Impressive Debut: Published by the American Diabetes Association
Nov 29, 2012
I met Jill in person at AADE 2012 in Indianapolis. I had heard about her new book Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week and was excited to talk with another RD who shared my passion for diabetes. And I was so impressed that her book was published by the American Diabetes Association! We met up at the Irish Coffee Social on Thursday night and I enjoyed talking with her so much that I ignored my curfew for the 5K run the next morning. It was well worth it (and I still made good time at the race)!
Jill, how did you become interested in a career in nutrition?
I was a senior in college studying communications when I made friends with a dietetics student. That’s the first I ever heard of or even thought about nutrition or dietetics as a career. I finished my degree and worked in marketing for three years, but I kept thinking that I wanted to be an RD. When I was married for just 6 weeks, I went back to school. It took me 4 1/2 years to earn my master’s degree because I had to start with pre-calc, three semesters of chemistry and all the other basic sciences you don’t take as a communications major. I never would have had the guts to do it if it were not for my husband’s encouragement – and a bit of tutoring, too.
Yes, it is a great feeling to have survived all the math, science and stats classes! Tell me about the different types of jobs you’ve had so far throughout your nutrition career.
I started in a clinical job at a hospital. After almost two years, I started taking a few consulting jobs while I raised my girls. I worked a few hours per week in drug rehab, taught at community college, covered vacations and maternity leaves at hospitals, worked 1 day per week at the coast guard medical clinic- all kinds of very part time things. Eventually I worked a regular part time job in a diabetes outpatient program. That’s how I became a CDE. Most recently, I worked in a research clinic where I did the nutritional counseling for the weight loss and diabetes studies. My favorites have been the coast guard and the research clinic. I loved the amount of follow up I was able to have with my patients in those settings.
I started writing about 10 years ago. I built that up very slowly. Now it is at least half of my income. I have been fully self- employed for two years. I have the writing, a small private practice, some speaking, spokesperson work, consulting to food companies– lots of variety. I love it.
That’s great! Tell me more about your work being self-employed.
I write for lots of websites and magazines. I write educational brochures, too. In my private practice in Newport News, VA, I see patients for diabetes, weight loss, GI disorders, heart health and a few other diagnoses. I speak on some of these topics too. In the last few years, I’ve been doing some spokesperson work. I have so much fun with it. I’ve shot videos, given interviews, provided expert commentary, written letters to the editor on behalf of clients. There’s just so much variety. The nutrition and communications backgrounds are perfect together. The only difficult part with spokesperson work is making it clear to clients where you draw the line. Integrity and transparency are more important than just about anything else in my career. I believe in full disclosure, and I will not represent a product I don’t fully endorse, and I’m careful not to say something that may be misleading.
Wow, variety is great, but how do you juggle all of these?
Actually, I think I’ve really suffered with this. I am so much better at it now than I was even just a few months ago. It helps to turn down work that isn’t a good fit. When I’m offered a gig, I ask myself: Is it fun? Is it going to advance my goals? Does the pay or payoff justify the time and effort? If I can’t say yes to at least two of these questions, it’s an automatic no.
That sounds like a thoughtfully strategic way to make a good decision. If you tie yourself down with the wrong types of commitments you won’t have the time to focus on your true goals.
Tell me a little bit about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
I’m practical and I practice evidence-based healthcare. I help people make sustainable changes. I do this in my writing, speaking, and counseling. I communicate accurate, usable nutrition info to the masses. I like to say that I make nutrition science understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
I love that you include the taste factor – that is so important! What prompted you to write your new book Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and when was it released?
This book came out of a conversation with the publisher (the American Diabetes Association). They were interested in a weight loss book that took the reader through small steps in a week by week format. I based it on my experience working with long term patients. Because working at the Coast Guard and the research clinic gave me ample opportunity to work with individuals for months and in some cases a couple years, I developed a way of teaching mini lessons at each session and revisiting previous lessons. That’s the format of the book. It came out this summer and it’s been such a great experience. First, because my publisher is great, but also because I have more opportunity to share my ideas and perspective. I’ve been doing lots of radio interviews and some print and TV, too.
After reading your book I have to agree – your approach is VERY practical and I love the fact that you emphasize “skill” instead of “willpower” and that you walk the reader through how to set SMART goals.
I also love that your book is filled with over 40 pages of tracking sheets, forms and worksheets in addition to tips, action steps, quizzes, recipes and personal success stories. I’m sure these features will help people stay engaged and continue to learn and troubleshoot through their challenges.
My father has type 2 diabetes, so I gave him a copy of your book and here’s what he had to say:
“Everything is covered so thoroughly and mapped out in a user-friendly way. What’s really neat are the many personal stories of success from utilizing her guidelines. That gives you a sense that over time you can make a difference in your health. Like you, she’s not dogmatic – she doesn’t say you can’t have pizza and other treats. But if you do, just make sure it’s the exception and try to substitute something a little healthier most of the time. The book is really smart and practical.”
So, I think you have a new fan!
Can you tell me a little about your experience with the publishing process?
It’s going to be different for everyone. I had a book idea, so I looked through lots of books about writing proposals and getting published. I thought I had a pretty good idea what was involved from that, but I decided to get some help anyway. I hired someone to teach me about the process. Her help was so much more than anything I saw in books. My first proposal ended up being more than 60 pages! I had no idea that it would be so detailed.
I’ve had a great experience. The publisher and I talked about content and format, voice, design – pretty much everything, so nothing was a surprise, and I was pleased with the final project. I won’t get rich from writing a book, but that’s not why I did this.
Tell me about your other writing projects and what you enjoy most about writing.
I write a variety of consumer pieces including educational materials for the American Institute for Cancer Research, blogs for various food companies and associations, magazine and web articles about nutrition and diabetes. I write for some trade publications too. A few recent, fun topics have been about gut bacteria, the safety of fasting for people with diabetes and healthful comfort food. I like the research that goes along with it. A writer can’t say something simply based on memory. We have to find the facts to back it up. It keeps my skills and knowledge current.
That’s a lot of writing! You mentioned that is one of the reasons you decided to start video blogging (vlogging) instead of doing more writing via a traditional blog. Tell me more about your vlogs. What do you enjoy most and what do you find most challenging about it? How do you choose your topics?
The topics come to me from questions patients ask or from something else I’ve been working on – such as adding vegetables to the diet or smart ways to flavor water. They are an extension of everything else I do-practical advice in what I hope is an enthusiastic, compassionate voice. They are fun to do because I like being in front of the camera. The hard part is the time involved (and keeping the dogs quiet). It takes time to buy and prep the props. They usually have to be filmed a couple of times and then there is also the editing time. I have 6 or 7 videos ready to be edited but I haven’t made the time.
Check out my video carousel:
And my YouTube channel:
What comes naturally for you and what do you have to work harder at when it comes to writing?
I used to have to work very hard at organizing the piece. That comes more naturally now with so many years of experience. Now, I still work at making the piece both technically correct and engaging. It’s easy to be engaging but sloppy with your facts or factual and dry.
What skills or experiences do you suggest RDs cultivate if they want to write?
You have to be more than a content expert. You have to have good writing skills. Technical skills like where to put commas, but also skills for style, tone and organization. You also need good time management skills.
What other advice do you have for RDs who want to write?
Develop your skills. Remember that knowing your topic isn’t enough. Start small but don’t work for publications or companies that will harm your reputation. For example, I recommend staying away from content mills. They pay $20 or so for an article and that’s the type of content they expect and accept. Putting your article with a bunch of garbage will not help you. Additionally, you should work for someone you can learn from. You can learn a lot about crafting an article from a good editor. Also be persistent. You might get a bunch of rejections or no replies at all, but keep at it.
This is great advice, Jill. Do you have any other experience or advice to share that you think would help other RDs?
Don’t be afraid to spend money on your business. I’ve never regretted spending money on my business. I buy good business cards- not cheap ones. I hired someone to teach me about good proposals and someone else was my writing coach. I hired someone to design my website, my cards, letterhead, etc. We want people to pay us for our professional services, so it makes sense that we would pay for the services we need that are not within our expertise or part of our skill set.
Excellent point! I will certainly keep that in mind as I continue to build my brand and my new biz, and I’m sure other RDs will, too!
If your work involves diabetes, be sure to check out Jill’s new book. Also check out her website, vlogs and YouTube channel, “like” her facebook page and follow her on Twitter @NutritionJill. Please post any comments or questions you have – we’d love to hear from you!
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I’m the Guilt-Free RD® – “Because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!™”;. So, on my Food for Thought blog I’m exploring the secret ingredients needed to enjoy your food with health in mind. I’m also a “Dietitian Enthusiast” so I’m showcasing interviews with dietitians. My “How To” Series shares practical advice to help boost communication skills and gain more visibility, influence and success.
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