My Time at Health Coach University™

Guest Post by Mary Blackburn, AADP, Certified Holistic Health Coach – (Republished from 8/9/17)

I have been a Certified Health Coach since 2013 when I graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and was Certified by the American Association for Drugless Practitioners. I’ve also, been a struggling health coach ever since.

The things I learned at IIN helped my husband and me to lose over 50 pounds collectively, but I struggled to find clients, and run my business as a business.

I’m not sure where or how I found out about The Health Coach Group, but I joined The Health Coach Group in July of 2013, I have been a member of the Inner Circle ever since. Cathy Sykora, owner and President of The Health Coach Group, is also a graduate of IIN.

Cathy is a very knowledgable business woman who delivers a lot of value to health coaches at a reasonable price. I feel that she truly wants to see other coaches succeed. She offers products and programs that I felt could help me, help my clients, and I haven’t been disappointed.

So when she offered a Health Coach Certification program, and a free scholarship to boot, I jumped at the chance to participate. Not because I felt that I needed to participate, but more that I wanted to see how her program would be different, continue my education, and see what else I could learn.

I was kind of late to the party, so to speak, meaning I almost missed the cutoff date to apply. Thankfully, I was accepted into the course. I didn’t know how much value there would be because:

  1. It was Free,
  2. only six months long and
  3. would be monitored by fellow classmates in a Facebook group where we would answer questions and be held accountable by our smaller Facebook group classmates, a Facebook group within a group if you will, instead of having tests and being graded.

Plus, we would have to participate in weekly mastermind calls with our smaller group of classmates, which would count as part of our grade.

How much value could there be in that? I didn’t know, but, knowing Cathy, I trusted that I would learn something. Boy, did I learn something?

There was optional coaching offered, both private and group, available for a price. I chose to get it, and I’m glad I did. I only had it for, I believe, the first eight weeks, but it was during those first eight weeks that I needed the help and clarity.

From week one, Cathy had us digging into our knowledge of the clients we wanted to work with, learning about portion control, nutrition guides, co-active coaching, and learning to become a better listener. Then we moved into learning how to build infrastructure for our business, which our clients were, who our competition was, I guess what I’m trying to say is Cathy made us look at the business end of our coaching practice along with learning how to be a better health coach. She also had us go through several of her coaching programs so that we could experience it from our client’s perspective, which was very enlightening.

In this course, we learned how to be a business owner, not just own a JOB. We learned how to have a business that runs itself without us being there every step of the way if that was what we wanted.

 Along with all the other criteria, we had to read two pre-approved books, one on a Plant based diet, and one on a Paleo, Ketogenic, or Mediterranean based diet. I didn’t want to do this part, after all, I had already graduated from a health coach school and learned about over 100 different dietetic theories. But here again, Cathy knew exactly what she was doing. My choices were, Your Personal Paleo Code, by Chris Kresser, The New Atkins for a New You, by Eric Westman, M.D., Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., and Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D, and my plant based diet book was The China Study – Revised and Expanded Edition, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD.

I enjoyed reading these books and learning about these theories so much so, that I have continued reading, even more, dietary theory books. (Which was not something required by IIN, we learned through lectures.)

Near the end of the program, my husband had to have double bypass surgery. We were into week 20, I believe, of a 26-week program. I almost dropped out. I just couldn’t deal with the stress of my husband’s surgery, taking care of his business, doing all of the chores around our homestead and getting my homework done for that week. I was tired, and my brain felt fried.

Luckily, but I didn’t know it at the time, Cathy allowed one grace period week. That grace period gave me one extra week to get my homework in. So I stuck it out. I’m glad I did.

Cathy Sykora

Cathy Sykora

Founder, The Health Coach Group

Cathy helps health coaches build and maintain successful businesses that improve the lives of others.

We didn’t have weekly tests; we had questions to answer and participate in and also participation in the weekly mastermind calls. Our final “grade” (whether we became certified or not), came from our paper we had to write. The paper was to be written on one of the dietary theory books we had to read and had to be written according to the Oxford University Summative Assessment.

Since I have been out of school for over 30 years, (closer to 40), other than IIN, I was more than a little worried about this, but it worked out okay. I wrote my paper, turned it in on time, and passed.

In this course, I learned not only how to be a better health coach, and who my ideal client was, but I also learned how to run a business that was able to run itself, meaning I could leave and go on vacation and still have a business to come back to.

I would say if you are interested in becoming a health coach, The Health Coach Group’s Health Coach Certification program is a great place to start.

As a P.S. I would just like to add, that because of reading The New Atkins for a New You, I have started a new diet, the New Atkins Diet, which is, in my opinion, not a diet, but a way to eat the rest of my life. In the past two weeks, I have lost a total of 12 pounds, and I haven’t even completely committed to the diet yet, due to the fact that I have had my grandchildren staying with me at my house during those two weeks, and not sticking to the plan.

Mary Blackburn, is a certified Weight-Loss and Detox Health Coach who specializes in helping women and mothers of children who are newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease and those with Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitivity figure out how to proceed with their new lifestyle changes. She also incorporates essential oils into her practice to help her clients learn how to rid chemical toxins from every aspect of their lives. You can find out more about Mary at


Mary Blackburn
AADP, Certified Holistic Health Coach
Wellness Advocate, doTERRA Essential Oils


Did you enjoy this blog? 

Sign up to receive a weekly notice.

1 Comment

  1. Cheryl A Love

    This is awesome…so excited for Mary and trying to figure when I can do this course.! I agree Cathy is very giving and strives to support us in the best way for our journeys! Thank you for sharing!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *