January 2010 Issue

2010 Planner: A Monthly Calendar of Activities to Help You Grow and Succeed
By Lindsey Getz
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 12 No. 1 P. 42

Whether it’s joining a CSA or watching the latest food documentary, try something new to enhance your knowledge and skills. Let our list start you on your way.

The start of a new year is always a good time to discover fresh ways to grow your business and enhance your knowledge. With this in mind, Today’s Dietitian has compiled a monthly calendar of activities dietitians can use to broaden their professional horizons. If one of our suggestions is something you’ve already done, then take that month to consider a venture you haven’t explored or accomplish something that’s been on your to-do list for a while. Just imagine how much you’ll expand your skill set if you take the time and effort to attempt something new every month.


Create a professional press kit.
Creating a press kit about yourself and your business is a great way to start the new year off right. “It’s a way for RDs to help promote themselves in the most professional way possible,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips.

Zied suggests including a professional head shot and résumé along with any articles you’ve written, magazine or newspaper clips in which you’ve been quoted, and a list of lectures you’ve given. Once you have your press kit compiled, stock up on plenty of copies so you can hand them out as desired.


Become active on a listserv in your specialty area.
Take this month to continue growing your business. A press kit is a great start; another is to hone in on your specialty. Becoming active on a listserv is an easy way to do just that.

Erin Dummert, RD, CD, president of Madam Nutrition, says dietitians can truly benefit from getting involved. “I have been a member of the American Dietetic Association’s Oncology [Nutrition] Dietetic Practice Group for almost nine years, and I attribute much of my practical knowledge and many professional relationships directly to the listserv,” she says. “It has been a great way for me to learn how other oncology dietitians around the country practice, how they interpret and incorporate new information, and so much more. When I began specializing in oncology, the amazing dietitians on the listserv literally helped to teach me everything I know. Eventually I was able to weigh in on topics as well and establish myself as an expert in my field, which has led to many consulting roles and job opportunities.”

Dummert says involvement on a listserv can advance an RD’s career. “The more active a participant is, the more other members begin to recognize that they are committed to their field and that they have knowledge to share,” she says. “In this world of relationships, it pays to have people know your name. Establishing your credibility by being an active member of a listserv is a great way to stand out in a crowd.”


Watch ‘Big River.’
The “King Corn Crew,” including Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney, has a brand-new, not-to-be missed film titled Big River, reports Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD, LD, a writer, speaker, and radio host. The 30-minute film is a follow-up to King Corn, and Hemmelgarn believes it lends itself well to discussion and action steps in community and school screenings.

“[The film] looks at the water contamination from industrial agriculture's chemicals and how those chemicals impact public health,” she says. “For example, we learn about cancer clusters in the corn belt, as well as the devastating impact on the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Hemmelgarn says she recommends this film because she believes it is part of a dietitian's responsibility to help people “think beyond their plates.” “Every food decision we make and help our clients make has an environmental impact,” she says. “Dietitians aren't typically trained in agricultural practices and environmental stewardship, but food is at the heart of both environmental protection and social justice issues.”

Visit www.bigriverfilm.com for more information.


Did you know that April 18 to 24 is National Volunteer Week? It’s a time to think about ways you can serve others. “In 2010, I wish more dietitians would volunteer in their dietetic associations either on the local, state, or national levels,” says April Rudat, MS Ed, RD, LDN, a nutrition counselor and speaker. “I have volunteered in dietetics for a number of years now and the work is so rewarding. In serving on the board, you can make new and exciting things happen within your association.”

Rudat says in addition to the satisfaction she gets, she has also found volunteering to be a lifeline for her professional career. “When I initially began volunteering, I was a stay-at-home mom in great need of professional connections and a link to my ‘work,’” she explains. “Not only were these needs met when I got involved, but volunteering led to so many new networks and opportunities for me professionally, including job opportunities.”


Read the book ‘You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader.’
Did your week of volunteering inspire you to become more involved? Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, an ADA national spokesperson, the owner of CBR Nutrition Enterprises, and the author of Eating Soulfully and Healthfully With Diabetes, says reading Mark Sanborn’s book You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference will motivate you to do more. “Many RDs believe you have to be voted in a position and hold a title in order to lead,” she says. “But fact is you don’t need a title to make a difference.”

Brown-Riggs says the book is filled with inspiring stories of leaders who have held no particular title. She says it helped her personally, as she’s become more involved with the ADA over the years. “As a sole proprietor, I don’t interact with other RDs on a daily basis,” she says. “Volunteering in the local and state affiliate gives me the opportunity to meet and network with other RDs. Through my involvement with the ADA, I’ve grown both professionally and personally.”

She says being inspired to volunteer can help you support your clients, too. “It gives you access to the best minds that the profession has to offer,” she says. “As a spokesperson for ADA, I am briefed and updated on the latest research in the field of food and nutrition. My clients, therefore, receive the most up-to-date information on products and services available. It generates a certain level of respect from your clients when they know you are actively involved and hold a leadership position in ADA.”

For more information, visit www.youdontneedatitle.com.


Take a course—and get more out of it.
Having been an RD for 31 years with ongoing work experience with scientists, “alternative practitioners,” functional medicine clinicians, exercise physiologists, and other professional colleagues, Debora A. Robinett, MA, RD, CD, president and owner of Health Enhancement Corporation, thought signing up for a course that already resembled her philosophy and practice style seemed merely a formality to obtain continuing education credits, pass an exam, and add certification to her credentials. But that’s not what she found.

After recently attending FirstLine Therapy (FLT) in Vancouver, which its Web site says is “a personalized lifestyle medicine program centered on therapeutic lifestyle changes such as healthy nutrition, nutritional products, exercise, and stress management,” she says she’d recommend it to other RDs. The course is offered throughout the United States and varies in practitioner credential and attendance.

“The training was 3.5 days, with fabulous lectures, interactive breakout sessions, workbooks, scientific articles and supportive handouts, and Q & As that stimulated me,” she says. “The day after I got home from Canada, I was in my clinic Monday morning applying as many of the principles as possible. My established patients were newly invigorated with the tools and information. And my new patients are lucky enough to get all of the information that I gleaned in the course work. It is a wonderful program that dietitians can use to augment their practice, collaborate with other clinicians to offer FLT in a clinic or hospital setting, or network with others who have a similar philosophy of disease prevention and health management.”


Sign up for social media.
Using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other forms of social media is a smart and easy way to communicate with existing clients and connect with new ones. “Social media is here to stay whether we like it or not,” says Lisa V. Bunce, MS, RD, owner of Back to Basics Nutrition Consulting. “[Most] of our patients, friends, family, and colleagues are already using it.”

Bunce admits she has not fully embraced the technology herself but plans to explore the offerings this year. “I like the convenience and ability to reach a large number of people with just a stroke of a key,” she says. “My challenge for myself in 2010 is to be fully operational in the areas of a business Facebook page and a Web page, plus ‘tweeting’ and blogging.”


Start a newsletter.
If you don’t already have one, why not consider launching a professional newsletter? It’s a great way to share important information with your clients and stay connected with them. It’s also an opportunity for self-promotion.

With today’s technology, you don’t need to incur postage or printing costs to have a newsletter; you can accomplish it all through e-mail. The first step is to determine how often you plan to distribute your letter. If you’re just starting out, you’d be wise to start small—perhaps a quarterly or biannual newsletter. As you become more comfortable with compiling the content and writing the letter, you can consider distributing more frequently. You can also make your newsletter as fancy or as barebones as you wish. Software programs can help you create an impressive newsletter with graphics and other fancy details, or you can keep it simple and stick with plain text.

Regardless of your content, make sure your readers have all of your pertinent contact information. You may also want to  include a brief biography that can run with each letter.


Battle the childhood obesity epidemic.
It’s back-to-school time. What does that mean for you? Sabrina Covington, RD, coexecutive director of Healthy Kids Choice, Inc, says she’d like to see more dietitians get involved with local school wellness policies and promote healthier dining options in school cafeterias. “Each public school accepting government funds must have a wellness policy,” she says. “Read your local school’s policy and become an advocate of it in your daily interactions. These policies meet a lot of opposition, and your voice of support can make a big difference.”

Covington adds that she’d like to see dietitians get more involved with kids’ needs in general since the obesity epidemic is a continuous battle. Healthy Kids Choice is a nonprofit program dedicated to providing kids with healthier choices in restaurants. She urges other RDs to adopt the cause by asking their own local restaurants to offer wholesome menu options for children.

Visit www.healthykidschoice.org for more information.


Better educate yourself on celiac disease.
October is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. What better time than now to become familiar with the ADA’s Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guidelines for Celiac Disease, says Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, the “Gluten-Free Dietitian” and author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide. Both are available for free to all ADA members through www.adaevidencelibrary.com.

Even if you don’t specialize in celiac disease, getting acquainted with the guidelines is important. “An increasing number of people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, so it is likely that you will soon have patients with this condition,” says Thompson. “It is exceedingly important for dietitians to learn about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet so that accurate information is given out to patients.”

Thompson says the Evidence Analysis Library contains a wealth of information for dietitians on a variety of topics. In fact, she believes having access to the library is among the top benefits of being an ADA member.

Thompson also says she’d like to see dietitians try the alternative grains and pseudo-cereals quinoa, amaranth, and teff for themselves. Her suggestions include making a pilaf with quinoa instead of rice, cooking teff hot cereal for breakfast, and adding amaranth to homemade vegetable soup. “I make this recommendation because as dietitians, we should be encouraging our clients to eat more whole grains,” she says. “These particular grains are tasty, nutritious, and easy to prepare. It is difficult to recommend foods we have never tried. By actually eating these grains and realizing how easy they are to cook, we are more likely to encourage our clients to try them.”


Acknowledge American Diabetes Month.
November is American Diabetes Month. Whether or not you specialize in the disease, it’s a great time to reach out to existing and perspective clients who have diabetes. Brown-Riggs suggests connecting with people via social media. “People living with diabetes often feel alone when it comes to the daily routine of diabetes self-management,” she says. “They monitor their blood glucose levels alone, inject insulin alone, worry about low blood glucose levels alone, and so on. To overcome this loneliness, many are signing on to Twitter and other social media sites for support. Of course, the danger of social media is the abundance of misinformation. These individuals need and deserve credible diabetes information, particularly when it comes to nutrition. We are the nutrition experts, and we need to make our voices heard.”

Brown-Riggs tweets about diabetes on a daily basis and says she has developed quite a following. “[My followers] appreciate the fact that I provide credible and practical information,” she says. “I feel I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. Reading their tweets has given me much more insight into their daily lives of living with diabetes. I’ve become a better diabetes educator as a result.”

She adds that her involvement with this form of social media has meant learning the lingo. For instance, “#bgwed” stands for “blood glucose Wednesday”—a day that everyone tweets their glucose readings.


Prepare for now and later.
As we head into another holiday season, many of your clients may be struggling with healthy eating when so many high-calorie and high-fat foods are available. Be prepared to offer some healthy holiday eating tips. Your newsletter—if you got it up and running during the summer—can provide valuable content. You can also distribute holiday survival tips using the social media accounts you created earlier in the year.
December is also a great time to look ahead. After all, a whole new year is just around the corner. Start planning now for any changes you want to make to your business and set some new goals for 2011. Before you know it, another year will be flying by, so it’s never too early to start planning. It will help ensure you accomplish just as much as you did in 2010.

— Lindsey Getz is a freelance writer based in Royersford, Pa.