Guest Post by Lisa Levine: Life Coaching vs. Health Coaching

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  I've been a health coach since I started my business in 2009 but I can count on all my fingers and toes (multiple times over) how often I get called a life coach or nutritionist.

I'm neither.

I do get stopped, however, when trying to explain the difference but I don't really know what a life coach does and how it's different from the work I do as a health coach. One of my recent IIN health coaching students, Lisa Levine, IS both a life coach AND soon-to-be health coach graduate. I invited her to weigh in on the difference(s) between life coaching and health coaching and she put together a brilliant post. You can read more below and check out Lisa's website in the info about her at the bottom of this page. :)

Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your insight and wisdom to help clear up the important distinctions!


From Lisa:

Ever since I started what I like to call my "Coaching 2.0" journey, I've had lots of people say to me, "Lisa, what exactly is the difference between a Life Coach and a Health Coach?" With that in mind I have created a little primer.

Without further ado, here is your guide to Life Coaching vs.Health Coaching, and a look at how some kind of coaching might be helpful in your life.

Life Coaching vs. Health Coaching

Hello friends! I have been MIA from my blog for a few months while working on a course with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Soon I will be adding health coaching to my wheelhouse! My plan is to combine what I am learning at IIN with what I already practice as a certified Life Coach.

Ever since I started what I like to call my "Coaching 2.0" journey, I've had lots of people say to me, "Lisa, what exactly is the difference between a Life Coach and a Health Coach?" With that in mind I have created a little primer.

Without further ado, here is your guide to Life Coaching vs. Health Coaching, and a look at how some kind of coaching might be helpful in your life.

Coaches empower people to change their lives. 

As a Life Coach, I help people change their lives by changing their thinking. I am like a personal trainer - for your mind.  I can teach you how to understand and overcome your fears and frustrations, how to shift your perspective, how to tune in and reconnect to your body, and, first and foremost, how to truly Pay Attention to what you are thinking, feeling and doing.  Just the simple act of Paying Attention alone can be life changing! If you find yourself stalled out or at a crossroads, then hiring a Life Coach is just the ticket.

As a Health Coach, I believe that food is all the things that sustain your life, not just what you find on your plate. Your career, relationships, spirituality, hobbies - anything that you feel passionate about - can be considered a primary food. As the Institute of Integrative Nutrition teaches, “When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you actually eat secondary.” And if what you actually eat makes you feel so tired and crappy that you don't have the energy to do the things that feed your soul, then I can help you get back in balance.

In addition to studying over 100 different dietary theories, I have learned numerous strategies for helping clients create new habits and lifestyle changes. I can help you feel healthy, energized and back on track with your primary and your secondary foods.

Coaches listen deeply and reflect back to their clients what they hear and see - often with a fresh perspective.

As a Life Coach I encourage you to explore the places in your life where you are stuck or uncomfortable. I give prompts and ask questions that help you dig deeper towards the light so you can move forward. Sometimes the questions are harder to answer than you might think (i.e. what would you do if you knew you could not fail?). I listen carefully to what you are saying and not saying. Then, together, we can look at things from a different angle. It's like having brand new batteries for your flashlight on a camping trip.

As a Health Coach I read between the lines of your Health History pre-work. I employ Active Listening skills and ask questions that encourage you to really look at what feeds your body, mind and spirit. I don't expect you to immediately change everything and jump headfirst into 2 hours of daily meditation and the land of green smoothies. It's important to me to find out where you are on your health journey and meet you there.

Coaches trust that each client has their own special path. We are there to shine a light, not to chart the course.

As a Life Coach I don't know what's best for you  - but somewhere inside yourself, you do. The new resources I give you can help you tune in to your unique Essential Self and move towards your destiny with joy and excitement. By shining light into forgotten corners that have become dusty and dark, your path gets brighter and clearer, leading you home to yourself.

As a Health Coach I know that bio-individuality is key to achieving sustainable health and wellbeing.  There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet or lifestyle. One person's diet of yoga and vegetarianism is another person's diet of CrossFit and Paleo. It all depends on your body, your genetics, your beliefs and what lights you up. Together we can see what is working and what is not working. By listening to your body we can create a plan that works specifically for you.

Coaches provide their clients with accountability, support and feedback.

As a Life Coach I am your biggest cheerleader. I am also the person who calls bullsh*t if it looks like you might be floating down the river of denial. If you are hiring me to help you move past a roadblock or navigate through some rough water, it serves us both to keep focused and make the most of your time by being honest and straightforward.

The same goes for me as your Health Coach. If what you are doing is no longer working then its time to do something different. The best way to create transformation and growth is to show up. If you are committed to change then I can help you get there.

Coaches help their clients come up with an action plan that is tailored just for them so that they can move forward and live their best lives.

In my practice as a Life Coach, you decide how many times you want to meet (I recommend at least 4 or 6). Sessions are 60 minutes and take place via phone or Skype. I provide notes after the session and encourage you to take your own notes as well. I often give action items and homework in between sessions to help you move through a challenging time or dream and scheme your way toward your heart's desire.

As your Health Coach I will meet with you twice a month, for 3 or 6 months. Sessions are 50 minutes and take place in person, on the phone or via Skype. I will provide you with information and recommendations that you can implement as we work together. We set concrete goals so that you can experience measurable change and success by the end of our time together.

There are lots of compassionate, bright and intuitive Coaches out there right now. Every one of them brings his or her, own "special sauce" to the equation. Most Coaches offer a free consultation that will give you both a chance to ask questions and get a sense of each other. The key is finding a coach whose style and approach most resonate with you. All good Coaches want their clients to live their happiest and healthiest lives and we know that when you show up for yourself you can achieve just that!


About Lisa Levine

Lisa is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach and a soon to be Certified Health Coach through IIN. She works with all kinds of folks who find themselves stuck on their life paths but she has a special affinity for women who are approaching "mid-life". Lisa is currently creating a program for clients like this that she fondly calls "F**k You, 50!", as in A Number Won't Define Me, I will Define Myself, Thank You Very Much. This will include practical tools, ideas & support for body, mind and spirit on the ramp up to 50 and beyond. Lisa lives happily in Seattle with her husband and 2 teenagers who keep her sharp as a tack. You can find her at

Hiding Hinders Healing: What Helped Lift My Depression



I was sitting down to write a paper for grad school about How We Determine Our Worth and I saw the news about Robin Williams. He allegedly committed suicide after years of battling depression.

I've long considered writing about my own experience with depression but since it felt more situational and wasn't a clinical diagnosis, I felt it wouldn't be as valuable.

And then I realized that was dumb.

My depression was real. I felt it so deeply I wanted to commit suicide multiple times and I expressed those feelings to friends. I wasn't kidding or joking or trying to get attention. I felt helpless and hopeless beyond belief and beyond comfort many, many times.

My depression was legitimate to me, with or without some clinician signing off on a diagnosis or prescription.

I've been able to find my way out from under the weight of the depressive bouts on each and every occasion over the years without prescription medications. I seem to be on a good upswing because the bouts have become much fewer and farther between, lately. I figured that it may be helpful to someone to read what helped my depression so I've decided to push past the thoughts about the depression other people feel and experience and write about mine.

I talked about it. Perhaps one of the toughest parts about depression is speaking about it. There may be fear or shame there because it may carry a stigma implying individual weakness. "Just pick yourself up and move on," people might say. I felt that fear and shame but I still spoke about it. I said it to my therapist. I said it to my friends. I said it to myself. "I feel depressed," I'd say. "I am depressed."

I felt it. Much like talking about it, simply feeling it helped. I allowed myself to be or feel depressed and didn't make excuses or feel like a failure because I was experiencing depression. I knew it was something people feel and I was now feeling it. It sucked and I often wished it would pass more quickly, but I never beat myself up for feeling it and that may have helped me not sink further down. On one occasion this past year, I backed myself into a closet and cried loudly until the tears stopped. I felt a little concerned while it was happening and wondered if calling 911 made sense but on the other side of it, about 30 minutes later, I felt a tremendous weight lifted.

I assessed my current situation and determined that it might be making me feel depressed. It might not be you. It might be your job, your relationship or something else that is not a good or right fit. In more than a few instances, changing my situation profoundly helped my depression.

I ate foods that seemed to improve my mood and (tried to) avoid ones that made it worse. When I ate sugar, my depression came on like gangbusters. What was mildly annoying or bothersome or frustrating one day would become utterly and profoundly hopeless within hours of ingesting too much sugar. I felt painted into a corner by paint that would never, ever dry. "This will be like this forever!" I'd say. And then, I would drink a lot of water and eat more vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens) and the sugar would pass through my bloodstream. The same situation that had me paralyzed hours earlier would feel slightly less horrible. And then, mildly horrible. And then, not so bad at all. I tried to remember this the next time I was tempted to eat a lot of sugar in one sitting but it didn't (doesn't) always work.

I made sure I got sleep, even when it was erratic. Experiencing insomnia brought on by anxiety or depression is hell. I've been through it a few times in the past few years and each time I become incredibly angry. We need sleep to function, it isn't something we can skip on and expect to really thrive. I hated that I wasn't sleeping, especially when I tried everything I could think of to remedy the insomnia. Essential oils. Baths. Not eating or drinking after 8pm. Cool temperature in the room. Blankets. No lights on. Earplugs. God, everything. But I persevered and eventually the circadian rhythms righted themselves and it dissipated. The most helpful thing may have been my tenacity with a regular bedtime, no matter how long I stayed asleep or how many times I woke up during the night.

I wrote about it. I wrote about my depression and didn't publish the blog posts. I got the words out with a pen in a paper journal. I sometimes resorted to drawing angry or sad faces with a crayon.

I listened to music that inspired me in some way. Sometimes it was African lullabies, sometimes it was Disney songs. Sometimes it was cathartic singer-songwriter stuff, in moderation of course. Listening to the suffering of others sometimes helped me gain much-needed perspective on my own situation. Often it helped me feel connected to someone, that person who wrote that song, even if that person was a total stranger who didn't even know I existed. They knew what I was feeling, though, and I felt less wrong or bad or hopeless that I would ever feel anything but those things.

I reminded myself that it might be depression. During especially difficult moments, the kind when I wasn't sure I needed to keep hanging out here on Earth, I remembered that it wasn't total and complete reality that would linger forever. It might be depression, instead, and it might pass.

I remembered my accomplishments. When I felt like I'd done all I could with my life and wanted to pass Go and collect my $200, I reminded myself of what I had accomplished. I considered all I've overcome. I reflected on the lessons I've learned and wondered what else was left for me to experience. "If my life has been this rich," I'd think, "what if there's even more ahead?"

I reached out for help from people I knew would listen. When I was depressed, hanging out or speaking with someone who didn't understand it or have compassion for it made it much worse. Calling someone who didn't judge or condemn it, and even understood it, helped me much more. Even though I don't experience ongoing depression and mine seems to come and go, I still relate to the fundamental quality of it. I remember it. While I hope that all people can find and experience relief from it, I can still hold the space for them as they find that relief. Not everyone can do this. They can't sit with their own feelings and probably can't hold the space for you. I don't spend too much time around these people, anymore.

If you feel depressed or experience ongoing depression, I encourage you to try some of what helped me, in addition to whatever you're doing that helps you wake up and put your feet on the floor each day.