Graduate story

From addiction therapist to functional medicine practitioner, Daniel O'Shaughnessy tells us about studying with ION and the "light bulb" moment that inspired him to focus on health issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community

How did you become interested in nutrition?

“My path to studying nutrition was carved with a previous career working in the addiction field. I was working with vulnerable people and saw the power of nutrition on someone’s recovery journey. Even making sure that someone had a hot healthy meal did wonders for their mental wellbeing. From there, a flame was lit and I began making improvements to my own life which eventually led me to ION.”

How did you juggle life and responsibilities outside of studies?

“It was actually very difficult. I had to work full time and found myself with a second job in a bar to help put me through the course. This meant I had very little time to myself; it was either work or study. I had a degree in criminology with law, but even that was a breeze compared to the workload at ION. However, that is not to put people off because you enjoy the study; I just had to prioritise and begin assignments when I was handed them, rather than waiting until the last minute.”

What is LGBTQ+ nutrition?

“In short, LGBTQ+ health includes transgender health (supporting through transition and beyond), HIV Support (supporting through treatment and managing side effects), mental health (understanding from a LGBTQ+ perspective), addiction and drug use, sex, fitness (including anabolic steroid use) and fertility (geared to same sex relationships).”

What made you decide to specialise in LGBTQ+ health?

“I identify as a gay man and working as a nutritional therapist, I found this to be a largely neglected area. I had a few LGBTQ+ clients and whilst they were not coming to me for specific LGBTQ+ issues, there were conversations in the appointments which someone who was heterosexual may not have been able to empathise with.

“But the idea had to hit me in the face before I did anything with it. In 2019, I was on a gay cruise and amongst 5,000 other LGBTQ+ individuals. People kept asking me how to recover from the week, which was a light bulb moment to help create a resource for this community. I then began to target more LGBTQ+ clients and crowdfunded for a book on the subject, Naked Nutrition, which I have just finished writing. I’m hoping to give information to LGBTQ+ individuals which is not out there at the moment, empower people, reduce stigma and shame, and be a resource for all, including supportive family members.”

What have been your career highlights so far?

“There are a few: getting two awards for my work with my past retreat company; being flown to LA to work on a project for a supplement company; meeting some high profile people, including Kate Moss; finishing writing my book; and finishing the Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner course.”

What does your typical day look like?

“It is super varied and recently changed because of the pandemic. I now work from home and find myself more productive; I can see one or two clients and still have the whole day to do things. Before, I would spend a lot of it travelling to and from clinic.

“Normally I try to have some ‘me’ time in the morning, such as walking my dog or doing a workout. Following that, I would aim to get all my admin out the way before having meetings or seeing clients.

“Nutritional therapy is very varied so it’s not just clinic. The book took up a fair amount of my time. I may work with companies doing corporate consultancy, talks or supplement design. I also support my Facebook group of over 1,000 nutritional therapists — Ikigai Collaboration — which I run with another ION graduate. We help to support business skills for wellness. Until recently, I also worked as a director for BANT [the professional body for registered nutritional therapy practitioners].”

“I enjoy being self employed. Working this way means you can manage your time how you want. I also like seeing results in clients — it fuels me to know I’m doing the right thing in life.” 

What advice would you give to those considering a similar career path?

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take time to focus your efforts and actually make sure there is a need for what you are doing. There is plenty of work out there for nutritional therapists, but you have to be creative in how you apply your qualification. You also don’t have to work in clinic the whole time if that’s not what you want to do.

“Most people [who go into nutritional therapy] are mature students so they have a previous career or network; I would use this to your advantage when starting out. “Nothing happens overnight so I’d say be patient and remember to ask for help if you need it — there is plenty of free support available. “Finally, I would try very early on to squash any signs of imposter syndrome — it will take over and ruin your business if you let it.”

Visit Daniel's website or follow him on Instagram @thenakednutritionist

Listen to the Optimum Nutrition Podcast with Daniel

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