A real life Wonder Woman you say? We’ve all come across a few in our time, be it your mum, an inspirational boss, the woman who shared that one nugget of advice that’s never left you, or the friend who had the unique power of dissipating your world of worries. In the real world, a Wonder Woman’s special power need not be the ability to fly, but rather, to bring about positive change in the lives of others.
In more professional terms, Doctor Fionnula McHale is one such superhero. We’re excited to introduce you. A Functional Medicine Physician, Fionnula, with her seemingly endless list of credentials, works daily to help men and women overcome troublesome health issues and achieve their utmost health and enjoy long lasting wellness. In her view, health is not merely the absence of illness but a positive vitality. If ever there was a woman to epitomise such vitality, it’s Dr McHale. Operating out of her own clinic on Suffolk Street, Invigorate Clinic, her personal life is also punctuated by her passion for wellness, as she holds the coveted title of European Powerlifting Champion, among others. Here, we gain some insight into this inspiring woman’s daily routine, what motivates her, what tickles her fancy and what we might learn from her unyielding success.
Personal Description: Functional Medicine Physician; European Powerlifting Champion who’s passionate about health, wellness, and strength.
And for those who aren’t aware, what exactly is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a nutrition-based speciality focused on determining the causes of chronic diseases or ill health. I help patients optimise health through the use of food and nutritional supplements. I utilise very comprehensive functional diagnostics (nutrition, allergy, metabolic, endocrine, gastrointestinal testing) and genetic tests to allow me to identify WHY a patient may be feeling unwell and to personalise and individualise treatment plans.
In a nutshell, how does your average working day pan out?
My working day usually begins at 5am as I take online consultations with clients in Australia/NZ. Then I will have clinic in my Suffolk Street rooms until the early afternoon after which I spend time preparing nutrition/supplement/lifestyle programs for those clients that I have seen in the morning time as well as reviewing test reports that come in that day. Generally in the evening I will take online consultations for US based clients. My clients range from those who suffer from fatigue/low energy, digestive disorders, anxiety/depression etc who have not had success with traditional medical approaches/pharmaceuticals to those wishing to maximize sports performance or optimize body composition. Utilizing the latest functional diagnostics and genetic testing allows me to deliver a personalized approach to medicine, sports performance and body composition (fat-loss).
And you have how many hours in your day? Tell us, how did you wound up in this position?
I had a number of health issues during my young adult years that were not responsive to standard medical treatments. As a result I began to do my own research and came across Functional Medicine. I was able to not only get myself back to health but build on that to promote wellness and subsequently body composition and sports performance. I became passionate about studying Functional Medicine and Nutrition and it went from there!
How do you keep all the plates spinning?
I absolutely love what I do for a living. I think when one is very passionate about what they do for a living, work no longer feels like ‘work’ but a way of life. I have been successful because not only do I love what I do but I also live and breathe nutrition and health. I think it would be exceptionally difficult to practice functional medicine (which is effectively a lifestyle medicine approach) without taking my own health seriously. Because of my own experiences and challenges (and my own mistakes) I have learned tips and tricks for being able to achieve health and wellness without feeling like it is a constant sacrifice. I make time for exercise, I make time to eat well and I make time to ensure that I breathe. It is only then that I am able to be in the right place to listen to my patients, hear their story and figure out the best way to help them.
What advice would you have for anyone interested in following a similar path?
I would advise anyone who would like to work in this field to never stop learning! It is a constantly evolving field and every day I learn something new. I am always looking for a new book, a new podcast or new webinar to make sure I am staying up to date with the latest literature and research. I amconstantly seeking out people both in Ireland and abroad to learn from.Similarly, I would recommend experimenting on yourself. I very seldom suggest or recommend something to clients that I have not yet tried myself.
Have you got a life philosophy? If you’re not happy, do something about it.
A quote to live by? I often have the pleasure of training at the Irish Strength Institute and the quote on the wall always sticks with me: “Take your health seriously, or take it somewhere else”.
You certainly sound like a super woman, but surely you have some weakness?
My biggest weakness when I first started to practice functional medicine was that I wanted my patients to get maximum results in the shortest time frame. I have now learned that some patients need a little more time to get great results, small steps at frequent intervals tends to work better for most people!
Baby steps, indeed. OK, let’s get to know you a little more. Favourite movie? The Devil Wears Prada …. But also anything with Denzel Washington
Favourite make-up brand? Chanel
Signature perfume? Jean Paul Gautier Classique
Ideal outfit at work? Bandage skirt, blazer and heels.
Ideal outfit on a day off? Luluemon top to toe!
When I’m not working you’ll most likely find me… n the gym.
I’d be lost without… my Mum! She’s my biggest inspiration.
Guilty pleasure… German Volume Training
We won’t ask… So, what most people don’t know about me is…I am a big Formula 1 fan!
Biggest ever luxury splurge… Herve Leger Bandage dress, fits like a glove.
If I didn’t wind up in this career I’d be… in the army.
When things get really tough I… squat deep and heavy.
My perfect down day would be… playing around on gymnastics rings while soaking up the sun on South Beach, Miami.
Best thing about my work is… having the tools to change a person’s life for the better.
Best piece of wisdom you were ever given… Do what makes you happy.
Photos by Ailbhe O’Donnell