Full Body Systems Graduate Spotlight: Kate Smith
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Kate Smith is a military wife and mother who also served as a United States Air Force intelligence analyst and educator. She began her studies with Full Body Systems as a mom and former Air Force officer who had no prior health or medical training, but she sure had passion!
Now Kate is thriving as a Functional Nutrition Counselor and a leader in her community—sharing her knowledge with other practitioners and giving back in a gorgeous way. I know you’re going to love her story…
Can you tell me how you got interested in nutrition?
Kate: It all started when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. When I was home alone with the kids, I cleaned up our diet because I was noticing my own digestive troubles that I can now recognize were due to stress.
Experiencing shifts in my symptoms due to those changes was a turning point for me. I started researching to learn more. Then people began to ask me questions about what I was doing. I’m a good researcher, so I’d research for them too.
When my husband came back from Afghanistan, we had a lot of post-deployment stress to work through, so I never got a break. I was a solo caregiver for the kids for 6 months while he was gone, and then I was a caregiver for him when he got back. That was a full year in total. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but later, when I could breathe again, I noticed more things going on with my own health.
Based on my research at the time, I decided to go gluten-free, and then grain free. And things got better, so I realized there was something to this dietary change!
Also, at this time, my daughter began to struggle with anxiety, to the point where she was losing weight. We all got the stomach “flu” over Christmas and that was the tipping point for her. She dropped so much weight and became afraid to eat or drink because she didn’t want to throw up again. She was 11-½ years old and only weighed 60lbs.
Fortunately we had a great doctor at the Army hospital near us who specialized in adolescent medicine. He gave us a book about healing at home with food, and said I could try this route first or they were going to admit her to an in-patient program in a hospital away from her family. There were days when I would sit with her for 4 hours to get her to eat a single plate of food. But it worked. She’s healthy and thriving now. And after so many indicators that food really does have the power to heal, it became a springboard for me. It was then that I decided that I wanted to teach people to do this for themselves.
Would you share more about your personal health challenges that led you to Functional Nutrition?
Kate: It started when my husband and I wanted to start a family. That didn’t come easy. He and I were finally stationed together, I was still active duty at the time. So we went through the whole battery of infertility stuff. I only ended up taking one dose of Clomid. I didn’t have to go on a lot of medication. But I separated from active duty one month before our daughter was born and that was a big life change for me.
I then suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. Knowing what I know now, I would have handled things differently. After my son was born the same thing happened.
I continued to gain weight and be anxious and not sleep well. Things kind of leveled out while we were stationed in Hawaii. Life was more chill there. I was able to calm my entire nervous system, but then we moved to the Pacific Northwest, and from there and every time we moved, it was a challenge. It was every 2, 3, 4 years, depending on the assignment. There’s always that relocation, moving somewhere new, and you can’t necessarily control food as much as you would if you’re living in a house with your own kitchen. That’s when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan and as the parent left behind, I was the sole caregiver. This was a new role for me. I was burning the candle at both ends. I was being mom and dad and wondering if my husband was going to make it home alive or not. And this is when I first knew we had to make a change.
Can you share some of your experiences working with other practitioners?
Kate: The volunteer clinic that I work in on Mondays is fantastic for that. The other providers completely respect my work and my opinion. They are so interested in the different thought processes that I bring to each case, so I would call that a huge success. They were completely not familiar with Functional Nutrition when I started. We have a practitioner room where everybody sits between their meetings with patients. I used to just sit in my little corner and do my thing, but now if any sort of digestive issue comes up during a patient visit with another practitioner, or if there are issues like fatigue or migraines, they ask: “Kate, what do you think about this?” or “Where would you start with this?” or “Can I refer this person to you?”
You have such an inspiring story, Kate. I’d love to know more about the work you’re doing at the free clinic. How did it come to be, and what is your day-to-day experience there?
Kate: I’m not a real marketing person, so I just tend to have conversations with people in my life about what I’m doing. I ended up talking with a mom whose son is in my son’s class at school. She’s the director of the free women’s clinic.
I felt the nudge to say something, so I asked: “Do you have a Functional Nutrition professional at the clinic?” She said, “No, but we’ve been searching for one for 3 years.” And that’s how it all began. Now I’m there every Monday from 10-2. And I love it. It sets the energy for the rest of my week.
It’s the only free women’s health clinic in the city of Colorado Springs. The work started slowly. Nobody knew what I did. But I took initiative and started speaking up in the practitioner room. I asked if they would consider letting me talk with a patient about blood sugar regulation to help with a hormonal issue. The other practitioners in the room were surprised, but willing.
And now, like I said, they’re so curious! They ask me tons of questions. There are doctors, nurses, chiropractors, psychologists, and more. They all now recognize that there’s a GAP in healthcare that Functional Nutrition Counselors fill. They know they don’t know enough about nutrition, diet and lifestyle modification, and we talk about the unique skills that a Functional Nutrition Counselor can bring.
Now I see all kinds of patients at the free clinic—people with Hashimotos, migraines, PCOS, anxiety… I’m with patients for 4 hours straight, and then I sit in the practitioner room. They now realize I’m not just the “food chick.” They realize I can talk their talk and relate it to food or lifestyle.
What’s it like to give back in that way?
Kate: It’s great! My kids are always like, “Have fun, Mom!” And I do.
It forces me to fine-tune the Art of the Practice. It’s a completely different demographic than my private practice Functional Nutrition client base. Someone going to a free clinic wouldn’t otherwise seek out an independent allied health practitioner. I have to meet them where they are. They don’t necessarily have the income to buy organic food. And they all have unique circumstances.
I’m there to listen. The director says most of the people who see me leave in tears, because they finally have hope of getting better.
I don’t know how I could not leave in a good mood!
Can you share how the education you received in Full Body Systems has prepared you to do the work you do?
Kate: The education I received in Full Body Systems prepared me for this work on numerous fronts. Studying under Andrea’s mentorship has given me the skills and knowledge to speak to other practitioners with confidence. That confidence is huge! Really, the encouragement and affirmation of the entire Full Body Systems team was part of the impetus to put myself out there in this capacity. After just a short time at the clinic, I realized that I was able to engage in peer-level communication with everyone that practiced there and actually be a part of their paradigm shift in learning to shift their process of thinking about patient care. It’s a new way for the patients that come into the clinic to be treated.
What a story! You began Full Body Systems without any previous nutrition training, and now you have the respect of a wide variety of practitioners. You’ve been able to educate patients and practitioners alike, and to make a real difference in the lives of the patients you see in the clinic. Bravo!
What advice would you give to others that may be considering Full Body Systems?
Kate: Do it! I remember that mental struggle, like, is anybody even going to listen to me? Cause I was not part of any health profession, like ever. It was actually my husband, after witnessing me answering people’s questions about health, that said, in his awesome, wonderful way: You need to do this as a thing.
So yeah, if you’re passionate about nutrition, just do it. Don’t be afraid of it. Just do it.
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