As many of you know, I studied with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and qualified as a Health Coach in 2016. Every week I get emails and DM’s from you guys asking me for feedback and advice on IIN, so I thought it beneficial to offer some more unbiased and authentic opinion on the pros and cons of the course and offer an insight into where a path in health coaching can take you.
I did write a lengthy blog post last year outlining all the general information about nutrition school like what their cutting edge program entails including duration, cost, time commitment, business training, coaching practice etc, so definitely have a read through that bit first if you are serious about learning more.
Being transparent with you guys is one of my biggest priorities, so I’ll be straight up with you – I receive a small commission for every person who signs up and mentions that I have referred them. So while I officially am an ambassador for the program, I don’t shy away from saying things how they are and what I did or did not like about the program.
I actually got referred through an ambassador myself – at the time when I was researching different program options, I stumbled across a group of IIN graduates that organised monthly meet ups in Geneva, so I messaged them and asked if I could join and ask them some questions. They welcomed me with opens arms and, well, the rest is history as they say!
My own experience leading up to studying with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition was that I had no prior education in health, nutrition, fitness or any of the like. But I had a very strong desire to learn more and had been deeply immersing myself in books and documentaries for quite a while before that. It was about two years into my university studies (in hospitality management) and around the time when I first launched my blog aka also the time I started sharing my personal struggles with an eating disorder, that I felt the calling to dive deeper into this field. I uhmed and ahhhhed about what I should do – should I go down the nutrition route or more into life coaching?
Because I didn’t have a clear vision of what exactly within the industry I wanted to do (I just knew I wanted to somehow help people overcome their struggles with food and body image issues), I wasn’t willing to fork out 30k to do a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition education. And I also didn’t want to spend four years studying something that I wasn’t 100% sure on pursuing later on.
And so IIN turned out to be the perfect melting pot of the two for me. It allowed me to immerse myself more deeply into my own wellness journey and in a short period of time come out with an actual qualification that I could use to help others in their own wellbeing struggles.
Two of the questions I get asked the most is “What exactly is a health coach, anyways?” and “Where can a career in health coaching take me?”, so I want to focus on those two for a little bit:
What is a health coach?
We are spending more money than ever on our health care systems and yet, according to the World Health Organisation, the top three causes of death are dietary related illnesses – heart diseases, stroke and pulmonary diseases. At the same time there’s an all time high of depression, stress, anxiety, mental illnesses and things like eating disorders are on the rise all around the world.
And so, there is a massive demand for a new kind of health professionals – in comes the Health Coach.
I like to think of it as a health support mentor, someone that educates and supports people in their journey to build health new habits and create sustainable lifestyle changes. In the gym you have a PT to hold you accountable to your workouts, so why not have someone do the same in the kitchen and in your overall goal of living a healthy life?
During the health coach training program, soon-to-be health coaches acquire a broad understanding of many different dietary theories and the tools to mentor people who seek to improve their overall health and wellbeing. IIN has a strong focus on the idea that health isn’t just what you eat, but recognises that things like relationships, work, exercise and spirituality all play a huge part in our health. Duh, right?! Well, its a pretty revolutionary viewpoint compared to traditional nutrition and our disease-treatment-focused health care system. IIN also strongly supports the idea of bio-individuality, being that one size does not fit all. Another way I like to explain a Health Coach to someone is essentially a life coach with an emphasis on food, self care and general healthy lifestyle choices.
What a Health Coach is NOT is a nutritionist or someone who is qualified to prescribe any medications nor take the place of a GP or any other form of psychological or psychiatric counsellor or Dr. A Health Coach is NOT supposed to replace any of the above, rather it is there to support and complement other health care professionals.
Most health coaches I know don’t feel empowered enough to give concrete dietary recommendations for specific conditions, and I personally don’t either.
Is IIN right for me and…..where can IIN take me?
When an email from any of you guys about IIN lands in my inbox, it almost always asks whether IIN is the right fit. This is a tough question and really requires you to think about what it is you actuallywant to do down the track. If your goal is to conduct medical research, work in a hospital, or diagnose and treat sick patients, you will want to go and become a registered dietitian. But if you want to work as a health mentor and help people on a holistic level that encompasses general food recommendations, exercise, mindfulness, sleep and overall lifestyle, then becoming an IIN Health Coach could be your better option.
As I mentioned earlier, I personally wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do but I did know I wanted to help people with who struggled with ED tendencies, and as IIN had such a holistic and inclusive approach to wellness, it just seemed right for me.
To answer the question of where the Institute for Integrative Nutrition can take you – the career options truly are endless. Obviously working as a full-time/part-time health coach is one of them, but it doesn’t have to stop there. In my intake, there were a few people who were also qualified PT’s or yoga teachers and combined their knowledge to offer an even more holistic approach to their clients. Some others went into Corporate Health Coaching, some started their own catering or restaurant business, others developed e-books/recipe books, and many more that dove into the health/wellness blogging scene. In certain countries like the US where health coaching is more recognised, you might even be able to secure a part time or full time position either as an independent Health Coach in a team environment, or alongside a medical doctor who wishes to provide nutritional guidance to patients. Quite some people who enrolled in IIN already have prior qualifications within the health profession and are looking to to expand their knowledge towards a more integrative and holistic approach. On the flip side however, I know of many people who did IIN purely for personal reasons such as bettering their own health or that of their family, and have zero interest in pursuing a career in the field.
And then there’s me – having done part-time office job/part time health coaching and for the last 1 ½ years working full-time for a company while doing coaching on the side. I don’t take on a lot of clients due to time, but I absolutely adore the clients that I do have and look forward to every single session. And then obviously there’s the blog work, influencer stuff, the occasional workshop or yoga class that keeps me busy. I haven’t had the urge to make this my full-time gig, probably because a part of me is too scared to take the leap, but also because I’m not certain if I would thrive in the entrepreneurial world. I guess time will tell where life takes me.
And one thing is for sure – face to face, one on one health coaching business will not make you rich. You can do it for a little while, but you will need to scale your business through group coaching, eCourses, eBooks, workshops etc if you want to be able to grow your income over time.
Regardless of the career opportunities, I want to leave you with this:
Choosing that investment in myself has paid off for my physical and mental health, work/life balance, my relationships and pretty much every aspect of my life.
I wouldn’t live life as present, positive and grateful of a person if it wasn’t for IIN. The program was definitely a turning point for me. I healed myself, and in turn realised that it was not only OK to be vulnerable and share my experience with an eating disorder, but that it is actually one of my greatest gifts. I’ve also met and befriended so many amazing like-minded souls from across the globe and it’s been incredible to grow into a community that I feel so deeply aligned with.
You will find all sorts of information about IIN online – good and bad. IIN has become quite a big deal, and some say, a money-making machine. From my point of view, a lot of good can come from this course – and the fact that it is doing so well shows that there is an insatiable demand to take control of our health and in doing so help others. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to which career and/or personal path you want to go down and it needs to feel right for YOU. I’ve shared my opinion, now the decision is yours.