Delve into the empowering benefits this exciting field has to offer.
If you’re looking for a guide to help you on your wellness journey, you may not know where to start. Perhaps you’ve been recommended a holistic nutritionist by a friend or you’ve stumbled across one in your own research. But what exactly does holistic nutrition offer? With a little help from Marie Young RHN of Bloom with Marie and Carly Eagles CNP of Sweet Simple Nutrition, both holistic nutritionists, we dig into the field to better understand what it is and how it can help you.
Holistic nutrition uses food to help address specific problems and improve overall health. “While the practice focuses on the foods we eat, it also considers the physical, mental, lifestyle, and environmental factors that contribute to a someone’s individual nutritional needs and general well-being,” explains Eagles. “This means that holistic nutrition doesn’t offer a one-fits-all solution, because it acknowledges that each person is dealing with their own unique situation.”
Using their nutritional knowledge as a primary tool, holistic nutritionists work to educate clients about foods and life choices that can support disease prevention, treatment, and general health concerns. “It’s not just about food—even though food is often the starting point in working with a client,” says Young. “Looking at the whole lifestyle of the person, we can also make supplement recommendations, provide suggestions on how to deal with stress levels and improve sleep schedules, and help to implement other positive changes in clients’ lives.”
Holistic nutritionists can offer a wide range of services to their clients, including one-time and ongoing counseling services, meal planning, custom recipe creation, and group classes. “The services that I provide always start with listening to a client’s health concerns, discussing any goals or established treatment plans that need to be supported, and exploring their overall interaction with food,” says Eagles. “From there, we can decide together what our working relationship will look like and what kind of approach is going to serve them best.”
The practice of holistic nutrition engages people to take charge of their own health by recognizing and listening to the innate wisdom they have about their own bodies. “I see many [clients] who know there is something they can do to improve their health, but they aren’t exactly sure what it is or where to start,” explains Young. “I think that is one of the strengths [of]—we take into account the whole person—so instead of just telling people what to eat, we work with clients to find solutions that fit their needs, accommodate what they’ve gone through and what they are currently dealing with, and that are sustainable in the long-term.”
With the impacts of COVID-19, including lockdowns and quarantines, the past almost two years has had complex impacts on our health, including reduced capacities to prevent or control chronic diseases. “Since, the pandemic hit, people have definitely been more interested in ways to support their immune systems,” says Young. “Also, with people having been stuck in isolated situations, it has created challenges for many in their relationships with food and in making other healthy decisions. Often, these problems are caused by underlying issues, so I support people to sort those out as well.”
Many holistic nutritionists have defined areas of focus—such as women’s wellness or gut health—that may make them a better fit than others to help you with your specific concerns. “It’s important to find someone who can best support you on your unique health journey. Someone that you connect with and who offers a safe environment for open and honest conversations. Someone that makes you feel heard and someone—of course—who is knowledgeable and qualified,” explains Eagles. “It may take a bit of research to find the right fit.”
In both the US and Canada, holistic nutrition is not regulated by the government at the federal level. While some states and provinces have defined regulations, generally, those letters you see behind a holistic nutritionist’s name are determined by the school they attended, the program they graduated from, or the professional association they belong to. “Reading about the standards defined by the school and program your holistic nutritionist graduated from, as well as the standards set by any professional associations that they are part of, can help you determine if they are the type of practitioner you’re looking for,” says Eagles.
Some health care benefits programs provide coverage for complimentary health services like holistic nutrition consultation (often listed as “nutritional counselling” when selecting policy options). “This often depends on a practitioner’s designations and certifications, as well as the region where you live,” notes Eagles. Be sure to check with your health insurance provider to see if these types of services are covered.
If you’re thinking of starting your own holistic nutrition practice, you’ll require insurance to provide certain services—this may include professional liability coverage, online consultation coverage, and specific coverage to provide cooking classes. Consulting a legal professional can help you navigate your insurance needs.
Building your own career in holistic nutrition can enable you to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, as well as your own. “It's so rewarding when you can help a person feel empowered by the tools that you are putting in their hands. You get to help them take charge of their health and, often, finally implement the things that they know that they should have been doing for a while now,” explains Young. “Food has amazing power to connect people with themselves and others—I love that.”
Educational programs to become a holistic nutritionist vary in duration and type of accreditation. “Make sure to do your research—explore as many different schools as possible and talk to people in the field of holistic nutrition for their advice and experiences,” advises Eagles. “In the end, pick the program that works best with your lifestyle, that’s going to give you the needed knowledge, facilitate networking, and provide you with the tools and confidence to build your business afterward.”
Since holistic nutrition considers the whole person, the practice dovetails well with other health, wellness, and fitness services and careers. Young agrees, noting that holistic nutrition works to serve established treatment plans and provides a strong footing for mutual support between different practices. “Networking as a holistic nutritionist allows me to make partnerships with personal trainers and other professionals. These relationships not only provide great support to our clients but each other’s businesses as well.”
If you’d like to dip your toe into what a holistic view of nutrition can offer you, visit the alive Academy for courses and programs that can get you started on your way. Not only does alive Academy give you the tools to improve the health of you and your family but it also works to enhance your own career path. The alive Academy has enabled many of its graduates to carve out their own dream job in the health industry, including opening their own successful nutritional consulting practices.