How to Become a Nutritionist (Plus: Why I Chose the Nutritional Therapy Association)

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Lauryn 2016 0123 1080X675 1 | How To Become A Nutritionist (Plus: Why I Chose The Nutritional Therapy Association)

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

As a kid, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, a “Nutrition Therapist” or “Functional Medicine Practitioner,” or “Occupational Therapist,” did NOT roll of my tongue.

Instead, I would have told you: “An actress,” “a teacher,” “a mommy,” “a fashion designer,” “a best-selling author,” or, come college, “the next Katie Couric” (on the NBC Today Show of course).

“Nutritional Therapy”—or anything else that I do now— was far from my radar.

Enter: A 15 year battle with a severe eating disorder (that destroyed my body and almost took my life), and, on the other side, I knew, without a doubt, when I recovered, I wanted to make it my life’s work to help others do the same—to overcome their health and mindset woes, whatever the struggle. 

My Inspiration 

From age 9 till I was about 24, I lived immersed in a world dedicated to everything that had to do with health, food, fitness and my body—and tried about every rule, myth, fad or craze in the books.

Some call it call it chronic dieting, others call it a “disordered relationship” with food, others anorexia or orthorexia—bottom line I was one of the one in 5 women who struggle with an eating disorder, one of the 80% of 10-year-old girls who think they are fat, and one of the 3 in 4 women with a horrible relationship with food.

My eating disorder “defined” my life throughout most of my adolescence, teens and early 20’s, and most of this time was spent constantly trying to be “good enough.”

Additionally, most days were consumed with obsessing over food, my body and fitness; checking in and out of treatment centers and hospitals; sitting on couches in therapists’ and nutritionists’ offices, along with weekly group therapies; and weekly vital-sign checks and weight-checks at my doctor’s office.

Like a game, I played “patient” well—and quite honestly, eventually had no idea how NOT to be a “patient”—I felt stuck.

My “tipping point” in my own recovery and health came at the ripe age of 23, going on 24, the morning of all times when I stepped on the scale (like I always did) to see a number I hadn’t seen since I was 10-years-old—a number that flashed me back to the time when my eating disorder all began.

My Sick Pic | How To Become A Nutritionist (Plus: Why I Chose The Nutritional Therapy Association)

While eating disorders are NOT all about numbers, this was a huge wake up call for even my “disordered” self to realize: “Something is not right. I am not ok.” To realize my eating disorder battle had become bigger than myself, and I was no longer in control.

What I needed? A serious life change. An overhaul. Surrender.

(Be careful what you pray for, because that is exactly what the Lord had in store. You can see the whole story here: VIDEO)

 

To make a long story short, after spending an entire year in hospitals and another treatment center (my fourth one), going through the “motions of recovery”—something was different about this time.

While treatment for eating disorders is often a similar approach—full of lots of therapy, talking, eating “challenge foods” like Twinkies and Egg McMuffins, body image awareness and soul-searching, this time was different.

No matter how uncomfortable treatment was, I made up my mind, when I got out, I was NOT running back to my old (comfortable) eating disorder ways.

I told myself, “I have to learn how to function, operate and live—differently. I have to learn how to not just “being ok” with managing my eating disorder, but instead, truly doing something different in my relationship with food, my body and fitness.  “

I did.

Finding Nutritional Therapy

Fast-forward about three years later, after my whole story unfolded, and the Nutritional Therapy Association was the perfect tool to add to my tool belt to help me further my mission—my mission to help others thrive.

And not just thrive in their relationship with food or thoughts about food, but thrive in their health and physical body—something many doctors and nutritionists told me, I would never really be able to do. I was told I’d struggle with side effects from my eating disorder like osteoporosis, poor gut health and a weakened heart for the rest of my life. 

Guess what? I do not. 

Nutritional Therapy is really what helped my body begin to physically heal—even long after my mindset had improved. From healing my gut after suffering with constipation, IBS and bloating most of my life, to understanding how to heal my body from all the years of stress of an eating disorder, and even restore my bone health (now, osteoporosis free), food really is medicine.

I heard about the NTA through an alumnus, who had gone through the program and had nothing but great things to say.

I researched many other programs out there— From the Psychology of Eating, Bauman College, and The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, to going back through formal school to get my Registered Dietitians’ license or Master’s in Clinical Nutrition, there’s tons to choose from!

However, after investigating these all, for me, the NTA made the most sense—I could easily integrate the workload into my daily life, while still having the opportunity for workshop weekends and hands-on practice, and the foundational health focus is what I was wanting—not learning how to count calories and macros (I was a pro at that), prescribe government-regulated food pyramids, monitor feeding tubes in hospitals, or how to market myself as a coach. I wanted real applicable education.

I also loved out how the NTA’s curriculum is built on a foundation of real food—what humans were intended to thrive upon—without prescribing or aligning with any one diet.

It addresses foundations of helping people heal and transform their lifestyles through real food—-such as digestion, hormone balance, stress and HPA-Axis function, blood sugar, immunity. and more. And it provided me with a unique training and skill set in the implementation of “functional evaluation” and “neuro lingual testing”—

Little did I realize, too, that the NTA would open up a whole other can of worms of an amazing, smallish community—supportive and likeminded visionaries and passionaries, just as eager and motivated to help others thrive.

Throughout my 9-month course study, I can honestly say I learned more about the body, health and nutrition, than I did in my 4-year doctoral program in Occupational Therapy, or anything you can Google search or hear on a podcast.

The NTA course also paved way for me to consider other possibilities and endless opportunities for continued growth, training and skill development in order to ultimately, live out my mission.

After completing the NTA, I began my training in Functional Medicine underneath the Institute for Functional Medicine and Chris Kresser’s ADAPT training (another topic for another day, which have also been enriching), but I honestly attribute my unique perspective of healing I bring to my practice to the foundational training I received from the NTA.

If you’re considering your “next move,” seeking a growth opportunity or trying to decide which health, nutrition or coaching program to pursue, I unabashedly can attest to the Nutritional Therapy Association—and the thoughtful, detailed training they’ve put together to help you help others.

I sort of entered the course blindly—trusting my friend’s experience as well as hope in the Universe as well, that it would workout…and it did. However, if you want a little more light on what to expect, here’s whats coming:

Nutritional Therapy Association Training: The 4-1-1

THE SYLLABUS

The course is self-paced and divided into a total of 12 main-lesson modules, plus bonus content. However, there is a mid-term exam over the first half (6)  of the modules at the mid-way point of your curriculum, so it is expected you stay on point for that.

The syllabus addresses the “foundations” first and then spears off into some additional health and nutrition topics that affect these foundations.

The modules include:

  • Introduction to the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
  • Module 1: Basics of Nutrition
  • Module 2: The Client Consult
  • Module 3: Anatomy & Physiology
  • Module 4: Digestion & Elimination
  • Module 5: Blood Sugar Regulation
  • Module 6: Fatty Acids
  • Module 6R: Midterm Review
  • Module 7: Mineral Balance
  • Module 8: Hydration
  • Module 9: Endocrine
  • Module 10: Immune & Allergy
  • Module 11: Cardiovascular Health
  • Module 12: Nutritional Detoxification
  • Module 12R: Final Exam
  • Module 13: Applied Nutritional Therapy
  • Module 14: Business Basics
  • Module 15: Beyond the Foundations

 

TIME COMMITMENT  

I was working about 13 part-time jobs at the time (seriously), plus starting my business (Thrive) at the same time as my NTA Training if that tells you anything. It is DO-ABLE.

Allott about 2-4 hours per week between listening to lectures, watching videos, responding to discussions, participating in conference calls, reading material and soaking up everything. I listened to many of my lectures while “living life”—cooking, working out, on a walk, in the car.

No sweat.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS & PROJECTS

Amongst the total of 12 modules, every module has certain tasks, reflections, reviews, discussions, readings and lectures/videos to complete—based on the material.

From writing a book review over the required readings, to answering instructor-posted discussions, completing your big community project (more below), and even trying a new recipe or foods yourself, everything is super relevant (nothing seems like it’s redundant or wasted time) and if you love the material already (hello nutrition and helping others thrive) then homework is actually kind of fun.

In addition, you get to work with 1-2 practice clients for assignments to take skills learned in lectures and bring them to life—and most people ask a family member or friend to be the first “victim.” :)

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

  1. Complete all 12 Modules in the online portal—including assignments, readings and discussions.
  2. Listen to the bonus 3 Modules and content.
  3. Create a Community Service Project—anything you like (a talk, an e-book, an education session, baking goods for a local farmer’s market, etc.)
  4. Work with a “Practice Client” through the entire Intake, Evaluation & Testing processes you will learn
  5. Attend all three in-class workshop weekends at your select venue or destination.
  6. Pass your Mid-Term & Final Written Exams
  7. Pass your Mid-Term Functional Evaluation Practical & Final Functional Evaluation Practical (in-person)

COST 

$5000 (I believe there are payment plans)

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

After completing the NTP course, the options are limitless with “what you can do with the training.”

Really, if you can imagine it or dream it, you can go for it!

While certain states (orange vs. green vs. yellow vs. red) have certain stipulations around how you can “practice” one-on-one with clients (for instance, I live in Texas where I can practice nutritional counseling with clients, whereas someone in Maine cannot practice one-on-one with people right now), the laws are continually evolving and changing there. (Check the Center for Nutrition Advocacy page here), the world is your oyster for creativity to flow! Here are some ways NTP’s work in practice:

  • Creating online nutrition programs
  • Hosting cooking and meal prep groups
  • Grocery shopping and pantry sweep sessions
  • Writing books and keeping a blog
  • Writing meal plans for people
  • Working alongside other healthcare professionals (like chiropractors, functional medicine doctors, etc.) to help them serve their clients
  • Consulting and coaching people around healthier lifestyles
  • Cooking for others/meal prep services
  • Creating a baked good, bone broth or other wellness-related product to share
  • Food photography— and teaching others how to do the same
  • Serving as wellness consultants and grocery stores, holistic pharmacies and other community venues
  • Come work with Thrive! (My business will be growing and expanding this year to unite other nutritional therapy, occupational therapy and functional medicine practitioners. If you’re interested, shoot me a message and I can keep you in the loop)

The sky is the limit!

SURPRISING BONUSES

Unbeknownst to me, I also walked away with surprising “bonuses” from my training through NTA.

For one: The community is AWESOME!! I never foresaw making as many deep, meaningful friendships and connections through my course—that has continued to evolve as the community has grown. Some of my best friends are girls I met in the program, and we tend to call one another “our tribe”—we get each other.

Another bonus was the different walks of life and diversity the program welcomes! You don’t have to be on course to become a solo-entrepreneur to benefit from the program! You very well may sign up just to learn more and start your own healing journey. We had moms, teachers, trainers, corporate 9-5-ers, fresh-out-of-college graduates, and even a high-school student from Germany in my class.

And lastly: Healing. Like it or not, the NTA course will open your eyes and inspire you to continue (or start) your own wellness and healing journey. Even if you think you “know it all” or you’ve heard it all before, there are golden nuggets of wisdom (and power) tucked in the training for improving your own health and well-being (after all, health is a lifelong journey).

For example, I had never truly begun healing or working on my gut health UNTIL my NTP training. I had healed mentally and somewhat physically from the eating disorder, but it wasn’t until I went through my training that I took things to the “next level” to truly feel amazing—inside and out—and stop my body from feeling like it was at “war” sometimes with itself (i.e. frequent bloating, constipation, loose stools, etc.)—something I’d experienced my whole life.

In addition to healing, you will learn a UNIQUE skill-set known as the “Functional Evaluation” and “Neuro Lingual Testing” to help you assess and create individualized health and nutrition plans for helping people address some of the underlying imbalances they present with–from gut dysfunction, to adrenal and HPA-Axis dysfunction, blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances, low immunity, and more! Nothing to be intimidated about here! You will learn how to use functional techniques, along with client response, intake questions and context clues (like their food log, lifestyle habits and chief complaints) to customize a protocol that is specifically for them (not a one-size-fits-all approach!).

Summing It Up

There you have it. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make, but if you’re looking for a nutrition program to help you take your basic knowledge (and confidence) in health, nutrition and wellness from good to great (and possibly help yourself in the process), NTA is where it’s at.

Want to know what a day is like in the life of a Nutritional Therapist and Functional Medicine Practitioner?

Stay tuned…

P.S. 

Check out this LIVE Facebook Video I recorded with the NTA to tell you more!

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