This week we are featuring Leslie Gaillard, MPH RD LDN! Leslie is a long-time friend of Healthy Bytes, and one of our wonderful advisors. She is the owner of LG Nutrition in Raleigh, NC and has been a leader in the nutrition field for over a decade.
Healthy Bytes: Hi Leslie! We're looking forward to speaking with you, and are so excited that you're our first expert! Can you tell us more about why you chose to become a dietitian?
Leslie Gaillard: I have been interested in nutrition since I took an elective class in nutrition my senior year of college. I was fascinated by how food can change our bodies in both positive and negative ways. I was also intrigued by how special diets are needed for individuals with specific medical conditions. I was also diagnosed with celiac disease around the time I began to study to become an RD.
How has your background contributed to making your practice special?
I have a specialty in GI nutrition - Crohns, ulcerative colitis, IBS, celiac/gluten intolerance, and food sensitivities. My practice is small and personal. I spend a lot of time up-front with clients really trying to understand who they are and what they want to get out of their visit with me. Never assume what you think a patient needs or wants to know.
Learning to work with patients with different needs takes practice. What's the most fascinating thing you’ve learned as an RD?
Being a dietitian is part educator, part motivator and part therapist. It takes time to become comfortable in all of these roles. Sometimes, it will seem like you are making progress with a patient and sometimes not. You have to remember not to let the client's progress reflect on who you are as a person or a professional.
That's some really good advice for everyone. What’s your favorite piece of advice you've received?
A positive thought is so much more powerful than a negative thought. Never let fear hold you back from achieving your dreams.
Do you have any other tips for new dietitians?
Don't put limits on yourself or your potential. Find an area of nutrition that you really enjoy and specialize in it.
What change do you hope to see, or are you excited about, in the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I am looking forward to more integration of nutrition services with medical practices. Every person should be seeing a nutrition professional annually just like they see their doctor for a physical each year.
Agreed! That goal is becoming easier and easier now that insurance coverage is expanding. We know you take insurance now, but what surprised you the most about it when you were starting out?
I was surprised that the range of coverage, and the corresponding reimbursement rates, for nutrition counseling varies so widely across insurance companies.
And how has accepting insurance benefited your practice?
Taking insurance has opened up my practice to individuals who may not have been able to see me otherwise. When doctors refer to me, they often assume that the referral means that their insurance will pay for the visit. While this is not always the case, I am always happy when I can tell a prospective client that their visit will be covered in full or in part. I also submit claims for all types of insurance, even out-of-network. The more claims I send to a company that I am out-of-network with, the more justification for them to start covering nutrition services. I am fortunate I live in a state (NC) where several common health insurance companies provide coverage for nutrition counseling.
That's some more great advice for dietitians! It's been a pleasure speaking with you today, and we've saved our favorite question for last: what’s your favorite success story with a patient?
I met a patient about a year ago who was close to 100lbs overweight. She brought in a detailed food record to me that showed she had been eating low calories and fat for close to a year. It was clearly not working for her. She was frustrated and it showed in her demeanor. We devised a personalized plan based on her health profile and eating style. Today, she has lost over 75lbs and is still going. She no longer uses food to deal with emotions and has started a whole new chapter of her life. It shows that every client is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss or healthy living.
Parts of this interview have been edited and shortened.