My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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5 Tips for Live Nutrition Videos

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! It has been an exciting month here! Just a quick recap to let you know what is new! I started a podcast (available on SoundCloud and GooglePlay), took on new home visit clients, took on new RD Business Coaching clients, landed a few corporate wellness event contracts, and finally, am studying to take the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification! I am also about a third of the way through my first paid virtual support group and definitely learning a lot about digital content creation along the way. Outside of my business, I am still teaching nutrition at Bucks County Community College part-time and getting back into the class routine. Whew!

Today, I wanted to talk about some things I have learned while doing Facebook Live videos. I have only been going live since May of this year, so I am by no means an expert! A lot of my clients (and target clients) are on Facebook, so I knew more engaging content creation on there would be beneficial. After going live consistently each week, I began to see an increase in my post engagement and finally broke 200 likes on the page!

If you have been wanting to expand your online/social media presence through video (specifically live videos), then read on for my top 5 tips!

5 Tips for Live Nutrition Videos

1 – Prepare the Basics
The absolute bare bones of what you need to go live are: good lighting and a camera of some sort. You could use a built in video cam/audio from a laptop/desktop or you could use your phone. I started off using my phone stacked up on books. Then, I moved on to using my phone with a tripod. The tripod I got broke twice (they sent an initial replacement), so I gave up and now just prop my phone up on a music stand. I do plan to transition to using my desktop computer since I have an external mic and camera; however, I still need to work out logistics with connecting to Facebook.

As for lighting, I have a bunch of lighting fixtures from when I did more consistent YouTube videos; however, I don’t usually pull those out for 5-10 minute videos. Instead, I shoot in my home office where there is a lot of natural light and also turn on an overhead ceiling light.

Something else to think about what setting up your video space is what is currently in frame around and behind you. Is it a pile of dirty laundry? Old nutrition textbooks? Think about what you want your viewers to see, especially since they will probably scan the background while listening to you talk.

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Experimenting with lighting and camera placement.

2 – Make an Outline
I would highly suggest writing out an outline and practicing a dry run with what you might want to say. If you are not someone who is comfortable with public speaking or talking on camera, do a few takes with just your phone camera (before going live). My outlines/videos follow the same format: short intro, disclaimer, lead in question, main content with tips, action goal, thank you, and next week’s topic. I am also going to add in a call-to-action for viewers to like and share.

3 – Roll With the Flubs
One of the things with going live instead of pre-recording is that you can’t just cut and restart when you mess up. If you say something incorrect or not how you would like, correct yourself later in the video or in the comments. Be okay with not being 100% perfect. I don’t know how many times my cat decided to jump up on the table while I was live and lick herself! It threw me off the first few times, but now, I just roll with it when she decides to join me. It will get easier and easier for you to be on camera (and comfortable) once you get into a consistent routine. Just be yourself.

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My cat silently judging me mid-way through cleaning/licking herself 🙂

4 – Re-watch the Video
After you go live, re-watch the video for yourself! How was your lighting? How was the quality of your content? Are there things you want to change? What did you like about this video? How many times did you say “um”? I am working on trying to decrease my “ums” by pausing instead of using a filler word. You will never be able to improve if you cannot give yourself constructive feedback.

5 – Get Into Post Production
One of the most important things you can do post live session is to share your content for the world to see. Get it out there! I didn’t mention this earlier, but I also do a teaser post on Facebook/Twitter to remind my followers I will be going live. I typically post the reminders the day before and the afternoon of. The day after the video, I also create a short post letting my followers know what they missed and how they can watch the video on replay.

If you are going live on Facebook, make sure to go back into your video and give it a title, description, and tags. I would also suggest changing the thumbnail if you would like. Usually, my automatic thumbnail pictures are of me with my eyes closed or mouth wide open. I also check out the “insights” for my videos a few days later to see my video performance (i.e. views, engagement, and top audience).

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Video details from the video I did a few days ago.

Leave a comment and let me know if/when you are planning to go live. I will try to join you for fellow RD support! I go live at 5:00pm every Wednesday at PorrazzaNutrition so join me if you can!

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Sprucing Up Nutrition Counseling Sessions

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! With the end of Summer nearing, I have gotten a spike in new clients. It feels good to see my business pick-up after having a previous slump last month. I’m also excited for September since I am running my first paid virtual support group and working with a new company for some contract food demos. I initially had a heavier basis of individual clients; however, I am morphing my business into more online programs/classes. If you are looking to take your business to the next level, you can read my previous blog on that exact topic here.

Today, I wanted to talk about something a bit more personal, the counseling rut. Do you ever start to question your Dietitian-self in counseling skills? Wondering if you are really doing everything you can for your clients? Wondering how to make sessions more effective, especially with long-term clients?

Sometimes counseling can get stagnant. You might feel like you are telling your clients the same things over and over again. The client might not be asking you for much and honestly, they might not know what to even ask for. The flow of your counseling sessions could start to get choppy and even seem forced.

I always felt like the first few sessions with any new client were pretty “easy.” Most came in with a clear idea of what they wanted to get out of the session. The session just seemed to flow with me mainly giving education and answering initial nutrition questions. After a few sessions, the harder work comes in. I started to see a need for more motivational interviewing, as some clients were frustrated that they weren’t hitting their goals as quickly as they anticipated. A lot of my clients at this point “knew what to do;” however, they were just having a hard time “doing it” consistently.

If you hit this point throughout your Dietitian career, that is okay! Knowing how to handle ruts will improve your overall counseling skills and build trust with your clients (ultimately leading to their success).

3 Ways to Get out of a Counseling Rut and Spruce up Nutrition Sessions

1 – Re-Evaluate Their Reason Why
First things first, figure out if your client’s “reason why” has changed. If their “reason why” or motivation for getting healthy has changed, this could mean that their goals, actions, and ultimately feelings are not aligning. This disconnect can impede nutrition progression and cause your sessions to flop.

2 – Ask Open Ended Questions
There are 3 key questions I ask my clients that help to reestablish counseling flow or give talking points and really dig deep:

  • What are you currently struggling with? – Good to ask in the beginning of the session.
  • What do you hope to gain from today’s session? – Also good to ask in the beginning of the session since it give direction.
  • What can I do on my end either now or after our session to help you reach your goals? – Good to ask towards the end of the session. Some clients end up asking for email support or text message motivation. Usually, it ends up being some form of accountability.

3 – Spruce Up Your Handouts/Goal Setting Sheets
If you don’t have a goal setting sheet, now is the time to make one. I created a half-sheet of paper that lists my contact info, follow-up appointment date/time, product recommendations, goals, actions, and any nutrition prescription information (i.e. fiber, carbs). For each goal I set with a client, we determine their daily actions that help them reach their goal. Doing this helps them work through barriers during the session since we can actively brainstorm solutions. I find that a goal  sheet creates more inter-activeness during the session and heightens the likelihood that the client will succeed. I find a lot of clients like physically getting something from the appointment, and the goal sheet satisfies that.

Leave a comment and let me know how you are sprucing up your counseling sessions!


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7 Ways to Take Your Business to the Next Level

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! Have you been feeling lately that you need to take your business to the next level? Maybe, do something that will get you out of the business slump I talked about in my last blog?

The time will come in your business when you need to step it up. You will know when that time comes. I started my practice in 2014 and every year, I felt like I took it up a notch. I started accepting insurance in 2015. I re-launched my website in 2016. I built new partnerships and ended poor ones in 2017.

I describe it as an “itch” you need to scratch. A time when things feel too repetitive and you crave more. A time when clients might be even asking for more. This time came for me a few months ago when I decided to launch a free, beta, weight management support group. I knew my clients were looking for more support between appointments; however, they couldn’t all physically make it to a location every week. Cue the virtual class!

If you are scratching your head at where to start in stepping things up, read on for my “7 Ways to Take Your Business to the Next Level.”

1 – Assess + Set Goals
Think about your business now and ask yourself these questions: What is working well? What is not working well? What do my clients want? What do I know my clients need? What part of my business really excites me?

In assessing my business, I realized I was inefficient in how I was scheduling and charting clients (cue the EMR platform). I also knew I wanted to have more of a “virtual” income, yet I wasn’t doing much about it (cue the virtual weight management support group).

2 – Find Your Niche (If You Haven’t Already)
If you don’t know what your niche is or who your ideal client is, ask yourself these questions: What are your passionate about? What do others say is a skill of yours? What is your vision? What are you good at? Finding your niche will help you create more (and better) content and will fuel your drive to do more in your business.

Identifying my niche was really hard for me since I felt like I had a lot of ways I wanted to go with my practice. I ended up narrowing down my ideal client to working adults who are struggling to eat healthy with a busy work-personal life. My ideal client is someone who has been on multiple diets in the past and is ready to make a lifestyle change and end the cycle of dieting. I am still fine-tuning my niche; however, this was a great starting point for me.

3 – Brand Yourself/Business
Something that is often skipped/overlooked when setting up a practice is the branding aspect. Do you have a website? Does all of your copy and content speak to YOUR business brand? What do you want your client to feel when they read your content or visit your website?

I knew I was at the point in my business where I needed a logo. I needed that branding, especially if I was going to create a stronger online presence. I also knew I needed to re-do my website since it was bleak and hard to navigate. If you are feeling stuck, reach out to you current clients or someone you work with professionally to get their input. From there, you can determine your next steps in branding.

4 – Enrich Your Offerings
What can you do to enrich what you offer your clients? What more are they looking for? What do they need to reach their goals?

In enriching my business/services, I added monthly coaching, meal plan templates (for use by RDs and clients) and more lessons to my TPT store. All of these add-ons were in line with my business goals of going more virtual. I also added in new client folders with recipes and handouts, which helped to enrich my clients’ face-to-face experience with me.

5 – Ramp Up Your Online Presence
I already mentioned refreshing your website if needed; however, think now about your overall online presence. What social media platforms do you use? What social media platforms do your clients use? How consistent are you with posting content? Can you team up with another health professional to do a guest blog/video?

I had been blogging and posting on social media consistently; however, I really wanted to expand into video content. I dabbled in YouTube in the past; however, video editing is not my cup of tea. A few months ago, I started doing Facebook Live videos and they became a hit with my clients. I love doing them and my clients refer to them quite frequently now!

6 – Invest in Yourself
I tell my clients all of the time to invest in themselves and their health. This could mean a financial investment (i.e. gym membership or more healthful foods) or even just time (i.e. going to the gym or cooking more). This point translates really well into business.

I invested in myself this year by attending the Today’s Dietitian conference (i.e. knowledge + business connections) and by purchasing sports nutrition materials to expand my knowledge in this area. I’m looking to study and get my PT certification by the end of the year. This is something I am passionate about for myself and know will help me better help my clients. What aspect of your business-self can you invest in?

7 – Take Care of Yourself
In taking your business to the next level, don’t forget to take care of yourself. The last thing you want is to get started only to burn out in a month.  Don’t let your personal life go or things that you enjoy doing. For me, I schedule in my gym time during the day to take a mental break and I knit at night to relax. How will you take care of yourself?

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Leave a comment below and let me know how you plan to take your business to the next level!


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Working Through Business Slumps

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! If you read my last blog on EMR platforms, you will know that I just switched from paper/doc charting to an EMR! Let me tell you, this alleviated a lot of stress, time, and back-and-forth between clients for appointments and initial paperwork. No matter what platform you end up with, I would highly suggest looking into this for your business.

With the holiday just last week, there has been a major slump in business, which I kind of expected after 4 years of tracking the ebb and flow. I do have a lot of great clients who stay the course throughout the Summer; however, most of my new clients come in September once vacation time is over. This ebb and flow can happen in any business and you will feel it even more as an entrepreneur versus working for a company since the income changes too.

Normally, I schedule days where I don’t see clients so that I can work on my business (i.e. product development, content creation, etc) or so I can have some R&R. I try to have a list of on going to-dos to refer to quickly versus trying to figure out what to do in the moment.

During the Summer, there could be more days of administrative work than client seeing depending on holidays and such. I hit a Monday 2 weeks ago where I had 2 cancellations, 1 reschedule, and 2 client no-shows. What was supposed to be a productive day of seeing clients followed by working on product development turned into a slump of all slumps. While I should have been happy with the extra 3 hours I had to “be productive,” I really ended up unmotivated and downright frustrated.

After wallowing in self-pity for a bit, I did the following mini-exercise which I felt like got me motivated to move forward with the day. I hope this exercise helps you when your feeling an unexpected business slump.

1 – Wallow if you must for no more than 5-minutes
You can do this internally or even vent to a friend about it. Journaling can help in this situation too. Just get all of that negativity out!

2 – Do something non-business related
This can help you to clear your head of negativity and a lack of “productiveness.” I like to either cook a meal for myself, knit, go to the gym, or even go for a walk.

3 – Create an action plan for a 15-minute task
Now, it is time to get the creative juices and productivity flowing. Fifteen minutes is short enough to be “doable” but long enough for you to make progress and have sense of accomplishment. Think about something you have been putting off for the day, week or even month. In my 15-minutes, I ended up making a lesson plan template. I want my lessons to look more professional and consistent when I upload them to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers.

4 – Think about your “why”
Why is it important you do x, y, or z? What will your current or potential clients gain from your efforts? My “why” was not just for income purposes. I wanted to create more credible nutrition lesson plans from RDs in the marketplace.

5. Do it
Plain and simple. I did what I said I would, felt good about it, and even worked for another hour on products because I was motivated and redirected to a positive portion of my business! If after 15-minutes, you aren’t ready to move forward, that is completely fine too. Know your limits for the day and revert back to #2 if needed!

I feel like this simple exercise really helped me when I had an unexpected “slump” in my day and felt particularly unmotivated. I also find it to be really helpful to schedule in co-working dates and meetings with other professionals (dietitians or business owners) at least 2-3 times per month. I always feel encouraged and excited about my business after a coffee date!

One last thing I want to leave you with is more so on a more personal note. If your feeling like nothing is working to get you motivated in your business or in general, NEVER be afraid to ask for help. This could be asking for help from a friend, family member, or even a professional. Sometimes you need a more in-depth emotional work-through and that is 100% okay. I’m always here if any of you reading this need a call, video conference or even want to meet up to chat through some business slumps!


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5 Tips for Running a Nutrition Support Group

Have you ever sat through a meeting, group discussion, or any class for that matter and thought, “I really wish ___ would stop talking and give someone else a chance?” This is one of the exact situations you want to avoid in leading group discussions within a support group (or class).

After running multiple weight management support groups and nutrition classes, I found the most effective sessions were those that had a designated topic and were gently guided. Below are 5 of the key tips that will help you run an effective support group style class!

1 – Come Prepared
Having a topic for your group discussion is absolutely key! This gives the class direction and focus. I would also suggest creating an outline with estimated time frames and talking points. I also had “extra” notes on my outline in case the class was smaller and/or a bit more quiet. Think also about 1 relevant topic handout you could provide and a recipe or two.

2 – Set Ground Rules
In the beginning of the first couple of classes, I laid out the ground rules for all of the participants. I made it a point to say that everyone is in a different place in their health journey and to be respectful of others’ viewpoints and struggles. You would be surprised how many times I had to remind adults of this. I also outlined the flow of the class (see below), noted the time constraint, and asked all phones to be put on silent or turned off.  

3 – Be Aware of Group Dynamics
During the first class or two, you will start to see different personalities emerge. I usually had a small group of participants who were the most engaged (i.e. always giving feedback/input), a handful of really chatty ones (who I often needed to cut off), a few silent listeners (some of which preferred to ask questions after the session finished), and maybe one (if any) aggressive or very negative participant. While you don’t want to put anyone in a “box” necessarily, being aware of the dynamic will help you facilitate more effective discussions and know when you might need to intervene. There are a ton of resources online that can help you in managing certain group dynamics if you feel stuck.

4 – Take Charge of the Discussion
After leading quite a few group classes, I began to realize that the most positive feedback I received was in regards to how I kept “in control.” Taking control of the class means allowing meaningful discussion, yet redirecting when needed. This also means (politely) cutting someone off who is chatting too much. This also means spinning negative comments into positive and actionable ones. If you feel like the class got a bit off track, don’t be afraid to redirect the discussion. Often I would say things like, “Suzie, you make a great point about exercise being a struggle. I will make note of your comments so we can focus on them when we get to that topic.” Avoid getting too far off track during every session since many of your participants could be really looking forward to the topic originally planned and may feel upset that it didn’t receive adequate time/attention.

5 – Create Actionable Goals
At the end of every group session, I would take about 5 minutes to have all participants write down an action goal for the week. I would give everyone the opportunity to share their goals and provide encouragement and support for others. I felt like this tied the discussion topic together and gave participants something positive to work towards (other than just weight).

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Sample Class Flow (1-hour)
I have run 45 and 60-minute support groups before. I always did the weigh-ins prior to the class (optional) and avoided talking about weight during the class discussion in an effort to keep things positive for all.
-Optional weigh-ins prior to class
-Introduction to myself (2 min)
-Ground rules/reminders (3 min)
-Discussion of last week’s topic/goals – what worked, what didn’t, questions (10 min)
-Topic introduction from Dietitian – why this topic is important, what I want to discuss (2 min)
-Main topic – Dietitian has talking points, ask class about struggles (8 min)
-Class input on topic – strategies that worked well for them (10 min)
-Additional questions/Dietitian recap (5 min)
-Goal setting + sharing (10 min)

Sample Support Group Topic Ideas
Be specific when choosing a support group topic. I tried to avoid broad topics (like weight-loss) and instead focus on particular habits or health attributes.
-Healthy snacks – components, samples
-Reading labels – what to look for, samples
-Eating on-the-go – can be broken into eating-on-the run and eating out
-Mindful eating – what is it and how to incorporate
-Tips for incorporating more fruits/veggies
-Incorporating exercise into a busy schedule
-What is meal balance – i.e. what should be on your plate
-Strategies for eating well: on vacation, over the holidays, at BBQs, etc


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Tips for Handling Client Cancellations

Welcome to MyRDJourney! I want to talk about handling those dreaded client cancellations. As much as we hate for a client to reschedule or cancel, things happen. There can be many reasons a client cancels on us: weather is bad, kids are sick, or they simply lost their motivation for eating healthy. How you handle your client cancellations can really set the tone for your practice and ultimately the relationship you have with your client. 

1st things 1st, make sure you have a cancellation policy in place that includes details on rescheduling appointments. Do clients need to call/email within 24 or 48 hours of the appointment? Do they need to go on your website to cancel?  Have your policy in writing and make sure the client is aware. You want to be transparent. Usually, I discuss my policy with my clients on their first call with me and include it in their appointment reminder email. I also have it posted to my website for ease of reference for the client. 

Since a lot of my clients use their insurance for the appointments, many do not realize the insurance plan will not cover cancellation fees. I make sure all of my clients are aware of this and ultimately what the charge would be if they reschedule, cancel or no-show last minute. 

Prior to the first appointment with a new client, they are required to review, complete, and sign all of my paperwork. This includes my practice policies (including late and cancellation fees), HIPAA information, privacy notices, client releases and a new client form. The hope is that the client will review everything in detail and sign that they acknowledge all of the information. Despite what you do to make the client aware of your policies prior to the appointment, you may still have clients who do not read the paperwork before signing or forget about it by the time of the session. Again, this is why I like to include the policy (in short) within my appointment reminder email (sent a week prior to the session).

One thing to think about with your policy is consistency. I am all about being flexible; however, you don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites with your clients if you waive the fee for one and not the other. So, create the policy, make the client fully aware, and be consistent in how you handle it. If you are flexible when a client cancels late for the first time, then do that for all of your clients.

You will get thicker skin with this, so don’t be afraid to put your foot down. Every client cancellation, late reschedule, or no show is money that you are not making and time that could have been spent helping others. Also, think about when you schedule a doctor’s appointment, they have similar policies in place too! 

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If you have any questions about cancellations and reschedules, feel free to leave me a comment below!


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Pros and Cons of In-Home Counseling Services

When I first started my practice, I thought I NEEDED to get office space. After a few months of searching, I realized I was either going to be paying the same amount I do for renting a duplex or have to travel a distance for something more feasible. Instead, I decided to try my hand at in-home counseling sessions. It would cut down on costs (as in overhead) and allow me to build a client basis without the added stress of paying monthly rent.

I found a lot of my clients were more comfortable being in their own home versus a formal office. It also allowed them to show me products in their cabinets and give me a visual for their environment. I could also set up sessions for cooking and meal prep, since so many tell me that making healthy food is difficult for them. I find my home-session clients are less likely to reschedule and rarely cancel since weather, running behind, etc is less of an issue.

Most of the insurance plans I take in my practice cover in-home counseling, which was make or break for me when my only option was in-home counseling. Some insurance companies in your area may have different regulations for nutritional counseling, as in only an office setting. I would suggest checking the provider resource center for each individual insurance company or calling your network coordinator to find out what applies to your service.

While home-counseling sessions are definitely a great option, there are also some heavy downsides. One of the biggest downsides to home counseling is the travel. Home-visits really cut down the amount of clients I can see in one day. I really try to chunk my client areas so I am not going all over the place; however, some days this works better than others. Ultimately, you are still paying for gas and wear-and-tear on your car, but, you won’t have the looming monthly rent payment due. This could be great for someone just starting out. I make sure to track all of my mileage and tolls to use for tax purposes.  

To be honest, you never REALLY know what you might walk into with a client appointment, let alone one in the home. I always do a phone consult first to get an idea of the client. A lot of my clients are from referrals from companies or business relations, so I feel comfortable entering the home. I also make it a point to recommend a quiet space in the home (usually the kitchen or living room). Some things you might want to ask before entering a client’s home is if they have a private space available in the home to speak and whether or not they have pets (especially if you are allergic or fear them).

While most of my clients are in-home and on-site (as in worksite wellness), I do have a few clients who would prefer an office-based setting. In that case, I utilize office space at my local Chamber of Commerce since I am a member there. I have met clients at coffee shops; however, this is not a very private setting and is not covered by insurance.

One last thing to keep in mind with home-visits or traveling appointments overall is what you will take with you. I always have with me a notepad, handouts, new client folder, business cards, paper portion models, and a plate picture or model for reference. I almost never bring a scale with me (unless specifically requested) since most clients have one at home. I also don’t like to focus on weight and instead healthy habits.

All-in-all, I wouldn’t change how I started my business; however, for the future, I am starting to move away from a lot of the face-to-face and building more of the virtual end. A lot of my clients want online support, books, programs, etc. The face-to-face component will always be apart of my business, but the amount of time will definitely be changing. I hope my pros and cons will help you in deciding where to take your business!

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