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, Stephanie Bernard, founder of Healed by Food.
Tell us a little bit about your story. How did your interest and passion for this field begin?
In 2006, I was in a pretty severe car accident that left me with multiple injuries. I needed years of physical therapy, surgeries, and injections and was put on countless medications to manage my pain. Then, I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2010. I was put on even more medications and had no improvement in my health. I was able to reverse and heal from Lupus and chronic pain through a diet and overall lifestyle change. I’ve been med-free for eight years. I started my blog Healthy Hair To Toe on the heels (no pun intended) of my healing journey. I wanted to be able to share my story and provide others in similar positions as mine with the tools to begin their own healing journey. After the completion of the Holistic Nutrition program with AFPA, I created my brand Healed By Food.
Why did you decide to pursue a certification in the health/nutrition field?
I had no idea how big a role food had in our health until I became sick. I knew what I thought were the basics: eat your fruit and veggies, drink a green smoothie daily, and try to exercise regularly. It wasn’t until I became sick when I learned the intricacies of regulations or lack thereof, reading labels, ingredients in our foods, and the effects they have on our body and overall health. I have been blogging about health, food, and wellness for years, but I wanted to be taken seriously as a professional and not just another blogger. There is always room to learn more and do more.
Was there some kind of life-changing event that directed you to start on the health and wellness path?
Other than my own healing journey, I’ve assisted and watched my father beat cancer and remain cancer-free for six years. I also helped my husband reverse hypertension and unhealthy cholesterol levels through a whole foods, plant-based diet and lifestyle change. My son also no longer suffers from chronic asthma as a result of diet and lifestyle changes. He had a seizure while having an attack two years ago, and we almost lost him. My family is now living their healthiest and best lives.
What made you particularly interested in the Holistic Nutrition Certification?
I honestly felt that this certification was tailored to me and my experience. I wasn’t concerned with calorie restrictions, macros, dieting, diet labeling, etc. I had a passion for educating others in the power of healing through food. This AFPA track focused more on exactly that plus a realistic approach to nutrition overall. I’m now giving my clients the tools to make better decisions and take charge of their health.
Why did you choose AFPA as your certifying organization?
AFPA was the only accredited organization I could find that was fully aligned with my beliefs and approach to nutrition. Similar to AFPA, I don’t believe in a one size fit’s all approach to my nutrition practice.
What was your favorite part about the program? Why?
The flexibility and affordability! I was newly pregnant with my third child at the time I enrolled. I was dealing with extremely low energy levels and severe “morning” sickness. AFPA worked with me the entire time. I graduated a few weeks before I gave birth to my daughter. The program also allows for an extremely affordable payment plan if you can’t pay the tuition up front.
Did anything surprise you about the certification or course materials?
The books and materials provided are definitely a must-have for anyone even considering the nutrition field. I find myself still referring to the books for refreshers, for fun, or even guidance at times.
Where are you in your health/fitness career after receiving your certification?
I’m working with clients from all types of backgrounds, food preferences, and health conditions. I’m working with clients who have autoimmune conditions, skin conditions, fertility issues, hypertension, and much more. I’ve been able to provide a tailored approach to each individual that has put them on a path to optimal health thanks to my AFPA training.
Have you found that the specific accreditations have enabled you to be more credible or positively impacted your career?
100% YES! I’m receiving much more traction and feedback on my website and social media platforms. I’m currently working with a few grassroots organizations and Lupus organizations for upcoming projects. I’ll be sharing more details as things unfold. It’s all extremely exciting!
Is there a story or certain moment with a client that has stuck out in your memory as being impactful?
Overall, I think to be able to show my clients how powerful they are and the ability they have to take charge of their health is what stands out the most to me. When I receive follow-up emails from clients saying they feel the best they’ve felt in years, it makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning 🙂
What do you like best about working in this industry?
Helping people. It’s my calling and literally what I was born to do.
What are your career goals going forward?
I’ve been adamant about community building offline. I think it’s really easy in the age of social media to get caught up with having an online presence, tons of followers, and brand opportunities. I started off as a blogger/influencer, so I understand the need for it. My heart is just much more full if I’m able to invest in my community and make an impact from the ground up. It’s no secret that black and brown communities have a huge disparity when it comes to access to quality grocers and produce. My mission is to partner with organizations that bridge the gap and commit to educating and investing to make this dream become a reality.
How has your experience been with the AFPA customer service team and education advisors?
They are angels on earth! Extremely prompt, super helpful, and committed to each and every one of their students and grads. I wish I had them as support during my college years!
Would you recommend AFPA to others?
I have! I receive DMs and emails daily about my training and AFPA from people on the fence about enrolling. I always tell them it’s the best decision I ever made.
Do you have any advice for other people considering making the leap into a health, fitness, or nutrition career?
Figure out your “why.” Know why you’re doing this and who you want to help. You have to be clear about your why and not compare or try to mirror anyone else. People relate to what’s real and first-hand experience, not trends. This industry is very noisy with misinformation and trends that can overwhelm people. When you share your own story and results, you show a vulnerability that people can relate to. When you pair that with AFPA training, you have a recipe for success.
Do you have any advice for other people who are considering a certification and trying to decide which organization to get certified through?
Make sure the organization is accredited. Also, check licensing and certification guidelines/laws in your specific state. Not every state allows for the practice of holistic nutritionists, and you may be required to complete a traditional college program in order to practice.