A Day in the Life: Gabrielle Maston
Gabrielle Maston is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist who works as an obesity therapist in a public hospital. She also runs the private practice Changing Shape, where she sees individuals for sports nutrition and various chronic health conditions. She is currently completing a PhD in nutrition, investigating non-surgical dietary interventions for people with super obesity.
06:00 — The alarm goes off. My dogs accompany me on the couch to eat breakfast.
06:30 — Catch the train into work. On the train I read over research studies, get part of my PhD done, reply to patient emails and respond to journalists. When I get off I walk for 30 minutes to the hospital to keep my fitness levels up.
07:30 — I grab a quick coffee with my team and review the patient list for the day. It’s important that as a team we review the action plans for each patient before we see them and be prepared with necessary referrals and educational resources.
08:00 — My first patient arrives. I see back-to-back patients right up until lunchtime. I might get the odd bathroom break if a person is running late and throw back a yoghurt and some muesli in between. It is really satisfying when I see one of my longstanding patients walk down the hallway with ease. Losing 40–50 kg can do marvellous things to a person, such as improve gait (increasing mobility), reduce the severity of pain and reduce so many cardiometabolic conditions. It is hard to lose weight, but with the right support and frame of mind people can achieve anything.
10:00 — A phone call comes through from one of the endocrinologists on the ward — there’s a person with a BMI of 80 kg/m2. The doctors need him to lose weight quickly before they will perform surgery on him in two weeks. Extreme obesity increases the risk of death due to anaesthesia; it also increases the risk of complications during and after surgery. I schedule this into my timetable for later on this afternoon, when I have more time.
12:30 — The team always has our lunch break at the same time. This way, we can schedule our patient time and also debrief with each other. Working with individuals in the public hospital system can be emotionally draining. I see my role as a counsellor, as well as a dietitian, as we talk about behaviours, thought processes, a person’s social environment and emotions that lead to excess weight gain or lack of self-care.
13:30 — Our lunch break is short-lived. As a team, we attend weekly research updates within the endocrinology department. This week we have an invited speaker from interstate that specialises in osteoporosis. I take notes to review the information later that night.
14:00 — My manager and I meet up with my PhD superiors and other academics. Networking with researchers at the university and producing research within our department at the hospital is very important. Currently we are involved in multiple concurrent research projects. It’s a great workplace to do a PhD.
14:30 — At this time of the afternoon I search for a cup of tea. It’s a great opportunity to get started on addressing points raised during the meeting. I reply to patient emails and draft up the trial study design.
15:30 — It’s time to review the patient on the wards. I grab my notebook and calculator, and a bunch of educational resources I might need. The patient is in their bed. We discuss how I’m going to manipulate the food menu at the hospital to achieve 3–4 kg weight loss in a few weeks. I’ve also set up a review appointment in two weeks’ time. When they’re discharged, they can continue to access the service for further weight management support.
16:00 — It’s home time! On my 30-minute walk back to the train station, I call a journalist back who wants to know about the thermic effect of food. One wonders how they come up with these article ideas! Either way, I enjoy the challenge of answering their obscure questions regarding food. Who knew food could be that interesting?
17:00 — I get home and load up the laptop. I get my dinner in just before I have to Skype one of my private clients. A lot of younger athletes enjoy the comfort of having a consultation online, as it takes the pressure off driving to a location. I see bodybuilders, triathletes and boxers in this way. I meticulously plan their training diet down to the gram of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
18:00 — My dogs are going crazy and want some attention, so I spend 30 minutes chasing them around the front yard whilst playing with the ball. I get the feeling that I need to go back inside to do more work; my PhD won’t write itself. I sit on the couch with the fireplace on and my laptop, with my dogs either side, and start typing away. It sounds like a lot of work, but I enjoy learning. Only a few hours to bedtime. My favourite part of the day!
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