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Does context matter?

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2013-02-12

I remember when I was a kid my parents would tell me that “on the inside, we’re all the same.”

What I’ve come to understand as an adult, and especially in the work that I do, is that this assertion is only partly true.

Sure, we’ve all got the same stuff inside of our bodies, or pretty much so. But the way those organs function and interact is different from one person to the next.
Your framework is different than mine.

And this is why, when it comes to food and diet, it’s really all about context.

A beautifully prepared chopped kale salad can be heavenly for one person’s body. For another it may cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain and maybe even disrupt the function of the thyroid gland.

For some, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. For others it leaves them frayed, tattered and jumping off the walls.

An egg, one of nature’s perfect foods, can wreak an inflammatory havoc on someone’s joints and muscles without them even knowing it.

Just yesterday a friend told me about an article he’d read in the Washington Post. The article is a few year’s old, but it caught his attention, as did it mine. It spoke to this idea that context is everything.

The story, called “Pearls before Breakfast”, is about an experiment the Post conducted. They placed one of the world’s greatest musicians in a subway station, where he played some of the greatest music ever composed on one of the greatest violins ever produced, posing as a street musician, with his instrument case open in front of him, during morning rush hour.

The sound was glorious.

The musician played his music with his usual poise and characteristic passion, just had he had done a few nights earlier at at Boston’s Symphony Hall and the day before at The Library of Congress. He’s hard to ignore.

What happened in the DC subway station?

Nobody listened.

Well, almost nobody listened.

Some children gaped. One man wandered back toward the musician, transfixed, for a total of three minutes. The virtuoso ended up with $32 in change after 45 minutes of playing.

You see, you take the musician, no matter how excellent, out of the very best framework in which his talents can be received and he no longer gets the attention he deserves.

This takes us back to the kale.
It really is all about context and framework.

When a food doesn’t sit right in your body, when the nuts cause your belly to poof out and make you look five months pregnant or the cabbage causes burping or the grass-fed beef burger sits in your chest region for days, is it the food? Or is your body giving you a clue? A clue that should not be ignored.

Is it possible that the context into which the food is traveling is not ripe to receive the powers possessed by the pure morsel?

While I’ve only mentioned whole foods, some virtuosos of the food realm, you can attribute this same lens to anything you consume. What does your body tell you in response to the latte or the bagel or glass of wine? Are the applause short-lived?

Some might scoff at the idea of becoming so microscopic about what we consume. I’m not asking you to be obsessive.
I’m asking you to listen.

Don’t walk by the prodigy without taking a moment to tune-in. You just might hear something important. Something that will change your day.



Last week I opened to doors for Holistic Nutrition Lab’s 2013 Digestive Intensive training. This is part of my teaching series for holistic health professions where we dive deep into anatomy and physiology through the lens of functional nutrition.

It’s fun stuff!
Really, it is. We have a blast!
One of the core principles that I teach in those trainings is context.
Check out Holistic Nutrition Lab’s Digestive Intensive!
(for health leaders and health coach pros only)

  • You sometimes feel “stuck” with clients’ or patients’ health concerns, and worry that you aren’t able to pinpoint the deeper health issues that are preventing them from experiencing results with food and nutrition.

  • You’ve been delivered clients or patients with complex nutrition concerns that you don’t feel equipped to handle.

  • You wish you had more confidence helping people with complicated digestive issues.

  • You’re frustrated because you feel like there is so much to learn, and you’re not really sure where to start or who to turn to.

  • You want to have a deeper understanding of nutrition so you can effect greater change in your practice and make a bigger leap in your business growth by having higher rates of success.

  • You’re ready to build a business based on referrals because of your success rate in treating health concerns at their root.

  • You’re ready to sit in the seat of your confidence in the field of nutritional healing.


Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


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