Industry Insights: 4 Takeaways from the DC Dietitian Annual Meeting
This month, I attended the Annual Meeting for DCMAND, the D.C. Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As a Registered Dietitian, National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and Health Coaching Program Coordinator for Wellness Corporate Solutions, I found that the conference not only covered a variety of relevant topics, but also matched a number of our core values at WCS. Three of our core values that jumped out to me at the conference were Treat All With Respect, Encourage Innovation, and Strive for Self-Improvement.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the meeting. I shared them with our Health Coaching team and want to share them with the whole WCS community, since they embody our core values as a company and shed light on why we use the approaches we do.
1. Take a weight-inclusive approach.
A weight-inclusive approach considers health and wellbeing as multifaceted and focuses on self-care behaviors, not weight, for improving health. It stands in contrast to a “weight-normative” approach, where weight is used to determine health.
It’s easy to zero in on losing weight as the only goal—but that’s not the kind of health coaching we practice. Last year, a landmark study on obesity was released, and we wrote about the role health coaching can play in providing compassionate, well-rounded guidance for participants at every weight. A huge part of this approach will always be listening to the participant (see #4 below) and determining what health goals make the most sense for them as an individual. It ties in directly with our core value of Treating All With Respect.
2. Encourage “gentle nutrition.”
In that vein, another idea they emphasized in a session about Intuitive and Mindful Eating was gentle nutrition—or moving away from dieting and towards a sustainable, healthy relationship with food. A big part of this idea is focusing on what foods you can add to your diet, not what you are subtracting or taking away. We want to help employees think about what they can eat more of to nourish their bodies and support their daily activities, and not frame the conversation around deprivation. As health coaches, we want to help employees treat their bodies with respect and honor the enjoyment they get from certain foods.
Best practices in the community of Registered Dietitians evolve over time. Focusing on intuitive eating and a shame-free approach to nutrition advice has been an important development in the industry, and we’re proud to share this approach as an option when working with employees.
3. Prioritize sustainable agriculture.
Our definition of a holistic approach to health coaching takes environmental wellbeing into account, alongside mental and physical health. And truly, we always find that sustainability and healthy behaviors go hand in hand. Farming, Sustainability, and Food Technology was a session topic at this conference, and one simple takeaway we thought was worth sharing focused on how we buy food: Organic food can be a great choice, but the better goal is to buy from farmers who incorporate sustainable agricultural practices. Sometimes these are the same, but sometimes they are not.
As food waste and the ecological footprint of food production continues to be a serious challenge, we recommend making an effort to learn about the farmers who produce your food. No-till farms and farms with a consistent crop rotation cycle are two indicators that your food is coming from a sustainable source with high nutritional value.
Learning about where your food comes from may sound like a daunting project, but we think it fits in well with our core value of Striving for Self-Improvement. When we push ourselves to learn a little more and engage a little more deeply with some of the choices we make every day, we can make a difference for ourselves and our communities.
4. “Research” each participant.
Last, I wanted to emphasize a key point that has really informed our approach to health coaching from the beginning. One of the highlights of the conference was the Diversifying Dietetics Now and in the Future session. Our health coaching team engages participants through one-on-one sessions (either telephonic or in-person), and our interactions depend on mutual respect and understanding. But because building a relationship of trust is the most important component of what we do, we always enter these interactions ready to learn about the individual—their preferences, their experiences, their environment, their values.
Every individual is different and the expert of their own life. It’s our job to rely on their expert knowledge as we help them define goals that are realistic and meaningful to them. This session emphasized taking a research-based approach to each participant—which means asking lots of questions and letting the participant share their habits, their limitations, and their needs. That’s one of the reasons we developed our Ready-Set-Goal method, entirely based on empowering the participant to jumpstart their own health journey.
Still, we are committed to honoring the diversity of participants we work with and continuing to make this a priority—by building out a diverse community of health coaches with different backgrounds, growing our cultural mindfulness, and above all, listening.