What is it and who is it suited to?
Planning and research
Rules and regulations
Costs and potential earnings
What is it?
Nutrition is on everybody’s mind these days. People want to live longer, healthier lives, which is directly attributed to eating a balanced diet. It is also high on the government’s agenda and has become a cause for concern among health experts, as official figures reveal obesity rates in Britain are soaring, with nearly one quarter of the adult population now classed as clinically obese. Never before have more initiatives been launched in an effort to combat this escalating epidemic: Change for Life and Five a Day are just two examples of such government schemes. With all this in mind, there are clearly enormous opportunities for independent nutritionists to make their mark and do their best to help relieve the growing obesity problem, as well as treating a vast range of other health conditions.
Setting up a nutritionist business can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll spend your days helping people to live healthier lives and achieve their dietary goals, however, it’s not just limited to weight loss – the enormous scope of the industry can also include conditions as varied as: addiction, anxiety, fertility, food intolerance, insomnia, skin conditions and stress management. There are also a number of different avenues you can go down as a nutritionist – you can act as a personal diet coach, or as a consultant to restaurants and food manufacturers, you can give classes and seminars, or you could attach yourself to health clubs or health-conscious organisations. It’s an extremely varied industry where no two days will be the same. It’s also important to recognise that there are numerous schools of thought surrounding nutrition, from traditional scientific and medical methods to a more holistic approach, so you’ll need to decide where you stand in your attitude to the subject before you start to think about becoming a nutritionist.
Who is it suited to?
Many people are put off nutrition as a career because they don’t feel they have the right scientific background, however this is in fact a common misconception. You certainly don’t need to be a scientific genius, but a good understanding and keen interest in the subject is crucial because much of what you learn and practice will be based on scientific theory. Becoming a nutritionist will require you to enrol on a recognised course (which we explain in the next section) so you must therefore prepare yourself for further study, both mentally and financially.
Being a nutritionist involves a huge amount of interaction with people from all different backgrounds, who will come to you seeking help and advice. Charlotte Fraser, who started her business, Naturopathic Nutrition, in 2006, emphasises the importance of maintaining a personable and compassionate manner because you will spend much of your time listening to people and their problems, as a therapist. She says: “You must be able to relate to people and be a good listener – a background in psychology also helps – it’s rather like putting together pieces of a puzzle when you’re dealing with different people’s conditions.” Charlotte also highlights the value of keeping strong boundaries: “At the end of the day, you’re a therapist of sorts, but it’s easy to get caught up in your clients’ problems – you need to have strong boundaries and a level head.”
Starting a nutritionist company is just like any other business, in the sense that you’ll need to have a flare for all things business-related; a lot of passionate hopefuls fall by the wayside due to a lack of business acumen. A good grasp of the financial elements is paramount – such as working out balance sheets, profits and losses, and efficient budgeting. Previous experience in marketing and communications is also hugely beneficial, however it is possible to develop these skills as you go along.
As a therapist, it is vital that you maintain a professional and discrete attitude towards your work. You’ll be dealing with other people’s health and will have access to their private medical records, some of which will be highly sensitive and so will require handling with due care and diligence. Many people seek help from nutritional therapists having already gone to their GP who may not have been able to resolve their problem. Helping people to better understand their body and improve their health can be enormously rewarding as long as you approach the industry with the right conscientious attitude.