both for legal reasons and it’s just honest business. 

Beyond that, here are a few important IIN program highlights: 

  • IIN offers diverse styles of teaching to engage all the senses like video, audio, written content and quizzes
  • IIN offers world class speakers in wellness and nutrition like Deepak Chopra, David Wolfe and Dr. Mark Hyman
  • At IIN you get community support, student interaction and access to staff 
  • I’m always asked about where to start when establishing a health coaching business. IIN walks you through the process. Plus, IIN students get a customizable web site, business cards, newsletter content and client handouts. 
  • As an IIN student, you can start seeing clients half-way through the program. This was an integral part of my future success as a health coach 

Have more questions about health coaching or Integrative Nutrition? Feel free to pose them to me in the comments below. 

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