The most surprising things Gabrielle Grandell learned as part of FMCA’s inaugural class had nothing to do with the power of food as medicine. They weren’t new scientific evidence supporting the strength of mind-body medicine, or new theories about helping clients maintain digestive health. The most remarkable things Grandell learned were about herself.
“I really learned a lot about who I am and how to help bring out the truth in me, specifically how to use my strengths to help others shine while helping myself grow,” she says.
The curriculum’s personal growth work caused Grandell to dive more deeply into her own personality and behaviors than she thought would be required from a year-long program. “It was surprising to me how much I had to look inside, but that’s so key,” says Grandell, who has worked in the food arena for nearly 20 years and in Functional Nutrition for the past 4 years. The work at the beginning of the year helped her explore her own food patterns and interpersonal communication style.
She found the VIA character strengths survey particularly revealing. The test revealed bravery as her top strength. She says she wouldn’t have predicted that to be her Number One strength, but when she went back through her life and examined her behavior and choices in different scenarios, she saw evidence of personal fortitude again and again. “It really empowered me,” she says. She found learning how to build her personal strengths, as well as how to incorporate her client’s strengths into her work with clients fascinating.
Grandell always had an interest in food and knew she wanted to find work that involved helping people. She fell in love with her first nutrition class in college. Working her way through school in a variety of food service jobs, she was able to accumulate a growing knowledge of food along with tuition money. Her work today as a functional nutrition practitioner at Carpathia Collaborative, a Functional Medicine clinic in Dallas, enables her to use that passion for and knowledge about food to fuel her work helping others.
At the clinic, Grandell’s work includes conducting private and group assessments, grocery tours, pantry makeovers, meal planning and cooking workshops. “My whole goal is to provide clients with the knowledge, skill sets and confidence to live a healthier lifestyle and to help them meet the goals their practitioners set for them and the goals they set for themselves,” she says.
Her learning at FMCA will enhance her ability to help her clients, says Grandell, who says the training was important on many levels. “The communications and positive psychology work are things I can use with my clients all the time,” she says. She used to think she had to automatically assume a “dictator” role with clients. “I told everyone what to do, and that was great to a certain extent, but would get us so far,” she says. “I’ve learned how to really listen and hold space for clients to understand what their needs and goals are and how I can support them. It’s been very exciting to see the change in compliance and growth in clients.”
Grandell says her first inclination is to tell a client how to fix a problem. Now, she bites her tongue, and asks more questions to really understand the root of their issues. She’s learned that “what I might have said before might not need to be what they needed to her,” she says. “Now, my work is a little more energy driven, holding that sacred space for them and listening. It’s been amazing.” She says she’s incredibly excited to use the FMCA training to partner with other practitioners. “The opportunities are really just beginning,” she says.
The techniques she’s learned have helped improved her personal relationships as well. “Guess what?” she says with a laugh, “This [communication strategy] works for everybody. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants to get their needs met and not always be lectured to.”
Grandell also uses her FMCA training as a course facilitator for the school, an opportunity that has helped her extend her learning. She says her time with FMCA has been rewarding on both personal and professional levels. “FMCA gives you the opportunity to be part of something so desperately needed and influential. It’s going to change the whole model of healthcare and bridge the gap between biology and behavior change with clients,” Grandell says. She urges prospective students to take the leap and enroll. “It will be one of the best decisions you’ll make,” she says. “It has been for me.”