Thursday, March 1, 2018

Expanding the Arena Initiative

Expanding the Arena

In celebration of National Nutrition Month, SCAN is kicking off its initiative Expanding the Arena. We are going to hear from many dietitians within the Sports Nutrition field, who work in areas which aren’t typically considered when thinking of sports nutrition.
We first talked to Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Kelly is the owner of Kelly Jones Nutrition, LLC. She works as a speaker, consultant, and media spokesperson. She works in one-on-one counseling, runs an online sports nutrition course for females, and teaches at a local community college.

What is your educational background, and how long have you been an RD? Do you have any additional credentials relevant to your position?

My undergraduate degree is from the University of Connecticut in dietetics, but I also completed a minor in exercise science there. I completed my dietetic internship at the University at Buffalo, where I created their sports nutrition internship rotation as there were no sports nutrition resources in place on campus at the time for their division I athletes. I stayed to complete my Master’s in Nutrition there as well, though my research and coursework was focused in exercise physiology as well. I’ve been a dietitian since 2009 and obtained my CSSD credentials in 2014. While I wasn’t board certified until this point, I consider myself having been a sports RD for the entirety of my career

When was the first time, and how did you hear about sports dietitians?

I’ve wanted to work in sports nutrition since my sophomore year of high school. My mom had some health issues that seemed chronic, and she was recommended everything from a cocktail of medications to a hysterectomy. She decided to go another route and after nutrition changes became healthier than ever. While my mom always tried to provide us with a balance of healthy food, when my family started to eat in a more nourishing way, I noticed more energy and an improvement in my swimming. I knew I wanted to help others find these same benefits. I didn’t really know about the difference between “dietitians” and “nutritionists” until I got to college and was in a dietetics program, though.

Why have you decided to work with athletes or similar groups?

While I always knew I wanted to work with athletes, when I saw more eating disorders and disordered eating early in my career, I felt a desire to help prevent ED before it was a clinical problem. This is where I love working with active women who don’t consider themselves as athletes, because the physical demands they put on their body require a lot of the same nutrition support as athletes who are competing.

Prior to getting your credentials, did you have any experience in nutrition (ie. food service, volunteering, etc.)?

I worked at a local health food store in high school, but was in the body care department. While I learned a few things from the naturopathic physicians that worked there, their job is much more about supplements as medicine complimenting diet than it is about using food as medicine.

How did you achieve your position/ how did you get started with your current position?

I was lucky to have a great start in sports nutrition in my internship and was able to continue working with the athletes at UB when I became credentialed as a dietitian and was completing my master’s degree. From there, I accepted a professor position at Bucks County Community College, outside of Philadelphia. While I taught sports nutrition at the college level from my first year out of grad school, I also presented on nutrition to their sports teams right off the bat. Since academia at the community college level is so flexible, it allowed me to begin my private practice very early in my career. It began with speaking to local sports teams (high school, club, and college). When I created my recipe blog as a resource for my students and the teams I spoke to, I started to be contacted for 1-1 services and took on clients in that manner as well and by word of mouth my speaking and counseling business escalated.
Several years ago I was asked to create nutrition programming for a top 5 national health club of over 13,000 members. The fitness nutrition space is exciting as I can influence athletes young and old while also helping those with illness use both fitness and nutrition to improve their health. While I continue to speak to a large variety of sports teams, and have worked with athletes via an NFL agent, my credentials opened the door to be considered for a current media spokesperson role with USA swimming that I enjoy very much. USA Swimming has roughly 400,000 year round athletes who spent countless hours in the pool without proper knowledge of how to fuel for endurance exercise and as a former swimmer, the position means even more to me. Finally, I recently began working with a company to update sports nutrition continuing education articles 
and also work with the Philadelphia Phillies minor league affiliates, though that is a more traditional sports nutrition position.

What key areas of knowledge/experiences did you need to have before this job?

Being successful as a sports dietitian requires not only a passion for the field, but also staying up to date with the most well-respected research in the field. I am lucky to have had professors that are pioneers in the field such as Nancy Rodriguez at UConn to motivate me, but also have always had a high level of confidence in my knowledge due to the exercise physiology coursework I chose at the undergraduate and graduate level. I also know my level of knowledge would not be where it is today without taking advantage of SCAN’s resources and the SCAN Symposium since I was a student. I love learning, so it was easy to soak up so much knowledge in a field I am so passionate about. Having been a division I athlete myself, to this day what drives me is providing athletes with the knowledge I wish I’d had at the peak of my athletic career.

Do you have any other credential or certification that helped you outside of dietetics?

While I don’t currently have any credentials outside of dietetics, most of my graduate school coursework was in exercise physiology courses. I am also currently studying to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). I had the opportunity in grad school and was a bit overwhelmed with classes, work and research so I didn’t do it then. I wish I had though! I’m not obtaining it so much to actually work as a strength coach, but to do a better job with the exercise physiology continuing education. While dietitians should automatically be seen as the nutrition experts, and CSSD’s as the sports nutrition experts, that usually isn’t the case with fitness professionals and having a fitness certification can help enhance your credibility with the fitness community.

Is there a course you took in undergrad or grad school that has helped you in your current role?

My sports nutrition course with Nancy Rodriguez in undergrad was a turning point for me in how I looked at fueling for fitness. I also loved my exercise physiology course in undergrad and the advanced ones I took in grad school since they helped so much with being able to translate the purpose of nutrition recommendations to athletes.

What are the highs and lows of your position?

While I love seeing my 1-1 athletes enhance their performance and well-being through nutrition, I think it is most exciting knowing the volume of active individuals I reach with science-based information via my messaging with USA swimming, in TV segments, on my blog and social media, through fitness club programming, and teaching. While most are aware that athletes have a higher risk of eating disorders, I don’t feel there is enough light shed on the disordered eating that occurs to the active population, so I strive to create programs and develop messaging that is supported by science without promoting any one diet. The positive feedback I get from individuals who have gotten over disordered eating or have been motivated to quit dieting through my messaging really keeps me going. It is also exciting to have young RDs and dietetics students reach out saying they aspire to work in ways that I do.
In terms of the lows, I would say sometimes I wish that I could just shut down the computer at 5 and not have to work on the weekends, but in reality it’s the flexibility of my work that I love so much, too. Sometimes it is hard to set boundaries for the appropriate work-life integration, but as my career has progressed I’ve gotten better at it! Another low is knowing that you can’t help everyone who needs it. Having the knowledge I have, I want to help everyone to stop dieting and learn to nourish their active body’s in the right way, so biting my tongue if someone isn’t mentally ready for the right information is a challenge

What is a typical day for you?

Literally every day is different! While I try throughout the year to build a set weekly schedule so that one day is for blogging/video/recipe development and pitches, another day is for 1-1s, and the rest working on my contract and consulting work, the reality is it changes every week. Since I work on a variety of projects, some weeks I spend five full days reading research studies for working on continuing education articles, and other times of the year I may have 4 speaking engagements, a TV segment and consulting work to do. This is perfect for my personality since I can’t sit still doing the same thing for too long. I always say I could never survive a “normal” 9-5 job.

What advice would you share with an RD (or RD2be) that is interested in a similar career path?

I am a mentor via NEDPG and also have had a variety of students and young dietitians reach out for advice in the past. My advice varies person to person since everyone has a different background and reason for wanting to pursue a career in sports nutrition. I do think no matter what, though, it is important to have an extremely strong base knowledge of sports nutrition science. Even as dietitians we sometimes see information that came from an article where the research study was flawed or the research is the first of its kind. It’s crucial that we use caution before repeating any information we see to clients or our audience without getting the facts straight and seeing repeated studies. I always tell people to know the Academy position paper’s content well, and be sure they own the latest copy of the Sports Nutrition Handbook for Professionals (now in it’s 6th edition). It’s so much better to tell someone “I don’t know, let me look into that for you”, than to pretend you know the answer and give the wrong advice. Not only could it impact their health in an extreme way, but it also reflects on your knowledge as a professional and the entire dietetics community when incorrect information is put out there.

What is your greatest strength/weakness as a dietitian?

I would say that my passion for helping others is my biggest strength and my biggest weakness is saying yes too much! I am way better than I used to be, but sometimes it’s hard to turn down opportunities where you know you can make a difference in other’s lives. Midway through 2016 I was starting to feel pretty burnt out with everything on my plate and wasn’t able to spend as much time as I’d like on self-care and with family and friends. When I decided to back off from one large position and transition to a consulting vs. day to day role, it showed be I can still be an influence without spreading myself too thin. Since then, I think a lot more before accepting consulting work or clients and very often refer to others.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I love spending time with friends and family, training for races, exercising outside, and traveling. I also love exploring high quality cuisine at new restaurants and am a big environmentalist.

How do you deal with the daily stresses presented to you in your career?

Since becoming less of a “yes” person, I’ve created a curfew on when I’ll stop responding to emails at night and am more committed to really taking time off on the weekends when I don’t have events, work travel or deadlines. I also actually write exercise into my schedule so I have the time for it since it helps me clear my head. Finally, working as a solopreneur, it’s helps to have found a great group of dietitian friends who have similar practices and interests; we give each other advice, hold each other accountable and are there for when someone needs to vent!

What are some of the unique nutritional considerations you must consider for the group(s) you work with?

It’s important that any dietitian working with athletes or active individuals is screening for disordered eating and eating disorders in their initial assessments. While there are many nutrient considerations for athletes, adequate micronutrient intake and appropriate phytochemical intake won’t be helpful without adequate energy and proper nutrient timing. Additionally, the active population is much more likely to be using supplements, so it’s up to the RD to educate on safety and effectiveness and the importance of using foods first for health and performance. Unless prescribed by a doctor or recommended by a dietitian who has a great knowledge of current and past medical history, I don’t believe athlete should be putting money and effort into taking a supplement for performance if they still have dietary adjustments that can be made.