Under the Spotlight

Katherine Collings, BSc (Hons) Nutrition, Masters Dietetics
Research Dietitian

An important part of Katherine’s role at the Gut Foundation is overseeing research projects. She is currently finalising the details of our bowel cancer screening research project, working in conjunction with the UNSW Rural Medical School in Port Macquarie. Katherine also works as a Community Dietitian in Southern Sydney.

Why did you become a dietitian?

I have always been interested in food. My mum studied home economics and used to do cooking demos for the gas board and talks for the milk marketing board on cheese production so there was definitely an influence there. When I coupled my interest in food with my other main interest being biology, dietetics was a natural fit. That said, I became a dietitian in a roundabout way. I initially studied Nutrition at University and then worked as an assistant researcher on various studies, after which I studied a post grad diploma in dietetics which led me into clinical dietetics.

What does a typical week for you involve?

I work 2 days a week at The Gut Foundation and 3 days a week at Southcare in Sutherland Hospital as a Community Dietitian. A typical week usually involves working on a research study plan or ethics application along with writing sections of information on nutrition for the various digestive health brochures the foundation produces. The work at the Gut Foundation is very varied and no week is the same as the next. We are there to help build awareness of digestive complaints and how to relieve or prevent the issues so we are often dealing with requests for information from various health professionals, industry and consumers.

At the hospital I am a Clinical Community Dietitian. I conduct home visits with clients who are housebound or in a rehabilitation program called Transitional Aged Care. I conduct nutritional assessments and provide practical strategies for the client to try and improve their nutritional state. I really enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, and I feel very privileged to see clients at home in a non-clinical environment. Compared to ward work it is not as fast paced, however I get to spend more time, get to know the client well and have some continuity. The team I work within are fantastic, a wealth of knowledge and very client focussed, I’m always learning something new.

What are the biggest diet mistakes?

I think the word ‘diet’ is a mistake really. That might sound strange from a Dietitian but I feel many people are only looking at what they should restrict or cut out, compared to foods they are probably not eating enough of. In some cases certain foods do need to be excluded, however we are always seeing headlines such as ‘cut out sugar and lose weight’, or ‘no more carbs and the kilos fall away’. If we cut out whole food groups we do lose weight, but we also miss out on very important nutrients our bodies need. I think for those trying to lose weight or improve what they eat, they need to think about why they want to, and their lifestyle as a whole, of which what you eat and drink is only one part of the bigger picture.