Our featured dietitian for the month of November is Jessica A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT who is owner of Positive Nutrition of Omaha, LLC. She works with athletes of all levels, from local clubs and high schools and athletes at the university level to elite level swimming and gymnastics teams. Her experience extends to those with disorder eating habits. Jessica is also the nutrition consultant at Athletes Training Centers Sports Performance and Physical Therapy in Omaha, Nebraska, and she is a sports nutrition guest lecturer at the University of Omaha.
1. What is your educational background and how long have you been an RD? Do you have any additional credentials relevant to your position?
I have been an RD for 15 years, I have a Bachelors in Nutritional Science and completed my internship at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. I have had my CSSD for 8 years.
2. How did you achieve your position/ how did you get started with your current position?
I started this private practice four and a half years ago, while I was also working full time at Offutt Air Force Base as the RD in the Health and Wellness Center. It started as a small practice of only one day per week and quickly grew to now four days per week with 40-50 athletes/clients per week and two to five group educational talks per month.
3. What key areas of knowledge/experiences did you need to have before this job?
I worked as collegiate sports nutrition graduate assistant the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then went on the work as an RD at an eating disorder treatment center in Chandler, Arizona. I then went on to work full time as the RD at Offutt Air Force Base.
4. What are the highs and lows of your position?
The highs of my job are seeing athletes and clients recover from disordered eating and how this enhances their ability to live a fulfilling life and improve their sports performance. The lows are seeing clients struggle with their eating or having to help them navigate nutrition during injury.
5. What is a typical day for you?
I typically conduct eight to ten nutrition counseling sessions with athletes and may do a sports nutrition or corporate wellness lunch and learn. I spend time updating therapists and parents on the progress of the athlete depending upon their age and whether or not they have disordered eating habits. I also provide cooking demos or sampling recipes for social media and the recipe of the week for my practice.
6. What advice would you share with an RD (or RD2be) that is interested in a similar career path?
My advice would be to make sure you spend some time working with veteran dietitians and find a mentor to provide supervision for you if you plan to go into eating disorder treatment.
8. What is your greatest strength/weakness as a dietitian?
I believe I am compassionate, but I can be straight forward with my recommendations. I try to make sure my clients know that I do not expect them to be perfect, but I do expect them to be honest. My weakness would be navigating the new world of technology and social media outlets and keeping my followers updated.
9. What are some of your interests outside of work?
I enjoy cooking, sewing, art, kickboxing, snow skiing. I also love anything I can do on the lake such as wakeboarding and tubing, and of course, I love shopping and walking.
10. What aspect of sports nutrition (or any other area of dietetics) interested you to pursue it as a career?
I was a division I collegiate athlete myself, which is why I became interested in sports nutrition. I had to opportunity to do graduate work with veteran sports dietitians at University of Nebraska. This helped me to see how much a difference we can make as sports dietitians.
11. How do you deal with the daily stresses presented to you in your career?
I try to do some type of stress management techniques each day and focus on what needs to be done daily vs. procrastinating.
12. Prior to getting your credentials, did you have any experience in nutrition (ie. food service, volunteering, etc.)?
I was a graduate assistant at Husker Power performance nutrition program under Dave Ellis. I also was a server for a catering company throughout college which exposed me a little bit to the food industry.
13. What do you love about your career/job?
I love seeing people improve in their relationship with food and enhance their sports performance by making nutritional changes. I love the relationships I have with my clients and athletes and being able to connect, relate, and help them make changes for optimal health and performance.
14. Is there a course you took in undergrad or grad school that has helped you in your current role?
Unfortunately, we did not have any training in sports nutrition or eating disorders in college. I did learn a lot from Dave Ellis while working at Husker Power and my supervisor Kim Guenther RD, CEDRD at my first job as an eating disorder dietitian.
15. What are some of the unique nutritional considerations you must consider for the group(s) you work with?
I have to find the balance between providing sports nutrition recommendations to enhance performance while preventing triggers for disordered eating patterns. I work a lot with aesthetic sports, creating a fine line between promoting sports performance and fostering a healthy life, a healthy relationship with food, and a healthy body image.