By Laura Byrnes, DC Newsletter Editor

Where were you on 13 March, 2015? If the answer is, anywhere except for our Dietitian Day celebration in Brisbane, you missed an incredible event.

From the inimitable Maggie Beer, sharing her passion for aged-care nutrition, to Nine Network’s Dr. Joanna McMillan, debunking current food fads, the day was packed with distinguished speakers, of-the-moment nutrition news – and fantastic food samples, courtesy of our amazing sponsors.

For those who couldn’t be there, here’s a recap of the day [and for those who were, we thank you again for attending, and hope this brings back great memories!]

Why Dietitian Day?

Our goal for the event was to bring together a cross-section of our industry, from new grads to internationally recognized experts, for three key purposes:

•To celebrate our profession, and the good it does for the health and wellbeing of people worldwide;

•To share achievements and advancements, so as to inspire others to do the same; and

•To provide opportunities for interaction and networking, to bring dietitians closer while facilitating partnership and cooperation.

Add a hefty dose of fun, great food and exhibits from our sponsors, a massive gift bag chock-a-block with samples and literature…and you’ve got the ingredients for a not-to-be-missed day!

By the numbers:

•Attendees: 250 dietitians, ranging from Brisbane locals to interstate guests from as far away as Perth.

•Speakers: 6 uniquely different and exceptional experts in their fields, including Maggie Beer, Dr. Sue Shepherd, Dr. Shelley Wilkinson, Dr. Rosemary Stanton, Glenn Cardwell and Dr. Joanna McMillan.

•Networking opportunities: 3 separate purposely-scheduled networking events, from morning tea to lunch and an afternoon reception, enabled attendees to meet colleagues from far and wide, exchange knowledge and make valuable new contacts.

•Emcee: 1 fantastic master of Ceremonies, the inimitable Glenn Cardwell, who kept the tone light yet focused on the day’s goals [and did a tremendous job with his own preso!]

•Volunteers: 18 dedicated helpers who made the event possible, from gift bag preparers to our mobile-enabled check-in crew.

•Sponsors: 23 best-in-class sponsors and exhibitors who provided educational materials, opportunities to connect with company representatives, samples and more; these included:

Logo group shot

Our speakers’ golden nuggets of knowledge: 

We loved that each of our speakers took a different approach to the celebration of all things nutrition, so that no two presentations were the same. Here’s a recap of each.

•Maggie Beer: “Innovation in Food for Aged Care”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Hard to believe, but Maggie left school at age 14 – yet today she heads up a culinary empire.  Through times good and bad, however, she always made a point to eat well. This was one of the many personal, inspiring gems she shared in her presentation, the centrepiece of which was her passion for aged-care nutrition, which she’s focusing on through her Foundation.

Maggie’s goal is to improve the calibre of food served in aged-care facilities – from nutritional quality to taste and flavour, or what Maggie calls the “joy of food”.

After undertaking a great deal of her own research, she concluded that we have a responsibility to the aged: to provide the right nutrition, to celebrate and encourage the cooks and chefs in aged-care facilities, and to bring flavor and taste back – all, within oft-challenging budget constraints.

Her tips for doing so included educating such chefs and cooks; helping facilities to understand know what’s local/in season in their area, so they can integrate it into meals; and engaging the support of facilities’ CEOs.

Today she’s spreading this message: the pleasure one finds in food does not stop because you’re aged. We say, “Hear, hear!”

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for the exclusive DC interview with Maggie!

•Dr. Sue Shepherd: “A Windy Road: Mapping the Unmapped”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Our second speaker of the day inspired us all with her strength and passion in overcoming obstacles. Sue’s journey to leadership in the area of dietary intolerances began with her own diagnosis of coeliac.  When told what she could NOT eat, she set out to build a communication platform around how one CAN enjoy food in a social setting, even with intolerances. Eventually she became the “unexpected leader” she is today in her space, working to bring dietitians to the forefront of gastroenterologists’ minds as an ally.

Her success has been based around this premise: looking at challenges from a different angle, and trying to find a better way. Sue shared examples of how she self-published her first few books, since the market for food intolerance cookbooks wasn’t big enough at the time (imagine!).

Yet confidence saw her through, and eventually her approach has helped open the door to an $8 million market – and positioned her as a globally recognized authority on food intolerances.

Sue shared that she receives letters from around the world today, thanking her for giving people their lives back.  She is, she says, “very proud to be a dietitian”. Among her driving tenets: be dedicated to continual learning, take opportunities and make opportunities, be wowed by research – and overcome obstacles.

View Sue’s presentation here

•Dr. Shelley Wilkinson: “Sigh! My Patient Hasn’t Followed My Advice: Framing Messages to Support Change”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Shifting focus, we next heard from Shelley on the highly relevant and important topic of engaging with patients to enhance motivation and bring about behavior change. She positioned dietitians as having a “professional identity dilemma” by needing to wear two hats – nutrition expert and counselor.  What’s more, both dietitians and patients are experts in their own ways.

Her approach to supporting change in eating habits is very much patient-centred, with an objective of allowing “an individual to identify specific diet-related issues and possible solutions within an empathetic counseling environment”.

To make this actionable for dietitians, Shelley provided a theoretical framework to follow, centred around what she called the 5As: Assess, Advise, Agree, Assist and Arrange. The process begins with assessing behavioural health risks and factors, and concludes with scheduling ongoing support and/or referrals.

While she emphasised that “we’re not psychologists”, she did cite the power of “the therapeutic relationship” with patients. She also placed strong emphasis on planning, citing Dr. Phil’s “Fail to plan – plan to fail.”

We won’t even try to do justice to Shelley’s 5As in this brief summary, so we highly encourage you to review her entire presentation here. It’s filled with a plethora of useful resources, from web sites to research to examples of forms dietitians can use with patients.

•Dr. Rosemary Stanton: “Spreaders, Not Guardians, of the Message”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Rosemary’s vast experience in dealing with the news media formed the crux of her presentation, and our audience eagerly hung on her every word.

She began by reinforcing that dietitians are the experts, able to support a range of issues – and can bring an evidence-based approach. The challenge, however, is that dietitians take a curative approach, are too nutrient-focused, can be seen as defenders of the food industry, don’t communicate with other players – and may need to bravely rock the boat!

Her tips were practical and experience-based. They included: be ready to go now if a journalist calls – or refer a colleague, don’t be afraid to take on critics or celebrities, remember your research – but speak simply [“just answer the question!], partner with other organisations, and relate to other global issues, such a climate change.

Rosemary then shared her approach to current controversial media issues, from saturated fats to sugar as a villain. For each, she provided evidence-based talking points useful in media interaction. [This highly useful, detailed information can be found in her presentation here.] She also took a look at what’s ahead next in nutrition issues, from tackling junk food culture to dealing with the problem of waste.

There is no one healthy diet, she concluded; she favours a food/eating approach over an approach centred on nutrients. Rosemary encouraged dietitians to avoid conflicts of interest, to work with others whenever possible – and to challenge dissenters with fact-based evidence.

•Glenn Cardwell: “Simplicity: Designing Messages and Slides that Make Sense”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Forget everything you thought you knew about presentations! Glenn Cardwell – our day’s emcee – opened the eyes of everyone in attendance to how a clean, thought-out design can make all the difference in conveying messages to key audiences.  [He also brought a great deal of interactivity and levity to what could have been the mid-afternoon doldrums!]

Glenn stressed simplicity as an overarching guide. Just because a feature is available in PowerPoint, he noted, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to include it [we’re talking about you, animation!] Forget “vibrating colours”, too. Remember, what looks good on your laptop may not look work on a large projection screen.

He cited numerous examples of positive, clear ways to communicate to your audiences in presentation, and noting that it’s good to borrow ideas from others to help convey your point.

View Glenn’s entire presentation here.

•Dr. Joanna McMillan: “How Do We Compete in the Diet Wars?”

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Image: Courtesy of Longshots Photography

Just when we thought the day’s speakers couldn’t get any better – and despite the dreaded end-of-day-speaking slot – the audience received a super burst of energy from Joanna.

She tackled the “diet wars” – controversial nutrition topics in the media where dietitians and so-called experts are clashing, especially on topics including anti-sugar, anti-grain, paleo, gluten free, saturated fats, fasting and high protein. There are avid fans of each approach, and each has its advocates, but it’s important to assess the best individual approach for each patient.

She reminded the audience that often the public doesn’t know that a dietitian is a scientist, and dietitians are often seen as out of date or corrupted by industry. [She also noted that personally she does work for the food industry – because if we as dietitians don’t, who will?]

Instead, dietitians should convey that they are the nutrition experts, trained to deliver tailored, individual advice. As such, it’s important to stay across major news and keep up to date.

Indeed, dietitians’ voices should be included in the news media! And, if the media come calling, know what they want [and know they likely already have their story angle in mind]. Give them short grabs – sound bites. Find a new way to convey information – don’t just quote dietary guidelines and talk about “moderation”.

She concluded with her personal approach: be scientific, be across the research and keep an open mind.

And so Dietitian Day ended with a bang! View Joanna’s entire presentation here.

Dietitian Day lives on:

Want to recap the day, in full colour? Here are several ways to do so:

•Watch the complete video of Dietitian Day: Recording available in the next two weeks – look for more information in DC newsletter

•View snaps, feedback, videos and more on our social media platforms:

Twitter: @DNconnection [check out #dietitianday]

Facebook: Dietitian Connection

Instagram: Dietitian Connection

But wait, there’s more:

Check your Dietitian Connection newsletter in the weeks to come for exclusive interviews with our Dietitian Day speakers, who address nutrition, business and leadership topics relevant to your career.  As well as the video recording of Dietitian Day.

In closing:

Here’s feedback from a Dietitian Day attendee that we think sums the day up so well:

“So many inspirational people to listen to, I hope that those who attended are inspired to bring the focus back to the science behind what we do and why we can make a difference to what people eat and how they then live their life.”

See you next year!

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