#220: Boosting Client Outcomes Through Functional Nutrition with Andrea Nakayama

There’s a wonderful intersection of education and practical experience that leads to changing lives for the better. In this episode Michelle speaks with Andrea Nakayama, the founder of Functional Nutrition Alliance, about the opportunity to do more as a coach. You’ll especially want to hear about Andrea’s “trifecta” that makes the biggest difference in a person’s overall health. Learn more at fxnutrition.com.

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Full transcript:

Michelle (00:02):
Well, hello there health coaches. Today is a very special day, cause we have a very special guest. Andrea Nakayama is here and we've known each other for a long time. I just feel like once you're in the health coaching and the wellness world, there's a lot of familiar and wonderful faces that pop up again and again. So, if you don't know Andrea, you should. Thank you for being here.

Andrea (00:23):
Oh, I'm thrilled to be here with you. Thank you for having me.

Michelle (00:27):
If I'm sure we have some members of our community who have not met you before, so I'm gonna read just one or two lines from your bio. Sometimes I think it's weird to read someone's bio in front of them, but here we go. Andrea is a functional medicine nutritionist and educator who has led thousands of clients and now teaches even more coaches and clinicians around the world in a revolution. We're claiming ownership of both their own and their clients' health. Won't say anything more about the particulars in there, but you have a ton of experience working with health coaches, yes?

Andrea (00:58):
Yeah, we used to, I would say, at least 50% of our students and we now have over 7,000 graduates of Full Body Systems are coming from the health coaching arena.

Michelle (01:13):
Okay. And remind me, how many years has Full Body System's been around

Andrea (01:17):
10 years. So 20, well, I launched in 2020, so I started in my practice in 2009 and then built the practitioner training program in 2012. So 10 years now and counting.

Michelle (01:33):
Wow. Now, back then we were not hearing as much about functional medicine and functional nutrition and these things. Now, it's all over the place. So much has changed in the past 10 years. I'm curious, what have you noticed, what's gotten better in the industry? What's maybe become more challenging?

Andrea (01:50):
Yeah, that's such a good question. So, I really am in service to the principles of functional medicine and functional nutrition, which I'd like to say that in some ways I really help define what functional nutrition is in relation to the principles of functional medicine. And we can talk about what those are, but I think it's gotten away from itself. So, I feel like functional medicine as a whole has fallen prey to the X for the Y or what I call quick fix thinking so that we think, oh, this test or these supplements will be the answer. And that we're all chasing those solutions when in fact functional medicine and therefore functional nutrition are about a deeper understanding of systems biology and how we actually understand what's going on inside the body and that those answers aren't gonna come from one test, one supplement, one quick fix. And so in the decade that I've watched the industry change, I think the adoption of functional medicine has led us to some slipups that are unfortunate. And this is why we're seeing a lot of people sick and not getting better, even when they're going to functional medicine doctors, which is why we need more health coaches helping to fill the gaps.

Michelle (03:15):
Aha. Okay. And we are here. We have , thousands and thousands and thousands of health coaches who are like, I wanna do this work. Has it become harder to succeed as a health coach?

Andrea (03:28):
It probably... There's more and more health coaches. The good news about health coaching is that there's more of an awareness that we need health coaches that people and need help in making change, that making diet and lifestyle changes isn't a handout that we need somebody to support us through those transitions. And there's more awareness that diet and lifestyle modification matter. There's more studies, more actual research around everything from sleep to meditation to the impact of stress on chronic health challenges. So for health coaches who can seize their opportunity to know of those connections, I think there's more and more opportunities. More doctors want health coaches in their practices. However, it's also a more saturated marketplace. So I don't wanna ignore the fact that as we gain awareness, there's also more programs, more opportunities, more regulations even, and ways in which people have to be certified to be a health coach. So, there's kind of a mix of the blessing and the curse of more awareness and then more saturation.

Michelle (04:45):
I would agree with you there. I mean everyone's like, oh, we just need more people to be aware of health coaching. We just need it to become more mainstream. But then suddenly it's more mainstream. And with that comes regulations. With that comes, everyone wants health insurance to cover health coaching. And I'm like, do you really wanna be fussing with health insurance? You really don't.

Andrea (05:05):
People think it's the golden ticket to being able to practice. But there's so many much red tape when we actually have those regulations and those external regulations we have to adhere to. I'm a little jet lagged...

Michelle (05:23):
You're doing just great.

Andrea (05:24):
You said you're not feeling well, like, where are my words? Yeah, I think when we're having to subscribe to different organizations, we have restrictions around what we actually can do. And there isn't an awareness because we think that's something better exists. On the other side, we think that the grass is always greener, but there's a lot we can do and should be doing to have the success and help the people we want to help.

Michelle (05:54):
Agreed, agreed. So, we have a lot of health coaches and I see you all out there, who go from one certification to the next educational thing to this, that and the other. Just racking up the credentials but not, I'm calling you all out, not actually working with clients. So what do you think makes the biggest difference, education or practical client experience?

Andrea (06:17):
I think you know my answer. I mean the whole thing of the full body systems is you have to get out there and practice. We're never gonna know what we need to know unless we're actually working with real people. And I'm not saying it's not fun and enjoyable to always be learning. That's a great thing to be doing, but we don't even know what that is that we need to learn more about unless we have the foundation. And part of that foundation is working with people and that's the scariest thing. That's the scariest thing to do, but it's the most important thing to do. I find this too, Michelle, you probably do as well, that people think, oh, if I get a business coach or I do business training, then that's gonna tell me exactly what to do. But it only works when we're actually in practice.

Michelle (07:08):
Yes, yes, that's right. They kind of have to go hand in hand. You can do a lot of marketing, but if you are stuck, I don't think I can help anyone. I don't believe in myself. Whether that's just total nonsense or maybe there's a real reason why there's something keeping you from helping others. I don't know what these internal blocks necessarily are, but both have to be firing at the same time for it to work. So, when we're talking about client outcomes,

Andrea (07:35):

Michelle (07:36):
...like I said, a lot of coaches are like, can I really make a difference? Can I actually heal anyone? I'm not supposed to heal anyone. I can't prescribe anything. I have to stay in my scope of practice. So, how do you respond to that? How does functional medicine fit in?

Andrea (07:54):
Yeah, so for me, scope is a really, really important conversation. And what I see and what I experienced are huge gaps in our healthcare model. So really huge gaps where the doctor, even if they're the functional medicine doctor, know that diet and lifestyle modification matter. And they may say like, oh yes, here, here's the handout here. You need to do this. And the patient is in the weeds. So the patient can't see, they can't tell what's working, what's not working. When we're in a health coach arena, we may be cheerleading what the patient is supposed to do or what the doctor said. But there's actually a lot of knowledge in between those areas that has to have to do with that individual patient. So with functional nutrition, we are filling the gaps by understanding what's going on for the whole person in relation to what they're experiencing on their day to day and what their doctor has said.

So, we're not just saying yes or no, we're understanding their unique physiology. So, the three primary tenets of a functional practice is that we're working in a therapeutic partnership, which is very true of health coaching. We're allowing the other person, the client to be a part of that partnership. We're looking for the root causes. So we're asking why is this happening? Not just what do I do about it? And we're understanding things through a systems based approach, actually understanding systems biology. How does the gut connect to the brain? How does detoxification relate to the gut, relate to our environmental exposures, what are all the things that are impacting this individual? So in functional medicine, there's an understanding of those things, but not necessarily how we work into the everyday. Cuz the functional medicine doctor is still prescribing, they're still diagnosing, they're still at that medical arena.

When we come to functional nutrition, we're getting into the everyday with the physiological understanding. And that's where I like to think of it as graduate school for health coaches because we're talking about health but with a deeper understanding of you know what, that actually isn't right for you right now because of X, Y, Z. Let's work with your doctor to slow this down or let's work you into the dire diet or the lifestyle modifications that are gonna work best for you. Did that make sense, Michelle? That kind of filling the gaps in the healthcare system.

Michelle (10:46):
I love how much you talk with your hands. It makes me feel so able to be fully Italian. That's my go-to. That's why I have to wear a headset. Cause I will knock over a microphone. Yeah. And I was thinking this is so important, what you said. Well first of all, I was thinking of this experience I had in my own health coaching practice. It was very, very power powerful for me, where as a health coach, you're spending time with clients in a way that their doctors are not, even their functional medicine doctors. And that is a gift. And it was a gift that allowed me, this one client, I will never forget her, allowed me to see that this woman who had struggled with her weight for so many years and had this problem and that problem went on and on, finally I was like, I think it's worth going to your doctor to look at your thyroid. And she was really, why? And I'm like, oh I don't know. Can't lose weight. Your hair is thinning. Everything that she had been telling me about, it all fell into place. And that's not something I would've been able to do a few years earlier. I needed more education to be able to get to the point where I was not diagnosing her, but I was just going, Bing, bing, bing, bing. All these things connect. It's something to look into.

Andrea (12:03):
Yes, exactly. And then through a functional nutrition perspective, we understand where the thyroid fits in relation to the other hormones. So we know what we can do because addressing a thyroid issue isn't going to be resolved with a pharmaceutical or a supplement. There's other things we can do. So when we understand for instance, that blood sugar is gonna impact insulin is gonna impact cortisol is gonna impact the thyroid, then we can start to see, wait, where do I fit in this equation of making recommendations that are actually outside of the doctor's scope. And I think we hand over so much in our society today and as help coaches, but also as patients to the doctor, it's actually unfair to ask the doctor to address our nutrition needs because they haven't gotten any training in nutrition. Maybe 17 hours in their 70,000 hours of medical school. And so that's why I'm talking about these gaps. It's making that recognition and that identification that you did, Michelle. And then understanding, wait, what can I do to help my client through this? Whether we know it's a thyroid issue or not, which means we're actually working in the realm of prevention because the diagnosis doesn't get us very far when it comes to chronic health conditions. There's no fix.

Michelle (13:42):
It is my favorite thing in the whole world that by a time a client has their doctor appointment cuz they have to make it months out, they get to show up and go, well nothing's really bothering me anymore. But I just showed up cause I made the appointment back when I was having all the symptoms.

Andrea (13:56):
Exactly. Exactly., yes

Michelle (13:59):
So, can you say a little more about how your full body system students get experience? Are there a certain number of clients have to work with? How do you track that?

Andrea (14:09):
Does that go? Yeah, we don't track that. So it's continuing education. We're not actually putting them in the position of having to see clients, but we're giving them the practice tools and all of the tools they use in practice. So they get access to our intake form and our food mood poop tracker and our symptom tracker and our lab trackers. So they're in each week of every module and there are seven main modules in the 10 months. And then mini modules, they're getting a art of counseling exercise, we call it their asit exercise. And they could be doing that with a study buddy. They could start to use that in their practice. So we're giving them the tools to use and we're constantly encouraging them like you're talking about, to get out there. But we're not a professional training program in that they're required to do that.

They do have to pass tests to get the certification and then to get into our next step training, they have to be seeing clients. That's a application only program to get into the functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner training and that application, they have to prove that they're actually working with clients. So no requirements, but all the tools are there. So when I talked about those three principles, so therapeutic partnership looking for the root causes, which means asking why this is happening, not what is happening and what do I do about it. And the systems based approach, I like to look at that systems based approach through the full body systems, that systems biology, how is everything connected as well as how do we take a systematic approach? Because if it can't be like eat greens, drink water. If that's not the system, then how do we approach a client case?

And for me, that's what I call the art of the practice. And art stands for assess, recommend, and track, which is cyclical. And we spend a lot of time in that initial assessment so that we're not just making recommendations to somebody that don't work for them and then they don't come back. We're really understanding who are you, what's going on, what's your history, what are your triggers, what do you know works for you? Because then the answers actually may be more simple than we think they are. We complicate it based on their symptoms and diagnoses when in fact there may be things that we think are too easy that we need to be putting in place that could make a big difference. I always like to say it's the complexity on the other side of simplicity.

Michelle (17:07):
Can you give an example of that? Because I think functional medicine triggers, like you were talking about, there's gonna be lab tests, there's gonna be supplements, it's going to be quite complicated and not something any I can wrap my head around. I just don't think I could ever do it. I'm just a health coach. What's simple?

Andrea (17:24):
So we really need to recognize what I call the three tiers and the three tiers to a nutrition mastery. I like to think of them actually as the three chairs to epigenetic mastery, but that can be a scary word for a lot of people. So we can think of it as nutrition mastery, non-negotiables, deficiency to sufficiency, dismantling the dysfunction. We tend to want to jump to tier three. How do I address my Hashimotos? What do I do about my resistant weight loss? We bypass the simplicity, which are the the trifecta I like to think about or sleep poop and blood sugar balance. So how do we sit there and make sure that those non-negotiables are being addressed and know that by looking at those we are dismantling the dysfunction. We tend to bypass and say, oh my gosh, Hashimotos or thyroid issues, what are the supplements I take for that?

And we're not looking at, wait a minute, you're not sleeping, you're going to bed at midnight every night because you think you get your second wind after the kids go to bed. So, we forget to talk about those non-negotiables. Of course, every individual has their own non-negotiables as well. And we, that's our job to figure that out. But we don't wanna bypass those that trifecta, sleep, poop, blood sugar, balance. And you know what? Those aren't necessarily that easy to address for every single person, but if we spend time on them, we can really make a difference. Here's a great example, Michelle. We tend to worry about menopause, perimenopause, fertility issues, all sorts of hormone issues. Those are sex hormone issues. And if we are not pooping or sleeping, we are not properly metabolizing the hormones that are causing disruption. But we jump to what do I do for my hormones without thinking about sleep, poop, blood sugar balance, which actually impact the hormones.

Michelle (19:44):
They sure do. And that is something we all can help someone with. Yes. Can they get too bed an hour earlier? Yes. Can they get a better night's sleep with the noise machine? I mean, come on you guys. We got this, right? I love it. I love your approach. It's always just the way you speak about nutrition. It's organized, it's systematic. It feels like I could have a chart in front of me and I can fully understand these things because let's face it, nutrition is complicated.

Andrea (20:11):
It's complicated and it's different for every person. And right now, in this moment in time, there's a lot of anti diet culture, there's a lot around how we accept our bodies and our full bodies. And that is all great. I like to think of it as anti dieting culture, not anti diet culture because we may need to eat differently during a healing period. But we in our clinic at the Functional Nutrition Alliance, see people who come in like eating three foods and we can't heal when we're eating an overly restricted diet. So diet is complicated, women are complicated. Oh yes. In relation to our food and our bodies. And that requires a real deep understanding of how we hold people through making changes and accepting different things and tuning in at a different level. And a health coach can absolutely do that work. In fact, we need more health coaches to be able to do that work.

Michelle (21:19):
We need more health coaches doing good work. I agree. And it is so helpful to have it explain so clearly. And so you guys have to check out all of Andrea's stuff. I mean even just on your website, I know you have some freebies ways for our listeners to get involved. Tell us where our listeners should go to learn more about all of this

Andrea (21:39):
So, for sure, I have a podcast called The 15 Minute Matrix. You can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts. And that's a great way to get kind of bite sized insights. It's 15, 20 minutes, so 15 Minute Matrix. But you can find everything@fxnutrition.com that will lead you to the podcast, to the Full Body Systems program to my blog, which has a lot of articles on it. And then on Instagram, I also have a personal Instagram page at Andrea Nakayama where you can always be, it's not personal really, it's me talking about functional nutrition, but where we look at this next level of how we actually think differently about our approach. So, lots of places to tune in and get more information and get a better understanding of how functional nutrition can make a difference in your practice.

Michelle (22:33):
I think you guys are gonna love it. We hear from coaches all the time who've gone through your program, they're always recommending it. There's a lot of options out there. But I just wanna point out that you've been doing this a very long time, and I've always been such a fan of your work.

Andrea (22:49):
Thank you.

Michelle (22:49):
So, I'm so glad that you were able to join us today and talk more about it.

Andrea (22:52):
Yeah, thank you for having me. What a treat.

Michelle (22:55):
We'll see you next week everybody. Take care.