My Journey as a Health Coach: A Review of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
Early this November, I sat down to take my final exam for school. One whole year had gone by in a flash, I could hardly believe it. Now that it is fresh in my head, I wanted to share with you my experience with IIN and working as a health coach to see if it may be the right fit for you.
After working as a personal trainer for two and a half years I wanted to go back to school for something more tangible with nutrition. My clients were asking me for nutritional advice and meal plans, I wanted to back up my education and grow even more. State to state, being coined a "nutritionist" has different requirements behind it. In some states even, you need to be a registered dietitian to be able to work with others and discuss dietary guidelines. I had a few things I was looking for: small to no commute from my home, less than two years to complete, and to stay within my budget. With those three guidelines, I set off to research all my different options. A masters degree was out of the picture since with all the prerequisites I would need to complete, the time and price was way off. I researched many different alternative pathways within my budget like a nutritional therapy practitioner, nutrition consultant, and finally, a health coach.
I had phone interviews with a few different health coaching schools and I was most impressed with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). They are the largest and most recognized institute for health coaches. As an IIN grad, you can become a certified (if you join AADP) holistic health coach (CHHC), or if you don't join AADP, you are a holistic health coach (HHC). Before you set out on your path to research schools, make a list of the things you want. What does your ideal school scenario look like? Get phone or in person interviews with faculty and have good questions prepared.
Here are the reasons why I choose IIN and how my experience was. First off, the school met all three of my guidelines: it was under my budget, it took one year to complete, and I did my schooling completely from home. In my opinion, the certificate program is priced appropriately for what you get. And if you practice what you learn from the school, you can pay for your schooling with four to five clients. Included in the price is the one year of schooling, all supporting learning materials, documents to support your business, a website, business cards, continuing education credits, and experiences that money cannot buy. The length of the course was perfect, one year, and you can start practicing at six months. I loved that the program was solely online. I could do my school work from the comfort of my bed, even in my pajamas!
Looking back, my perception of what I was going to learn during the year was actually nothing like what I did learn. The school goes so far beyond nutrition, making you realize that what you eat actually has little to do with your overall health. A few concepts the school is recognized for includes Primary Food, Integrative Nutrition Plate, Crowding Out, Bio-Individuality, and Deconstructing Cravings. You can read more about these concepts here.
The best part about my experience is the friends I made. The more people you can connect with, the better. You will get options to connect with your classes Facebook page and from there you can find classmates that live close to you to meet in person or those that you vibe with and want to chat with further individually online. You also are directed to find an accountability coach, someone who you can check in on and both work out questions or struggles you are facing during the school year. I cannot suggest this part of the program enough! My accountability coach is now one of my best friends and we chat weekly via Skype from across the country! Networking and making new friends will make your experience so much better than working behind a computer alone. Even more interaction, the school has graduation requirements which include conducting six health history sessions and attending four health coaching circles. These requirements will give you hands on experience to make you feel extra confident to launch your business. Plus, more opportunities to get over fears, make new friends, and network.
If you are worried you will not have enough time to complete the program, don't! I did my school work while working a full time job, planning a wedding, getting married, and moving out of state! Ya I know, a lot happened in one year! The program is one year long with one module releasing each week. There are 40 modules so if you do the math, there are 12 weeks throughout the year that you get off. You can go at your own pace, no need to worry if you get behind (I did multiple times). The only things that have a time limit are the tests, there is one test every ten modules, so four total. You have two weeks to take the test after it is released. The tests are open book and super easy; 30 questions multiple choice with a two hour time window to complete once opened.
One of my fears of joining IIN is that I would get bored and loose interest in completing, flash backs to college if you know what I mean. Each modules content is unique and interesting. Sure, some things you will already know, but most of the concepts are new and with a unique twists. You learn over 100 dietary theories to be well rounded for your clients. There are tons of industry favorite guest speakers, cooking demos, and additional learning opportunities. Something wonderful that started happening to me towards the last quarter of the year is that I would start doing things (like meditating or researching public speaking) and that topic would be discussed in the next weeks module! This is something beautiful called the magic or mirroring and law of attraction. I was so in tune with myself and my experience at school that I started to be attracted to those very things that all came back to me in my education. I believe that we are all exactly where we are suppose to be in this exact moment in time. When you are surrounded by the things you love and are passionate about, and doing good things, you will attract other like minded people and things like you. That is why some argue that there are no coincidences. One of my favorite topics I learned about at IIN was spirituality. I never thought I would be so interested in setting intentions, manifesting, meditation, law of attraction, and the magic of mirroring.
Other amazing tools you receive are ones that help you start your business. I would say about 35-50% of the education you receive is how to start and run your health coaching business. You will learn everything from finances and liability to growing your clients and managing a newsletter. The website you are provided is easy to edit and personalize and is yours free for a whole year after graduation.
Some additional things you may find helpful: you can become an IIN Affiliate and make commissions off of referrals, you can earn up to 40 college credits towards a Bachelor's or Master's degree with one of their university partnerships, and with additional payment, you can receive CEUs towards your existing certificate renewals.
As far as cons, some may argue it is too easy. I personally appreciated the level of difficulty and pace of the program, it was exactly what I was looking for and I was not disappointed at all. Another con is some of the lectures seemed outdated, although all content was relevant and helpful, it would be nice if all their supporting video lectures were within the past year or two. Lastly, if you are not a technology and social media savvy person you may struggle with setting up your website and creating social media outlets like a Facebook business page, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest account. All unnecessary but main stream at the current time.
Final words about my experience as a health coach. It really was the perfect certificate for me to receive. I have more credibility and confidence to do the things I have always wanted to do like have my own business where I coach clients, run a professional website, create content for my Instagram and Facebook pages, write newsletters and blog posts, and host challenges, webinars, and workshops. There are so many avenues you can take your health coaching background in addition to starting your own business like working in wellness centers, partnering with physicians, corporate wellness, and more. You also have the opportunity to create your own unique niche, for example, with my added certifications, I specialize in pre and postnatal and call myself a Pre/Postnatal Health & Exercise Coach. Although my niche may change over the years, it will help your business immensely by honing down on a specific area of expertise. This is another topic IIN helped us to create, to become extremely specific with your target market and niche.
If you would like to learn more about IIN, click the links below:
And if I am the reason why you decided to join IIN, please use me as a referral! TIA <3
Explore my website to learn more about what I do as a health coach and sign up for my newsletter for additional things I am digging, recipes, and random thoughts! Please share this post if you think someone else may be interested in becoming a health coach. What other topics would you like me to write about in an upcoming post? Leave a comment for me! Thank you so much for reading and as always, stay healthy! AF
All photography is from the wonderful Kelly at Ridgelight Studio.