hcsg_pic_newI’ve recently noticed that, the US based, IIN are advertising very heavily here in the UK and flooding the ‘health and well-being’ marketplace with ‘graduates’ or ‘health coaches’.

Who are the IIN? Who are these ‘health coaches’? Are they qualified to advise us?

The IIN was founded, in 1992, by Joshua Rosenthal and offers a part-time, year long, on-line, course to enable graduates to practice as health coaches. Rosenthal’s approach is set out in his book, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness‘ (self published, IIN publishing, 2008).

The stated mission of the IIN is: “to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world”. This seems, to me at the very least, to be a rather grandiose and wide remit and appears almost religious in its fervour.

The current Facebook advertisement for IIN goes like this: Join the health and wellness movement …. you will learn: how Health Coaches improve global health and happiness; student experiences on healing themselves and others through nutrition; and why Health Coaches are the future of healthcare”.

Integrative Nutrition takes a holistic approach‘, which encourages client / customers to consider relationships, work, exercise, and spirituality as essential building blocks to better health wellness. The idea is that relationships, exercise, career, and spirituality are just as important to health as food. Thus, ‘health coaches support the whole person.

These are the six stated core values for ‘health coaches: be a source of positive change; do what you love and love what you do; set an example of self-development and growth; live each day with the freedom to choose what’s right for you; support each other in the global shift to better health; embrace learning and new ways to do things; create balance in all areas of life; and finally, simplify everything.

Integrated Nutrition

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition is one of the largest organisations that certifies health coachesand the course and certification is open to anyone who is willing to pay the tuition fee ($5,995). It’s year-long, online course and qualifies students to describe themselves as an integrative nutrition health coaches. No nutrition-related knowledge is required to enrol and the exams and assignments taken by students are unsupervised; completed in their own homes, where they have access to Google, friends and text books. The course contains no: biology; cell biology; biochemistry; chemistry, anatomy or physiology – no science.

The IIN course covers around 100 dietary theories, ranging from: the paleo diet; the raw food diet; the Atkins diet; Macrobiotics; Avurvda (food choices on alleged body types and the season of the year); The Blood Type Diet, The five element theory (recommends foods based on the ancient Chinese notion that we are surrounded by “energy fields” (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) that these need to be balanced to promote “self-harmony.”); and various types of cleanses‘.

Most of these ‘diets’ are nutritionally dubious and are not only completely unscientific but are based on completely contradictory theories. However, Rosenthal teaches that “all diet programs contain elements of truth” and the concept of bio-individuality‘ – which means that one person’s food is another person’s poison and thus no one diet is valued over another.

More sensibly, the IIN does advocate a 12-step integrative plan which includes drinking more water; eating more grains, vegetables; less meat and dairy products – all sensible advice. From what I can establish, the IIN curriculum also includes counselling techniques and business training, to enable its students to take their knowledge of nutrition and use it to bring about changes for their customers / clients.

Wellness, it’s all about the money!

Wellness”, is the new in-thing and it’s big, big, business. Consumer demand for wellness services and products has been growing. Wellness bloggers and ‘health coaches’ tell us that medical doctors, dietitians and registered nutritionists (all of whom are degree educated and scientifically trained) are not to be trusted and are may even be in the pay of Big Pharma or the food industry.

The Global Wellness Institute, however, (http://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/images/stories/gsws2014/pdf/GWI_Global_Spa_and_Wellness_Economy_Monitor_Full_Report_Final.pdf) reveals the more prosaic truth. The global wellness market is worth $3.4 trillion, making it nearly three times larger than the $1 trillion pharmaceutical industry. The Wellness sectors that saw the most growth between 2010/2014 were: Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss (108% increase to $276.5 billion); Preventative and personalized health (78% increase to $243 billion); Complementary and alternative medicine (65%t increase to $113 billion); Beauty and anti-aging (51% increase to $679 billion).

Sadly, unsound, unscientific and unfounded nutritional advice has been slowly, seeping into the national consciousness. Uneducated, unregulated, ‘advice’ about food and diet from organisations like the IIN is, I think, both irresponsible and immoral; because along with the wholesome, holistic and wellness messages are the reminders of how much money IIN graduates‘ / ‘health coaches’ can earn. For example: “We’ll show you how to be a six-figure health coach even with a full-time job,”, “most people who come into the programme, have no training in nutrition”; but nonetheless, “halfway through the course you will have the confidence to take on clients and many students make back their tuition fees before graduation.”

So, you pays your money and takes your choice.

All in all, the IIN are not my cup of tea. I know that real ‘experts’ are out of fashion; but I’d rather listen to someone with some actual nutritional and scientific training than ‘health coaches’ with pseudo-scientific, semi religious and unfounded, wellness theories. Just my view!