How to Become a Holistic Nutritionist: Review of CSNN Distance Education Online Program

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If you’re reading this article, you’re likely considering a career in holistic healthcare and I want to congratulate you on that! The world needs more people helping people improve their wellbeing and quality of life. This is life-changing work!

If you’ve stumbled upon this article and you don’t know me yet, hi! I’m Melanie Maxwell, and I’m a registered holistic nutritional consultant (also called registered holistic nutritionist depending on where you’re located). I’m a mama of two and I live on the East Coast of Canada. I’m a fairly recent graduate of the CSNN Distance Education program, I graduated 5 months ago as I’m writing this. And this program has completely changed my life— so I want to share my experience with YOU. If sharing my experience can help someone decide to pursue a career in this field or have the courage to take the first step in registering for a program, that makes me so happy! My story is kind of a wild one, because at 5 months post-graduation I’ve been able to quit my day job and work in this field full-time. I’ve built my business from 0 to full-time in MONTHS. I owe a LOT of credit to my business coach, who is also a holistic nutritionist, Michelle Breau. I’ll be writing another post about business coaching post-grad because it really sped up the timeline to working full-time in this field, but I couldn’t have done any of it without taking that first step in registering for the CSNN Distance Education (online) program.

Why I chose CSNN

There is actually a CSNN branch in my city, so I have met a lot of local graduates who loved the program. I shop at Sequoia, which is a natural wellness store in Moncton, and they employ graduates of the program so I’ve gotten to chat with them and I was impressed with their knowledge. What set CSNN apart to me was its simple structure. I know that other programs have multiple “tiers” with different designations given depending on which level you complete. I liked that this program was straightforward with unit tests and one final exam.

Why I chose to do the CSNN Natural Nutrition Program online

Two words: MOM LIFE. When I made the decision to sign up for the program, I had a toddler and I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was also working part-time on opposite shifts of my full-time-working husband. So I was either on mom duty or at work. The Moncton CSNN branch is right down the street from my house, but the flexibility of the distance education program made it the perfect choice. I could do readings during my little one’s nap times, and after I had my second daughter and I was on maternity leave, I had a little more time do study and work through the program.

Program content

I have a bachelor of science degree, with a major in biology, so I have a good handle on the biology of the human body, biochemistry, etc. I was happily surprised to find the material a bit of a challenge for me. You definitely finish those sections with a good understanding of how the human body works and why certain systems can become imbalanced and how food and lifestyle changes can affect them.

My favourite sections were the mental wellness, environmental, and pregnancy nutrition sections, I think because the information was pretty shocking. These topics opened my eyes to what goes on in the world and how I can play an important part. Many of the common health problems people face can be easily reduced through holistic nutrition and getting to the ROOT CAUSE. Holistic wellness practitioners are like detectives. Feeling down? We want to figure out why. Have heartburn? We want to figure out why. Kid has behavioural issues? You guessed it, we want to figure out why. It’s truly fascinating how a few simple tweaks to diet or supplementation can make a massive impact on a person’s wellbeing. A lot of what you’ve been told about proper nutrition for a healthy life from the media, your parents, hospitals, etc is outdated, biased, or not applicable because it’s based on the “average person”, not on an individual.

I see the world differently after this program, and I have the skills to play a part in making the world a healthier, happier place.

You’ll write several case studies during the program to get you ready to work with people. You’ll find people in your family or community who are interested in improving their wellbeing and you’ll get them to fill out the forms that take their details like health conditions, symptoms, lifestyle habits, etc. Then you’ll create a plan for them to follow. There is a whole unit of the program dedicated to preparing you to understand how symptoms and body systems connect and how to create a plan to improve the health of the affected systems. I really loved this part of the program because it helped me feel ready to get out there and help people after graduation.

The differences through doing it online

Of course if you decide to do the CSNN Distance Education program, you won’t be in a classroom of your peers, but they have it set up so you can connect with your peers, get help, and ask questions any time. There are official CSNN facebook groups for students and alumni and people are always asking questions and helping each other out. You’re definitely not alone even though you’re doing the program at home! Each unit has a forum built in where students can ask questions and there are advisors for each section who go in and answer and contribute to the conversations.

The tests and final exam are written online. The unit tests are written on the course website platform. When I wrote mine, they were not timed but I believe they are now. They are based on your understanding of concepts, not on minute details.

For the final exam, they give you a practice test so you see what it will be like and you know what is important for you to study. There are some short answer and multiple choice questions but the most important part of the exam is the case studies. They want to know that you are prepared to receive forms from a client and know how everything connects and what actions to take. The final exam is written through ProctorU. It’s a company that you book with and they access your camera, microphone, and can see your screen during the final exam. This means you can take your exam anywhere that is quiet without people around and you don’t need to go find someone who is eligible to be your proctor. I did mine at my mother-in-law’s house (no kiddos around!). It was easy to get it all set up. You’re allowed to have some scrap paper to take notes. I found this very handy because I like to draw a sort of map to connect symptoms and body systems before I start writing my report. Overall, the final exam experience was as low stress as a big exam can be and I got my final grade within a few days.

After graduation

I got the call from a very sweet and excited advisor who told me I did really well and I was officially a grad! I cried happy tears. I did this program through a challenging pregnancy, postpartum depression, and sleep deprivation. I took just about a year and a half, and finished the program right as my maternity leave ended. I was, and still am, SO proud to be a graduate.

When I graduated, I was already a couple weeks into business coaching with Michelle Breau. I had been building up my online presence and community throughout my schooling and wanted to hit the ground running. I did end up going back to work after maternity leave, but only for 3 months. After that, I was able to work in this field full-time. I currently write articles, create recipes, social media posts, and email newsletters for a couple natural wellness businesses. There are endless options after graduation, thanks to this online world we live in. You might assume that you have to see X amount of 1:1 clients a week or work in a clinic to make a full-time income as holistic nutritionist but the possibilities are endless. Combine your extensive knowledge from completing the CSNN program with whatever you are passionate about and you can create a career that brings you joy and impacts the world in a positive way.


Written by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N., at Vibrantly Well and reprinted with permission.