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Meet Amy Spindel of Food With Thought in Plano

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Spindel.

Amy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I had done it all: Careful diet, natural childbirth, extended breastfeeding, no medications, baby lead weaning… and yet the pediatrician was still stymied as to why my son had gluten, dairy, corn, citrus, and egg allergies; reflux; and failure to thrive. We followed the plan to manage symptoms, but my son’s health wasn’t improving. I wondered if there was another way to handle his issues, to really get at the underlying dynamics and actually heal them.

My first career was as an individual and family therapist. My clients and I worked to mitigate their symptoms of depression and anxiety, but relief was difficult for them to come by. I started burning out and went to culinary school on the side, thinking that being a chef would be fun and creative. I graduated and was hired as a full-time pastry chef (and lead truffle maker!), as well as culinary instructor. However, I still thought about my former therapy clients and wondered if I had missed a piece of the puzzle in supporting their wellness.

Then came my son and his myriad of seemingly unconnected health issues. My pastry career ended as quickly as it had begun. Instead, I immersed myself in holistic nutrition and functional medicine principles in an attempt to determine and reverse what was going wrong for him. As we worked on his symptoms and I learned more about how the human body is interconnected, I realized that mental health is not simply a brain issue, as I had been trained to believe. Mental health issues are fundamentally gut health issues: The state of our 25 feet of intestines can significantly impact our mental health, as well as our physical health. Without addressing gut health, we may not be able to overcome all of our other symptoms. As I followed these principles, my son’s health dramatically improved, and I realized I was on to something…

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Learning to run a small business while finishing up school, parenting a young child, and running a household provide me with my fair share of challenges!

From a career perspective, delving into two new fields simultaneously and meshing them together with my existing knowledge to create a service has also been uniquely challenging. I incorporate nutrition, evidence-based health principles, coaching, and culinary techniques into my work to create an integrative approach in supporting clients.

Lastly, having previously followed a conventional health paradigm, learning to think like a functional practitioner has been a great shift. In a conventional paradigm, problem A requires solution B; it’s very linear and does not always get at why the problem is occurring. Let’s use recurring headaches as an example. An over-the-counter or prescription medicine is often used to make the headache pain go away temporarily, but because the underlying cause of the headache isn’t addressed, it will return. In functional/holistic nutrition, while I am concerned about relieving the immediate pain of the headaches, I also want to understand why the headaches are occurring in the first place. Hormone imbalance? Inadequate magnesium? Dehydration? Food intolerance? Stress? I look at the client in their environment and then partner with them to create and implement interventions tailored to their situation to shift symptoms. It is a very personalized way to practice nutrition, and no two suggested protocols for clients are ever identical. While it’s time-intensive, it’s also an intellectual challenge that I love.

Food With Thought – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I help people feel better by changing what they put in their mouths! I provide nutritional counseling and teach basic cooking skills. My clients often have complex sets of symptoms that conventional approaches aren’t resolving. While I do not diagnose, treat, or cure illness, I do seek to understand the dynamics going on in each client’s body and environment that are contributing to their health struggles. I explore dietary patterns and nutrient needs, lifestyle habits, and emotional well being and connect these to their symptoms. Oftentimes, when I dig deeply enough, I find that symptoms are highly interconnected and stem from the same root cause(s).

I educate the client about the patterns causing their body to be symptomatic, and we come up with a plan to begin making shifts in their diet and lifestyle. Since symptoms are so interconnected, often when we begin to address the root cause of a problem, other symptoms will begin to resolve as well. In this work, I have also found that many clients do not have the basic cooking skills necessary to support longterm dietary changes, and so teaching cooking techniques is as important as suggesting different foods to eat. Being able to offer customized cooking lessons in conjunction with collaborative nutritional counseling sets me apart from other nutrition and functional wellness providers.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I love being able to watch as clients begin to feel better and to celebrate their gains with them. There’s nothing more satisfying than when a client says they don’t need to see me anymore because they’re feeling great and have met their goals.

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