Monday, February 9, 2015

One of the Reasons I am What I am

The holistic nutrition school I attended - The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, based in NYC – offers an awesome distance-learning program. I had the great fortune of attending the school live in 2009 (this was before they offered the distance learning option), but my husband and my oldest daughter both completed the certification program on-line. Each of us had unique and very positive experiences.

When asked, I am adamant that my attending IIN was THE single best decision I've ever made in my life. While I grew up with a very nutrition-conscious mother (a disciple of Adelle Davis, she was making tofu and lentils when NOBODY else's mother was, back in the early 70s), I strayed from the healthy path in my teen years and then even further, once I married and started my own family.

My kids had eczema, allergies, and seasonal colds and sniffles on a regular basis, and I began to wonder if there was a correlation between what they were eating and their health (duh!). I cleaned up our diet by drastically reducing the PopTarts, Kraft mac-and-cheese, Kellogg'scereals, NutraGrainbars, and other such stuff in our typical American-style diet while focusing on incorporating more veggies and not-processed food (we'd always had a pretty broad menu as my husband is Middle Eastern and we tend to eat ethnic foods like lentils and chickpeas often, so it wasn't a huge chore to get them to eat healthier… giving up the treats and junk seemed to be the biggest obstacle) and soon saw a huge change in their health.

For years, I was on my own on this healthy journey, until I discovered IIN while reading the New York Times on-line during my lunch hour while working at an insurance agency. For the first time ever, I considered that there was an actual job for what I'd already done for myself and felt an instant and immediate draw to attend the school.

While attending IIN, I started teaching cooking classes in my home and at our local high school (in Pittsburgh, PA) as part of a community education program. I had two classes that regularly sold out - one that was a basic beans cooking tutorial – the benefits of them, how to cook and store dried beans, and simple recipes utilizing them, and another one that focused on cooking greens – their nutritional benefits, how to select them, and simple yet unique ways of cooking with them.

I was gaining momentum in the community as I completed my certification only to move to Columbus, OH for a job relocation for my husband.

In Columbus, I had great success connecting with some other health/wellness professionals. I appeared on local TV and worked with a national clothing company’s corporate headquarters. My client-load for my 6-month program was great, and then moved AGAIN!

I've been in Nashville, TN for nearly 4 years now and spent the first three years earning an undergrad degree at Belmont University in writing and communications to further enhance what I'm doing with my health coach certification. I completed that degree last May and am now back to focusing on work - rather than schooling (although I've been working on becoming certified as a yoga instructor since September). I helped to organize a network of IIN students and grads based here in Nashville (there are more than 80 of us) and I've recently created a professional network of IIN coaches here in town called The NashWellGroup: Professional Integrative Nutrition Coaches of Middle TN. We are positioning ourselves to work with traditional medical doctors to assist with patient compliance as well as corporations for workplace wellness. We think that the climate is ripe with people seeking support for preventing illness in the first place, rather than attempting to correct it after it's started, and that is what we can do.

IIN does a great job of providing education regarding lots of dietary theories, as well as equip their students to get their information out there to our communities. Joshua Rosenthal (the school's founder) says that you can amass all the information in the world about a particular subject, but if you don't know how to get it out to others, it doesn't do anyone any good.

In addition to the certification program, IIN also offers a follow-up program called Immersion that provides a good bit of business guidance. The IIN network is very supportive and it is becoming more and more recognizable. There has been a lot of work recently at the federal government level to recognize and protect our profession so that other people in similar lines of work (like registered dietitians and nutritionists) can't discredit us.

While I admire the work of RDs and nutritionists, I firmly believe that there are factors that influence how we care for ourselves that can't be addressed exclusively by counting calories more diligently and working out more frantically (plus, their industries are often in cahoots with big food manufacturers who use their professional platforms to promote their products… it's a loooong story, but if you’re interested, investigate the founding of the USDA as well as who the members of the FDA are – including their corporate backgrounds/financial ties).

IIN's philosophy is that there are factors such as career, relationship, physical activities, and spiritual practice that dictate our appetites - and ultimately our health – just as (if not more) strongly than the food we put on our plates. When one of these primary food areas gets out of balance you are left feeling unFULLfilled yet not sure why, so you usually reach for comfort food/sweets/junk food as a reflexive 'fix' to address your need.

When working with clients, I am trained to address all the areas of life that have potential to feed us - career, relationships, physical activities, and spiritual practice - in addition to food so that my clients can begin to develop and exercise their own sense of mindfulness in discovering what works really well for them (this concept is referred to as bio-individuality, meaning what works well for you may be very different than what works well for someone else… based on gender, physical limitations/requirements, home/work demands, age, ethnicity, emotional background, etc.). I want my clients to develop life-long change, not just the short-term change that comes for the duration of a diet or "cleanse,” only to falter once you “reward” yourself with pizza or wings or ice cream for reaching the finish line or being so “good.”

I could go on and on. I get on a tangent when conveying my experiences with IIN. Ultimately, like most everything else, your experience with IIN will be what you make of it. Some people attend the school to gain knowledge to heal themselves or help their loved ones. Others want to enhance their current career (there were MDs, chiropractors, massage therapists, social workers, psychologists, school teachers, etc. in my class of 1500). Then, there are also those like myself who go through the program in order to do this as a career.

Feel free to let me know what types of questions you may have by emailing me here. I’d love to chat in more detail about my experiences and hear what motivates you to seek out this sort of information. I am always happy to mentor new students and graduates of the program, as we are all working together to help bring change to our world! See a national news article about what we're doing here. For a sample class click here or program guide click here. If you are curious about my coaching style and would like to schedule a complimentary introduction session (via phone) to discuss your health/wellness goals, email me here.

Elly Haddad is a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and healthy life-style coordinator. She's the owner of Elemental Fit and founder of The NashWell Group, both based in Nashville, TN. She helps individuals and groups understand the important influence that diet & lifestyle have on health, happiness, & overall wellbeing. Elly is also a yoga teacher, writer and public speaker, conducting workshops and seminars throughout the midwest and southeastern US. She can be contacted directly via email here

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