Next up in our Expanding the Arena interview series, we have the wonderful Rebecca McConville. Rebecca McConville MS, RD, LD, CSSD is a sports dietitian and eating disorder specialist. She is the owner of Rebecca McConville consulting where she works with individuals to meet their performance goals and also treat individuals with eating disorders. In her consulting role, she provides sports nutrition education to various colleges within her area and is co-creator of an eating disorder protocol at University of Missouri - Kansas City. She also co-hosts a podcast called “PHIT for a Queen”, devoted to female athletes trying to balance performance, health, intellect and taking time for self.
- What is your educational background and how long have you been an RD? Do you have any additional credentials relevant to your position?
I earned my Master’s degree from University of Kansas and have been a practicing dietitian for 11 years now. I also have my CSSD and have applied for my CEDRD as well.
- How did you achieve your position/ how did you get started with your current position?
As a prior college athlete, it felt like a natural fit to work with collegiate athletes along with my personal passion to bring awareness to relative energy deficit in sport (RED-S). Within my private practice, I joined an eating disorder practice where I was clinically supervised for over 2 years. I continue to receive peer consult, which I believe should be mandatory for anyone working with people who have eating disorders.
- What key areas of knowledge/experiences did you need to have before this job?
Being a former athlete, I understand the demands of training mentally & physically on a more personal level which allows me to relate to my clients. I believe you do need to understand how each sport differs in their training, competitive season, and the culture within the sport.
In regards to eating disorders, you need to understand the medical risks but also the therapeutic approaches as this is a psychological disorder.
- What are the highs and lows of your position?
I love truly helping people- whether it is texts about their PR or excitement as they finally started their period after years of disconnect with their body.
The lows are that it can be emotionally taxing at times, so I really try to practice what I preach with self-care. Also, in the world of sport it can be very competitive, and you must keep your eye on the prize and not take things personally.
- What is a typical day for you?
I usually get up between 4:30am-5:30am with coffee, daily scriptures and prayer first & foremost, and then go out for a run with my dog Mason (otherwise he gets quite angry). I then start my workday with scheduling, social media posts, and head to the office. Some days I see clients for 4 hours, and other days almost 10, but I really try to stay home on Fridays to wrap up charting/phone calls. This has allowed me freedom to spend time with my kiddos as they have a lot of Fridays off or early releases from school.
- What advice would you share with an RD (or RD2be) that is interested in a similar career path?
Don’t rush into private practice! I would not be who I am without my clinical experience and connections that I have made. I understand sports and eating disorders, but I have also seen most chronic disease through my clinical years.
- What is your greatest strength/weakness as a dietitian?
My greatest strength is that I believe my clients know that I am vested in them and care. I work hard to stay up to date with science by reading PubMed summaries each day and listening to at least 1 webinar or podcast each week.
My weakness is I am perpetually disorganized.
- What are some of your interests outside of work?
My family of course! With my daughter now in sports, it is fun to see the tables turn cheering her on and being her coach for her basketball team. I am also a country girl by roots, so I love being on my parent’s farm riding my horse, Denny, with my daughter & Mom. And like most dietitians, I am a foodie so I love trying all the Kansas City bucket list restaurants and culinary experiences.
- What aspect of sports nutrition (or any other area of dietetics) interested you to pursue it as a career?
Seeing firsthand the power of nutrition and how much better you feel & recover by what you are fueling yourself with drew me into nutrition. I also love how sports continue to be a common language we can all understand and appreciate globally.
- Why have you decided to work with athletes or similar groups?
With this population, there is never a dull moment! I think there is a thin line between trying to perform to the best of your abilities and crossing over to disorder. I want to help provide clarity and support to help them perform their best but be at their healthiest.
- How do you deal with the daily stresses presented to you in your career?
I am really working on work/life balance by setting a time I stop replying to emails/texts. I have amazing colleagues whom I do peer consults with and the occasional google chat or coffee with friends in the field.
- Prior to getting your credentials, did you have any experience in nutrition (i.e. food service, volunteering, etc.)?
I actually didn’t get into an internship the first time, which was a blessing in disguise. I took a dietary manager position where I learned a lot about food production, managing staff, and learning to never give up. Those months were tough watching my classmates start internships, but it left me with a drive that has taken me places I never thought I would go.
- What do you love about your career/job?
I love the variety and flexibility and that there is never a day without a challenge. Basically the sky's the limit when you own your own business.
- Is there a course you took in undergrad or grad school that has helped you in your current role?
I took a Sports Nutrition course in my Master’s program but honestly it was self-study using things like free webinars through SCAN/CPSDA, Gatorade Sports Science Institute, etc. that have helped most. Now with specializing in my two main practice areas, I attend conferences and supervision groups specifically around athletes & eating disorders.
- What are some of the unique nutritional considerations you must consider for the group(s) you work with?
With specializing in athletes with eating disorders you need an understanding of prevention, acute concerns, and chronic implications in regards to the athlete’s disordered eating. We are just now getting a better understanding of what happens to the body under prolonged energy deficit states.