Hi everyone! Rachael here with a somewhat personal post which is going to explain my fairly recent decision to train to become a Health Coach with the Institute For Integrative Nutrition (although, as I explain below, this is actually something I had been considering since 2015!). It was back in June, during my digital detox and sailing holiday in Turkey, when I finally decided to take the plunge and commit to the course, which started in July.I thought it might be nice to let you all know about the course and why I eventually made the decision to enroll!
What is IIN and what does the course involve?
Institute For Integrative Nutrition is an online school which is based in New York. It offers a one-year Health Coach Training Programme (you can also take a six-month accelerated course) in which you learn about various dietary theories and hot topics in the world of nutrition, as well as being taught about how key areas of life, such as career, relationships, and physical activity are just as important, or more important, as the food on our plate. These areas are referred to as ‘Primary Food’. There is an overriding theme of ‘bioindividuality’ throughout every lecture and module, meaning that what works for one person, either in terms of diet or the way in which you live your life in general, may not work for another.
This is something that I agree with one hundred percent. After all, we are all individuals and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the global health crisis or our own specific health issues. When I graduate next year, I’ll be a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, able to take on clients who wish to improve their health and wellbeing. Together, we’ll identify achievable goals and take steps towards them, working on either a one to one basis or in a group setting. These goals will be highly personal to each individual; for some, it may be that they would like to lose weight, run a 10km, improve their diet or make other changes that will increase their overall wellness and lifestyle. Often, the client will realise that the reason they sought help in the first place (i.e. being overweight) is actually a symptom of a bigger issue that also needs to be addressed.
Of course, as an IIN Health Coach, I will in no way take the place of a Dietician, Nutritionist, Doctor or Psychiatrist, all of which are professions which require extensive training and study over many years. Instead, the Health Coach’s role is to work in parallel with these professionals, bridging the gap and looking at things from a more holistic perspective. I also will not work with those who have serious medical issues (be they physical or emotional), but will instead help those who may face problems down the line if they don’t start making changes now.
Integrative Health Coaches are largely guided by the client, and, unlike a Registered Dietician, look at the ‘whole person’ rather than prescribing a specific diet to treat an illness or address certain deficiencies. As well as having knowledge, being relatable, having past experience and speaking in a language that the everyday person on the street can understand is really important, as is having a good ear for listening and a positive attitude.
Why I decided to train as a health coach with IIN
Rather than detailing the extent of the global healthcare crisis and turning this into something of a political post, I will keep my reasons personal to my own experience for the time being. As mentioned above, I first looked into the course offered by IIN back in 2015! It has been a long process to get to the stage of finally enrolling and starting classes, but I can honestly say that I am so glad I did. I feel that now is the right time to learn more about an area that I have become so passionate about, especially in the last couple of years. Taking my own experience and learning more before going on to help others is something that I am really excited about.
My transition from being a person who partied a lot and lived mainly on takeaways and processed foods to someone who has embraced a mainly whole foods diet and exercises once or twice a day has been gradual. There was once a time when I would take part in 10km events with a hangover after a heavy night, or marathon train fuelled by junk food. I am by no means a perfect example of a healthy lifestyle now, and I still strive to make changes, but what I do know is that even I have surprised myself with how I have turned things around from what I used to be like to the person I am now. Although I have never been classed as overweight, I was far from healthy and used to have brain fog every single day, as well as rely on a Diet Pepsi once or twice a day to keep me going, rather than eating healthy food. If I can turn things around, anyone can!
A sense of purpose…
Since I left teaching in 2014, I have felt somewhat unfulfilled with my role in life. Despite becoming physically healthier and much more active, I still had the feeling that something was missing; having a purpose. That’s not to say that I’m ungrateful for the opportunities that have come my way, and I know that I am very lucky in so many ways.
Feeling that I have a purpose in my life and career is something that I consider to be of high importance. I couldn’t just do any job, take the money and live from one day to the next feeling satisfied. The need to make a difference in the lives of others still lurks within me and is something that I thrive off. It’s not that I’m a ‘perfect’ example of anything (far from it!), but what I have learned is that there is always someone who looks up to you and wants to learn from you, just as I do with others. I remember being a pacer for a Parkrun back home fairly recently, helping people get around the course in a certain time. The feeling of pure joy when people achieved their goals, after thinking that they couldn’t, was indescribable. I realised that moments like that are what drive me to be even better each time.I believe that we should all try to leave a legacy whilst we are here, no matter how small. Helping people towards healthier habits and steering them away from lifestyle-related illnesses is how I’d like to leave my mark. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but for that person’s children, spouse and friends, it’s one of the most important things in the world.
A holistic approach…
The IIN course appeals to me because it’s about more than just food. I believe that food is the key to so many areas of our lives and that nourishing ourselves really is the best way to look after our overall health. However, I also think that if we are not satisfied in other areas (such as our career, or if we do not do any form of physical activity), then there’s only so much that healthy food can do to help. For example, if we are not happy within our relationships, we may be more likely to binge. If we have financial worries, our sleep may suffer to the detriment of our overall wellbeing. All of these areas can be addressed with the help of a health coach who goes beyond the plate.
From a personal point of view, I am also benefitting from being on the course. The lectures are really inspiring and the assignments we have to do have been eye-opening for me. I would never have thought of making a vision board or creating a mind map until I enrolled with IIN. I always thought they were a waste of time, but now I realise that they are anything but. They help you to zone in on what you really want from life, why you want it and how you plan to achieve it. I am fully immersing myself in every activity, the additional reading and the online discussions. This course has come at just the right time for me, both personally and professionally.
So far one of the main things that the course has reconfirmed to me is that taking responsibility for your health is a form of self-care which involves recognising what your body needs and taking steps to meet these needs. Health is a journey and something that is constantly evolving on an individual basis. You cannot suddenly ‘be healthy’; rather, it is something that you take steps towards each day.
From January, I will be opening up a small number of health coaching slots at a discounted rate. If you would like to be amongst my first clients, then please do get in touch to see if we are a good fit and for a brief discussion on how I can help you. If this rather long article has inspired you and you would like to learn more about becoming a Health Coach with IIN, click this link to download a free curriculum guide.