Behind the Business: Renee Mcgregor
Ever looked at another woman’s career and thought, how did they get there and how can I do it too?
Us too! That’s why each week we’re interviewing a woman who inspires us. They’re giving us a candid look behind the scenes and sharing their journeys to creating lives they love.
We’ve loved creating this series and we hope you enjoy it too!
What exactly do you do for work?
My official title is sports and eating disorder Dietitian; author. So my day is pretty varied. Some days I work with the sports I am contracted with such as Scottish Gymnastics; or working on training camps collaboratively with coaches, helping athletes achieve their potential. Other days I’m working with private clients which is a mix of athletes at any level, eating disorder clients and athletes with eating disorders. The rest of the time I write articles for national publications based on my work, run nutrition workshops and also consult with governing bodies on raising awareness and providing strategies on Eating disorders.
When did you find the work you love?
I guess I’ve always been passionate about my job; I’ve known all along that I wanted to make a difference. However, it took me until 6 years ago to work out what that really meant. Ive worked in the NHS, with Olympic and Paralympic teams, which have all provided me with job satisfaction. However, it is now working with individuals, Sports Governing bodies, Nutrition governing bodies and charities that I feel like I’m really making a difference. Helping all these groups to see how dysfunctional relationships develop and then providing support, guidance and practical strategies to help them move forwards or change their practice.
How did you get to where you are now? What was your journey?
I did Biochemistry as my undergraduate and thoroughly enjoyed this but knew fairly early on that I wanted to work with people and not just in research within a lab. So I then went on to do a Dietetics post graduate. This lead me to clinical roles within the NHS for the first few years of my career. These years have absolutely under pinned where I have got today. Without this clinical experience, I don’t think I would be half the practitioner I am today. My main role within the NHS was Adolescent Eating Disorders.
However, it was an incident during my time in the NHS which demonstrated the postcode lottery and lack of funding, even then within mental health services which made me leave the NHS. I was frustrated that I could not provide the service I wanted to by being constraint by funding parameters. I left the NHS is 2007 and worked part time in private practice but decided to also do a post graduate in sports nutrition at the same time –I had always been a keen sports woman and was running a lot by this time. I was continually getting asked questions about nutrition and running from my friends at the club I trained with and so I decided that it would be a good plan to consolidate my knowledge and get the right qualifications. As soon as I qualified, I landed the role of sports dietitian to the GB Rhythmic Gymnastics squad going into London 2012. The reason I got this job was my sports nutrition qualification but also my clinical background.
After that I work with various sports and went to Rio in 2016 with the GB wheelchair fencing and the GB Wheelchair Basketball team. However during this time, I was also seeing more and more athletes with eating disorders and I realised that not only was this a huge problem but also that very few people had the right experience and qualifications to deal with this.
Law states that only Registered Dietitians can work with clinical cases. An eating disorder is a clinical case thus only sports Dietitians are the nutritional practitioners regulated by law and qualified to work in this area.
After Rio I decided that while I had enjoyed working at that level and in sport, I wanted a change and wanted to do something that was true to my core values, and that’s where I am today.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t worry if a job or career path is not what you expected; it is not a failing to take a step back and re-evaluate what is really important to you before setting off in a new direction.
How do you stay feeling creative and inspired?
I really love what I do –I am hugely passionate about helping others and changing the culture around sport, mental health and nutrition. The more I work in this area and see the impact it has to the lives of individuals –the lost opportunities, the breakdown of relationships, the long term health consequences, the more I want to do. To a certain degree its just an innate drive that keeps me inspired and moving forwards.
What does a good work-life balance look like for you? And how do you maintain it?
This is something I’m very conscious of but not always very good at putting into practice personal, especially in recent years. I separated from my husband 2 years ago and got divorced January 2018. This has obviously caused a lot of stress, anxiety and pain, which has meant at times I’ve probably thrown myself into work as a means of a distraction. However I’m pretty good at picking up the warning signs and so I ensure that when I start to notice these, I take a step back. I also always make sure that I shut down all work calls between 8pm and 8am; I have to work some weekends but always make sure that I have other time that week to do restore.
How does being a woman affect your work?
I’ve never let being a woman affect me; to a degree from my first day at school, I realized that life was going to be what I made it and I was always going to fight for my position; I was one of the only ethnic minority children at both my primary and secondary schools. I always felt that I did not fit in but yet I was determined that this would not stop me and it never has. Now a days I forget that I may be considered “different” because in my mind, we are all different but that also makes us uniquely amazing.
How do you stay motivated when work and life get tough?
I am very blessed that I have an amazing friendship circle who are always present and available to me; they really help me to stay grounded, but also to get out and have some fun.
How do you ensure you practise self care?
For me its about giving myself time – time to go for a walk, a run, a coffee with a friend or breakfast with my daughters. This year I also made a pact to myself that I would regularly visit the mountains. My first trip to the mountains was when I was 17 years old. I was really struck by their beauty, their strength but also the ability they had to restore, rebalance and guide me. For this reason I have returned many times and every time I do, I feel that little bit more emotionally resilient.
What does money mean to you?
I’ve never been motivated by money I’ve never believed it provides happiness. I guess that’s actually why I’ve been able to follow my passion for work. I may not have a lot of materialistic possessions but I do have a roof over my head and a house full of love and laughter, which means a lot more to me.
What one piece of money advice would you give to your younger self?
It will never make you happy. Work hard to follow your passion and you will find it easier to make enough to make ends meet but you will also maintain your integrity and job satisfaction.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a lot of new projects all related to mental health in sport and I’m really excited about how many people they will touch and the positive impact this will hopefully have to their health. I’ve also just finished a new book proposal and now negotiating book deal.
Find out more about Renee at http://reneemcgregor.com/