Judy Barbe: Showstopper!
Aug 27, 2014
PROLOGUE: I first met Judy about 10 years ago when we were both working for the dairy council (in different states/regions – Judy in Wyoming and me in Chicago). I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with her and meeting up at various conferences over the years, and am especially excited to share her interview (and the awesome projects she’s working on) with you!
MELISSA:Judy, how did you become interested in a career in food and nutrition and what is your food/nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
JUDY: I can’t remember not being interested in food. My enthusiasm started early. Growing up in food-rich central California, my grandparents walked us to the bakery for warm San Francisco sour dough bread; my dad harvested fish, abalone, frog legs, and elk and then my mom cooked; and there were regular stops at fruit and vegetable stands. My mom used to keep my sister and me busy shelling walnuts and almonds.
I have always liked cookies so early on I became the family baker –probably to satisfy my own sweet tooth. I won a blue ribbon for my brownies. I no longer have the recipe, but I do have the ribbon.
As a ten-year old, I pored over the Betty Crocker cookbook in search of ideas for my slumber party. I served ice-cream-stuffed cantaloupe. Turns out my guests weren’t as excited as I was about the party food. But I continued my interest in tasting, eating, collecting and cooking food. That interest led me into the study of nutrition. I earned both bachelor and master degrees in food science and human nutrition. The combination of food and nutrition serves me well because I know how to make food taste good and still be good for me. I believe having good food in your life makes your life better.
MELISSA: How interesting! Well, I bet there are other foodies out there who would have appreciated that type of food-focus at a 10-year old slumber party! So, what inspired you to start your own biz and what are you working on right now?
JUDY: After 21 years with a regional dairy council, I was at a crossroads and ready for a change. When I left work many of my friends thought I was retiring. Nothing was farther from the truth. I spent some time catching up on social engagements and house maintenance and exploring creative outlets (took a painting workshop, improv class, photography class), all while allowing myself time to define my next chapter. This fermenting, so to speak, gave me some time to set my path for reinvention and repurposing. I’m not completely sure where I’m going but I am confident I’m headed in a great direction!
When I speak to students I use a Venn diagram to show the intersects of my skills – food, education and communication. What I’m doing right now brings these together for me. I formed a company called LiveBest, built a website, explored social media (@JudyBarbe, FaceBook Judy Barbe, You Tube channel) and have written two books (LiveBest Seasonally and Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest) with a third in the works. I still have a lot to learn but am pleased with what I’ve done so far.
Another thing I’m focused on is serving as the Chair of Food and Culinary DPG. I am just entering into the leadership role of Chair-Elect and am delighted about that. Throughout my career I’ve been involved in professional associations. I’ve learned good skills and met great people.
MELISSA: Wow! You have been very busy! In full disclosure here, I will share that I accepted your invitation to review your books and I have to say….I was completely blown away! Here’s what I had to say about your first book: “LiveBest Seasonally is rich, interesting and compelling. It’s a wonderful culinary adventure grounded in real-life tips with beautiful photos. I cannot wait to try the recipes and food ideas.”
Not only are you an excellent writer, you actually took the photos yourself, and the layout is phenomenal – really easy to read and so enticing. And I just have to add (since there are RDs reading this blog) I will be using this as a REFERENCE for my media interviews, podcast and more. Nicely done!!
And I love this description you have for your second book: Judy Barbe, MS, RDN announces her engaging ebook: Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest, Simple Solutions for Fresh Food and Well-Being. Available via Kindle, this hands-on book helps adults reboot their lives with great food, activity, and knowing their environment. Filled with assessments, food tips, inspiration, and a little humor, Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest highlights each food group and guides the reader to simple and practical solutions. Whether readers are new to eating healthfully or self-proclaimed foodies, they’ll learn something new about living their best while eating deliciously. It’s a delectable book not just to read, but to enjoyably use. The book was reviewed and endorsed by Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating and Slim By Design and fellow RDNs Melissa Joy Dobbins, Barbara Baron, Debra French, and Isabel Maples.
I know you just did a book launch for Your 6-week Guide to Live Best! Tell us all about it – what did you have to do to prepare for it?
JUDY: The book launch party only took 8 months! First write a book…
Seriously though, a friend encouraged me to have a book launch party. I am so glad I did. It was really fun way to tell people what I’ve been doing and gain some momentum about it.
I designed an invitation that encouraged people to share, like, tweet, pin, and buy. We distributed it as an email and something struck a cord because we had more than 60 people attend. It was from 5-7 on a Friday night.
The book is available as an ebook so there was no book to sign (though a hard copy is in the works). Instead I signed a sales card. The card worked well. One because my graphic designer made it unique. Two, it highlighted the book and my website. And three, it featured a recipe I developed (LiveBest Gala Popcorn) and served at the book launch. So I was able to engage with attendees about my brand and website, sign the card, and then people left with card in hand (and a small bag of popcorn). I also served flavored waters and small nut cups with Parmesan crisps, cajun pecans, fruit crisp crackers – all made by friends.
I had the large reprints of the book covers and selected pages of the book printed so people could see the style and sections.
MELISSA: Sounds like it went very well and I wish I could have been there! Tell us about the types of food/nutrition communications you are engaged in.
MELISSA: Wonderful! What comes naturally for you and what does not when it comes to food/nutrition communications?
JUDY: I’m approachable and personable, which I think are assets in communication. When you, Melissa, read LiveBest Seasonally, you told me you heard my voice. That’s a sign of a good writer. After years of writing a newspaper column, I’ve become pretty good at that. The radio minutes are easy for me too. Because I like food and cooking, I’m able to combine all these skills to connect with readers/listeners in a my-friend-told-me sort of way. I’m in a steep learning curve with social media, learning how to do it well and evaluating it’s impact.
MELISSA: This is a great illustration of how I always tell my RD audiences and clients that communication skills are transferable – from writing, to speaking to media interviews. And that social media is best learned by just jumping in and doing it!
Please share your top tips for other RDs who want to improve their communication skills.
1. Focus on the food. Become a food expert. People eat food and are looking for ideas on how they can do it better. Rather than tell clients to eat organic, wild blueberries, tell them what to do with the food that is in season for them right now. So in the fall give them 3-5 ideas on how to use apples and pears. In the spring encourage people to plant an herb and tell them how they can use it to flavor their cooking.
2. Talk so people understand you with stories, example and anecdotes, as though you are talking to your dad or next-door neighbor.
3. Identify your strength. Mine is making food that is good for us taste good in a seemingly effortless way. I am passionate about taking the confusion out of healthy eating. Taste and health can be on the same fork. To find yours, ask friends, family, and colleagues to tell you what they think you’re good at so they can help you name your strengths. I think many of us don’t know what we’re good at because we are good at ‘it’ so’’ it’ is just who we are and generally ‘it’ comes naturally to us. We’re also likely to have a lot of interest and expertise in ‘it.’ See, it’s kind if a cycle. Because what we’re good at, we’re likely passionate about so it makes it much easier to speak confidently about the topic. This can also help you define your niche, which may lead you to a new path. I have a friend who is supremely organized. Her closets, drawers, files, pantry are enviable. One day I called her to tell her about this strength I see in her. She knew she was good at it for herself but never considered this could be a business opportunity.
4. Ask. I contacted the newspaper editor to pitch a couple of story ideas. She asked me to write the article, which turned into a column that is still running after 15 years. She also gave me a great piece of advice and that was to write with humor. Rather than being comedic, she meant to deliver information in a light tone, not a finger-pointing or list of thou shalt not eat this.
MELISSA: Sage advice, Judy! I know you love food, travel and the outdoors…tell us about how you spend your “down” time.
JUDY: Laughter and physical activity are my elixirs. I was terrible at improv, but my dog, Beau, is a great walking companion. He nudges my elbow daily to take him on a walk.
I’ve visited nearly 30 countries and nearly every state. Clearly, I love to travel. I’m planning a trip around the world. Does it surprise you that it will be food-focused? I’m a beginning adventurous knitter. That means I make more than scarves and I knit more than I unknit…sometimes.
Before I became a dietitian I was a dental hygienist. Once a friend asked me what was easier, to get people to floss or to improve their diets. I’ve been struggling to answer that question since! But I do know eating food that tastes good and helps me live best is a lot more fun!
EPILOGUE: I hope you will check out Judy’s book and that you will be as impressed and inspired as I have been. This book is ideal for clients and I know that I’m going to share it will all of my friends and family! Thank you to Judy for sharing her story, but most of all, for taking the time to explore her career path choices when she was at that crossroads and for embarking on this exciting journey that she has shared with us!
Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!
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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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