I studied nutrition in college about four years ago, and was taught the importance of low fat diets, calories in and calories out, that red meat was bad for your heart, and that artificial sweeteners were the best replacement for those at risk of diabetes. I began to notice that many of the dietitians and professors that were teaching me these “rules” were suffering from nutrition-related diseases, hormone imbalances, etc., and something about the combination of all these things didn’t make sense to me. I also ate my fill of whole grains, sugar, and dairy, and still felt horrible all the time, so I knew that there was some kind of missing link between real health and what I was learning in school. I decided to take a break from school because I didn’t like what I was being taught. I put my goal for a career in nutrition on hold and assumed the only way to really achieve success was to go through the hoops to become a Registered Dietician, and the only way to do that was absorb all the nonsense I was being taught at a University. (Side note, I have so much respect for RD’s and realize that many of them are playing a huge roll in teaching us to eat real food, and so to those that are taking a stand, thank you! ) I recently revisited my goal to work in the field of nutrition and decided to start looking into holistic-focused nutrition certifications. I had NO IDEA how many options there were. It was actually extremely overwhelming to try to narrow it down just to one.
After a lot of research, I narrowed it down to my top three programs, and eventually chose to get a Health Coaching certification from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I am halfway through the year-long course, and I have likes and dislikes about the program. Here’s a list of the top three programs I liked and a little information about each.
1. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. IIN offers a distance learning Health Coaching Certification. By their definition, “A Health Coach is a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health Coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.” IIN provides weekly modules that teach you about almost every diet you can think of, and promote balance in all areas of your life (not just nutrition) for optimum health. They offer a little bit of interaction with peers via Facebook groups and group phone calls. Their curriculum is very broad and teaches you how to support and mentor people towards health, as well as entrepreneurship and how to build a business, without promoting any one particular diet. This is great because it presents many different diets and their specific health benefits without being biased towards any particular one, BUT, if you are already firmly biased towards one particular diet like I am then it could seem like unnecessary information. IIN’s health coaching program is definitely respected in the holistic health/Paleo world from what I’ve seen so far, so if a broad health coaching program is something you’re looking for, this is it. One thing about IIN that I really don’t like is that the lectures are only available to view on an iPhone or iPad and not on a computer. Cost is around $5,000 for the entire year and includes materials.
2. Bauman College. Bauman has several campuses, but also offers distance learning for a Nutrition Consultant Certification. By their definition, Nutrition Consultants “Are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups to provide personal, community, and clinical nutrition services. Nutrition Consultants work in private practice, and/or in conjunction with other health care professionals such as doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical and mental health therapists, and at wellness or recovery centers and integrative clinics.” There are two terms plus an internship, and Bauman dives in more to food’s impact on the physical body and covers topics such as digestion, detoxification, weight management, biochemistry, micronutrients & macronutrients, and cardiovascular health. They lean on the side of a plant based diet. I don’t have any personal experience on this certification, but if I had it to go back again, this is the program I would choose. It focuses on the systems of the human body verses a wide range of diets, and also includes counseling and business building modules. Cost is around $10,000, which is rather pricey, but the distance learning program is up to 30 months long, and the on campus program is 18 months.
3. The Nutritional Therapy Association. NTA offers 2 Nutritional Therapist training programs to become either a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner or Nutritional Therapy Consultant. Both are very similar, but the consultant program is a little less hands on and designed for people who aren’t interested in conducting physical evaluations (and is also cheaper). They teach you specific ways to assess nutritional deficiencies and how to “fix” them with diet, supplement, and lifestyle changes from a holistic perspective. According to their website, “Nutritional Therapists are trained to work alongside practitioners either in their offices or in private practice to support the doctors’ diagnosis and other therapies.” NTA also teaches more about the human body and the impact of nutrition verses a broad range of diets like IIN. Some of their modules include mineral balance, essential fatty acid balance, anatomy and physiology, client consulting, blood sugar regulation, hydration etc. The NTP program is 9 months long with required teleconference calls and 3 separate instructor-lead workshops. Depending on what program you choose, cost is around $3-4,000 and that does not include materials or required reading.
Ironically, despite being enrolled in IIN, that would probably be my last choice now that I’ve learned more information about other certification programs. IIN is great and I will be honored to hold a Health Coaching certification from them, however I am looking for a deeper knowledge of the functioning of the human body, and IIN simply does not offer that. I am planning to get a certification from Bauman eventually when I’m done with IIN. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to go ahead and get my career started. Here are some tips to begin growing a nutrition career while you’re still in school.
1. Start getting your name/thoughts out there. Start a blog, Facebook page, or Instagram account about your interests to build connections via social media and develop an audience.
2. Learn as much as possible. Read books, blogs, and listen to podcasts about whatever diet and lifestyle habits interest you. Even if you aren’t enrolled in a program yet but want to be eventually, you can get ahead and start learning now.
3. Narrow down some specialties. This could also eventually help you “choose your audience” once you’re ready to begin a practice or become a practitioner. Is there a particular subject that appeals to you the most? For me, it’s thyroid function. Maybe for you it’s something that you have to deal with personally and want to help others with the same condition.
4. Make Connections. It’s important to go ahead and start making connections with people that share the same interests and passions. Maybe at your gym, chiropractor’s office, etc. You can find many nutrition focused groups on Meetup.com, and get involved in internet forums, Facebook groups, etc.
I’d love to hear if any of you have completed any of the above certification programs, have started your own practices, how you did it, etc. Hope you found this post to be helpful!