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What IS going on in there?

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2017-12-05

Over the years, I’ve built Functional Nutrition Lab and the Functional Nutrition Alliance with a lot of love and passion, and with one core principle — a principle I like to call…

what’s going on in there?

I quickly realized, as I started down this path of functional nutrition—first personally, with my own efforts to get pregnant, then in slowing the progression of my husband’s brain tumor, and ultimately with my own Hashimoto’s diagnosis after he passed away, and then, even more so on the professional front, with the thousands of individualized clients and course participants that I’ve supported—that the concept of what’s going on in there merits attention no matter our age or circumstance.

To put it simply, no matter how many cutting edge tricks we know, we cannot help someone unless we know what’s going on in their body and, understand the body’s core functions.

I’m not only talking about what’s supposed to be going on, or what the textbooks or scientific studies say should be going on, but what’s actually going on.

So how do we figure out what’s really going on in there?

What’s Going on in There Principle #1

Slow down.


You don’t have to know the answers yet. You haven’t even asked any questions!

When a complex client arrives at your door (like my husband’s cancer diagnosis or the myriad digestive, autoimmune and hormonal issues we see in our clinic), having the insight to pause, to ponder what’s going on in there, and to ask a few critical questions, is key to making sense of it all.

It’s how you figure out your first step and each step that follows.

It’s how you gain confidence that you can indeed help your clients step into their healing potential.

And it’s how your examination becomes not just a place to find answers, but a true act of leadership!

To look at that first step from a slightly different angle, it’s:


Look at what you DO know

Get curious

Ask a question about what you DON’T know

So I ask you…

What’s going on in there with your clients or patients?

As I discuss in my ebook, Functional Nutrition 101, the key to uncovering the truths of what’s going on in there lies in your abilities, session after session, to ask the right questions—questions that will lead to more questions as well as to the answers that will reveal your evolving protocol.

What’s Going on in There Principle #2

There’s another important element of being an investigator who can uncover what’s going on in there:

Sitting in the seat of calm, confident and assured command.

Let me explain:

I remember when I first started practicing as a functional nutritionist. I’d get caught up in the flurry of my clients’ symptoms, trying to “fix them” or make them go away.

I thought it was my responsibility to provide, as quickly as possible, the “cure-all” for what brought them in to see me. If I didn’t, I considered myself a failure (in their eyes and my own)!

I repeatedly fell into the Empathy Trap!

One day—I can actually remember it quite clearly—I realized that my own energy was completely wrapped up in theirs. I recognized that I had taken on the urgent frenzy of a client and that I was in the back seat of their vehicle of alarm and confusion, letting their emotions drive the therapeutic relationship.

My heart was pounding and I was feeling the panic of finding the answer. (Not a very therapeutic partnership at all!)

At that moment of awareness, I was faced with a fork in the road—as we are many times as practitioners.

I could continue to grasp for the quick-fix, feeling responsible for resolution now, or I could step back and take a deep breath.

And, in stepping back, I had a choice.

I could block off the overwhelm by disconnecting from my client’s pain completely, or I could slip into the shoes of the expert and employ the act of supportive inquiry as I kept my eye on the real prize…root cause resolution.

It’s interesting to think of this choice through the lens of mirror neurons—which essentially speak to the ways we respond to actions we see in others. Mirror neurons were only discovered in the early 1990’s. They’re a type of brain cell that reacts equally to an action performed and an action witnessed.

When I was in panic-mode, I was mirroring my client’s distress.

What I vowed to myself in that moment of awareness was to turn the table—to take responsibility for holding the space for calm inquiry, infused with hope, determination, and even love, instead of attempting to be the short-term hero with a quick-fix.

(Don’t get me wrong here—if a healthy quick-fix exists to deliver some relief, I’m all for it, but I never lose sight of what’s going on in there so I can aim for the sustainable resolution.)

My promise to myself in that moment was to be the mirror, not to do the mirroring.

Be the Mirror, Don’t do the Mirroring

When done well, this is where empathy and leadership start to merge.

And together they become even more powerful than either can be on its own.

Empathy and leadership are such powerful concepts in the therapeutic partnership that they are part of the first 2 frameworks in my 8-pillared signature system—the Practitioner Mastery Paradigm. This paradigm has been the foundation upon which I have created both Functional Nutrition Lab and the Functional Nutrition Alliance (which includes our clinic where we see clients from all over the globe who’ve been everywhere and tried everything.)

What’s going on in there is the core principle around which I created one of the most successful nutrition practices in the world.

You can do the same—you can use this principle to create your dream practice.

So I invite you now to hold the principles of what’s going on in there as a complex tool—a tool of inquiry, connection and leadership.

And if you’d like to dive deeper with this concept, grab a copy of my Functional Nutrition 101 ebook.

I give you all the best questions to ask your clients so you really can uncover what’s going on in there.

Once you know that, you’ll be able to help all the people you want to help.

Start HERE.

Related blog posts

Part 1: What’s Functional and what’s not
Part 2: What’s Functional and what’s NOT?
Part 3: What’s Functional and what’s not
Functional Nutrition Tip – The truth about compliance
Functional Nutrition Tip – The web of interconnections
The biggest mistakes to practicing functionally

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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