Our founder, Andrea Nakayama, recently had the opportunity to sit down with her very first client, Fiona, as well as Fiona’s mom. More than a decade has passed since Andrea helped Fiona and her family address her chronic and persistent eczema. I had the pleasure of watching a recording of their discussion, and I have to share that the conversations beautifully illustrated just how strong the therapeutic partnership between a client and a practitioner can be. It looked to be a sweet reunion for them all! 

Maybe you have precious memories of your very first client too. Or perhaps you’re at the beginning phases of your Functional Nutrition Counseling career and you’re eagerly awaiting your first client or patient now. (We’ve all been there! We have to start somewhere, right?)

Build an “Empathy Bridge” with Your Client or Patient

For Andrea, the experience of meeting with Fiona was extra memorable because the client was a classmate of her son. Like many parents and caregivers of young children, bonds tend to form, and a blossoming “school family” grows, offering love, trust, and support.

These environments are great for those times when we’re first “sticking our neck out there”, looking to share what we’re learning. And Andrea was no different. Her very first foray into teaching and sharing her wisdom was with the parents and faculty in that school! She offered to teach classes, helping both students in the upper grades studying digestion, and educators looking to curb the afternoon slump for the kids in their classrooms. And she turned her living room into a classroom of its own, hosting once-a-month sessions for a rotation of parents. Those classes focused on the role of sugars and fats in the body and brain in teachings that eventually became her online courses, Sweet Tooth, Bitter Truth and Fat vs. Fiction. (Both are now old favorites offered within the Full Body System’s Cardio Intensive, which sits at the “heart” of the Full Body Systems curriculum!)

Because of Andrea’s community outreach and presence, it’s appropriate that her first client was a classmate of her son’s. Those experiences served as part of the foundation for her groundbreaking approach and future curriculum. When I think of this, and Andrea’s history in building a practice, it reminds me of the importance of building a bridge of trust and empathy in order to build a thriving practice.

In this small school setting and tight-knit classroom, the community knew Andrea. She shared her knowledge willingly, but without overstepping boundaries of what she likes to call “consent”. She helped create the recipes and bake the cookies that met the needs of the children with allergies for the school’s Winter Fair, and if a parent or teacher received a medical diagnosis, she’d often be consulted for her nutrition knowledge. I know these stories from Andrea, but from the interview with Fiona and her mom, I could tell that Andrea met them with care and compassion, without pushing them past their limits or capabilities. 

Andrea’s teachings in Full Body Systems also train us to “build an empathy bridge” by listening to our client’s or patient’s story. Her systems-based approach of spending time to understand the HOW, WHY, and WHAT of symptoms has helped thousands of coaches and clinicians resolve their clients’ and patients’ signs and symptoms, just like she helped Fiona.

Unresolved Eczema Using Traditional Protocols

Fiona first developed eczema around the age of 7 or 8. It began with small bumps here and there and ended up covering her entire body from head to toe. If you’ve experienced eczema or have a patient or client that suffers, you are likely familiar with this progression. 

As the irritation grew, Fiona would spend sleepless nights in pain, scratching, and suffering. The more she would scratch, the more it would spread. The creams and lotions Fiona’s mom purchased over-the-counter didn’t work. In fact, they made it worse. It got so bad that Fiona’s mom went back to the traditional allergist they had visited many times and said, “This is out of control.” It was then that the doctor performed a swab test on Fiona’s skin, revealing a Staph infection induced by the scratching. That landed Fiona in the hospital, under quarantine, for four days, wrapped in cloth like a mummy so that she could no longer scratch at her skin. 

All this time. All this suffering.

Is Lifelong Steroid Use a Sustainable Resolution to Eczema?

Fiona fell into the GAPs of traditional healthcare protocols that leave too many people with unresolved signs and symptoms. As Fiona’s mom pointed out in her recent conversation with Andrea, their doctors were sweet and kind and wanted to help Fiona. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the scope of practice to address her symptoms Functionally. Fiona’s doctor told her mom that her child would likely be on steroids for her entire life. Imagine a whole lifetime on steroids and what that could mean for your body! Andrea refers to this as the x for y protocol, and I bet you can think of even more people with conditions and in situations like this. It can be frustrating!

Assessing and Recommending Actions Based on Bio-individuality

Andrea and her team of clinicians live by the mantra: “everything is connected, we are all unique, all things matter”. Recognizing that this mantra is true, Andrea was able to “clear the muddy waters” and work together, in partnership with Fiona and her parents, to ultimately bring remedy to her signs and symptoms. 

Was it immediate? No. 

Was it always easy? No! 

During Andrea’s recent interview with Fiona (who is now 21!) she asked if Fiona remembered her recommendations and assessments being annoying. After sharing a chuckle, Fiona shook her head and said “no”. Even though bringing what she referred to as her pseudo-cupcake (of the gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free sort) to birthday parties wasn’t fun, Fiona was able to find foods she did like from a list of Andrea-recommended options. And she was motivated by her desire to not be in pain anymore. 

Fiona and her mom both shared how much they trusted Andrea and her recommendations for remedy. There were ups and downs and flares, but Andrea was there and persistent throughout, and Fiona finally found relief.

Why Functional Nutrition is the Future of Healthcare

You may be thinking that this therapeutic approach is gentle and compassionate… and you’re right! When compared to the potential trauma of traditional protocols and the emotional toll they can take on chronic health concerns, the Functional Nutrition approach and frameworks are gentle. They’re respectful of the individual and their needs. They truly allow us to meet a client or patient where they are. And they don’t simply take away; they replace. There is kindness, empathy, and partnership. There is support, education and guidance. And it’s all backed by the knowledge, tools, and frameworks to help achieve sustainable remedies and resolutions. 

Functional Nutrition Approach to Eczema Brings Lifelong Patient Empowerment

Fiona and her parents recognized that it would be a process. In fact it was a year-long journey. They collectively felt that it was well worth it! And that process has paid dividends. Fiona now knows and listens to her body. She’s empowered to assess and think through options for her health and not simply accept the x for y “solution.” Hearing Fiona share this brought tears to Andrea’s eyes, and I can see why. What a gift it is to know and trust our body – especially at such a young age.

Over 13 years after that work with Andrea on her eczema, Fiona hasn’t had one recurring episode, despite having friends who continue to battle it since their childhoods. And her year-long Functional journey compared to a lifetime of frequent flare-ups and steroid use is a no-brainer.

How You Can be a Functional Nutrition Counselor

You may be wondering what Andrea did to help eradicate Fiona’s eczema. And she’ll tell you that it wasn’t one protocol, but instead a client-focused, systems-based approach to shifting the inner terrain in which the eczema surfaced.

If this client-focused approach speaks to you, reach out and explore more about Full Body Systems where Andrea shares all her secrets to a successful tricks of the Functional Nutrition practice. The 10-month comprehensive program provides training, frameworks, skills, and mentorship into the science and ART of Functional Nutrition so that you can finally serve the population of people you most want to help. And if you’re trying to figure out just where to start, remember that it was in line to enter the classroom that Andrea eyed Fiona’s angry skin, turned to her mom, and offered “I think I can help.”

For more insight into Functional Nutrition and Full Body Systems, be sure to check out these blogs:

The Art of Counseling Step 1: Assess

The Art of Counseling Step 2: Recommend

The Art of Counseling Step 3: Track