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Reflection Of My Experience at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition

As I’m on a flight to NYC to attend a weekend conference put on for students, both current and graduates of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I can’t help but reflect on my experience at IIN last year. I understand there is a lot of controversy about the program floating around on the Internet. I too was skeptical of the program, wondering if it was a money grab, what the hell a Health Coach was and if it was a real profession. Honestly, what initially threw me off was the amount of advertising I had seen. I understand they probably pay for targeted advertising, and the amount of browsing I do on the Internet on alternative health allowed ad’s to pop up everywhere, but it seemed like they were advertising so heavily that something had to be off about the program. In design and advertising, we learn there is a threshold of “too much” or “too in your face”, which is how I felt the advertisements were. It seemed they were pushing their ad’s everywhere and it gave me a feeling that something about it was fake.

**IIN is short for Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and I’ll be using the abbreviation throughout the rest of this post.**

While I had read a lot of good reviews, I had read more bad than good — leaving me even more skeptical. The bad reviews had confirmed some of the suspicions I had inside: being a money grab, not much help with career after, not being legit enough to be hired in the health field post graduation, if you want to do something with nutrition — go back to school for nutrition or dietetics and don’t waste your time with this program, etc.

Still, in all of my research, I kept coming back and reading about IIN.

I knew I wanted to do something in the Health and Wellness Industry. I had so much knowledge from trying to heal my own deep rooted digestive issues and acne alternatively after being failed by the traditional, Western Health Care system numerous times, and I wanted to share it. While working my day job, I googled everything I could learn about health, wellness, and herbalism. I practiced what I preached. I experimented with every new health trend as soon as it surfaced. By the time trends had caught on, I was already a few years deep in them and onto the next. When my Uncle Bobby got the big C diagnosis and started boosting his immune system through food and lifestyle changes, and it was helping, I knew I needed to do something more.

But what? I had a degree in Graphic Design and was working in the field. In fact, I still am, and I still love it, but my true passion had always laid in helping others. People were calling me for health advice. The topic of conversation around me was almost always about alternative health, wellness, and food as medicine, not because I was bringing it up but because people around me were so interested in what I had to say. I knew I wanted to do SOMETHING with the knowledge I had.

I started working with clients in the health care, health tech, and healthy foods industries by designing for them — logos, websites, conference material, keynotes. For years, this was great, but it didn’t satisfy that inner urge to touch people directly.

So, back to my search I went.

Do I go back to school and get a masters in Nutrition? I didn’t have any sort of science background, so I would have had to take a few science classes as a base before applying to Nutrition programs. I would have also had to study and get a decent score on the GRE. Did I really want to go back to school for two years? And at the end take a test to become either an official Dietitian or Nutritionist certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which, by the way, is funded by companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s? That fact alone turned me off. Why the FUCK are these tests funded by companies that are essentially killing us with their products? Sorry for the language, but it really hits a nerve. I understand the money has to come from somewhere, but really think about that fact for a second: if these companies are the ones funding the material and testing to have the letters RD by your name, what content do you have to agree to be true to pass those tests? That 39 grams of sugar a day is part of a well balanced diet? That having a majority of your diet bread and refined carbohydrates with limited vegetables and fats is how you avoid diabesity (a term claimed by Mark Hyman)? I’ve never taken a look at one of these tests so all of this is based on assumption, but I feel it’s a proper assumption to make given the money backers. I’m not putting down knowledgeable RD’s in any way shape or form, I’m more taking a stab at the Academy which decides if someone is allowed to practice officially. On a side note — any time you see a headline about a “New Study” conducted on a food or diet, look at who funded the study. If you feel these studies are done in an un-biased way, then maybe think again.

Anyways, all this to say...

...I kept coming back to IIN in my research. I know that validity by a certificate shouldn’t determine how knowledgable you are in a subject, however, in our Western world, it does imply trust, at least as a starting point. I had started an Instagram mini blog a few years earlier called @viewfromthemat, just to start voicing some of the knowledge I had on the Internet instead of just to my family and immediate friends, but because I didn’t have any sort of official training, in the back of my mind I had a voice of doubt saying “why should people listen to me?”.

It took me about two years to pull the trigger on IIN. It kept showing up on my running lists. I sat through a conference call, hearing all about the program and asking questions I had. I talked with a lady in the education department several times. Still, I had doubts. Then I realized, maybe it wasn't doubts about the program itself, maybe it was personal about making this change.

What really drew me in was the fact that everything was online, go-at-your-own-pace, and that I could still run my freelance Graphic Design business while attending school. This meaning, they really don’t put pressure on you to get things done and in a timely fashion. The program itself is extremely easy — they would rather you focus on self-exploration and setting up your business than how well you will do on a test. In fact, you only have 4 tests throughout the year long course, each being open book, allowing 2 hours to complete (I never used more than 45 minutes of the time allowance, even with taking my sweet time), and you are given 2 attempts. So easy.

Like anything, it was a time commitment.

Since it is go-at-your-own-pace, what you put in, you’ll get out. I did work throughout the entire program, my job, like most, having busy seasons and slower seasons. When I was in a busy season, it was somewhat hard to keep up, but I set aside certain nights of the week and one weekend day dedicated to school work. In my slower work months, I played catch up on what I was behind on. All in all, it was the exact program I was looking for to suit my lifestyle.

As far as the content, some of the videos you could tell were recorded more than a few years ago and may have been a little out-dated, however, the content was still relevant. Since I went into the program really having a solid base about nutrition, food as medicine, and alternative health and wellness, I already knew most of the content the speakers were talking about. Again — I must stress that I really did know A LOT more than most coming in. I don’t in any way want to downplay the amount of information IIN provided on the nutrition aspect, because I had already nerd-ed out way more than the average health nut. I wish I had taken the course when I first started doing research on these topics, because it was a one-stop-shop for most of the theories out there. That being said, I still gained knowledge. If I were just getting my hands wet on some of this information, I would have paid for the program just to learn about this stuff and save me all of the time searching for the right information.

The nutrition, health and wellness information was probably about 50% of the program, the other 50% being a combination of self-exploration, business tactics, how to be an active listener and conduct health coaching sessions, and how to keep your finances in order. Again, I would have paid the same price for just this half of the course because I found it that valuable. I had no idea where to start in a session with someone. Pre IIN, I would have guessed people came to you so you could talk their ear off about how much you knew and what they should be doing vs what they shouldn’t be doing. It’s SO much more than that — and that is entirely the wrong approach. People come to you for a safe space to talk about their health problems, not to listen to how much you know. Most MD’s don’t provide that outside of a 15 minute session and script as you walk out the door. People mainly know what they should do, but have a hard time putting it into a plan and action. That’s where a Health Coach steps in. I learned that one diet does not fit all. One person may thrive off veganism, while another may become deathly ill from that same lifestyle — and this changes with time. I also learned that health is all encompassing. Someone could be eating the most perfect diet for their body, but be in a controlling relationship, making it hard for that to meet their health goals.

I wouldn’t have learned any of this without IIN.

I’m someone who recommends the program, whole-heartedly, 100%. Reading some of the negative comments now that I’ve been through the course, I realize these people probably weren’t self starters and have an attitude that things should be handed to them. Being a business owner and freelance designer for a combined total of 5 years now, I understand how to self-start. I put the pressure on myself to get things done in a timely fashion. I understood that when the program ended, I had to put myself out there to make it work, that the work wasn’t going to just start coming to me, that I had to work hard to arrange my life they way I want it and work in the field I wanted to work in.

And now, here I am, writing this post on my health blog that I worked hard to set up myself. I’m still working my day job, so clients and coaching has been a little bit of a slower process than I intended, but they are coming in. I am practicing. How? By working hard to do so, because I knew it wouldn’t just be given to me by sitting on my butt wishing it would happen.

IIN was an incredible experience. I wouldn’t have set all of this up without their business materials (all included in the course) and suggestions. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to see clients or have a voice in the industry. I wouldn’t have been connected to so many other people from around the world who have similar ideologies as me. None of this would have been possible without IIN.

If you or someone you know is considering the course and wants to talk to someone openly and honestly about their experience, feel free to reach out to me:

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