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Health Coach vs Dietician: A Closer Look

August 25th, 2014 | 15 comments


healthcoachingpicYou may have noticed on the internet lately, that there has been an increasing number of woman (and men!) promoting themselves as ‘Health Coaches’, and yesterday I read an article that seems to be bringing Health Coaches under fire in the mainstream media!!


It really didn’t surprise me that this would happen.


This article on The Guardian’s website was criticising TV personalities Pete Evans and Sarah Wilson over their promotion of healthy eating and weight loss advice, with dietician Susie Burrell claiming that “their one-size-fits-all programs could be detrimental to health”.  Both of these two TV celebs have studied a Health Coaching certificate through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), in New York City.


As someone who is University qualified in Human Nutrition, as well as having completed the IIN course, I felt called to write this post to help you make a clear distinction between the two different types of professions, so you can decide who is best suited to helping you.


I get a lot of inquiries from people who want to do the IIN course.  It is attractive because it promises you a great career, making great money, helping people find a healthy balance in their lives.  A common question I get is whether it provides you with enough education and tools to work in the field of health, and this is hard to answer, because it totally depends on how you want to use it…


IIN educates and trains health coaches to support people who are wanting to transition to a healthy lifestyle, which works best for them.  The course covers a wide variety of dietary theories, from modern conventional nutrition literature, to traditional Chinese medicine, from the Atkins to the FODMAP diet.  The information is so plentiful, that even with a degree in Human Nutrition, I felt confused as to what is right!

lady with celery in mouth


But that is how the course is so ingeniously designed….to give you a taste at how the general public are feeling, which is typically confused and baffled at what they are meant to eat for good health, due to the hundreds of conflicting dietary theories out there.


The qualification does not teach you the detailed biochemistry of metabolism, the intricate physiology of the many incredible human body systems, the etiology of disease or detailed knowledge on the complex pathways of nutrient assimilation and absorption….which are topics Nutritionists and Dieticians learn in detail at University.


BUT…it does teach you how to really listen to people.  It teaches you how to ask the right questions to get your clients thinking for themselves.  It equips you to help your clients navigate the confusing world of Nutrition & Health without the bias of only one viewpoint (ie what you are taught at University).


I believe that it is a great foundational course, which will encourage students to then seek further study in a subject that really resonates with them.  It’s creating a generation of people more interested in Nutrition & Health….and this deserves a jump of joy!!

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Health Coaches are like an army of foot-soldiers all around the world; health conscious beings who have a passion to heal this planet, one family at a time.  They are out there encouraging people to shop at the local farmers markets, to eat organic, teaching families to read food labels, running health food tours, speaking at schools and corporate events, creating healthy food products, motivating, inspiring, and encouraging people to take some simple steps to a healthier life.


Health coaches are doing some pretty amazing things all around the world, and I think they should be applauded for their passion for a healthier planet…I believe the world desperately needs this.


During my studies at University, I remember learning things that never really sat right with me.  I particularly remember one lecture, where we were discussing the importance of fortifying bread with nutrients that people are not getting enough of.  To me it seemed a round-about way of doing things…why don’t we make some changes so that people are eating more of the foods that actually contain that vitamin, rather than fortifying unhealthy processed foods with synthetic vitamins.


It really made me question what I was being taught.



While my University training was absolutely worthwhile to learn & understand the amazing science behind Nutrition, I feel that the skills I learned at IIN were extremely practical and powerful .  University didn’t teach me about the power of listening, about bio-individuality, food cravings, primary & secondary foods, helping people deal with emotional relationships to food, about health counseling and about all the different theories of healing.


IIN helped me see the bigger picture, and the combination of the two courses have been so perfectly married.


So my advice is this…if you have complicated health issues, then I would suggest that you consider visiting a clinical Dietician or a Nutritionist, as well as a holistic GP.  If you know that you need support in your day-to-day living, in eating more vegetables, preparing and cooking healthy wholefoods, planning & organisation, meal ideas for your family, and you need someone who can help hold you accountable & cheer you on, then I highly recommend trying a suitable health coach!!


A Health Coach won’t necessarily give you a strict diet plan to follow, but will rather educate you around making changes to everything in your life that feeds you, such as your career, relationships, physical activity & spiritual practice (whatever that means to you), as well as the food on your plate.


From my experience, I find that it’s usually these primary foods being out of balance that are making people sick. 


Warning!  If you have a health coach suggesting that you make very radical changes and it doesn’t feel right to you, then check in to see what their qualifications are, talk to your doctor, and if you are uncertain, seek out a qualified Nutritionist, Naturopath or Dietician.


If you’d like to know more, I’m happy to have a chat with you about what I can offer as a Health & Nutrition Coach –  having both tertiary qualifications in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology, and a Health Coaching certification from IIN.  You’ll be surprised at how much your life can be over-hauled in a 6-month program.  Hope this helps you!


Love Ngaire x

Part 3 (12 of 63)





15 people have commented
  1. Great post Ngaire! I read that article too, and one on Mamamia – which I found to be quite biased and judgey. Of course there is always a place for balanced opinions, but really no place for attack and it’s wonderful to hear your holistic impression of both. What an amazing skill set you have! Woot! xx

    • ngaire stephenson says:

      Thank you beautiful Melissa 🙂 Yes, I feel so strongly that there is a place for all of these wonderful healing modalities, because as humanity we have such a diversity in what people need!! Attacking is NOT cool!! xxxx

  2. Matt says:

    Touche! Thanks for taking the time to define the differences. Health and well being is becoming so polarised these days. Fed by hungry media outlets, the debate becomes bogged down in the real issues of education, availability and action.

    • ngaire stephenson says:

      Yes so true Matt. Once you’ve seen the corruption, you can’t un-see it. The companies who are sponsoring Dietetics association, Nutrition Australia, and the research. The politics and the lies. It breaks my heart, which is why I want to bring light to the situation, and a balanced, gentle & wholesome approach for those who are down-right confused by the media & food-marketing circus. Cheers for reading 🙂

  3. Sarah Wilson says:

    Thanks Ngaire – great rundown!

    • ngaire stephenson says:

      Cheers Sarah 🙂 You are doing some great work, it’s unfair for the media and other health professionals to knock you down for your work in helping create a healthier planet. We all need to work together. Keep it up hun! xx

  4. […] this post that a registered dietician (which is different again to a nutritionist) wrote explaining why she studied IIN and how it integrates with her work as a […]

  5. Katie says:

    Thanks Ngaire, I really enjoyed your considered and thoughtful contrast of each directions, really valuable for anyone considering one or other (or both) of these paths – and very positive too. Cheers, kt

  6. Kate Bowern says:

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS POST Ngaire thank you so very much. You and Sarah have helped me to understand this course better and now I know this is definitely the course for me. As much as I would love a degree in nutrition or dietetics, I have three kids under 5 and already being qualified in Early Education, this is just what I need. Thank you for explaining that all so well.

    • ngaire stephenson says:

      My absolute pleasure Kate 🙂 You will love it hun, it’s a fantastic course!!!! And will be such a great compliment to your early child education xx

  7. Hazel says:

    Awesome! You nailed this..Legend X

  8. Melanie Makris says:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me Ngaire. I’m a Pharmacist who is fed-up with
    a healthcare industry which treats the symptoms instead of the whole person and
    feel that I could be doing more. Are you familiar with the Australasian College of
    Nutrition and Environmental Medicine? Any information would be appreciated

    • ngaire stephenson says:

      Hi Melanie! My pleasure 🙂 I have heard of the Australasian College of Nutrition & Environmental medicine, but don’t know too much about them sorry. Are you hoping to move into a different field? With your background, moving into Nutritional medicine would be amazing!!!!!!

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Hi! My name is Ngaire, owner of Whole Lot a Health. I'm a Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Nutritionist, and Clinical Pilates teacher, with a passion to empower woman to living a ripe & fertile life; rich with energy, abundance & opportunity.  Health is wealth!

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