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The Importance of Telling YOUR Story

Lauren Marino

Dietitian & Nutritionist

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About this episode [listen below]

This week we interviewed the incredibly lovely and bubbly Lauren Marino! This super knowledgeable foodie spoke to us about all things Nutrition and Dietetics. We learn how she managed to take those mouth water food photos and how she's using her Instagram profile to share her message about holistic living. Listen in to learn more about Lauren's journey so far.

Transcript below.

"I think it's important for dieticians to be able to put themselves forward like that, nutritionists as well. As long as they are sending the right message."

- Lauren Marino

"[At 16 years old] I didn't realize that Nutrition and Dietetics was a job or anything so I knew straight away that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to work in food, I wanted to help people."

- Lauren Marino


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Lauren Marino

Lauren is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. A self-professed foodie, she loves hitting Melbourne's diverse cafe scene and trying all the delightfully healthy dishes on offer. When she's not busy taste testing, you'll find her studying for her Personal Training certification and working in her profession within rural communities.

So, I actually started my Instagram for all the wrong reasons...When I was starting my degree in nutrition and dietetics, I still had a quite negative body image of myself and I was still, trying to track my food. I started it in that format, trying to calorie count and everything but then I realized that there was actually such a different community in Instagram that was like, "Hey, you should love your food" and "you can make food look beautiful and it should excite you."

- Lauren Marino


Lauren: [00:00:00] So, I was really quiet about it like I never talked about it to start with. My Instagram used to be not very personal at all, but I think that's how I've been able to retain followers later on - I started to become more personal because, you know, it's great food and everything but you need to remember that there is a person behind it and yes, I do have a story to tell, I'm going to start telling it.


Kareena: [00:00:25] That's dietitian and nutritionist, Lauren Marino sharing why it's important to tell your story, on this episode of In the Loop. Hey there Loopers and welcome to another episode of In the Loop where we chat about the business end of being an influencer. Today we have Lauren Marino in the studio to chat to us about her job as a dietitian and nutritionist and how she's sharing her message about the importance of a holistic approach to health and fitness for her successful Instagram channel. So, if you're a nutritionist, dietitian, or simply a foodie like most of us, tune in to hear how you can create a beautiful Instagram profile like Lauren and share your love of food with the community online. Now let's jump straight into the interview and learn how Lauren discovered her passion for health and fitness. This week we have Lauren Marino on the couch, thank you for joining us Lauren.


Lauren: [00:01:27] Thanks for having me.


Kareena: [00:01:28] I'm so excited to get into the interview and learn about nutrition and dietetics from an Instagram perspective. That's very cool.


Lauren: [00:01:36] Thanks for having me. Oh, no I said that again.


Kareena: [00:01:40] That's okay. Well to kick us off why don't you tell us about firstly how you got into it, let's start with you Nutrition and Dietetics.


Lauren: [00:01:48] So, I'm very lucky I grew up with a very health focused family, my mum was into marathon running and my dad's a boxer. Yes, so in a huge health focused family and then I'd got into athletics as well. I was a national runner for a little while, so I have always loved running and of course food and nutrition come with that. Unfortunately, I did get an eating disorder, so I saw my first dietician at 16 years old and then when I saw a dietitian for that at 16 I was like well that's actually a job. I didn't realize that Nutrition and Dietetics was a job or anything so I knew straight away that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to work in food, I wanted to help people. I didn't know the scope of the job yet but I just knew that's what I wanted to do and I'm quite lucky because lots of teenagers don't really know what they waant to do but I knew.


Kareena: [00:02:40] This background in sport is one of the reasons that Lauren is also working on becoming a personal trainer. So, we find out what else has caused Lauren to find out more about the fitness side of things.


Lauren: [00:02:51] So I always had a love of sports and training, gym, running, all of it. I absolutely love all of it and my mom is actually also a personal trainer. She's great. Yes. Great inspiration to me. I just thought may as well get my personal training course as well to get a more holistic approach to things.


Kareena: [00:03:12] Speaking of this holistic approach to health and fitness, which we love, Lauren has also earned her degree in both nutrition and dietetics. We find out why she went down the path of obtaining both qualifications and how she's able to use this knowledge to her advantage.


Lauren: [00:03:30] Oh well, I guess the degree came as that to start with, it was the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics but also, I don't know what it is, but nutritionists seem to be a lot more approachable in the general population, that's what they see. They see, nutritionists as like 'oh that's fine, I can see a nutritionist', but dietitians are a bit more scary. I don't know the reason behind it, so that's the reason why I sort of wanted to be both. It was just like, I can do this nutrition thing and I can help you with that but I'm also the clinical side dietician so I can work in hospitals and I can prescribe things and everything. I'm quite a science person so I was very excited about both sides - loved the food but loved the science.


Kareena: [00:04:14] As a professional in this health field, Lauren has come to share much of her knowledge through her vibrant Instagram profile with beautiful pictures of food from Melbourne's best cafes, to delightful recipes that she's whipped up at home. Lauren accompanies this imagery with helpful and insightful captions that offer both nutritional information and provide value to her community. We find out more about Lauren's Instagram journey and start by asking what role social media is playing in her career, and also what are her plans for this channel.


Lauren: [00:04:44] I don't have a huge plan with it at the moment they're just alongside each other. They're quite different. The job that I do is community-based and I don't talk about my Instagram that much at work or anything like that. It's something that I've been a bit more open about. I don't know what it is but social media, some people can feel a bit funny about it or they don't understand it more than anything, so I'm a bit quiet about it a lot of the time. It's only been a recent thing where I mentioned it at work, so at the moment they're side by side but slowly I have been getting more actual dietetic work from my Instagram. I'm doing some meal plans and stuff with some people so I'm saying my dietetic work coming through there and so hopefully it will start to make a shift. I am hopefully going to be starting to do some private consultations soon where I will promote my Instagram through that. I think it's just when you're in a community setting, you don't want to be just plugging yourself and saying, 'Oh actually I work for this place as well', so yeah, I'm going to get them to merge eventually.


Kareena: [00:05:52] So do you think it's important then for professionals like yourself, within the industry, to have public profiles and share their personal stories.


Lauren: [00:05:59] Yeah that's a really interesting question. We didn't really talk about social media in my degree, we had maybe half a lecture on it but it's obviously such a big platform these days to put across the right message especially with so many health issues in the world, it's important for that. So, I do think it's important, yes, I think it's important for dieticians to be able to put themselves forward like that, nutritionists as well. As long as they are sending the right message, but it's also quite difficult to do.


Kareena: [00:06:32] So your Instagram is obviously around your love of food and healthy food at that. So how did you start or why did you start your Instagram.


Lauren: [00:06:41] So I actually started my Instagram for all the wrong reasons, I started my Instagram five years ago or maybe six years ago, when I first was starting my degree in nutrition and dietetics and I still had a quite negative body image of myself and I was just still you know, trying to track my food, basically. I started it in that format trying to calorie count and everything but then I realized that there was actually such a different community in Instagram that was quite like - 'hey you should love your food' and 'you can make food look beautiful and it should excite you' - and I have always found food exciting because it's in my family with my Italian background and everything so my focus started to change. It took a while and then also I realized that, actually people do relate more to the love of food and it started to build from there. So, it started for the wrong reasons but now we're here and I'm absolutely loving what I do.


Kareena: [00:07:44] In addition to the helpful hints, Lauren began intertwining personal anecdotes into her captions and noticed a shift in the engagement of her followers. As people connected with her real and relatable stories, Lauren's community began to grow.


Lauren: [00:07:58] So I was really quiet about it, I never talked about it to start with. My Instagram used to be not very personal at all but I think that's how I've been able to retain followers later on, is by starting to become more personal because, you know it's great food and everything but you need to remember that there is a person behind it and I do have a story to tell, I'm going to start telling it and I've had incredible feedback. It can be scary, you post it and then you try not to look at your phone for ages but then you go back to it and it went really well and realise other people feel the same way and they can relate, it's relatable.


Kareena: [00:08:39] Being relatable, authentic and real is what influencers are striving for. However, this does come with some of its own ups and downs. In being open and honest. Lauren has received some backlash from the Instagram community, in regards to her choices of advising people about what to eat. A well-balanced diet, including meat is something that she advocates, when she herself is a vegetarian. So, we ask Laura some questions to clear up any confusion on the matter. The first being if she's ever felt conflicted between her personal beliefs and her position as a dietitian and nutritionist.


Lauren: [00:09:18] That's really interesting. I don't have an issue with it at all. I guess with my family, my boyfriend, all of them eat meat and I know the health benefits of it, so you need to have a very objective mind. You can't be subjective when it comes to health, you know, as I said it's evidence based so that's how I deal with it. The evidence is there, this is so good for you, all those lean meats are good for you in moderation, so I'm going to advise them.


Kareena: [00:09:48] Having known all that information, with the evidence-based, why did you choose to be vegetarian.


Lauren: [00:09:54] That is interesting. Well obviously, as I said, I was vegan. Veganism, I think I just took that on because I watched a couple of those vegan movies and saw the slaughterhouses and everything and that made me feel a bit ill. So, I went vegan but then I couldn't keep vegan going because I noticed my eating disorder coming back. I had bulimia and I was bingeing again and then it was just bad. Anyway, then I went vegetarian and I do understand the health benefits of meat and everything, but I'm just so physically turned off by it. Yeah. It just actually makes me feel physically sick so there's not any other reason behind it, that's all it is really these days. I'm not one to promote vegetarianism to anyone, it's just sort of like, this is what I do, I don't force my opinions on you so, you know, that's fine.


Kareena: [00:10:50] Yeah, I was just really curious.


Lauren: [00:10:50] Yeah, it's interesting and it's hard for me to articulate it as well.


Kareena: [00:10:55] So what's been the response from your Instagram community.


Lauren: [00:10:57] Yes. So, I actually have been a part of backlash before which was hard. It was hard, I had to do my comments off for a little while. I love the vegan community and everything like that, but then when you start to transition people don't really understand your reasoning’s behind it, so I tried to explain why I can't be vegan anymore, which was to do with my health and everything but, you know, still going to be a backlash. So, my way to deal with that was to turn my comments off, I took some time off Instagram which is fine. Then, gradually as you keep posting about the things that you are into at the moment your community changes and that's okay. So, you get the people that are similar to you following you and you follow them back and you are engaging them so you can change communities and that's fine.


Kareena: [00:11:46] As you grow and evolve personally, your communities will change, just as Lauren said. But being conscious of the brand that you're building as you transition, is something that should stay top of mind if you're seeking to have a long-term career as an influencer in this space.


Lauren: [00:12:01] Because I am a dietitian I do want to send the right message. The image that I want to portray is that healthy eating and nutrition isn't just fruit and vegetables, and you can't eat a pizza and you can't eat a burger. That's what I'm conscious of doing. A healthy relationship with food and healthy body image are the main things I really want to build, I don't want I don't talk about weight loss much or anything like that.


Kareena: [00:12:34] So tell us a bit more about what you do. Obviously, you get to go to quite a few beautiful cafes and try their food and you also create your own.


Lauren: [00:12:41] Yes. I try and keep it a good mix of both because cafes are all well and good and everything but it's quite unrelatable to be going to cafes all the time. Cafes make such beautiful food though, it's never quite the same when you make it at home. I also love to make recipes - I don't have heaps at the moment but a lot of them are quite rough, I've just thrown all these things together, so I can tell you the ingredients in it but I can't really tell you how much of everything. Then also obviously, the food styling on top of that is a lot of fun. So yeah just trying to keep the balance of the home cooking and the out is always good.


Kareena: [00:13:21] Lauren's Instagram is about more than just beautiful food pictures. Her captions are a wealth of information and provide insight into the nutritional value of the foods that are being displayed. Hear how she leverages her knowledge in this field to educate her followers.


Lauren: [00:13:36] I think that with my knowledge from my degree I really like to be able to put a bit of my knowledge forward. I try and take a focus because sometimes I feel like I could definitely blab for hours in a caption but you're not going to read thousands of words so I try to pick a focus. I might be fiber or it might be vegetables, something like that and I just give you a quick little snippet and hopefully someone takes something away from it and that's all I could want.


Kareena: [00:14:01] Do regulations from the industry, like from industry bodies, prevent you from sharing a lot of this information or are there guidelines around it.


Lauren: [00:14:08] Yeah so actually that's a very interesting question as well because I thought that too once I got my degree, I wondered if I was allowed to do sponsorships anymore, like what's going on there. You're allowed to give advice obviously as long as it's still evidence-based because the idea of being a dietician is that everything is evidence-based. So, if you just give the evidence-based nutrition advice or any advice that's fine, and in terms of sponsorships they're fine as well. I was quite surprised about it because I thought 'oh I'm never gonna be able to do anything again, I'll get a red collab or something', but it's fine as long as they're not medical things.


Kareena: [00:14:44] We've covered imagery and captions but we're also keen to learn more about how Lauren uses the Instagram stories feature to support her followers. As it turns out, she has a distinct strategy when it comes to what she posts in her news feed and what she posts on stories. So, listen in to hear more.


Lauren: [00:15:03] Oh Instagram stories was a great new addition. I love it. Sometimes I take a few days off and l think I should really use it more or even worse when my phone breaks and I can't use Instagram stories. I'm terrible with phones. So anyway, Instagram stories are great because you can just put things there that aren't so pretty. I'll have my lunch, I'll snap it and it doesn't matter. Yesterday I had me making an omelet and I completely screwed that one up. I posted a story saying here's my pretty omelet, I'm making an omelet today. The next snap was it black smashed, like spread everywhere and I thought I'm going to post that as well and show you that I don't cook great all the time. Yeah, Instagram stories shows the reality of what is Instagram. That's how I like to use it and also, I don't like to quote post quotes so I put them on my Instagram story, just sort of like insightful little dietetic quotes and stuff I'll put them on my story.


Kareena: [00:16:00] We've had a few nuggets of wisdom from Lauren already when it comes to growing a highly-engaged following on Instagram. We also asked for a few more practical tips and tricks for you guys, our Loopers.


Lauren: [00:16:12] Definitely engaging, so commenting back and everything like that is so important because you don't want to just leave them there. Other things that I do is follow some of my favorite hashtags, so I follow like Melbourne cafes and everything so that I can see what else is going on in the hashtags. It might seem a little bit lame, like I tell people this hint but they're just sort of like 'oh you know do you really get that into it' but yes, I do I follow my hashtags that I like, so I can see what else is going on because you don't always follow the right people so you find some new people to follow that way. Also, comment on the things that you do like instead of liking them, if you just like them, no one notices. So those are probably the Instagram sort of things that I do and then also just making sure that you tag the brands and stuff that you do use and they might repost you, so that's always great.


Kareena: [00:17:01] How about some food styling tips.


Lauren: [00:17:03] Okay. So, I think natural lighting is just the first thing I know that's not food styling but you need natural light more than anything. The amount of times I'll go out with my boyfriend and he asks if I'm going to take a picture of your meal and I'm just like no the lighting is terrible. Anyway, but the food styling tips is probably more, don't overthink. If you're overthinking it, sometimes it can just look forced, you know. A lot of scattering is good, I love that but also dividing things up so if you have a salad if you divide things up around it is always nice, like in the colours. Then the things that you use try and keep that around so it's sort of more of a natural look and use more props if you can. It's something I'm trying to use, more props, but I just haven't got around to it yet. That's my next thing. Props and someone keeps saying backgrounds to me but I'll get to backgrounds, one thing at a time. You just want it to always be a little bit different. I could literally post the same picture of my porridge each morning and it would be pretty but it'd be the same one every day, so don't do that.


Kareena: [00:18:05] So earlier we touched on brand collaborations and we wanted to ask Lauren for some practical advice on how she goes about getting these amazing opportunities. Namely, whether she reaches out to the brands or if she waits for them to approach her.


Lauren: [00:18:19] So for so long I only ever waited until they came to me. Yeah. There was just no way I was going to reach out to anyone. It's funny you ask this because literally only about one or two months ago, someone said to me why don't you reach out to them and I thought 'oh that's a great idea'. So yeah, I can't believe it never came to me before. Recently I've started to reach out to only cafes that haven't thought of a brand yet because if I want to reach out to a brand, I want it to be one that I really actually want to partner with, if you know what I mean. So, if something pops up I'm going to do it now. Yeah and it's worked, it's been fine. If they don't respond, then they don't respond, it's no big deal. So, mix it, do both. I was talking to a person that doesn't have that many followers, they have probably got 1000, 2000, you know, their building their way up and they're reaching out and they're still able to make the collabs and I'm like good on you, that’s incredible. So, just give it a shot. What's the worst they can do?


Kareena: [00:19:20] How do you like to reach out? Do you offer something, do you show you statistics? What's the practical way that you go about doing that?


Lauren: [00:19:27] So because I've only just started it's quite basic, at the moment if it's just a cafe that I'm just sort of like 'oh that would be nice', I write to them and say 'Hey my name's Lauren. I run this. I'm passionate about this. I also tell them what I love about them as well, like, I love that you create all these fresh healthy meals and they're beautiful and rah rah rah. Then I say the bottom, I'd love it if you'd like to collaborate sometime and I don't really specify what that means I just say collaborate and they can think of that themselves, but you could pitch what you want I reckon, at the bottom. Then that's it, but I think that if I was going for a brand that I really loved, not so much cafe, I would think of statistics, that would be a good idea I think or maybe more of a background of myself. I want to actually set something up that's sort of a bit of a structure of something that I'd send out to people but I haven't got around to that yet.


Kareena: [00:20:20] So the ones that have approached you, what do they ask from you? What's a typical pitch from a company to an influencer?


Lauren: [00:20:27] Typical pitches are actually quite long and, you skim read a little bit sometimes, unfortunately. I'm sorry. It's quite long and tells you all about the product which is great, it's good to know when you come to getting the product or if you want to collaborate with them. The important thing is that you do not have to collaborate with everybody. When I first started out I was like taking everything left, right and center and I didn't really like a lot of the things and yeah, I just remember this one hot chocolate I was given and it was terrible. Yeah. Anyway, what they do to me is they send me descriptions of the product and then at the bottom, what they would like from me basically, like, we will send you free product in exchange for some posts or some stories, we can even give you a discount code sometimes, which is good and sometimes, very rarely, if they want me to make recipes or something they'll say what's your fee that you charge per post. So that's a very new thing to me, charging for posts.


Kareena: [00:21:28] How did you go about then, finding out how you should price a post?


Lauren: [00:21:31] Yeah, I remember when someone asked me how much I charge for a post. I was just like, charge for a post? Like, what? Like just give me free stuff, that's fine.


Kareena: [00:21:43] Which is very common, especially in your early days.


Lauren: [00:21:46] Yes. Yes exactly. And I've got a friend who actually works in media which is great and she said straight away Lauren you should just come to me, I know all these things and I was like 'I've never thought of that I'm sorry'.


Kareena: [00:21:56] Use your network.


Lauren: [00:21:57] Yeah exactly! So, I actually also just did some googling to help me with that. It tells you how many followers you have and this is how much you should charge and how many likes you get, this is how much you should charge, so I've got a very big range because if I really like the product then I charge quite low because if I really like it, you know, I don't mind. Yeah but if it's something that I'm sort of I'm not too sure about, I'll pitch them something high and see what they think but then I'll also think about it because I only want to post about things that I love. So, I need to really think about those sort of things or if I don't love it but I also know that there's really good benefits for my community. So, for instance I recently was contacted by new healthy meat range but I'm vegetarian and I was thinking it really goes against my vegetarianism but I'm a dietitian and I recommend healthy meat all the time and I think that this is a great product, like, the product was great like I was like well this is a good product, if I ate meat. So, we'll see what happens there but I sort of was like well I'll pitch something higher to them because it's a great product.


Kareena: [00:23:16] So outside of the world of Instagram we find out what else is in store for Lauren in the near future.


Lauren: [00:23:22] I was thinking of this a little while back before I got this current job, was to do Skype sessions and everything, like dietetics consults so I think that's definitely on the cards a little bit later down the track. Like, if I show everyone else what I can do and that it's not just my pretty pictures and the little captions I can actually do a proper consult with you and everything. Also, not just consults but presentations I think is something that I've been noticing a little bit more about. You can reach so many people with a presentation, so you pick a topic, you know, might be healthy fats or I don't know anything, general healthy eating, whatever you feel like and you can present it. So, at the moment at work I've been doing a mood food presentation, so have food affects your mood. Yeah. Really interesting. Yeah. Love it. Then also we do what's called The Life program, so it's people that are at risk of diabetes, they come to these programs. So I just was like wow yeah presentations are great because you can just get all these people even if they take a few things away from it, that's awesome. Now I'm sort of like OK what's next and I think a global platform, if I could Skype people, help people with their nutrition and their relationship with food all over the world, just imagine that.


Kareena: [00:24:40] I guess then as a final sign off for our Loopers. What is the last piece of advice you have for someone who's wanting to start their own 'foodstagram' or their own profile around what they do and their love of food.


Lauren: [00:24:52] Yep. So, I would honestly say just try and stay as genuine as you can. I know it's a little bit corny but if you can stay genuine and also just find out what you actually really want to put across to people, think of that because if you have your message then it's going to come across and you'll do so much better, than if you were just posting random things here and there. So just find what you actually really want to post about or what you want to do.


Kareena: [00:25:24] Yep, hone your craft.


Lauren: [00:25:24] Yeah. I like that! Summary.


Kareena: [00:25:30] Well thank you so much for joining us on the Loop App couch Lauren, it's been so much fun having you.


Lauren: [00:25:33] I've had a laugh, it's been so good.


Kareena: [00:25:38] And that brings us to the end of our interview Loopers. Thank you so much for joining us. If you liked learning all about Lauren and her journey as a nutritionist and dietitian you can continue following her on Instagram at L, M, underscore, nutrition. We've also included the link in show notes so be sure to check it out. As always, we love to hear your feedback, so drop us a review or rating and let us know what you thought of this episode. Even share your favourite parts of the show by tagging us on Instagram at loop dot app. We'll be back again next week with a new episode of In the Loop where we chat about the business end of being an influencer. Catch you then.