We Contacted Zoe and asked her a few questions…….
– For those who may not have heard of yourself and your practice, tell us a bit about your background and how you got to what your doing today.
Hi, I’m Zoe Connor and I’m a dietitian – a government regulated nutritionist. I qualified as a dietitian just over a decade ago – having realised I wanted to combine my love of food and science background to help people improve their health through food. I spent the first few years after qualifying getting a variety of experience in the NHS in London then returned to Warwickshire, where I grew up, after a stint with VSO working in villages in rural Indonesia. Since being back here I’ve set up my own nutrition consultancy business and split my time between my private practice, writing for professional publications, and consultancy and agency work for the NHS. I love the flexibility and variety of freelance work, and I’ve always loved that my work brings me into contact with so many people from all different backgrounds.
– Where is your practice located?
I’m based from my home in Shipston on Stour and see private patients in clinics in Shipston and Birmingham as well as at the Therapy Fusion clinic off the Evesham Road in Stratford. I also advise patients via Skype, email or phone when they can’t get to clinic – and so see patients all over the UK. I sometimes do home visits too – I aim to try to fit around my patients as much as I can – after all that’s often why they choose to go private rather than seeing a dietitian on the NHS.
– What sort of dietary issues do you deal with on a day to day basis?
Well actually I’m qualified and experienced in all different diet-related issues, from medical nutrition therapy for undernutrition to performance nutrition for athletes. However I tend to concentrate on a few areas I am particuarly interested in and that aren’t always available on the NHS – I specialise in paediatrics and particularly in helping children with feeding and eating problems and/or allergies. I also specialise in helping children with neurodisabilities and special needs and I head up a national group of dietitians who specialise in autism – so I tend to get customers from all over the country wanting help with that.
Although I specialise in children I also see lots of adults too – particularly with allergies, gut problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and also for help in overcoming emotional and habitual eating problems.
People often think that as a dietitian you tell people what and how much to eat, but it is so much more than that, it’s about looking at the bigger picture – food is not just about nutrition. I often feel more like a psychologist, counsellor, health visitor and social worker rolled into one, and I’m as far from some of the ‘nutritionist / food fascists’ that you see on TV as you can get!
– Do you have any particular success stories?
I am never ceased to be amazed at the impact that food allergies and intolerances can have on a person’s life. I’ve had a recent run of patients for whom trying a simple exclusion diet has been truly life changing – from a lady being free from eczema for the first time in 15 years, to a successful business man being able to attend work consistently for the first time in years after significantly recovering from the embarassing uncontrollable diarrhoea and wind of irritable bowel syndrome.
One mother of a young patient recently said to me that two appointments with me were ten-times more useful than a lifetime of nutritionist and dietitian appointments that never had any useful impact on her son’s painful gut symptoms. That sort of feedback really makes all the hard work of setting up my private practice worthwhile.
– What is the latest talking point within dietetics news?
Nutrition is a relatively new science and the amount of new research that is being published month by month is truly astounding. One interesting area is the relationship betwen genetics and nutrition – researchers are discovering what genes mean that some of us need to watch our diets more than others, and I think in the coming years we will see more individualised tests and diet prescriptions to treat and prevent more and more diseases (including my big interest – autism). I think as dietitians we will be more and more in demand – exciting times!
– What can visitors to the Stratford Food Festival expect to see from you?
I’ll be talking in the Multi-Entertainment Zone on Saturday about two of my favourite subjects which also fit in well with the ethos of a food festival:
1pm: Talk 1: Fed up with dieting and confused about what to eat? Learn to love food again with intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is an alternative to dieting that can help overeaters and serial dieters learn to trust their body’s internal cues of hunger and satiation and ultimately rediscover a love of good food. I’ve been using this approach for a while after getting so frustrated with watching so many patients fail after trying to follow restrictive eating plans. Growing research and common sense supports this alternative. The sense of freedom and empowerment the approach gives is amazing to watch!
3pm: Talk 2: How to bring your children up to love food and eat well.
I work a lot with families of children with serious and deep set feeding and eating problems. These often could have been prevented. Here I will talk about tips and tips on how to prevent problems before they occur and how to deal with issues when they arise. I’ll make my talks interactive and leave lots of time for questions.
You can find out more about my experience, approaches and services at my website and blog zoeconnor.co.uk