Full Body Systems Graduate Spotlight: Kate Smith
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
I’m excited and honored to introduce you to Kate Smith, a graduate of Full Body Systems.
Kate began her studies with us as a mom and former Air Force officer. She did not have any prior health or medical training, but she sure had passion!
Now Kate is thriving as a leader in her community—sharing her knowledge with other practitioners and giving back in such a gorgeous way. I know you’re going to love her story…
FNL: Can you tell me a little bit about your story and 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. I was noticing my own digestive troubles that now I realize were due to stress.
It was a turning point. I started noticing things and I started researching. Then people started asking me questions. 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 caregiver for the kids for 6 months while he was gone, and then I was caregiver for him when he got back. So it was a year total. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but later when I could breathe, I started to notice things about my own health.
I started digging into what was going on with me. I went gluten free and then grain free and things got better so I realized there was something to this!
Then my daughter had struggles with anxiety, to the point where she was losing weight. We all got the stomach flu over Christmas in 2015 and that was the tipping point for her. She dropped so much weight and was afraid to eat or drink because she didn’t want to throw up again.
We had to get help. We had a great doc at an army hospital who specialized in adolescent medicine. He gave us a book about healing at home with food. I had to do this or they were going to take her away to a hospital. There were days when I would sit with her for 4 hours to get her to eat a plate of food. Just helping her eat the foods she liked. It wasn’t dairy free or anything. She’s healthy and thriving now. And that was the springboard for me. I decided then that I wanted to teach people to do this for themselves.
FNL: Can you share a story from your practice now?
Kate: In July of last year, I met someone at a BBQ. From Andrea’s teaching, I know not to give advice at a BBQ, but we got talking and she told me about what was going on with her. I had business cards, so I gave her one and I said, “That’s what I do. I help people find solutions when they’re not finding solutions at the doctor.”
She was my first client. It was after that July 4th BBQ and she now calls that her very own independence day. She’s thriving now. It was a fabulous experience. She was the perfect client for me. Gracious, knowing I was just starting. And she also knew she had to do something.
Seeing the changes in her gave me confidence. She left after our last appointment in December in tears, because she could now do all the things she wanted to do for the last 10 years but couldn’t.
FNL: 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. She’s the director of a free women’s clinic.
I felt the nudge to say something, so I said “Do you have a 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 slow. Nobody knew what I did. After a while, I 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 they’re so curious! They ask me a ton of questions. There are doctors, nurses, chiropractors, psychologists, and more. They all now realize that there’s a GAP in healthcare that Functional Nutrition Counselors fill. They know they don’t know about nutrition and we talk about the unique skillset that a Functional Nutrition Counselor brings.
And now I see all kinds of patients—people with Hashimotos, migraines, PCOS, anxiety… I’m with patients for 4 hours straight, and then I’m in the practitioner room and they now realize I’m not just the “food chick.” They realize I can talk their talk and relate it to food. It really is food meets physiology.
The director of the program has asked me to put together a 10-15 min presentation on what I do and why it’s so unique so I can share this information with all the practitioners at the clinic. Clinicians from all over Colorado Springs volunteer for this program, and the director wants me to teach them what a Functional Nutrition Counselor does.
FNL: What’s it like to give back in that way?
Kate: It’s part of what fuels me for the whole week. It’s great! My kids are always like, “Have fun, Mom!”
It’s also forcing me to fine-tune the Art of the Practice. It’s a completely different demographic than a typical Functional Nutrition client base. Someone going to a free clinic wouldn’t otherwise seek out an independent health practitioner. I have to meet them where they are, and it’s often far from where maybe you or I are. They don’t have the income to buy organic. 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!
FNL: This is beautiful. Can you share about your process of creative problem-solving to help people who might not have access to certain resources?
Kate: This work is forcing me (in a good way!) to work with bioindividuality. Each person is so unique and they need unique suggestions. It may be a suggestion like “Let’s try to not do alcohol for the next 2 weeks.”
Also, I like to grocery shop and there is a natural store in town that I love. It’s like the sitcom Cheers—I go at the same time each week, and as I walk in, they say, “Kate!” They have a nutritional coach there, and she’s allowed to give away a certain amount of stuff from the store. So I go in on Fridays and she’ll have a box with my name on it. It will be full of supplements—probiotics, vitamin D, and more. And then I get to give these away to the patients at the clinic. Nine times out of ten I have everything I need to give what I’m recommending to my clients at the clinic. And they wouldn’t be able to afford these supplements otherwise.
Many of the women are used to having taquitos from 7-11 or something like that for breakfast. They’re not used to meal planning or cooking. So I crowdfunded 20 copies of Lisa Leake’s book, 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget. If I think someone would really benefit from it, I give them a copy with a note in it from me.
My Mondays are amazing and it just makes me better at what I do for my other clients.
FNL: Again, I just want to emphasize how inspiring your story is, Kate! Can you share how the education you received at Functional Nutrition Lab has prepared you to do the work you do?
Kate: The education I received at Functional Nutrition Lab prepared me for this work on numerous fronts. First and foremost, practicing with functional empathy is a big deal for the volunteer work I’m doing with this specific demographic. It’s not as much about the clinical analytics at the outset. As Functional Nutrition Counselors we have our “typical” non-negotiables, but what I’m finding is that I have to really determine (with empathy) what are the “no-kidding” non-negotiables for each individual and that’s where we begin the healing process. Secondly, 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 Functional Nutrition Lab 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 them learning to shift their paradigm of thinking about the way the patients that come into the clinic are treated.
FNL: 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!
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