so you want to be a holistic nutritionist?

by Dani on July 31, 2013

I am often asked about my career as a Holistic Nutritionist, what it entails and how to enter the field so I thought I would compile a list of the most frequently asked questions I receive and important things I think you should know while you decide if this is the right path for you.

so you want to be a holistic nutritionist?

What school did you attend?

There are a variety of schools for the study of holistic nutrition, each is unique. It is a good idea to contact each school and make an appointment to speak to an advisor to learn more about their programs or attend an open house. Each school offers different courses, co-op’s, organizations etc. I chose to attend the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. When I walked through their door for the first time, it felt like right place for me. Although there are things that could have improved my experience, overall I enjoyed my time at IHN and met some of the most amazing people in the world. My classmates and I grew very close and many of us still stay in contact. There are other schools such as the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and the Edison Institute. There are additional schools in the rest of Canada and the all over the World. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition has an online program however you will graduate as a Health Coach not as a Holistic Nutritionist.

What is the course load like for studying holistic nutrition?

Be prepared to work hard. I was juggling a full-time corporate job, part-time schooling with assignments, studying and tests, a moderately active social life and severe depression and burn-out. You will work extremely hard and it’s going to be tough but the information you will learn will be of value for the rest of your life to help yourself and others.

How do you get a job as a Holistic Nutritionist?

You bust you’re a$s. Seriously though, almost all of the opportunities that have presented themselves to me happened because I worked hard and went after them. You need to have the entrepreneurial spirit because after graduation there are not a lot of jobs and an awful lot of Nutritionists. The majority of people who have achieved success have been in the field for years and have both succeed and failed and just kept going until they became recognized. A good idea is to approach alternative and integrative health centres, chiropractic clinics and yoga studios who do not have a Holistic Nutritionist on staff and ask if they would be interested in your services.

Be prepared to do a lot of work for free. That could be writing articles, helping other Nutritionists, hosting workshops etc. It’s a great way to gain experience and get your name out there.

What’s the difference between a Holistic Nutritionist and a Dietician?

Lots! We have different schooling, a Dietician attends university for a four year Bachelor of Science in nutrition followed by one year of clinical internship. They can earn the title of Registered Dietician and are regulated by the government. RD’s can find work in hospitals, not-for-profits, doctor’s offices or be self-employed. They use Canada’s food guide to make food recommendations and tend to deal with macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) Registered Dietician services are generally covered by most insurance plans.

Holistic Nutritionists believe that each individual is biochemically unique and protocols are designed specific to their needs. We take into account body, mind and spirit. We avoid calorie counting, using Canada’s Food Guide and instead promote whole foods and a healthy lifestyle. A Holistic Nutritionist attends a one to two year private college and graduates with a designation associated with the school. It is important to understand that the designation a Holistic Nutritionist graduates with is unregulated and not recognized by the Government. There are quite a few associations for Holistic Nutritionists, each with their own standards and beliefs. Some push for regulation while others do not. It really depends which side of the fence you sit on.

How do you find clients?

To start, be willing to work for free. Getting yourself out there and creating a community is important for the success of your business. Have a great website, put out good, high quality content and most importantly, be you! The clients who want to see you will find you.

Do I need to be vegan to be a Holistic Nutritionist?

Not at all. In fact, the majority of Holistic Nutritionists I know are not plant-based. Many of us tend not focus on identifiers such as vegetarian, paleo, etc and instead promote a diet of good quality, whole foods. While I am plant-based, I don’t force this on my clients, although I do push eating more fruits and vegetables.

Like our unique recommendations to our clients, the views of Holistic Nutritionists seem to vary. Some are more extreme in their views than either, some are more flaky and some provide evidence-based and researched information.

What’s your income?

Depends on what your offerings are, what you charge, how frequently you offer services etc. Currently I work a 9-5 corporate job because I like to be able to afford good food and to travel. Unfortunately this limits the amount of time I have to put into my business so after my full-time day job is over, I go home to work my full-time Holistic Nutritionist job but it’s my passion so I don’t worry so much about the income.

Do you sell supplements, products or take part in MLM’s?

Currently I do not but I am looking into branded goods in the future. Be wary of multi-level marketing (MLM) products, generally these are not made with high quality ingredients and these companies allow anyone to sell their products. Do your research before promoting or selling anything.

How do you decide what services to provide and what sector to practice in?

If you dislike public speaking, corporate workshops are probably not your thing. If the thought of being in the kitchen for extended amounts of time seems unappealing, you probably won’t want to teach cooking classes. Maybe you dislike computers and technology, social media will not be where you focus your time. I entered into holistic nutrition thinking I should be well-versed in everything, however I have discovered the importance of finding your niche. Determine who your target clientele is and market your services to them. Being honest and yourself is why people will come to you. Be someone clients can relate to, be authentic and true to yourself. There are lots of Holistic Nutritionists out there but only one you!

I would stress visiting the various holistic nutrition schools and speaking to a representative who can help you best. I also offer one on one sessions for those interested in becoming Holistic Nutritionists, this is a great opportunity to ask questions on schooling, what career opportunities are available and what it’s like to help people, on your own terms.

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