Published on 20th January 2020


We chat with Karen McCourt, one of ION’s most recent graduates, about her experience of the Nutritional Therapy Diploma Course, and find out how she managed to combine her studies with a busy career as a senior manager at the Devon Met Office.


What drew you to nutritional therapy?

“Studying nutritional therapy was a somewhat gradual decision. I was diagnosed with thyroid disease in 2005 and responded poorly to medical intervention, so I started to look at ways to further support my health. Having benefited from implementing lifestyle changes myself, I felt really drawn to formalising what I had learnt through my own research, and adding to this knowledge, in the hope of helping others.”


What was the best part of the ION Diploma course?

“I thought I knew quite a bit about nutrition before I started this course, but I really knew so little! I LOVED learning from the wide variety of lecturers who used both the latest scientific evidence (already working in science, this was very important to me), and their own clinical experience. We covered a wide range of topics, including lectures in the final year around setting up a business, which were very practical and useful, especially the creation of a business plan.”


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

“Good question. It wasn’t easy! I was working full time, and travelling for work, so it was a lot to fit in. You do have to be prepared to dedicate adequate time to the course to get the most out of it, but it was worth it. Probably what helped the most was support from the year leaders and course management – on several occasions I had to get assignment extensions due to work and life commitments and, although there is a formal process to go through for this, the course leaders were very supportive and understood the pressures. Although I completed it in the set three years, there is the option to extend the course over a longer time period which I think helped some others. So there was academic rigour – but also flexibility to help you do the best you could.”


How have your eating habits changed since starting the course?

“I probably became a bit more relaxed and added in more foods! From the very first year it was emphasised by lecturers that you need to work with clients’ lifestyles for sustainable results. I probably moved somewhat from being more ‘strict’ to having more ‘balance’, and added in a wider range of plants once I understood just how beneficial they are.”


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

“Vegetables are superheroes in the body. We don’t need to study nutritional therapy to know that we should eat our veg, but I had truly never appreciated just how much vegetables play a part in health – from impacting positively on digestion and our gut microbiome, to supporting liver function. We can all benefit hugely from a range of vegetables of different colours (which supply various different nutrients/benefits in the body) in our diet. That was an eye-opener to me. 

“Although the course was focused on nutrition, we also covered many other areas of health including managing stress and getting adequate sleep. Although I knew both were important, I don’t think I had fully appreciated how much, and the impact on health, so that was an eye-opener too.”


What are your plans now that you are qualified to practise?

“I’m still working full-time, and will continue to do so, so I will be working one day a week as a nutritional therapist at the gym at my work, as well as doing talks. Although it is great to have the opportunity to gain some supplementary income, I’m mainly excited about being able to help clients with making beneficial nutrition and lifestyle changes. I have already had the privilege of seeing initial clients who I have worked with go on to experience some beneficial health changes, and that has very much enthused me for future work.”


What advice would you give to people thinking about embarking on the Nutritional Therapy course?

“This course was academically challenging and time consuming, but truly was one of the best things I have ever done, and I think I am right in saying this is a view shared by many I graduated with. You need to be prepared to put in the time for study to get the most from the course, but in the end it is worth it.”

Click here to find out more about our Nutritional Therapy Diploma Course