We chat with Karen Geary, one of ION’s most recent graduates, about her experience studying nutritional therapy and how she’s finding ION’s top up to degree course


What drew you to nutritional therapy?

“Back in the late 90’s I bought a copy of The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford after a diagnosis of endometriosis. I could not put it down and it inspired me to attend ION where at that time, Patrick was still lecturing. I’m also one of those people where the weight loss game is slightly harder for me and I wanted to know why.

“I did the Science Access Course in 1997, so I’m probably ION’s longest serving student! I stopped studying as my corporate career took off, vowing to go back when I had the capacity. I’m glad I waited – the science of nutrition has moved on exponentially, which means I’m armed with the latest knowledge and something new comes up every single day.”

How did you juggle life and responsibilities outside of your studies?  

“I restarted my studies in 2015 as an e-student when I lived in California, inspired by the array of fresh fruit and vegetables and the general culture of wellbeing. I became very busy and ended up doing much of my studying on long haul flights just to keep up.  I had to split year two into two years; everyone who studies at ION knows that year 2 is pretty intense and I could not manage holding down a full time role, being on a plane all the time and studying too.  Some of my assignment marks were understandably not great during that period, but I ploughed on.”

What is the most surprising thing you learnt on the course? 

“There is no single ‘right’ answer. Whilst functional medicine aims to get to the underlying causes of what might be going on, rather than addressing symptoms, there is not one single way to support a specific condition or concern. There are too many factors and interdependencies to consider.  The functional medicine model is today’s take on how modern medicine should really be practised, and once understood it unlocks everything.”

What are your plans now you are qualified to practise?  

“I’m already seeing clients and I’m fortunate that they are all coming via word of mouth recommendation, so I’m not stressing about the marketing side of things right now. With my continuing studies and my other responsibilities, I’m taking my time to discover my niche.  I have already delivered one talk via Zoom for a corporate client to their 5,000 employees on food and mood.

“My one-to-one clients are mostly stressed out executives with gut, anxiety and/or weight issues, trying to lead in the middle of a pandemic and having to make some extremely tough decisions given the economic backdrop.  Some of them are going through menopause just as they get promoted to the boardroom which puts added pressure on them.  It’s a situation I’m very familiar with and because I understand their world well, I’m finding I’m able to earn their trust quite quickly.”

How are you finding ION’s top up to degree course? 

“As expected, I’m really enjoying it. It is slightly strange but refreshing that we are not talking nutrition [the top up has an emphasis on practical business skills]. The tutors are doing a marvellous job setting this up for the first time, especially given the backdrop of the pandemic.  As students we have bonded fast and our WhatsApp and Facebook pages have already become invaluable. We have started Zoom check-ins to chat and support each other on assignments too.   

“I’m especially enjoying the behavioural side of things.  I do a lot of executive coaching and mentoring work in my non-nutrition life and I’m finding it is deepening my practice even though I have been doing it for a very long time.”

What advice would you give to others considering studying nutritional therapy? 

“I’m biased coming from ION as I think it is the best training there is, but choose your course carefully and help each other out as students; learning from each other is an invaluable part of the experience. Without the support of my fellow students, I’m not sure I could have got through.

“It will be tougher than you can possibly imagine, but you will feel the most amazing sense of accomplishment when you finish.  An ION qualification is truly earned and one of the few that incorporates a certain amount of business know how – all of which is extremely reassuring when going into practice.”