What Does a Health Coach Read?
I love to read…sometimes to a fault; staying up too late (ironic…see book #1) or letting other things slide for the sake of “just one more chapter”! Reading can be educational, inspiring, entertaining, thought-provoking, or just relaxing.
As a Health and Fitness Coach, I tend to gravitate to books in that genre and I find myself reading them primarily through the eyes of my clients; how would the tips, techniques, strategies, messages, etc. in the book resonate and provide value to them as they seek to create a healthier lifestyle?
To that end, I have compiled my TOP 10 MUST-READS for anyone seeking to improve their health (plus updated 2019 favorites). The list includes books addressing key fundamentals affecting health such as sleep, stress, nutrition, exercise, spirit, and relationships. I suggest you scan the list and notice the one or two that jump off the page to you…that is probably an area that needs attention. Just be careful not to sacrifice sleep for reading….which brings me to #1:
- SLEEP SMARTER; Shawn Stevenson
This book tops the list because quality sleep impacts all other aspects of health – mind, body, and spirit. Poor sleep quality has significant hormonal, metabolic, emotional, and physical consequences that will undermine even the best of health programs. The author has compiled extensive research to support and explain these claims and provides practical ways to improve your sleep starting tonight!
- BETTER THAN BEFORE; Gretchen Rubin
I refer to habits as “the magic pills” that everyone is looking for when trying to create a healthier life, and this book explains the core principles of habit formation. Both solid research and proven strategies on this topic are presented in an easy-to-read, entertaining format. You will find yourself resonating with every chapter.
Update: 2019 top read that is similar is Atomic Habits by James Clear. The author says that if you are having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you; it’s your system. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve built my entire health coaching business on coaching a proven Health Habit Mastery system. This book will have you stop blaming willpower and start building a framework for habit formation. (Of course, if you’d like customized coaching on this…it’s what I do! We should chat!)
- GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES (or The Case Against Sugar or Why We Get Fat); Gary Taubes
We’ve heard many diet theories over the years…eat low fat, eat whole grain, eat more fruit, eat only egg whites, just eat less, and on and on! This book sets the record straight on nutrition for optimal health based on SCIENCE, not popular opinion. This author challenges traditional diet recommendations and provides a convincing argument with solid evidence. The reason I’ve given a few alternatives is because ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ is an extremely comprehensive “text-book” on the matter; great for those in the field or who want a very detailed study. The author makes many of the same points in a more “user-friendly” format in the other two suggestions. Bottom line, these books affected the way I eat forever. That may sound over-dramatic, but it’s true. And I am healthier now than ever before.
Update: 2019 top read that is similar Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman. Raise your hand if you are tired of and confused about diet trends, headlines, and “expert” conflicting advice at every turn. Vegan? Carnivore? Keto? Paleo? It’s enough to make you want to grab a pizza and beer and forget the whole thing! Not so fast, friends. This book cuts through the diet noise and gives you a scientific, non-biased look at foods that nourish and foods that harm. This is a no-nonsense guide to optimizing your health through food.
- PRIMAL ENDURANCE; Mark Sisson
This book may not resonate with everyone as the primary audience is endurance athletes, but I include it here because it challenges a conventional workout and nutrition approach used by both athletes and recreational exercisers alike; that of carbohydrate-dependent chronic cardio. The author, an elite endurance athlete himself, offers an alternative that has proven benefits, both for athletic performance and overall health. He proposes several strategies to conquer athletic goals while also preserving both short and long-term health.
- THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES; Gary Chapman
Why is there a book about LOVE on my list? Because having meaningful and supportive relationships is a critical aspect of health. We all are familiar with either “healthy” or “unhealthy” relationships and have felt the effects of either one on our overall well-being. Feeling loved is a basic human need and this author is an authority on the subject. He proposes that we each have a language from which we give and receive love. Understanding and speaking these unique languages can result in positive improvements in any relationship and, as a result, your health.
- POWER OF LESS; Leo Babauta
When trying to change health behavior, simplicity is a key factor in our ability to adhere to new habits. Too many choices, goals, distractions, etc., can drain our time, our willpower, our physical and mental strength, and leave us overwhelmed and exhausted. This book offers common sense tactics for streamlining your life so you can focus on the essential, such as accomplishing those health goals once and for all!
Update: 2019 top read that is similar is Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. What is standing in the way of your most important health and fitness goals? The majority of my clients would say “time”; not having the margin in their lives for exercise, quality sleep, and healthy meal prep. I’m sorry to say that we won’t find the time, we must make the time. This book walks you through a revolutionary productivity system that will have you protecting your energy and focus for the “right things” that drive the goals that matter most.
- SIMPLE ABUNDANCE; Sarah Ban Breathnach
Sorry guys, this one is strictly for the gals. Meant to be read over the course of a year, this book features 366 short essays from women’s perspectives all with the goal of helping us appreciate the joy, beauty, and simple pleasures in our messy, imperfect, and demanding lives. I first read this book over 20 years ago at a time when I was juggling work, marriage, and a new baby and chronically exhausted, both emotionally and physically. It was so impactful that the original copy still holds a coveted spot on my nightstand, as I refer to it often.
- JOURNAL; you are the author!
Journaling is an instrumental part of my health coaching practice for many reasons. Writing things down provides awareness and clarity, boosts self-confidence and self-discipline, can help control emotions and stress, and increases probability of reaching goals, among other benefits. As part of a health program, a journal can be used for practical purposes such as keeping a food log and tracking health habits, or for more emotional benefit, like recording gratitude and spiritual insights. You can buy them blank or with some structured journal prompts built in. The Five Minute Journal is one of my favorites. And if you aren’t currently a fan of journaling, here’s a book suggestion that might just change your mind: Let it Out.
- FICTIONAL BOOK SERIES; Your Choice!
I recommend getting engrossed in a fictional book series for a few reasons. First, there is a therapeutic benefit to unplugging from our everyday lives and “entering” a world far from our own reality. Second, reading fiction is good for brain health, sparking imagination and creativity. Finally, on a practical front, if you are reading (I recommend at night, in bed), you are not succumbing to late-night snack cravings or watching mindless TV (which often include snacks and can impact sleep…see book #1 above). I recommend a series because it will help you build a habit of reading. Choose a series from your favorite genre, just make sure it has little in common with your life (e.g. if you are a lawyer, don’t read a fictional law series…the idea is to unplug from your reality).
- SPIRITUAL RELFLECTION; Your Choice!
This is obviously a very personal topic. It’s my opinion, and that of a growing body of evidence, that spiritual practices are associated with better health and well-being through the physiological effects of positive emotions. Regular spiritual practices in various forms (prayer, devotion, meditation, faith services, etc.) can quiet the mind, increase gratitude, elicit hope, relieve stress, promote joy, and on and on. No matter your beliefs, these benefits can provide a strong foundation on which to build your healthy lifestyle.