In the Limelight: Keri Gans
Dec 10, 2013
I had the pleasure of meeting Keri at FNCE 2011 in San Diego. As a fairly new Academy Spokesperson at the time, I was fortunate to not only meet, but to talk with and get to know many of the past Academy Spokespeople. My first impression of Keri was that she was very distinct and original (and classy, of course). Over the next couple of years, the more I talked with Keri at various conferences, I noticed that despite her high profile and huge success, she’s very warm and nurturing toward others. Maybe it’s the yoga (she loves it) or maybe it’s just who she is. Either way – she is fabulous! And I can just hear her say, “As it should be!”
MELISSA: Keri, how did you become interested in a career in nutrition?
KERI: Honestly, it was quite random. I was working in the fashion industry as a national sales manager for a women’s wholesale clothing company and met my husband. I felt I was traveling a lot and needed to become my own boss in order to spend more time with him. I decided to go back to school to become a registered dietitian, I had always been interested in health and nutrition, and eventually opened up a private practice. The rest is history.
KERI: My first job as a dietitian was at North General Hospital in Harlem, I was there for about one year. It was a small hospital and when I felt I learned all that I could I moved to St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital, a much larger hospital in Manhattan, where I was for another year.
MELISSA: Sounds like you had the opportunity to build a solid clinical foundation. Tell me about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
KERI: Small changes…. plain and simple. I am very realistic when it comes to helping people reach their goals and truly believe ALL foods can fit (boring, I know). Actually, I try to meet my patients and the consumer halfway. For example, I am more concerned with someone eating fruits and veggies than buying organic and much rather see a Diet Coke instead of a regular Coke. Maybe eventually organic and water might be on their shopping list, but I really don’t care how long it takes as long as they are seeing positive results.
MELISSA: Such a smart approach and one, I’m sure, your clients can really sink their teeth into! Is that what inspired you write your book, The Small Change Diet?
KERI: Yes, I was inspired to write my book by my patients. They kept asking me what diet book they should buy and my reply was always jokingly “none, until I write one”. At the same time, editors and producers I was working with through my media kept telling me I should have a book. Finally a light bulb went off and hence, The Small Change Diet was born.
MELISSA: That is so exciting! Can you tell us a little bit about writing the book – what was most challenging and what was most rewarding? Would you do it again?
KERI: I would totally write another book but of course that is if I could come up with another great idea. Since small changes are my mantra it is hard for me to figure out what else to write about. The most challenging part of the book process to me was the proposal. It started from having to get it just right so I could find an agent, and then getting it even better, with the help of my amazing agent, to get a great book deal. The most rewarding was realizing that I could actually write how I talk; love when my patients have said to me – I hear your voice in your book.
MELISSA: That is exactly how I feel when I see your tweets! I HEAR your voice! Hmmm, so maybe you should pay attention to what else you say to your clients that might be a good “sequel” to “small changes”. Just some food for thought….Tell us about what new projects you’re working on now.
KERI: Where should I begin? Almost every day it seems like there is something new. As an entrepreneur I try to give everything my full attention, I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.
MELISSA: What types of opportunities do find most rewarding? Speaking, media, counseling, etc?
KERI: Each in a different way are rewarding to me, I can’t really choose. Counseling – I love seeing people make positive changes in their lives. Speaking – I love connecting with an audience. And media – well nothing like getting out those key messages successfully.
MELISSA: Agreed! Tell us more about what types of nutrition communications you are engaged in.
KERI: Basically everything. I am available as a nutrition expert for local and national TV, radio, on-line and print outlets. Twitter is my favorite social media platform, but I also engage regularly on Facebook and most recently Instagram. I do public speaking and lots of writing/blogging, including my weekly column for Shape.com and US News Eat+Run. I work with a lot of companies doing spokesperson work and sharing key messages that align with my brand.
MELISSA: Yes, it does seem that you do it all! Speaking of working with brands, can you share an example of a segment where you promote a brand that aligns with your brand?
Keri: Sure! Check out this video I did for Aetna: “What’s Your Healthy?” .
MELISSA: Love it! So, what comes naturally for you and what do you have to work hard on when it comes to nutrition communications?
KERI: I think what comes naturally is being myself. It is important for me that my personality comes through and I mostly feel that is achieved. Probably what is hardest for me is “memorizing”, I tend to be more of an “ad libber” and sometimes that just is too risky. Practicing a talk or preparing for an interview is something I might want to devote only 30 minutes to and I have to really, really make myself to do it longer.
MELISSA: There is no substitute for practice – this is true! Please share one story or experience that either taught you a lot about nutrition communications or you think would help other RDs.
KERI: I really think networking is the key to success….When I started in this career I volunteered as a committee member for The Greater NY Dietetic Association’s Public Relations Group, from there I went on to being the chair of the group and next the chair of the New York State Dietetic Association. And I didn’t stop volunteering there — I became annual meeting chair (x3) for NYSDA, the president and finally delegate. If I hadn’t become involved I would never of become a spokesperson which presented so many opportunities to me. I truly believe I would never have authored a book if it wasn’t for my volunteering/networking. Many students come through my office as interns or simply to learn about my business — they leave with one message imprinted on their brains— NETWORK.
MELISSA: Incredibly powerful advice, Keri. I honestly believe that when you find an opportunity to “give back” and it aligns with your skills and interests, the rewards are tenfold. I have truly seen that in my career as well. Please share with us your top 3 tips for other RDs who want to improve their communication skills?
KERI: 1 – Watch and Listen– Watch and listen to other RDs who you admire and think are good. Learn from them. 2 – Take a Risk – Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone. Nobody gets anywhere by standing in place. 3 – Practice – as the saying goes “practice makes perfect”. You might not feel comfortable at first but the more times you do something the more you improve.
MELISSA: Great tips! You and I were talking about some recent media interviews we’ve done and how we are our own worst critics. I know for me, there never is a perfect segment – but I will always learn something new to improve my next segment! I was so glad to hear that you feel the same way. I think sometimes we watch other RDs and think “Wow – they make it look so easy!” and tend to focus on “what went wrong” in our own segments. Although I preach this all the time to other RDs, I do have to remind myself that the most important thing is that we are getting more RD voices out there!! What else do you think RDs need to me reminded of when it comes to doing media interviews?
KERI: When I was a spokesperson for The Academy we were given media training. At one of sessions the presenter said to us: “You might think you’ve said something a million times but for most people listening it is the first time”. When giving an interview, a talk or on social media, especially Twitter, I have to remind myself of this often. It is ok, if not actually recommended, to repeat your message, even though you may be bored by it.
MELISSA: Yes, repetition = retention! Okay – let’s cut to the chase. You have a fun little tid-bit to share with us.
KERI: I am known, every once in a while, to get on the race track.
Well, how fabulous was that interview?! I hope you enjoyed it and will check out Keri’s incredible work and follow her on social media. You may even feel like you “know” her before you meet her because of her distinct “voice”! Please be sure to post your comments and thoughts below as well! Thank you to Keri for her time and expert advice!
Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!
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I’m the Guilt-Free RD® – “Because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!™”. So, on my Food for Thought blog I’m exploring the secret ingredients needed to enjoy your food with health in mind. I’m also a “Dietitian Enthusiast” so I’m showcasing interviews with dietitians. My “How To” Series shares practical advice to help boost communication skills and gain more visibility, influence and success.
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