We’re thrilled that Melanie McGrice, a frequent Dietitian Connection guest columnist and event co-presenter, will be joining us as a presenter for the afternoon session at Dietitian Day 2016.

Her DD’16 presentation topic of “What I’ve Learned about Weight Management” will be one not to miss, given her expertise in the area.

Melanie has worked in the Bariatric clinic at Eastern Health for over a decade. She’s published eight peer-reviewed papers and written a book, The Pregnancy Weight Plan, published by Pan Macmillan. Melanie was also the dietetic representative for the Weight Management Council of Australia for three years, and was involved in the DAA working party for the review of the Obesity Treatment Guidelines.

She runs a Melbourne-based private practice, and is a well-known media spokesperson on nutrition.

Melanie was gracious enough to spare some time to answer a few questions in advance of DD’16, as a lead-up to her presentation that day. Below, she shares her approach to cutting through the clutter caused by the Internet, and other learnings.

DC: Where do you stand on the debate of whether we should focus on weight or not in nutritional management of clients?

MM: Weight is a factor to be considered with our clients. As APDs, our key differences are that we are evidence-based and that we focus on improving people’s health.

The evidence clearly shows that, when overweight, losing weight can significantly improve some medical conditions. Furthermore, there is good evidence to show that weight loss can improve quality of life.

I work with many clients who are affected by weight – many weigh over 200kg and many weigh less than 40kg. At either end of the spectrum, their weight has a tangible impact on their quality of life, irrespective of how healthily they are eating. For example, at 200kg some people physically struggle to stand to prepare a meal, cutting up vegetables for a stir fry just isn’t an option. This does not mean that we are stereotyping people or being mean to them, but using our clinical skills to assist them improve their health and wellbeing.

DC: What question are you asked most often, by the media, about food or nutrition?

MM: I’m most commonly asked about the effectiveness of (or lack thereof) of different fad diets.

DC: Given this, what approach do you take when presented with a client who has an affinity for a particular fad diet?

MM: If I’ve got a client who’s been on a lot of fad diets in the past, and has turned up in my office still looking for a fad diet (as a solution), instead of saying, “No, this isn’t the answer, we don’t do anything like that here,” I try and take where they are (in their weight management journey), and utilise what they want to do – but modify it, so that it becomes more nutritionally complete. For example, if someone wants to do a paleo diet, I say “sure, but let’s do a paleo diet which includes grains and dairy”. In this way, I am supporting them, instead of contradicting them. Once I’ve built trust and rapport, then I can move them to a more traditional model.

DC: Do you think the general public has become more or less knowledgeable of nutrition in recent years? How has this helped or hurt professional dietitians?

MM: The nutrition knowledge of the general public has definitely increased with access to the Internet. I believe that this has had a significant impact on the career of dietitians as, if we’re honest, we don’t “do” anything. Podiatrists tangibly fix someone’s feet, physios manipulate someone’s back; all we do is provide knowledge – and now the Internet can do this.

It means that we, as dietitians, need to lift our game. We need to improve our credibility and be seen as experts, as problems solvers. The Internet (and other media) has confused people, so we need to build trust with the general public so that they feel confident to come to us, to cut through the clutter.

DC: So…the million-dollar question. How do you build trust with the general public, so that they turn to dietitians instead of just anyone who claims to have nutritional knowledge?

MM: Having high-profile dietitians in the media is a really important thing because they represent our profession. We need to support them.

However, it’s up to every one of us. Every time someone goes to a dietitian and has a negative experience, it damages our profession. Research shows that when people are disappointed they’re going to tell 20 or 30 of their friends and spread the word.

One area that I feel that many dietitians could improve is to put in more time, money and effort to set their business up properly. The dietitian may be extremely knowledgeable, but a consultation is more than just the information someone walks away with… it’s the whole experience, the booking systems, the follow up, the way that the phone is answered.

Dietitians are university-qualified specialists and, until we look and act like specialists and charge like specialists, people will continue to think that they can get better service elsewhere.

DC: Can you share a favourite online resource you turn to for inspiration?

MM: One of my favourites is John Maxwell, www.johnmaxwell.com. He is a leadership guru, and I have found that he has really inspired me to be a better person, leader and dietitian.

One of the things that he’s said that has changed my life is the quote, “Walk slowly through the crowd”. This essentially means that, rather than just see as many people as you can in one day, stop and really treat every client like they are your only client and give them the best possible service that you can.

I’ve found that, running my business with that mindset, I have been able to give better service. Word of mouth about my business has grown. I’ve been able to charge more. The clients are more satisfied, and I feel more satisfied. And, my business has grown because of it.

Learn more about Melanie and her work here.

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