In Functional Medicine, we talk a lot about how food IS medicine and how a “treatment” doesn’t need to be a pill or an injection to be effective. This is some of the world’s oldest wisdom, and while our ancestors certainly didn’t have all the answers, they often knew what they were doing when it came to taking care of their bodies. For FMCA alumna Marelda Rodrigues, CNMT, FMCHC, training as a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach has helped her find a new context for the healing practices she has long embraced as part of her Indian heritage. Now a practicing coach, Marelda is shouting those healing practices from the rooftops.
“I’ve always known that my life’s work was to impact multiple lives. I just didn’t have a clear idea how,” Marelda reflects—and she speaks for so many of us. We feel that pull towards a career helping others transform their health and using our strengths to create positive change, but the field is so big, and its evolution is constant. What is the “right” first step? For Marelda, whose varied background includes degrees in hotel management and human resources as well as NeuroMuscular Therapist certification, finding her direction proved more elusive than she would have liked, at least at first.
“Solving client pain issues and helping them feel better was so satisfying,” she says, reflecting on her therapy work, “but I felt there was a bigger calling.” She wanted to care for the whole person and share a message of preventative health. So a few years ago, she started building a foundation in health and wellness coaching by pursuing a wellness coaching certificate. What she found in that program lit a spark to learn more about understanding and addressing chronic disease. This led her to The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM).
At the time, FMCA didn’t exist yet; IFM was training practitioners in the Functional Medicine model, but there was no program specifically for coaches. Marelda knew her goal was to combine Functional Medicine principles with positive psychology coaching techniques, so she, in her own words, “put my intention out to the Universe and asked for what I wanted.” Soon after, an ad for our newly-established program appeared on her Facebook page, and she knew what to do next. “One month later, I enrolled with FMCA,” Marelda says.
Once training began, and she learned more about underlying root causes of disease and using food and lifestyle to resolve and prevent health issues, her mind kept returning to the big picture problem: the healthcare system was broken, but the answer—Functional Medicine—was largely unknown by the public.
“What continues to surprise me,” Marelda reflects, “is how little Americans know about natural ways to heal the body, almost to the point of thinking these methods are hokey.” Having spent many summers in India as a child, she learned a lot from her grandparents and extended family about “country medicine” and natural home remedies. “Country medicine has roots in Ayurveda,” she explains, pointing to the ancient healing system, developed in India, that seeks to balance mind, body, and spirit. “It’s the kind of information one finds in the Farmers’ Almanac.” This “old-school” knowledge of the body that may not tell the whole story or have an answer for every health challenge, but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted and ignored. And since moving to the US decades ago, Marelda continues to return to the tried-and-true wisdom of these traditional ways of healing. “To this day, I find myself sharing info about natural ways to heal the body—information that is normal to me, but magic to those I share it with.”
That sharing spirit—spreading practices of caring for the self holistically—is part of what makes people like Marelda such passionate and valuable parts of the Functional Medicine movement. And while she was going through her training at FMCA, she knew she was in a place that would help her take that sharing spirit to the next level. “The curriculum really grew my knowledge and critical thinking exponentially,” Marelda explains. “The whole experience was beyond what I expected.”
Now an FMCA graduate and Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, Marelda is pursuing a global career that includes coaching clients and speaking internationally. As a speaker, her message is focused around creating vibrant health through Functional Medicine, and as a coach, she has a vision for creating global retreats and live events in collaboration with other Functional Medicine health experts to spread the message of health and healing. “What’s so exciting,” Marelda says, “is that in my own way, I get to be the face of Functional Medicine, a concept I deeply believe in. It is so empowering to empower others with their health.”
Her big takeaway from training with FMCA is one we want every single student to feel when they leave our virtual halls:
“The experience of becoming a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach has confirmed my personal power in helping people create vibrant health for themselves, helping them believe in their body’s own power to heal itself, and helping them become self-sufficient in making food and lifestyle choices that support their health.”
We wish Marelda the best of luck and can’t wait to follow her progress as she creates the career of her dreams. You can learn more about her and her work on her website, www.mareldarodrigues.com.