This week Dr. Sandi sits down with Anindita Rungta, an FMCA alum who is working to functional medicine health coaching awareness in India. After her daughter’s struggle with eczema put her in the ICU, Anindita searched for a kinder way to treat her daughter. This search introduced her to Functional Medicine, and eventually, FMCA. When she joined FMCA in 2017, health coaching and functional medicine wasn’t really practiced in India.
Since then Anidnita has worked hard to build her own practice, inform local doctors of the benefits of health coaching, and helped her fellow FMCA graduates across India begin coaching. Anindita shares her story about embarking on her health coaching journey, how she found functional medicine, and how health coaching is growing in India.
- Discover how Health Coaching is creating a positive impact in India.
- Hear Anindita’s story about finding functional medicine.
- Learn how she is using her certification to spread the word about health coaching.
- Get advice on how to start your own coaching business.
Meet the Guest
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In 2013, Anindita’s daughter survived a life threatening infection after struggling with eczema since she was a baby. After that, Anindita spent four years finding a way of healing her daughter, which led her to Functional Medicine. From there she joined the FMCA Health Coaching Certification Program and began introducing health coaching to doctors in India. Currently she writes for the Nourish Heal Connect blog and hosts the Embrace Your Healing Journey podcast.
Dr. Sandi Welcome to “Health Coach Talk.” Today, I am talking to somebody that I have followed for many years because she was an early graduate of FMCA, and I am so excited to introduce her to you. Her name is Anindita Rungta. She is in India. In fact, at the time that she studied at FMCA, she really started functional medicine health coaching in India. She has a fabulous, inspiring story to tell. So, welcome, Anindita.
Anindita: Thank you so much, Sandra. I’m so honored to be here. It’s a special honor because I actually graduated from FMCA and that, sort of, got me started, so I couldn’t be more excited.
Dr. Sandi And I met you…we had a live event. You came all the way from India—it was in California—to that event. So, I had the pleasure of meeting you in person. So, let’s start at the beginning. How did you discover Functional Medicine Coaching Academy and make that decision like, “I’m going to be a health coach”?
Anindita: It was about 10 years ago, and that time, we were dealing with our daughter’s health issues. Actually, that, sort of, got me onto functional medicine and then health coaching subsequently. We went through a terrible time. She was dealing with severe eczema. It was uncontrollable. She was on multiple immunosuppressive medications, oral steroids, and we had done pretty much everything that you can think of in terms of managing eczema, topical, oral, Ayurveda, everything. And nothing seemed to work.
And we hit rock bottom when her bone marrow shut down due to one of the medications that was given to her. I’ll never forget it. That was summer of 2013. She’s 17 now, but she celebrated her 7th birthday in the ICU and that’s when we realized that she would be fine because, for two weeks, we didn’t know whether she would survive or not. And, yeah, so that was the rock bottom for us. And she survived, and she came back, and we were back to square one because the eczema was still not under control and it was a slow recovery.
And that’s actually when my journey started into health coaching functional medicine because, by that time, I was determined that… And I realized that conventional medicine did not have the solution for her, right? And we had been struggling for a while already. And it took me a year of research in 2014. I was so determined that I would find a more gentle and less harmful solution. I didn’t know what, and I came across diet and tried Ayurveda, homeopathy, everything. And then I literally stumbled across functional medicine as I was doing my internet research on Google. I came across Dr. Mark Hyman, Amy Myers, Terry Wahls, and it sounded so good to be true. Too good to be true actually.
But I did my research, and I had to be 100% sure, actually more than 100% because my daughter was involved in this. And that’s how actually I came across functional medicine and got her started with the help of a practitioner in London because there was no one in India who had even heard of that term, let alone practice functional medicine so many years ago. And it took two long years with a lot of challenges along the way, but somehow I was convinced that we were on the right path. And I didn’t know whether she would get well or where she would land up, but I knew that it would not harm her and that was enough for me.
And then, yeah, she got off all her medications in 2017. And along the way, I realized there might be so many others who are in a similar [inaudible 00:03:57] in struggling with all this, with, kind of, chronic conditions. And with health coaching, I just came across health coaching as well along that because functional medicine, FMCA, IFM, they’re all interlinked. And I came across this, again, during the course of my research, and I knew that this is something that I really wanted to do.
So, when I decided something, Sandra, I just go for it. I mean, I don’t second guess myself. I’ve never had. It may or may not work out, and I’m fine with that. And that was what FMCA… Because I had no clue what I would do with health coaching in India after that, honestly, but I knew that this was something that was right up my alley and I knew it would help. I just didn’t know how it would help others, but I signed up for it and here I am.
Dr. Sandi Well, I remember you’re in Mumbai. Was that…?
Anindita: Yes, that’s right.
Dr. Sandi Yes. And what were you doing before? Were you working? Did you have a healthcare background?
Anindita: No, I was working in corporate sales in the banking and financial space, so sales and marketing actually. But before I joined FMCA for my training, I had been at home for about seven years because my son had been born seven years prior to that and my daughter had been unwell for a while, so I couldn’t really get back to work. So, I was actually at home at that time for seven years. And then I found FMCA in 2016, and then I slowly eased myself back into work. So, completely different background.
Dr. Sandi What was it like being a student and studying functional medicine, studying positive psychology and also studying…? We do have a number of people who are studying around the world, but you were the only person in Mumbai, let alone in India. I mean, you were really a pioneer.
Anindita: I love the course, and I love the trainings. And I think I particularly like the fact that a lot of it was… I mean, I learned a lot about myself during the course as well. It was not just about helping others. Like, if you talk about character strength, if you talk about listening, I didn’t realize that we don’t really listen to it. It helped me personally as well. Of course, [inaudible 00:05:59] helping so many others, but I think that’s the part I like the most. Of course, I got a lot of knowledge and I learned a lot, but I think I learned a lot about myself and that’s what I bring to the table now.
So, I pretty much love the course. I love the trainings and whatever interaction we had at that time because the time difference is huge. And I think the atmosphere that you’ve managed, you and Elise have managed to build in FMCA, it’s amazing. It’s that community, that kind of positivity is what drew me. And actually, I mean, till date, I’m an alumni. So, yeah, I’ve enjoyed it so much.
Dr. Sandi I remember having a conversation with you where you described the medical doctor who was treating your daughter. She was noticing the changes, the good things that were happening with your daughter that she herself became inspired to study functional medicine. And correct me if I’m wrong, I believe at one time you opened a clinic or you had plans to, but you’re inspiring the medical community in India to look at functional medicine and health coaching.
Anindita: So, she was one of the firsts, yes. She is the one who actually… I wrote a book on eczema along with her. So, she was the one who encouraged me to do that. So, she’s still a very good friend now actually, and we are in touch, but she did not end up shifting to functional medicine. There was a lot going on in her, so she carried on with her dermatology practice, but we are good friends. We still catch up, and she supports me a lot.
And I think over the years, Sandra, what has happened—and I would like to share this because I know that a lot of health coaches listen to this conversation—is that, when your work speaks for itself, I can see it… I was telling my husband the other day. Now, all the doctors here, those who understand functional medicine, of course, and those who… They treat me as a peer, even though I don’t come from a medical background. But when I interact with them, it’s at an equal level, right? I mean, I used to feel, “Okay, this is a doctor. He knows more. He or she knows more. And I’m this.”
I think over time because of… And it’s of course the work that you do, but it’s also the work that you do on yourself. You grow as a person. And of course the results that everybody’s seeing, all your clients are seeing, so that speaks for itself. And now they treat me as their peer. So, I have equal say. I was part of the second Functional Medicine [inaudible 00:08:12] as a speaker in India. Now, it’s been an amazing journey.
Dr. Sandi That is so, so inspiring to hear you say that, to be considered as a peer. Can you describe some of the initiatives that you have started? I know you’ve got a book. You have done so many things to spread the word about functional medicine, health coaching, and to thrive yourself as a health coach. Can you share some of that?
Anindita: Yeah, I’ve done a lot, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. So, I think that’s the other thing I would like to share. Not everything works out but you’ve learned so much. So, of course, I have a coaching practice. That’s the core, which is a one-on-one practice, and I hope to make it, kind of, a hybrid form later on. Apart from that, apart from my core practice, I have done multiple things. I did a membership for a few months. So, for some personal reason, this was during the pandemic, so I sort of let it go.
But I think what I would like to point out are a few things. One is that I’m launching a podcast next week, actually, as it happens. It’s called “Embrace Your Healing Journey.” And because I found the business gap, there is a lot of information about chronic illnesses, and there are a lot of good podcasts as well. But my focus area is autoimmune conditions for women. I think that’s something that’s not really talked about as much, especially the part where women feel dismissed by their doctors. They feel unheard, unsupported, not understood by their own family. That’s the part I want to actually focus on.
It’s not just about giving out information. Information is on Google. You don’t need another podcast for that, but I think a lot of… And that actually comes from my coaching, Sandra, all experience that I’ve drawn in my coaching and I have created a unique framework in my coaching practice, which I use. It’s called Body Wise Healing Framework. So, that’s something that I’ve done actually. And it’s a three-pillar framework, which I’ve created over the years of working and fine-tuning, because I believe you have to be guided by your own body if you want to get well, especially with complex chronic conditions, because then you know whether you’re on the right path, what you need to tweak.
And I tell my client that, “You know what I want for you? That when you stop working with me, you should have so much confidence and faith in yourself. I should be able to keep going, right? That’s what I want for you. Of course, we work and you can get whatever support you want even after that, but this is my wish for you.” So, that’s the Body Wise Healing Framework, and the podcast is connected to all of this.
Apart from that, what I want to share with you, I don’t know if I’ve shared earlier, is that I have been doing this series of free workshops. And it’s called the Healing Partnership. So, it’s about actually the value of functional medicine health coaching in clinical practice. I can’t remember whether I mentioned. So, this is something that I’m… Since I have now a good network and we have a good network of functional medicine practitioners, then I’m talking about doctors right now. So, I’m reaching out to them and I’m just doing this free workshop for them, and it just blows their mind. I mean, I’m doing this workshop not because I want to work with them particularly. I have my practice, but I think we need to make them aware, the doctors aware, the practitioners aware of the huge need for health coaching. And they’re not aware of that. They believe health coaching is an advice. I mean, you give advice and that’s coaching, so it just blows their minds. So, I’ve been doing this workshop… Every month, I do one workshop. I’ve been doing it for the past few months. That’s the other thing I wanted to share.
Dr. Sandi I love that. And what I’m hearing you say is that you don’t have just one offer. You have multiple. So, you have your one-on-one coaching practice. You have your podcast, which is reaching a wider audience. And then through that, you will grow your coaching business. And you are also offering free workshops to the practitioners. Are you doing these workshops just for the functional medicine trained doctors? Are you extending it to the allopathic doctors as well? Can you talk about that?
Anindita: I’ll see how it goes. What I do is I believe that we have to experiment as a coach, as an entrepreneur. We have to see what works and what doesn’t work and do more of what works. So, yeah. So, what I’m doing right now is just doing what is easy for me, which is reaching people who already know about me. I don’t have to convince them. If I ask them, they give me a time. So, that’s what I’ve started with.
Next year, I’ll take a call about whether I want to reach out to more practices because there’s only so much bandwidth that I have. There are quite a few things…I do multiple things at the same time. But, yes, maybe if this picks up and this can become a different… I don’t know actually where it will lead me. That’s how I… Anyways, I take the imperfect action, and then I see how it goes. And I learn so much from it.
And actually, one more thing I’ll be doing next year. One of the practitioners that I did the workshop for, and I know him well, and I like his work, he wants to actually do a bit of coaching for his practitioners. And he’s asked me to help with that. So, I might be involved in some form as a coach for his team. So, you know, that we’ll be doing next year. So, there are, yeah, quite a few things.
Dr. Sandi So, coaching the doctors.
Anindita: His team, yes, coaching the doctors, that’s right.
Dr. Sandi Oh, needed because we know that doctors, especially after the pandemic, have been burned out, exhausted, struggling personally, and coaching can be so beneficial. So, yeah. So, you have established… Initially, your focus was on… I remember we talked about helping parents, particularly like moms with kids with eczema, and that was going to be your niche, so to speak. But I love how you have broadened and you have extended and developed, again, these multiple ways of helping not only that through coaching but also offering these free workshops. And that’s a way that you will get referrals that will grow your business as well.
Anindita: Yep. So, absolutely. I started off because… I wrote a blog on eczema for many years. Again, this was the dermatologist who had asked me to and because of the blog, till date… And I stopped writing I think about six, seven years ago, when I started writing for my website. Till date, I mean, today also I received a mail from a parent, from a mother, I think whose child has eczema. So, I no longer work. I can’t have multiple offerings, different offerings, but I do refer them out to someone. But what you’re seeing is we start off with something, but then as we grow, we continue to evolve. And I have figured out this is what I want to do. But when I started, it was eczema. It was everyone with chronic health conditions, because, I mean, I needed to gain the experience actually. And once I had that ability or the confidence in my coaching, and that’s when I got a bit deeper into functional medicine.
So, it’s been a step-by-step process. When I look back, I think that’s what has worked for me. And in fact just to share with you, I do talk to a lot of coaches in India because there are a lot of now FMCA graduates in India and a lot of them reach out to me or they come to know about me. So, I do talk to them from time to pep them up or motivate them because it’s a long journey, right? So, no success happens overnight. And sometimes I have to actually remind them that you need to start coaching because they start talking about, “What kind of packages should I do? And what should I do? Should I do membership first or should I do…” I said, first, you need to start coaching because I have full confidence in my coaching skills. That is why I can do the other things. It can’t be the other way around. So, you have to, first, [inaudible 00:15:41] coaching, and you have to own it, and you have to have that experience, and that takes time. And then, of course, simultaneously, you can keep doing other things, and you can try out and packages and all. But the thing is the coaching. You have to start there.
Dr. Sandi That is absolutely spot on. It’s exactly what I say in my office hours or when I’m talking to students and graduates. Just jump in. Just start with one. Start with one client. It can even be pro bono initially. And then you have a date where you’re going to start charging a fee, and you don’t need to wait to have a fancy website. You don’t need to have a fancy name for your business. You don’t need to have all of the packages on it. It’s just starting with that one interaction, and that will grow. They will start referring their friends, their relatives, their neighbors, and it will grow.
Anindita: Absolutely, but you have to start there. And I started with the paper session. Of course, I did pro bono as well. Then it was paper session. And then much later, I figured out and then in packages. And the other things just came along the way, but you have to start there. But it’s been an amazing journey, and that’s the other thing that I would… I mean, I’ve enjoyed most of it. There had been a lot of scary parts because, if you’re doing something new and people have never heard of functional medicine or health coaching, then you figure out a way to communicate that. I mean, actually that’s the other question I get asked. How do you talk about health coaching or how do you talk about functional medicine? Nobody’s heard of it. I said, okay, functional medicine is something that we may not have heard of, but we’ve heard of Ayurveda. And Ayurveda is actually about addressing the root causes of disease. So, it’s similar because it’s based on the principles of Ayurveda. So, that’s functional medicine.
And if I can share this, this is how I talk about coaching. So, I tell them that suppose you just decided to go on a trek, okay, and you’ve decided to climb Mount Everest or Everest Base Camp or something like that, and you’ve never done that in your life. You’ve never climbed in your life or gone trekking in your life. So, you take me on as a guide. So, I’m going to tell you what shoes to wear, what clothes to pack, or what kind of terrain it will be, or what kind of weather it will be, how to build your stamina, even before you get on the trek. And then when you’re doing the climbing, I am there to hold your hand when you need me to. And when the going is smooth, you don’t need to hold my hand. That’s fine too, but I’m going to be there every step of the way.
But I am not doing the climb for you. You are the one who’s doing the climbing. So, it’s your trek. I am there as a guide. I’m going to make you stay on track, hold you accountable. And so I’m going to be a partner or whatever you call it, but you are the one who’s playing. So, that’s how I explain health coaching.
Dr. Sandi Wow. That is the best analogy that I have ever heard about health coaching. And if you don’t mind with your permission and fully, I will credit you, I am going to take that story and spread that when I’m asked about coaching and share that this is according to Anindita, how she talks about the absolute power of this health coaching process. And people will get it when you relate the story, “Oh, yeah, I get it. I’m familiar with that.” And so you’ve made that real, and that’s what I really love. And you are such an inspiration to others, whether you are already a coach, whether you’re thinking about becoming a coach, whether you are somebody who wants to work with a coach, have a coach work with your patients, if you’re a provider. You have led the way. So, I am so honored that you chose FMCA, that you stumbled upon Mark Hyman and Dr. Amy Myers and, through Dr. Mark, found us. And I am just so excited for your podcast and the next steps that you are a huge influencer, not only in India and beyond.
So, where can people find you? Tell us where they can listen to the podcast and where they can find you.
Anindita: They can find me @ aninditarungta on Instagram. So, they can connect with me directly over there. My website is of the same name, so that’s aninditarungta.com. And my podcast is called “Embrace Your Healing Journey,” and it goes live soon. So, it’ll be available wherever you listen to podcasts. So, you can just search for “Embrace Your Healing Journey,” and I’m excited about this next phase in my practice.
Dr. Sandi Well, check out her website, her Instagram, follow her, subscribe to her podcast, share it with others as we grow this field of health coaching together around the world. So, thank you for being our guest today and sharing your such inspiring story.
Anindita: Thank you, Sandra, for having me here. It’s been an absolute honor. And this was meant to happen. That’s why I found FMCA, and we’re here talking about it.
Dr. Sandi It sure was.