Howie Jacobson, PhD
The coach training is informed and inspired in part by Josh LaJaunie, Howie’s coauthor on Sick to Fit and Use the Weight to Lose the Weight. Here’s a bit of his story.
Powerful coaching skills for plant-based coaches, advocates, and healthcare professionals.
Howie Jacobson here. I’m really excited to tell you about our coach training program. In this letter, I’ll share the program details and philosophy, as well as my thoughts on who should attend.
I’m not going to use a lot of “persuasion techniques.” That’s because I only want really committed participants to go through the program. I want to ensure that everyone who joins is willing to work hard, participate fully, show up in all your power and vulnerability, and give generously of yourself to the other participants.
The WellStart Health Coach Training Program is designed to:
Enable health professionals to more effectively assist patients or clients to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle habits
Give powerful coaching skills to healthy lifestyle advocates considering a career as a health coach or in some other professional capacity
Empower lifestyle advocates who aren’t necessarily interested in a career change, but still want to be able to assist friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others to transition to a healthy lifestyle
If you’re a health professional, you’ll learn advanced coaching skills not taught anywhere else in the health or wellness world. These skills will immediately differentiate you in terms of effectiveness.
When I discovered and honed these skills, it was like discovering a superpower. I stopped getting frustrated at my clients for NOT doing what they had agreed to do. I stopped relying on the same ineffective techniques (“OK, let’s put that workout on your calendar – again”). And I could see the relief on my client’s faces and hear it in their voices: this time they were actually getting traction, seeing changes in behaviors, and getting results they had never achieved before.
If you’re a lifestyle medicine advocate stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfill you, how amazing would it be to be able to make a living helping other people discover the benefits of this lifestyle?
After all, once you’ve made significant changes to your own lifestyle and seen the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet and movement practice, you want to share this life-saving information with the whole world!
But of course, unless you’re independently wealthy, you can’t just quit your job and put up a website and expect to attract paying clients.
In fact, most wellness coaches are struggling to make a living. Let’s face it: telling people to eat plants and showing them how to cook without oil is not exactly a hugely profitable skill.
What can separate you from the crowd, and can give you an instant competitive edge, is the ability to help people get what they want. And what people want isn’t to go vegan or save the Greenland Ice Shelf; they want to lose weight, feel better, get off their meds, look hot in a bathing suit, and finally gain control over their crazy-making behaviors.
Coaching is the perfect “side business” in that it requires no overhead, no extended time commitment, and spreads like crazy by word of mouth – if you’re good.
This program will give you the skills and confidence to start a side hustle as a health coach – one that can lead to a new career when you’re ready to make the leap.
If you’re already a health or wellness coach, and you’d like to subcontract for WellStart, this program is required as orientation.
After you successfully complete the course, you will be granted the title of Certified WellStart Coach.
At WellStart Health, we’ve got a lot of strong opinions. Here are a few you’re going to have to agree with if we’re a good fit.
Unlike a lot of “content-neutral” wellness coaching programs, we think it’s irresponsible NOT to share the evidence-based protocols that lead to good health.
And the preponderance of evidence clearly shows that humans are by our very nature plant-eating, bipedal-moving, growth-oriented beings.
So that’s where we tell our clients to head if they want to lose weight, get fit, experience less pain, get happier, and prevent or reverse chronic disease.
Helping clients make very small improvements in their lives gives them confidence, and pointing them toward big changes gives them the energy to commit in a serious way.
While “take the stairs instead of the elevator” and “drink more water” are both excellent strategies, they’re the beginning, not the end.
We expect our clients to make Big Changes. Changes that matter, that move the needle not just on biometric tests, but on their day to day realities. On how much joy they experience. On their grittiness. On their self-compassion. And hell yes, on their actual physical and psychological well-being.
We love a lot of features of 12-step programs (community, ritual, accountability, soul-searching), but we’re definitely not big fans of the first step – admitting powerlessness.
Saying we have no control over our behavior in the face of a given temptation is like saying we can never steer a car just because we’ve spent our entire life in the passenger seat.
There are simple, learnable skills that allow us to overcome any craving.
And mastering those skills allows us to navigate the world without having to fear or shy away from family gatherings, class reunions, holiday parties, and the break room at work.
We believe that lasting change occurs through deep shifts in identity and mindset.
That said, we don’t start with the deep stuff. Instead, we get our clients to DO something, and evaluate the results. We don’t wait until we’ve “gotten our heads right” or healed our inner child before tackling our bad habits.
Everyone has emotional baggage and we don’t need to “solve” all that stuff before we can start making positive lifestyle choices. Right action leads to right thinking. And in pretty much every case, taking positive action brings all the inner voices and conflicts and saboteurs into the open where we can see them and deal with them effectively.
If we have all the answers, then our clients learn that they need us in order to be successful.
If, on the other hand, we show our clients that they can generate their own solutions, and help them see their vast capabilities in most areas of their lives, then they discover how to help themselves and solve their own problems.
As WellStart coach Josh LaJaunie says, it took a community to get him to 420 pounds, and it took a different community to turn him into an ultra-endurance athlete.
One of the main responsibilities of a health coach is to guide the client to joining or creating supportive communities.
Within WellStart, weaving together community by modeling openness and vulnerability and non-judgmentalism so that everyone feels as safe as possible.
We need to be on the same path as our clients.
We have to eat well, move vigorously, and manage our stress.
We need to be responsible in our sleep habits.
That doesn’t mean being perfect. But it does mean taking responsibility for our actions and outcomes, and not asking more of our clients that we’re willing to take on ourselves.
A lot of the work we do involves helping our clients navigate their feelings. Many of those feelings are unpleasant – people don’t binge or avoid movement or stay up until 3am watching crap TV or scrolling Instagram when they’re peaceful or joyful.
In order to give our clients control over their impulses, we have to guide them to tolerate and contain and experience their unpleasant feelings and emotions and thoughts.
But here’s the thing: if we habitually distract ourselves or numb out when we have unpleasant sensations or thoughts, we won’t be able to create space for our clients to process their stuff. We’ll be too triggered by their experience to stay present for them.
So a lot of coach “training” involves getting comfortable with our own emotional discomfort.
The WellStart Coach Training Program a comprehensive approach to helping people achieve their goals. Our definition of coaching comes from my friend and coaching mentor, Peter Bregman (coauthor, with me, of You Can Change Other People).
“Coaching is a reliable process that helps clients get massive traction on what’s most important to them.”
It’s not therapy. It’s not medical advice-giving. It’s not motivational speaking. It’s not about fixing what’s wrong. Instead, it’s about moving toward desired outcomes.
If you’ve read The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle and Alan Goldhamer, you understand the neurology and evolutionary psychology of bingeing and laying around on the couch. If not, here’s a quick explanation.
All of us have a “lizard brain” that evaluates the world solely in terms of survival and reproduction. It doesn’t do nuance; instead, it looks at everything in terms of “Do I eat it, run away from it, mate with it, or ignore it?”
The lizard brain operates on three programs, which Lisle and Goldhamer refer to as the “motivational triad”: seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. Each of those imperatives made sense in our evolutionary environment of food scarcity and unpredictability, constant threat of predation, and intermittent need to run for our lives.
But in our modern environment characterized by an ever-present onslaught of cheap, convenient, calorically dense, hyperpalatable fake foods and an unnatural supply of animal-based foods, the directive to eat as many calories as possible every chance we get leads to obesity, disease, and misery.
In a world when we can temporarily avoid physical pain through opioids and NSAIDS and psychological pain through junk food and alcohol and tobacco etc., the directive to avoid pain turns into addiction. And in a society in which we almost never have to exert ourselves physically, the direction to conserve energy produces a nation of couch potatoes.
We can’t get rid of this lizard brain, no matter how psychopathic it sounds as it screams at us to eat crap and not exercise. Instead, we have to learn how to dominate it. Put it in its place. Replace it as the driver of our behavior with our rational brain, our neo-cortex.
YOU CAN CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE
Our coaching framework is based on the coaching methodology Peter Bregman and I share in You Can Change Other People.
It includes up-front outcome orientation designed to create laser focus. When clients come to you overwhelmed at all the changes they think they need to make, that focus directs, simplifies, and amplifies their power.
You’ll discover how to call back that orientation at the start of every coaching session, to guide our focus and to prevent coaching from turning into a “random problem of the day” wild goose chase.
You’ll learn how to turn the presenting problem into an opportunity to achieve the client’s energizing outcome. This prevents you from spending a lot of time solving the wrong problem.
You’ll meet, practice, and master the 4 Steps coaching protocol. We teach it like a game: a rule-based series of interactions with “moves” and “counter-moves.”
This approach does not mean that heart and intuition are irrelevant; to the contrary, a heartfelt connection and caring presence is required for playing the game effectively.
You’ll also adopt specific techniques from within the 4 Steps Coaching toolbox and beyond: FAST Assessment, Real-time action, When/Then Plans, Pre-mortems, and many others.
One place we differ from other health coaching programs is our emphasis on the body as the lever for change.
You can do cognitive behavioral therapy all day long, but if someone is stuck in autonomic nervous system collapse, or mobilization with fear, their body simply will not allow the intellectual insights or emotional releases to penetrate into living consciousness.
The WellStart Program draws heavily on cutting edge and ancient stress reduction approaches, including Somatic Experiencing, Polyvagal Theory, breathwork, and progressive relaxation.
Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT)
ACT, a therapeutic and training protocol initially developed by Steven C Hayes, is one of the most elegant, simple, respectful, and evidence-based approaches to behavior change I’ve encountered.
As a theory of human behavior (and specifically the origins and function of the “Dictator Within” who sabotages our attempts at health and happiness and achievement and connection), ACT provides us with language and exercises to offer our clients to help them move from experiential avoidance to values-based presence and commitment to aligned action.
The WellStart Coach Training Program runs for 13 weeks.
It’s a comprehensive course designed to give you the tools and skills and mindsets to be a super-effective wellness coach.
The program consists of weekly recorded webinars and live practica (practice and debrief sessions, readings, audio and video content, participation in discussion forums, and supervised coaching. Expect to devote a minimum of four hours per week to the program.
60-minute Weekly Module Webinars
These webinars are available to watch as streaming or downloadable video, and to listen to as streaming or downloadable or podcasted audio.
You also get extensive notes, and the slide shows. There will be one new webinar released each week of the program.
Practicum (Practice Call)
You will join these weekly calls using video, on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
You must attend at least 8 of the 12 Practice Calls to graduate from the program.
Each practice call will have two parts. Part I will include a discussion, demonstration, and debrief of the last week’s webinar material.
Part II will be a supervision call of a technique or approach that you will have practiced with a “client.” It might be an actual client, or a friend or family member volunteer, or another participant in this program.
You’ll bring your questions and challenges and successes to the group, and get feedback and “feedforward” (that’s Marshall Goldsmith’s charming term for “suggestions for the future”).
Group Discussion and Support Forum
You’ll be able to ask questions, share experiences, get feedback, and connect with other participants in the program.
The community we build will be one of the most valuable aspects of your participation.
Once you have completed the course, we’ll meet once a month and practice live coaching or discuss and debrief a recorded coaching session submitted by one of the participants in this program. If it’s you, you’ll get permission from your client to record a session and share it with the group.
We’ll debrief the session and share incredibly useful feedback to help you enhance your practice. (This is the single most valuable contributor to my own growth as a coach.)
Howie Jacobson, PhD
Howie is coauthor of You Can Change Other People, and a leading health and executive coach. He’s coauthor of the “Coaching for Performance” module for the American Management Association “Bodies of Knowledge,” and a coach to leaders in startups and Fortune 50 companies.
He’s a Marshall Goldsmith certified coach, a frequent presenter at International Coaching Federation (ICF) chapter meetings, and host of the Wellness Coaches Podcast.
Howard has spent years studying and developing all of the behavior techniques and science behind our coaching method. Plus, he has co-authored some of the best books on nutrition and health (Proteinaholic, Whole), and hosts the Plant Yourself Podcast.
He’s been a behavior geek for about 20 years now, coaching thousands of people on all aspects of their lives: business strategy and execution, career counseling, relationships, life issues, and of course health and wellness.
As a licensed acupuncturist, Marian loved helping her clients feel better. It wasn’t long before she realized that, for many of them, a healthier lifestyle could do so much more. For the last 10 years, Marian has studied the science and art of healthy lifestyles and behavior change so she can effectively guide her clients towards healing and thriving. She has earned coaching certifications from Wellcoaches, Wellstart Health, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching, as well as a plant-based nutrition certificate from eCornell. Marian’s coaching practice was primarily one-on-one, but since the pandemic she’s had the privilege to lead groups. This experience highlighted for her the tremendous power of community to enhance coaching’s reach and effectiveness. We’re better together and with coaching that’s especially true.
Out of all Marian’s coach trainings, she especially loved Howie Jacobson’s WellStart Health Coach Training, which she completed twice. With still more to learn, she’s living the adage: “Teach what you need to learn” and has partnered with Howie to continue to grow and develop the program.
The coach training is informed and inspired in part by Josh LaJaunie, Howie’s coauthor on Sick to Fit and Use the Weight to Lose the Weight. Here’s a bit of his story.
Josh is a legendary figure in the plant-based community. He lost 230 pounds through running and a whole foods diet, and was featured on the cover of Runner’s World magazine in December 2016.
What’s truly remarkable about Josh – and what’s relevant here – is his ability to inspire and guide others to make their own transformations. His own immediate and extended family members have collectively lost around 1000 pounds, and have embraced the same anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle that saved Josh’s life.
And as founder of the Missing Chins Run Club, Josh has been featured on The Today Show,Good Morning America, and People magazine.
Joining this program is a big commitment. So it’s important that you have some confidence in WellStart, in our methodology, and in the results we get. Here are some testimonials from the group of coaches who went through our beta program:
Jane Reed, DPT
Here’s Glenn Livingston of Never Binge Again sharing his experience of Howard’s coaching:
And here are some participants in WellStart Health and the Big Change Program:
“Give yourself the gift of the Big Change Program. It is unlike anything you have tried before.”
“Howard and Josh are committed to the success of each participant and passionately believe in what they are teaching. They lead by example and have the courage to be transparent about their own journeys which creates an environment of trust.”
“They are intuitive, supportive, knowledgeable, and compassionate, yet they won’t hesitate to challenge you to examine your behaviors and give up your excuses.”
“Howard and Josh have created a community of support and accountability. I didn’t really know what I was signing up for, but it’s turned out to be more than I ever expected.”
-Megan Davenport, Big Change Program and WellStart Health participant
If you want more, please check out the video testimonials at WellStartHealth.com
The program fee is $1200, which includes the 13-week intensive, and an additional 9 months of supervision and practice calls.
You can pay in one lump sum, or in 3 or 6 monthly installments – whatever works best for you.
You can get a complete refund at any time during the entire 13-week program, for any reason.
I’m really excited to be offering this powerful training and professional development experience! Coaching really is one of the most powerful ways to change the world, and the world certainly needs more plant-based advocates with the skills to spread not only the word, but the practice.
Let’s do this!
If you’d like to join the program to become a Certified WellStart Coach, the next step is to register for a 25-minute enrollment interview.
That’s to determine if we’re a good fit for each other. Obviously, since the community of participants will be a huge factor in determining the quality of everyone’s experience, we can’t just let everyone in.