During the last 25 years, we’ve certified over 110,000 professionals. To celebrate our 25th year in business, we’re selecting 25 grads to showcase this year. Meet our next featured grad, Raven Harrington, an AFPA Certified Holistic Nutritionist, whose business has exploded after becoming certified with AFPA.
How did you originally get into the health, fitness, and nutrition industry?
I'm from Maryland. My family loves southern food. I'm talking about baked macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and collard greens, and all that good stuff is incredibly unhealthy the way that they make it. Some of my family members started getting diseases or illnesses based on what they were eating. My grandmother had a fatty liver and ended up developing a tumor on her liver and passed from that. Diabetes is huge in my family. So was high blood pressure.
I wanted to make sure to stop these illnesses and diseases in my family and make changes for my future kids. So, eventually, I ended up getting into health and fitness because of that and also holistic nutrition.
I started by becoming a personal trainer. I started competing in the bodybuilding industry for bikini competitions. I had a six-pack, and it was great, but I realized that I had bloat under the six-pack. I got a couple of blood tests done and found out that my GI tract was a complete mess. I was heading down the road of colon cancer, which one of my grandmothers had and luckily survived. I also was heading down this separate road of liver cancer, which my other grandmother had, and she passed away from that. I didn’t want to head down that path.
Why did you choose the AFPA Holistic Nutrition Certification?
I wanted holistic nutrition to become more of a lifestyle for me and not just a diet. Honestly, I started researching more about how antibiotics and hormones are in our cows and chickens. I was traveling overseas, and I was able to handle dairy products and meat products, but over here in the states, I couldn't, and I just felt sick. Eventually, I just completely got off of meat. I really became vegan, and I feel so much better. So, I wanted to find a certification that had the same views that I did.
So, I looked at a few different certifications, and AFPA was one of the only ones with holistic nutrition. It was more of a well-rounded, holistic nutrition program. The others didn't feel right. With AFPA, I felt comfortable. I felt like they gave me a history of holistic nutrition and what it is. When I actually received the textbooks, I was able to understand it easily. It was great. My husband is actually benefiting too. He's reading my books, and we're just becoming more of a very health-conscious family.
What was your experience like with AFPA as your credentialing organization?
AFPA, I would say, it's more of a family feel. Whereas other certifications, it kind of feels like you pay money and then okay, you're off into the world. I feel that I can always reach out to anyone. I would get a quick response, letting me know how I can implement this, not just into my own life, but in my future career choices.
I feel like there's always something developing with AFPA, whether it's wanting to get board certified or something else. I feel like there's a path, and I don't necessarily see that with other certifications.
How did getting the AFPA Holistic Nutritionist Certification impact your career?
I'm a private personal trainer. When I started studying for a holistic nutrition certification, more people started coming to me, to the point where I'm starting to have a waiting list of people who want meal plans or advice on their nutrition. I feel comfortable explaining nutrition to people now. I understand it and how it actually works in the body, whereas a lot of textbooks won't really tell you how it works in your body.
It's actually kind of funny because my personal training schedule gets a little light in the winter. So, I wanted to take the winter off and do my holistic nutrition certification, but as soon as I told people that I was doing the holistic nutrition certification, my schedule got so packed, to the point where it was really difficult for me to find time to study. I made it work because AFPA gives you enough time to study and is flexible. Throughout those six months, I was really able to grasp onto the knowledge and what I learned from the textbooks and the videos, so I could immediately start implementing it, not only into my own life but into my clients' lives as well.
I have nothing but positive things to say. My career has exploded; it's great. Not just on the one-on-one client personal level but also on social media. I get online clients, which is great. I mean, obviously, I would like to see people one-on-one, but the online business is starting to get huge.
It's also definitely helped with my credibility. Let's be honest. People feel way more comfortable with you if you have certifications under your belt. But being with an accredited organization, that just brings it to a more prestigious level. So, that's definitely helped me. I live in LA, and they really value knowledge and expertise, but not only that, they want to see the education with it.
How has your income changed since getting your certification?
Before, I wasn't living paycheck to paycheck, but now I'm really able to save more money for my family's future. So, whether it's traveling or saving or eventually buying a house—maybe outside of California because of pricing. But, right now it's been great. Since getting my holistic nutrition certification, I was able to book a trip to France in May and then book another trip to Italy in October. And it's kind of cool to have that little extra cushion there. So as far as income generated, it's definitely helped.
What do you enjoy most about working in holistic nutrition?
Since fitness is a lifestyle and a passion for me, I want to help other people. Like honestly, it stops becoming about the money. It's really about each individual person and what their goals are.
A lot of my clients who come to me for holistic nutrition have been told by doctors, "There's nothing we can do. You could take this medication or that medication. But other than that, there's nothing we can do. Just focus on your nutrition, I guess." And my clients are like, okay, well how do I get started? I don't know what "focus on your nutrition" means. So through Instagram, Facebook, and social media, they will find me, come to me, and ask me these questions and work with me on their holistic nutrition.
I've been fortunate enough to help so many people with their health and fitness and with holistic nutrition because I've been through it and I could say that I've benefited from it. I've changed my own life, my husband's life, and my father-in-law’s. He's lost so much weight from it. He's actually not diabetic anymore because we've been able to implement so many of these holistic nutrition principles into our own family, and now, I’m implementing into my clients’ lives and their families as well. So, they're learning knowledge about how to cook for their family and what ingredients they can use or should use.
A lot of doctors will prescribe medication to help with various symptoms. But it doesn't focus on the whole picture. A lot of doctors specialize in cardiovascular or specific areas of the body, but they don't necessarily look at how they all work together. A lot of people come to me when the doctors say, I don't know, here, take this prescription and that'll alleviate some of the symptoms. I get so frustrated because I'm like, wait, we're not trying to hide the symptoms. We're trying to figure out what's causing these symptoms, so we have no symptoms in the future. What can we do to fix this issue? People shouldn't be feeling like crap throughout the day. They shouldn't be depressed because of certain foods they are eating or have hypoglycemia and just completely feel low after eating certain things. They should be able to live normal lives and be happy.
I've worked with people from all different walks of life and a wide variety of cultures, and we go over that all the time. My minor's in ethnic studies, and my major is in international business. So, I understand cultural sensitivity, but I combine that with the holistic nutrition and say, we can do cultural foods, but we have to do it a certain way so that it's working well for your body so that you're able to have great energy throughout the day and not accumulate illness after illness or disease because you want to add a big old thing of lard or Crisco on the table. We're not going to do that. So, we can make more healthy soul food or healthy Mediterranean food.
What advice do you have to anyone who may be considering getting certified in nutrition?
Definitely always do your research. I did mine, and that's why I chose AFPA. I would say that again, just to reiterate it, it feels like more of a family. I feel like I can always email or reach out if I have any questions, and I get a response immediately. I feel like it's a very caring organization, whereas I've been certified in personal training through other organizations and that's not necessarily the case. At those places, you'll just get sent your certification, but there's no community aspect of it. It's very black and white; it's very cold. But with AFPA, I felt comfortable, but not only that, I felt like I gained a whole lot of knowledge from it.