On the 13th of July 2013, I logged into the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s student dashboard to begin my health coach studies. I didn’t really know what to expect, or what would become of the year ahead, however I did have an unshakeable sense that my life was going to rapidly change forever.
Eighteen months on, I’ve fielded many questions about the IIN course from friends and the people in my tribe who have followed my journey. You may have noticed that there’s a lot of hype around IIN, so this is an honest review of the experience from my perspective to help you to evaluate whether or not the course really lives up to the hype.
While personally I loved studying at IIN I don't recommend it to everyone. That said, I happily recommend it to most people, so read on to find out more.
Health Coaching: What the heck is it?
What does a Health Coach do?
First, let's cover the basics. A coach is someone who, through active listening and questioning, supports clients to achieve their health and life goals. A health coach is different to a nutritionist, dietician, naturopath and psychologist - all of which I've worked with in the past and benefited from, but which play a different role in your health.
Coaches assist people with practical skills and help with the development of good habits. You might see a nutritionist to understand the source of your gut issues as I did, and they'll prescribe you with some supplements and perhaps a meal plan. A health coach will be able to help you stock a healthy pantry, give you recipes, help you set goals for your lifestyle changes and help you stay accountable to yourself.
IIN can be a great starting point for many people who want to develop a career in wellness. If you're specifically looking to diagnose or treat specific health issues rather than support and encourage people to take an active role in leading a healthy lifestyle straight away,
I do not recommend you take this course if you want to treat and/or diagnose specific health issues and you're not prepared to pursue further education. That's not the purpose of health coaching, and if this is what your career goals are, you might be better suited to investigation nutritional medicine, dietetics or other forms of medicine.
What do you learn as an IIN student? You will:
You'll learn about the interconnectedness of career, relationships, spirituality and movement and how those areas are of equal importance to the foods we eat.
In my intake, there was a mix of people who were at the beginning of their own health journey, and those who have come from a professional health background.
- Study 100+ dietary theories
- Learn about bio-individuality
- Learn about the importance of organic and local farming
- Study lectures on positive psychology, compulsive eating and cravings
- Plus resources and materials, covering sustainability and consciousness
From stressed out suit to self-employed coach and creative
Life: pre IIN
Before IIN I was a dieting queen. I signed up to Jenny Craig (an Australian diet chain) when I was 19 and lost a lot of weight - but then I gained it back all again and the cycle stuck. I didn't understand the concept of balance, or how to nourish myself in body and mind without resorting to crash diets. I was interested in health, but my idea of health was to simply stick to 5000 calories a day and sneak in whatever 'bad' foods I could that kept me under that number. Honestly, I needed a mindset overhaul.
I also had many health issues including leaky gut and IBS, which I later learned stemmed from vitamin deficiencies due to a gene polymorphism.
Work-wise, I was in a good, stable job in brand management at a great corporate company. But I didn't love it. Nor could I see myself in that lifestyle forever (in fact, I was terrified of staying in a corporate job forever!). I wasn't looking for a way out as I didn't think there WAS a way out, until after I started my health coach studies and discovered my passion for helping people to become healthier, happier, more confident and trusting in themselves.
Life during IIN
Through the course, I learned and applied lots of mindfulness skills, and began to understand the varied components that make up a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Coming to understand that health was not just the food you put in your mouth was quite a revelation for me at the time.
From a coaching perspective I learned powerful questions that help clients get themselves unstuck, how to hold space for others and found my calling and my passion in a kind and caring community of people who are (mostly) happy, healthy and striving to bring more awareness to health and lifestyle challenges we face in the 21st century.
For the first 6 months, I was still working full-time and balanced my studies with work quite easily. On average, I dedicated between 4 and 10 hours per week to my health coach studies.
Life post IIN (+ career options as a Health Coach)
There's many different career possibilities once you become a health coach. Coaching itself is just one option, and many students take alternative paths.
As a health coach, you can work locally within your community and see clients in-person. You can develop partnerships with GPs, wellness centres and yoga studios. You can develop healthy menu options for restaurants and deliver talks at key-note events. You can work in corporate wellness, or you can run your own workshops, classes and retreats. If you're a yoga teacher, you can bring together your teaching and coaching to deliver unique client experiences.
You can also take your business online, which is what I've done from the start. I see health clients (mostly women who want to fall back in love with their lives) via Skype. I also have a wellness eCourse called Something Beautiful. I have IIN to thank for where I am in my career now.
You can essentially create a career of your own in wellness after taking this course, and the beautiful thing is your business can evolve as you do.
[UPDATE MAY 2017: My business has evolved over the years, and the coaching aspect of my business now involves supporting women to nurture their creative energy. I coach clients through creative projects (creating programs, courses, products, blogs and passion projects) helping them to stay accountable to themselves and achieve their goals, while taking care of their wellbeing. Because I set up online, after I moved from Australia to the UK I was able to start my business again after some time off with very little interruption.]
IIN Pros & Cons
See it from both sides
What I liked about IIN
- Learning to question what you know and believe. The politics regarding food supply is fascinating and as consumers we're not always fed the truth. IIN encourages you to critically examine the information you've been fed by the media and government and question what role you can play on an individual and societal level to positively influence large (but often hidden) social health issues.
- The opportunity to establish a new career path in as little as 6 months.
- Meeting a network of friends and acquaintances who are supportive of one another and like-minded.
- Discovering the areas of my own life that were lacking and how to bring them back in balance
- Developing a new skill set - active listening - which is fundamental in coaching clients successfully
- Getting foundational business training in email marketing, setting up a website and social media
What I didn't like about IIN
- Back in 2013 IIN didn't do a great job of distinguishing the difference between a health coach and nutritionist. Many students in my intake were confused about what their role and responsibilities as a health coach were. Many often thought they could call themselves a nutritionist, which isn't the case. I believe IIN have since address this and more recently have established partnerships with SUNY, Maryland University of Integrative Health and Goddard College which gives students the opportunity to pursue a bachelors and/or masters degree on completion of the health coach certificate. This is an exciting development!
Institute for Integrative Nutrition
I made a video review about my experience at IIN to share what the experience was like. [Update: As of May 2017, since I uploaded this video a few years back it's had more than 12,000 views on Youtube!].
In the video, I summarise the three key areas that you will learn more about if and when you become an Integrative Nutrition student. The video also gives you insight into the personal benefits I experienced as a result of the course. Apologies for the constant cutting of the video - apparently I say 'Um' a lot and tried to cut it out where possible! Watch it below (and subscribe to my Youtube channel to stay in the loop for more videos if you like).
is IIN worth it?
In my opinion, yes.
The course gives a balanced and well-rounded introduction to basic health concepts, with a good level of coaching and business training. To succeed, you need to manage your time well and have the self-discipline to stay up to date with the online content.
There's opportunities for further studies with partner universities, and I believe health coaching is only going to continue to grow in importance as preventative health becomes more of a priority in our modern world. Current healthcare systems are over-burdened and outdated. By inspiring and supporting more people to lead an active and balanced lifestyle, health coaches are playing a pivotal role in transforming the population's health and preventing food-related disease.
There's a lot of questions I get asked quite often, so I thought it would be easily to start compiling some FAQs here for you in case you have the same questions.
'Can you work as a coach without a degree?'
Yes. The IIN health coaching certificate isn't a nutrition degree and doesn't teach you how to prescribe, treat or diagnose health and medical issues. The purpose of health coaching is to be an advocate of wellness in your community, and work closely with clients to help them make positive, lasting habits and meet their health and life related goals. What's required is active listening skills and the ability to hold space for your clients - to be there for them to explore their own goals, obstacles and desires and help them make their goals a reality.
'Do you find it difficult to get clients without a recognised accreditation?'
No. In my experience this has not been an issue.
'I mostly see students from Australia and the US. I'm from Europe - can I still take the course?'
Yes. While there is a large number of students from Australia and the US, I know students from Europe and countries where English is not the first language who have taken the course and enjoyed it.
'How much does the course cost?'
Please email me for further information at hello (at) hayleyrichardson (dot) co (not .com) and I can share the course fee with you. We are asked not to publish the course information online or on social media, as the price may change but I can confirm that it's significantly less than what you would pay for a university or college course. I am able to give you a $500 discount at any time, and inform you of any current larger offers available at the time you email, which can also significantly reduce the course fee for you.
Find Out More & Tuition Savings
Get more information about health coaching with IIN here:
If you're interested in enrolling and saving $500 off your tuition, get in touch with me for more information or mention my name (Hayley Richardson) when you enrol to get the discount.
You're also welcome to email me at hello (at) hayleyrichardson.co or by using the contact form button just below with any questions about the course, and I'll be in contact to answer them for you.
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