Howard Jacobson here, with WellStart Health. I’m really excited to finally announce the launch of 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 try to use a lot of “persuasion techniques.” That's because I only want really committed participants to go through the program. This is the very first certification course that I’ve ever run, and 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.
Who This Program is For
The WellStart Coach Training Program is designed:
- To enable health professionals to more effectively assist patients or clients to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle habits
- To give powerful coaching skills to plant-based lifestyle advocates considering a career as a health coach or in some other professional capacity
- To empower plant-based 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 plant-based 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 a plant based 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 complete the course and pass the written and practice exams, you will be granted the title of Certified WellStart Coach. (And you can take those exams as many times as it takes to pass, like at the DMV.)
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.
There IS a right way to eat, move, and think
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.
Take Tiny Steps toward Epic Outcomes
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 Are Not Powerless in the Face of Our Cravings
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.
Deep Change Occurs Through Superficial Action
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.
Coaches Foster Self-Efficacy
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.
Coaches Foster Community
As 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. And within WellStart, weaving together community by modeling openness and vulnerability and non-judgmentalism so that everyone feels as safe as possible.
Coaches Have to Walk Their Talk
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.
Coaches Need Emotional Courage
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 (author of Point B, 18 Minutes, 4 Seconds, and the upcoming Leading with Emotional Courage):
“Coaching is a predictable process that helps clients get massive traction on their most important work.”
(In our case, “work” refers to the work of living a healthy, vibrant, joyful life.)
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.
We borrow and weave together the following elements in the program:
Bregman Leadership Coaching
Our coaching framework is based on Peter Bregman’s methodology. It includes up-front client 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 assess the task of the session, based on the client’s current stage of action. This prevents you from spending a lot of time solving the wrong problem.
You’ll meet, practice, and master the QUICC coaching protocol. Following Peter, 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 Bregman Coaching toolbox and beyond: FAST Assessment, Real-time action, When/Then Plans, Premortems, and many others.
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 everpresent 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.
Our program includes guest appearances by Dr Glenn Livingston, who will share an introduction to his methodology. Dr Livingston is the author of Never Binge Again, for my money the best book ever on changing your health behaviors.
And if you want to dive even deeper into the Never Binge Again methodology, Dr Livingston is offering a special discount on his coaching program to graduates of this one. (He’s a buddy of mine J)
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 stressproofing approaches, including Somatic Experiencing, Polyvagal Theory, Russian Martial Arts diagnostic and healing breathwork, and differential muscular tension.
Motivational Interviewing/Appreciative Inquiry
We deploy Motivational Interviewing techniques to help clients who are lukewarm about their goals, or who experience internal conflicts at the thought of changing their lifestyles.
Related, but not identical to Motivational Interviewing, is a process called Appreciative Inquiry, that we weave into QUICC coaching. Designed for use in group change initiatives in the workplace, Appreciative Inquiry empowers clients to notice, acknowledge, and build on existing strengths to solve their “problems.”
The WellStart Coach Training Program begins the week of June 11, 2018, and runs until September 14. 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 webinars (you can attend live or watch the recordings), reading and listening and watching assignments, participation in discussion forums, live Q&A and practice and debrief sessions, and supervised coaching. Expect to devote a minimum of four hours per week to the program.
60-minute Weekly Module Lectures
These webinars are recorded live on Fridays (usually in the morning). You don’t have to attend this live; you do have to watch it and do the homework before the following Wednesday evening.
If you want to attend live, you can do so via computer, tablet, smartphone, or regular old phone. You can ask questions too!
Private 15-minute 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions
You can schedule up to three private 1-on-1 coaching sessions with me (Howard) to work on both your coaching skills and your own health habits.
I’ll be in my virtual video office most Fridays from US 2:30-3pm Eastern Time. You can drop by for a few minutes with a question, or stay for the whole hour.
90-Minute Practice Call (Group Video)
These will be on Wednesdays, from 7-8:30pm US Eastern Time. You will need to join these calls using video, on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
We will meet each Wednesday except for July 4. 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”).
SMS Text Support
Got a question about a client or situation that’s coming up soon? Send a text, and I or someone else on the coach training team will get back to you within 4 business hours. (We take nights and weekends off!)
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.
Bonus: 9 Additional Months of Monthly Demo Debrief Calls
Once a month, we’ll meet and 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.)
Your Chief Instructors
Howard Jacobson, PhD
I’m Chief of Behavioral Science at WellStart Health. I’ve been a behavior geek for about 20 years now. I’ve coached thousands of people on all aspects of their lives: business strategy and execution, career counseling, relationships, life issues, and of course health and wellness.
I’m on the board of the International Coach Certification Academy, and a certified Bregman Leadership Coach.
Josh is a legendary figure in the plant-based community. He lost 230 pounds through running and a plant-based 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 plant-based 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.
Kevin, aka “Kevin Eats Plants” on Instagram, is a plant-based coach who has developed and run coach training programs for other coaches and trainers.
He’s our Quality Control guy, who has established frameworks and processes to ensure that our graduates have the knowledge and skills to be successful and to represent our brand well.
Kevin’s undergraduate training was in exercise science, but since then he’s had experience leading and developing training programs of many kinds.
He’s taught exercise specialists and personal trainers on how to develop and implement safe and effective programming, ran an anxiety and PTSD coaching program and podcast that reached thousands of people around the world through group and one-on-one sessions, developed an internship training programming for use in a large hospital based wellness setting, and even trained realtors on the processes of successfully working with clients and completing a transaction.
Basically, Kevin coaches coaches. He loves helping coaches and trainers become the best they can so that their clients can achieve the best results possible!
Oh and by the way, Kevin’s first client was himself. Through a plant-based diet and active lifestyle, he lost 100 pounds and overcame PTSD that had severely limited his lifestyle.
Does This Stuff Really Work?
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:
"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 BigChangeProgram.com (opens in new window).
How Much Does This Program Cost?
After scouring the marketplace for programs of similar scope, we’ve determined that a typical fee for a program such as this is between $3000 and $5000. Since this is our pilot program, we’re dropping the fee to $1995.
However, if you agree to serve as a case study and provide video feedback for the program, we are willing to extend a 50% discount. That will bring your investment down to $995.
You can pay in one lump sum, or in 3-month or 5-month installments.
What’s the Refund Policy?
You can get a complete refund at any time during the entire 13-week program, for any reason.
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.
And you shouldn’t join without a conversation in which you get your questions answered as well.
There’s a $25 deposit to register for the enrollment interview. It’s fully refundable if you decide not to enroll or if you are not accepted, and will be deducted from your tuition if you do enroll. It’s just there to make sure you’re serious, and to protect our time from tire kickers.
Once you register (below), you’ll receive a link to schedule the enrollment interview with me or Kevin.
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!