Dr Laura Wyness, Registered Nutritionist, was awarded the title of ‘CWT Freelance Nutritionist of the Year 2019’ at last year’s CWT 30th Anniversary and Awards Reception for her outstanding and distinctive work in promoting public health and advancing standards of food and nutrition.
The judges were thrilled at how Laura’s work echoed the variety of work that Caroline Walker herself carried out. Similar in many aspects to Caroline Walker’s own work, Dr Laura Wyness has worked in a variety of roles from nutritionist, writer, author and campaigner for better food. Just like Caroline had experienced, the journey has been one full of surprises but also fulfilment. The road forward has many dips and turns, and there are many routes on how to make a contribution to improve the food we eat and understanding of the effects on our diet. Laura certainly demonstrated how she had followed in Caroline’s footsteps.
Laura’s work as a freelance nutritionist involves researching and writing nutrition content for publications and company websites, providing workplace wellness talks to businesses and personalised nutrition advice to staff.
She is part of the team of coaches at Edinburgh’s InsideOut Personal Training, where she provides nutritional support to members in the form of ‘Ask the Nutritionist’ sessions online and has developed menu plans and healthy recipes. She regularly assesses catering establishments for the Health Scotland’s ‘Healthy Living Award’ and provides advice on how to improve menu options.
Laura also regularly provides comments on nutrition for the media by working with journalists on articles, speaking on the radio, and writing nutrition tips for the recipes in the Ocado magazine. She has helped build up a network of nutrition colleagues through volunteering as AfN Scottish Regional Rep and co-founding the @AfNutr twitter chats.
Since winning the CWT Freelance Nutritionist award, Laura has joined the expert team at Ocado magazine, and has featured in The Telegraph, NutraIngredients, Happiful magazine and Delicious magazine. She has also spoken to nutrition students at various universities on nutrition careers and using social media as a nutrition professional. She is continuing to grow her consultancy business and client base.
We caught up with Laura to see what life has been like since winning Freelance Nutritionist of the Year 2019 award. Here’s what she had to say…
How did you feel when you were awarded Freelance Nutritionist of the Year 2019?
I was delighted to be invited to London for the Awards event. I loved being in the same room as so many talented nutritionists and getting to meet and chat with others working in such a variety of nutrition roles. It’s not often that the work of a Freelance Nutritionist is acknowledged, so I feel extremely grateful. To be recognised by the Caroline Walker Trust is such an honour.
Have you found your role as a Freelance Nutritionist a comfortable journey?
I worked in a variety of roles for several years before becoming a Freelance Nutritionist. The experience I gained from working in academic research, policy development, supporting the food industry and nutrition communications provided such a useful insight and understanding of the role of nutrition in health and wellbeing.
When I first started as a Freelance Nutritionist almost 4 years ago, it was a very steep learning curve and quite a lonely experience. However, I soon started to make use of the support available by going on business courses, attending networking events and joining groups like SENSE for self-employed nutritionists.
I love the work that I am able to do now and enjoy the opportunities that freelance work brings. The recent lockdown situation has meant revising my business plans and ‘pivoting’ some of my services so I can now offer nutritional consultations and workplace nutrition talks online.
I wouldn’t say the journey into Freelance nutrition has been comfortable, as the growth (or magic) usually happens when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s certainly been an enjoyable experience and one that I continue to relish.
What is your advice to other Freelance Nutritionists?
Starting your own business can be hugely rewarding although quite scary at the same time. I have found regular networking to be a vital part for growing my business and have learnt a great deal from connecting with freelancers in nutrition and other industries.
Seek out the support that is available. The Association for Nutrition and the Regional AfN Facebook groups offer great support, and there are also lots of other useful Facebook groups for business advice, or for nutritionists working in specific areas where you can share advice and experiences.
It is also useful to give back and help others. Being a Food and Drink Ambassador, mentoring early career nutritionists, volunteering as an AfN Rep, and delivering career talks to nutrition students are all ways to support other nutritionists and improve our profession. It can be a hugely rewarding experience.
What is the most rewarding part of your role as a Freelance Nutritionist?
It is an amazing learning experience, not just about nutrition, but also learning about running a business and your own self-development. I feel is really important to communicate evidence-based nutrition information. I love being able to translate nutrition science into clear and practical messages and, above all, being able to pursue work that I find most interesting.
What have you gained from the award ‘Freelance Nutritionist of the Year’?
Winning this award has boosted my confidence. I feel I am still learning (and making mistakes) every day working as a freelance nutritionist, so to gain this recognition has given me a great sense of achievement.
What are the benefits of being recognised by CWT as an inspirational Nutritionist?
As a freelance nutritionist herself, Caroline Walker was passionate about improving public health through good food. With the increasing issues we face in food security and inequality, Caroline left an inspiring legacy for nutritionists to continue.
I am extremely grateful for the support and recognition from the Caroline Walker Trust. It has greatly inspired me to continue to promote the importance of public health nutrition.
Greg Lessons, Registered Nutritionist, was awarded the title of ‘CWT Nutritionist of the Year 2019’ at last year’s CWT 30th Anniversary and Awards Reception for his outstanding and distinctive work in the UK Fire Services and academic achievements. At the time of the award, the judging panel found Greg had displayed precisely the qualities they were looking for in the next generation of inspiring nutritionists. He had demonstrated courage in challenging the status quo, a significant & groundbreaking achievement of high potential and a passion for forging new pathways to further public health through improved nutrition awareness and quality of food. The judges were unanimous.
Greg’s career started as a firefighter; however, after 17 years’ service, Greg began to notice the rising levels of poor health amongst his colleagues, namely heart disease, obesity and diabetes. He decided to embark on a new vocation, and after completing his MSc in Human Nutrition, Greg pioneered the Fire Service’s nutrition programme.
His multi-component intervention involved face to face dietary, physical activity and lifestyle education programme, along with addressing the obesogenic environmental factors. His pilot trial lowered BMI, body fat percentage, energy intake and waist circumferences, thus reducing fire fighter’s risk of chronic disease within a month. His research was published in the proceedings of the Nutrition Society, and he was announced as the winner of ‘Best Original Communication’ at the Nutrition Society 2017 Winter conference.
Greg has persisted with his studies and is now undertaking a PhD while providing part-time lecturing at London Metropolitan University. However, he continues to lead the emergency services in improving nutrition and subsequent health of the workforce. His latest activities also involve being a Nutritionist Ambassador for the UK Emergency Services Games. http://www.ukesg.uk/
Since winning the CWT Nutritionist of the Year award, Greg has been on BBC news, featured in Men’s Fitness magazine, NHD Network Health Digest, Personnel Today – Occupational Health & Wellbeing, Public Sector Catering, Emergency Service Times and received a fellowship at the Nutrition Society, and is now sitting on their strategic communications committee.
We caught up with Greg to see how he found life after receiving the Nutritionist of the Year 2019 award. Here’s what he had to say…
How did you feel when you were awarded the Nutritionist of the Year 2019?
The great honour of being awarded ‘Nutritionist of the year 2019’ by the Caroline Walker Trust as it brings a certain level of validation to the work I have been engaged in over the last two years.
Have you found your role as a Nutritionist in a new environment a comfortable journey?
Far from being a smooth ride, there have been tough challenges along the way which have tested my fortitude and resolve from the very beginning. Getting the fire station nutrition programme off the ground involved a lengthy campaign with several setbacks.
What did you find was your biggest challenge being a Nutritionist?
Once approved to test its feasibility and efficacy on a grander scale, the daunting prospect of starting something completely new and leaving the familiarity of a role I had performed for the vast majority of my working life was itself a challenge. Added to that was the unknown quantity of how I would be received by my peers in a context which could be seen as ‘telling them what to eat and how to live’.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Every day I had to do battle with these fears to stand up in front of teams of firefighters to nervously (at the beginning) deliver my dietary intervention. Every day I had to overcome scepticism and suspicion before I could even begin to attempt changing dietary behaviours for the better. My fortitude, resilience and resourcefulness have truly been tested like never before, and it has changed me as a person. Imposter syndrome rears its head on a fairly regular basis, and I have had to adapt from working in a team to working alone, taking full responsibility for nutrition in my organisation.
What is the most rewarding part of your role as a Nutritionist?
The knowledge that I’m helping people is rewarding, as is seeing markers for health improvement. The gratitude expressed from firefighters is also a huge boost and fuels me to keep going when the workload piles up.
What have you gained from the award ‘Nutritionist of the Year’?
The recognition from a well-respected nutrition organisation bestowing me with such a great honour has really inspired me to take my programme to the next level. It has instilled untold confidence and also supports the programme’s progression, which at times feels somewhat precarious.
What are the benefits of being recognised by CWT as an inspirational Nutritionist?
It has garnered both internal and external interest, from fire brigade personnel congratulating me, to media agencies approaching me for interviews. I welcome all of this attention with open arms, not to boost my ego, but to boost the profile of my programme and to highlight the importance of nutritionists in workplace settings. I cannot thank the Caroline Walker Trust enough for their incredible support.
We also asked about Greg’s typical day in the life as a trail-blazing Nutritionist. Here is his average day’s schedule of events. It’s impressively dedicated and hard-working.
A day in my professional life
Wake up at 06:00 – head to the gym (You have to look the part).
08:00 – start work by checking email and dealing with admin.
09:45 – pack the car with anthropometric equipment and educational aids.
10:30 – arrive at the fire station, introduce myself and hastily attempt to allay personnel’s preconceived fears of my agenda.
11:00 – deliver interactive PowerPoint presentation to the watch on ‘Nutrition and Health’.
11:30 – hand out dietary assessment forms and hope they fill them out (99% of the time they do).
11:35 – I set up my personalised nutrition clinic in an appropriate room in the fire station. It comprises a body composition analyser, a height measurer, tape measure, laptop and visual aids.
11:45 – I see the first of anywhere between 8 and 20 firefighters for a personalised nutrition session.
16:30 – pack up equipment and drive back to my base where I’ll finish the day with more admin. This can include: scheduling appointments and stations to receive my intervention; creating nutrition educational materials for the LFB wellbeing intranet portal; writing reports to justify my mere existence; creating PowerPoint presentations; dealing with requests to attend various team meetings to deliver nutrition input to fire brigade support departments (I’ll have to do most of this in my own time tonight). (Note the absence of a lunch break!).
23:00 – close the laptop, go to bed and reflect upon some of the amazing people I met and the enriching interactions I was lucky enough to be part of. That’s the best bit of my job.