If you have ever dabbled with the thought of a career in holistic health, here is your chance to get the inside scoop on the type of education you could receive from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Shannon Lavin Vanjoske is a successful graduate from IIN and was generous enough to share her experiences with us!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Shannon Lavin Vanjoske and I am a certified holistic health and nutrition counselor. I own a private health counseling practice called “mother + earth wellness” that focuses on healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices for individuals and their families. The cornerstone of my business is advocating for a plant-strong, vegan diet. In addition to my health counseling practice, I recently co-authored Regan the Vegan, a children’s book promoting the health benefits of living a plant-strong lifestyle with illustrations and words even a child can understand. Also, I manage a health and wellness blog featuring plant-strong recipes, healthy living tips, and information about natural birth and eco-parenting. You can find my blog at www.motherplusearth.blogspot.com.
I received my holistic health counseling certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). In addition, I hold a B.S. degree in Professional Strategic Communication from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
I live in Ramsey, Minnesota with my husband Aaron, one-year old son Regan, rescue cat Kermie, and rescue pups Daisy and Dudley. What gets me up and going each morning is my son’s beautiful smile and knowing I am making a difference in promoting better health, happiness, peace on earth!
How did you first become interested in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition?
I’ve had a deep interest in health and wellness since my early childhood. At the age of thirteen, I took a step away from my family’s traditional SAD diet (standard American diet) to become a vegetarian. My love for animals guided my heart to speak out and fight against modern factory farming practices. What began as a personal animal rights statement has matured into a full-grown passion for healthy eating and compassionate living. My holistic health journey is 15 years strong and counting.
I took a leap of faith a year ago when I left my corporate marketing position to enroll at IIN. I knew at my core it was time to make a switch into a career I was truly passionate about–one where I could make an honest living by helping and inspiring others.
As a mother, I have a vision and strong need to better educate our children about making healthier food choices. A growing body of research documents that predominant illnesses and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes afflicting the health of millions of Americans, is preventable by eating a nutrient-dense diet and making our calories count. The old adage is true,
We are what we eat!
My goal is to help reverse America’s ever-growing health crisis. Through my health counseling practice, I hope to educate, inspire and guide countless lives to a lifestyle that’s not only healthier but also compassionate and sustainable.
Were you an on-campus or an online student? Did you enjoy your experience there?
I enrolled at IIN as an online student and I actually found the online experience to be really great! It offered a lot of flexibility for listening to lectures, completing assignments and taking tests on MY schedule. I’ve heard from alumni who attended classes on campus that their schooling experience was a lot more ridged and scheduled since all lectures took place on weekends in New York City. As a working mom, the flexibility the school offered through its online program was priceless. I was able to access and listen to classes and lectures (via my red iPod) on my commute to and from my corporate job, while I did laundry, went for walks with my dogs, cleaned my house, etc.
When I first enrolled, I was a bit nervous my virtual experience wouldn’t include the powerful dynamics and atmosphere of onsite lectures and face-to-face contact with other students. But I quickly learned there were ten other women within a 30-mile radius of me who were also enrolled at IIN and in my same graduating class! Within a matter of weeks, we created a “study and support group” and still to this day, we continue to meet every few months even after we’ve graduated. My peers have been the backbone to my experience at IIN – encouraging, uplifting and supportive. The friendships and professional connections I’ve made are worth the cost of tuition alone.
I loved every second of my education at IIN. I was challenged to think in unconventional ways, question our dietary standards (SAD), and stand up for my personal beliefs and values. From a curriculum standpoint, I learned a lot about the diet’s role in overall health and wellness. And importantly, I learned about other sources of (non-food) nutrition and tips on disease prevention that are just as important to our health as the food we put in our mouths.
Tell us about IIN‘s curriculum. What do they teach?
IIN is an independent health and nutrition school – meaning it is not tied to the government for financial support nor curriculum development. In fact, as a part of our curriculum, we analyzed the (unethical) relationships between government policymakers and specific food industries. We learned about how these relationships sometimes influence and bias laws, policies, and dietary guidelines such as United States’ Agriculture Bill or the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) daily dietary recommendations. Many Americans are unaware of the food industry lobbying pressures and how many are contrary to our national goals of wellness and illness prevention. To illustrate my point, Congressional leaders recently argued against tightening nutritional standards in schools for children by voting that pizza met the nutritional standard of a vegetable!
Our curriculum was robust and covered several topics each week– usually analysis of a particular dietary theory (we learned of over 100 different dietary theories), education on a broader nutrition/health/wellness topic, and business development coaching. IIN’s curriculum is more holistic in contrast to the education of a certified nutritionist, who focuses mostly on calories and diet plans presented by the United States Drug Administration (USDA), IIN students learn about a wide range of wellness topics including: positive psychology, macrobiotics, raw food, effective listening skills, self-care, meditation, and the importance of a fulfilling career and relationships, to name a few.
How did IIN help you prepare for being an independent life coach?
The school provides everything a person needs to get started as a holistic health counselor. I found the following three things to be the most beneficial: (1) the online education forum, (2) business coaching, and (3) being assigned my own health coach during the program.
The online education forum is a virtual message board where students can ask questions, seek additional expertise regarding particular topics, post helpful tips and information for others, and share their own successes. Each student has his or her own specialty and in-depth knowledge on specific topics (i.e. gluten-intolerance or vegan diet) so it’s a great place to tap into others’ wisdom.
IIN introduces business fundamentals at the start of the program and continues to address different marketing and sales topics throughout the duration of the year. Unlike other programs, I graduated with all of the knowledge and tools I needed to start my own health-counseling business. Upon graduation, I identified my target market, customized my personal website to reach that market, and had an ongoing marketing plan in place to keep me moving forward.
Perhaps the most enjoyable perk of the school is each student receives his or her very own holistic health coach to mentor him or her through the program. My coach and I communicated via Skype every month to discuss a variety of topics including how I was coming along with the curriculum, assignments and tests. She would answer any questions I had in regard to developing my own business. And, she would connect with me on a personal level to ensure I was taking care of myself during that busy time of my life. Of course we also shared healthy recipes and other holistic lifestyle tips. We continue to stay in touch and I hope one day I’ll be able to thank her in person for her knowledge and guidance during my time at IIN.
If you were to name 3 books that have significantly impacted the way you look at nutrition, what would they be, and why?
Dr. Fuhrman is a highly respected medical doctor and one of my personal idols. In his book, Disease-Proof your Child, he discusses how essential it is to start children on a path of healthy eating right from the beginning of life. Why? Because the foods we feed our children in the first ten years of life have a significant impact on their health as adults. In the book’s introduction, Dr. Fuhrman notes,
More and more evidence emerges each year that the diets we eat in our childhood have far-reaching effects on our adult health and specifically on whether we get cancer.
Disease-Proof your Child has significantly impacted the way I am raising my 17-month old son. In fact, my knowledge has led the entire family to adopt a whole-foods, plant-strong diet for a life of health, happiness and prosperity.
Considered the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted, The China Study presents a clear and concise message about the relationship between diet and disease. It addresses popular myths around food and its relationship to our health (i.e. that milk gives you strong bones – which it doesn’t). Perhaps the greatest lesson I took away from this book is that it’s never too late to change your eating habits to a healthy, plant-strong diet. Cancer and disease can be prevented and even reversed when the body is fueled with proper nutrition. T. Colin Campbell says it best,
The science is clear. The results are unmistakable. Change your diet and dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
The author of Integrative Nutrition, Joshua Rosenthal, is also the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The book’s content covers an array of topics related to integrative holistic health and wellness. Joshua discusses the politics related to food corporations and pharmaceutical companies, analyzes popular “fad” diets, de-constructs cravings, and explores the connection between primary food (non-food aspects of our life that nourish us – i.e. relationships, career, spirituality, etc.) to our overall health. The most valuable lesson I learned from this book is that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Each person has his or her own unique set of physical and emotional requirements; and what is one person’s paradise might be another person’s poison. I also learned that optimal health must include an integration of healthy food, along with physical exercise, and fulfillment in relationships, career and spirituality. Deepak Chopra’s endorsement sums it up pretty well,
Integrative Nutrition brilliantly blends the art and science of nutrition with the personal growth aspects of love, relationships, fitness, career, and spiritual practice to help people find their path toward health and happiness.
What are some basic, every day, fundamentals of nutrition you would like to share with us?
I think the biggest thing I’d like to share with your readers is to be critical about the foods they feed their bodies. Research shows over and over again that food quality and lifestyle factors are directly related to overall health and wellness. Toxicity and deficiency will ultimately lead to sickness and disease whereas nutrient-dense foods will help the body function at its optimal level – bringing health, happiness, and energy with it. To say it another way—think twice about feeding your body calories with little or no nutritional value, especially salt, sugar, oils and saturated fats, and processed foods such as white flour. Hippocrates said it best,
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
On a slightly different note, it’s also important to consider other areas of life that give each of us nourishment. If a job or relationship has you stressed out every hour of every day, eating broccoli and kale for every meal won’t lead to optimal health. It’s about finding the perfect balance between healthy foods and healthy lifestyle choices.
If people are interested in personal or group health coaching, how can they reach you best for more information?
I currently offer both group and one-on-one health coaching, as well as cooking classes. If your readers are interested in learning more about how I can help them achieve more energy, happiness, fulfillment and optimal health, they can contact me at click here for email address or 763.218.8929. Or, they can check me out online at (website): www.motherplusearth.com, (blog): www.motherplusearth.blogspot.com, or on Facebook.