I’ve been qualified for 2.5 years. Prior to that, I was a police officer, so when we were being encouraged at college to think about specialisms, I very quickly decided that I wanted to support shift workers with nutrition.
I started to really focus all my CPD on nutrition and circadian rhythm and came across the term ‘chrono-nutrition’, which is a very specialist area of balancing food intake, circadian rhythm and metabolism, and the impact of that on health. That has become my focus, and I’m using it to advise police officers how to optimise nutrition.
When I qualified, I set up a 1-2-1 clinic, but in my business plan I had given myself five years to reach out to the shift workers, and ultimately wanted to get back into the emergency services to support them.
I felt that officers had no guidance at all about how nutrition could support them, and the more I learned about chrono-nutrition - about the increased risk of chronic disease to shift workers because of their lifestyle - I became frustrated that I had never received any training on it.
I’d been chipping away at Instagram and Facebook for over a year and was getting nowhere before I was advised to focus on LinkedIn and the networking opportunities there. So I spent some time properly working out what LinkedIn was and how it could benefit me. Before that I’d been writing and phoning different police forces to try and get an ‘in’ and just found it impossible, I couldn’t get through the switchboards, I couldn’t get through to occupational health. I even wrote letters and put stamps on envelopes to try that way as well! I couldn’t see how I could reach the right people.
However, through LinkedIn I managed to find the Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary - an amazing man whose passion is for officer wellbeing, and who had set up the National Police Wellbeing Service. So I started to follow him, and comment on his posts and read a lot of the posts that he had written… and eventually knocked at his door! I said that the work he was doing with the National Police Wellbeing Service was wonderful but very much geared at mental health support. I suggested that were he to offer that hand-in-hand with nutrition coaching, I felt that it could be all the more effective. Being the very insightful man that he is, he agreed and I came on board!
I started out with a month’s project to design a nutrition for wellbeing programme for them. I followed that with a six-month contract delivering the nutrition for wellbeing material and they’ve just renewed that for another ten months.
For this I do a series of live webinars that are open nationally to any police officers. I also produce some bitesize videos - just 5 minutes - that are lighter and focused on health swaps; quick guides for busy police officers who don’t have much time. I try to keep them snappy and very practical.
And then I’ve created a toolkit for them with downloads of what a healthy plate can look like for a shift worker, a meal planner, top nightshift nutrition tips and things like that. I try to keep them varied, interesting and relevant, with the help of my Zest4life Business Mentor, Antonia Maguire!
When I started working with the police force, I said that I didn’t want it to just tick a box that they’d put a healthy eating programme in place, I wanted it to be about sustainable, long-term changes, hopefully at a cultural level. My aim is to actually start to impact things on a more organisational level. But because it’s national, it’s quite difficult to see how effective the work is; it’s difficult to evaluate.
So I’m also involved in a smaller project in policing with officers who have been highlighted as needing some extra support. I run small group programmes with them, which is great because I’ve been using some of the Zest4life Health Coaching models and techniques and it’s been wonderful to see individuals making some really positive differences.
Recently, I’ve been approached by other shift working organisations who have heard about me through LinkedIn and Google, and have asked me to deliver some material (which I have now trademarked). They’ve also asked if they can buy the IP to have the rights to spread that further - an exciting opportunity but one that I need to think about carefully!
Anna Earl, Nutritional Therapist
‘LinkedIn for Nutrition Professionals’ is just one training course available on the Zest4life Business Growth Programme to help members develop their business skills and grow their practices.