Peak Performance: Mommy Dietitian’s Ministry of Nutrition
Jan 11, 2013
I had heard of Angela Lemond (aka ‘Mommy Dietitian’) long before I had the pleasure of meeting her. She’s one of the most well-known mommy bloggers who is also a dietitian. At the end of my first year as an Academy Spokesperson I learned that Angela would be joining our team and I was eager to meet her and find out more about her, and I was already interested in interviewing her for my blog. When we met she was so warm and personable and I have really enjoyed getting to know her better. Needless to say I am impressed with her and truly inspired by her Mt. Kilamanjaro climb!
How did you become interested in a career in nutrition, and how long have you been an RD?
I became interested in nutrition when I was around 18 years old when I started wanting to be healthier myself. I took a nutrition 101 class and fell in love with the teacher (Donna Israel, who ended up becoming a personal friend and professional mentor). However, I was super intimidated about the science part of nutrition so I delayed my pursuit for over 10 years! I went into corporate marketing instead, but nutrition kept calling me. As life would have it, the marketing part became very helpful with my business. And guess what? I got straight A’s in all my science classes!
Well, isn’t that a nice surprise! I guess you had the knack for science but didn’t know it. Tell me a little bit about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
My core philosophy is practical, healthy eating. I appreciate the foodie aspects of eating, but I primarily spend my time identifying myself with the average busy family with school-aged children. For one, that is ME. My two children are 8 and 5 years old, and we are always on-the-go. My private practice is full of families desperate for easy ideas to make eating healthy achievable. I also talk a ton about the behavioral aspects of raising healthy eaters, i.e., setting the stage at every age for empowering kids to choose those healthy foods when they’re on their own.
What prompted you to start your blog Mommy Dietitian in 2009?
I primarily started the blog because I wanted to expand my reach to families everywhere. I see my work as a pediatric and family dietitian as a ministry of sorts because I absolutely LOVE to help others. The Internet is such a great way to spread reliable information about nutrition to others. When I became interested in nutrition back in the early 1990s, I read everything I could in magazines, but much of it was so conflicting. And when I became educated professionally, I felt duped by much of the information I read as a consumer. That very thing has driven my desire for being in media and online. I want to tell an easy nutrition story that people get once and for all.
I understand! I, too, became a dietitian partly because I wanted to help people avoid being “emotionally hijacked” about nutrition and especially weight loss. What is your motivation for writing your blog? What do you find challenging about writing it?
I get motivated by real-life scenarios that occur with my own children or discussions that take place in my private practice with other families. I also like to see what topics are trending in the news and share my voice. The challenge with writing my blog is one main issue: time. My practice here in Plano, Texas is very busy so I have slowed down on blog posts. My goal is certainly to post more in 2013, including having more guest posts by my awesome RD colleagues.
I think guest blogging is a great idea and have been eager to get that started on my blog as well. I’m excited that I will have my first guest blog post up soon. We should help each other with that!
What other writing or media/communications do you specialize in? What do you enjoy most about it and what do you find most challenging about it?
I have been a featured blogger at the Dallas Morning News blogs and have been a featured writer for the Dallas Morning News Healthy Lifestyle section. I do a lot of in-studio interviews here with the local NBC-affiliate. The challenges are always associated with time it takes to put the well thought-out materials together. And the in-studio interviews are especially challenging for set-up! One time, I had 30 seconds to set-up my props for entire table of food. The items I did not get put up got thrown at my feet as the camera rolled toward me and I stood there with a nervous smile. As I re-watch that clip, I hear my voice shaking in the first sentence and I know exactly what I was going through! It’s live TV and you have to get it right the first time. It makes it challenging and exciting at the same time!
As a consumer, I read everything there was to read about wellness nutrition so once I finally went to get my formal education, I thought I knew much of what there was to know – the degree would just be a formality. Boy, was I so wrong! I really felt I was misled. So that is what started my passion for doing nutrition communications. I wanted to make understanding nutrition easier, and empower consumers to decipher incorrect nutrition information on their own. My media experience began when I was working at Children’s Medical Center. I was one of only a few dietitians among 30 or so in the hospital that had an interest in responding to the hospital’s PR request for local stations asking questions on random topics in pediatric nutrition. I then became the PR chair for the local professional association and then moved up to state PR and served several years promoting RDs throughout the state of Texas. The natural progression was to apply to be an Academy spokesperson.
And I’m so glad you and I are now fellow spokespersons – it is a real pleasure working with you! And my path to Academy Spokesperson was similar to yours – starting off with media experience in a hospital setting and also being involved as a state media rep and PR chair. All great learning experiences!
Oh, and I have a similar story about having just minutes to set up and literally throwing food onto the table and thinking “REALLY?!” Then there was the time the batteries in my microphone pack fell out right before we went live. That was fun. One of the best ones was when I was being filmed “on location” in a grocery store and the ear piece cut out and I couldn’t hear any of the anchor’s questions. Ah, fun times!
You share a lot of personal information on your blog/website including photos and information about your family/kids. And your family is absolutely adorable – especially the little guy with the crooked smile! Showing this side of you really helps your audience get to know you better, but some RDs feel unsure about revealing personal information online. Can you speak to how you came to the decisions you made and why?
I know that moms and dads out there desperately want practitioners who are passionate about what they do. I make no bones about my faith, and that it drives everything I do personally and professionally. I went back and forth about how much to share about my children, and I have decided to share who they are. For me, it’s a sense of being so proud of them and I want them to get a picture of all of me. People much better known than me feature their kids and for the most part, they have been safe. If someone was that desperate to know who my kids were, they could find out anyway. I do stop short of providing geographic details of our family.
I agree – we shouldn’t have to live in fear. It certainly is a personal decision that requires a lot of thought. I have been pretty open with sharing my family pictures and stories, too, because I also think it’s important for people to know who I am personally.
What skills or experiences do RDs need to cultivate if they want to write a blog like you?
The great thing about blogging is it’s very conversational, so grammar doesn’t have to be perfect. And a big mistake I see health professionals doing is making blogs more like a professional article. The blog posts that I have written with the most feedback are posts that include real-life scenarios that insert some form of humor. So, skills would include general writing abilities. And I would also stress that as RDs we need to be very careful about giving “off-label” advice. That is something I am fairly concerned about as an Academy Spokesperson.
I like your choice of words (off-label) and agree – we need to share evidence-based recommendations and it’s one of the reasons I decided my business tag line should start with “sound science.” Resources like the Academy’s Evidence Analysis Library can really help for RDs speak to the science.
Is there any technical or behind the scenes advice you want to share regarding blogging?
I started my first blog on Blogger and it served me well at first. Most RDs that I know use WordPress. Now I have my own blog template that was set-up by a professional web company and they did set up ways to avoid Spam comments. Most major blog sites have that ability. One thing I do recommend is keeping your categories to a maximum of 20 otherwise it’s messy. Think of your target audience – even write out all the attributes of that target person or family – and keep referring to it when you are considering topics to write about. Ask yourself, “Would they be interested? What would they want to know?”
Great advice – if you keep your audience in mind it really helps you stay on target.
Why do you think RDs should use social media?
The first reason is to set the record straight with evidence-based nutrition for the sake of consumers. I hate to say it, but it’s true. If you are primarily motivated for income, you will not be successful – long-term. You have to have something deeper motivating you. As people get a sense of who you are, and what sets you apart, they will listen to you. I am motivated to help others, and that is what I believe has made me successful. Social media helps you connect with consumers, but also in spreading your message out to your colleagues and all types of media outlets. In the end it certainly does help with success due to the wide exposure you get in being online. It’s helped me in all my media communications and positions I have held professionally.
I “like” your facebook page! What comes naturally for you and what do you have to work hard on when it comes to writing and other media/communications?
I love people, and my passion for people (especially children!) comes naturally. Everything I do stems from that. Writing and communications takes a lot of experience, and I consider myself just getting started – actually. There is still so much to learn as far as writing techniques, framing of ideas and targeted topics. I will never say that I’ve figured it all out! If I do then I need to retire. Ha ha! I also need to stay in the research as it comes out. With a super busy practice, busy home life and my media involvement, the reading sometimes slips by the wayside. I do spend 10-30 minutes each morning reading the latest topics. And my spokesperson position affords me more exposure to the science. But it’s something I am always very conscious of because as we know, science emerges! What I learned in school may not apply anymore so I need to stay in the books.
What are your top 3 tips for other RDs who want to write a blog or do other media/communications?
1) Be yourself and express that in a diplomatic, interesting way. Set yourself apart from others.
2) Be concise, accurate and relatable. Don’t rush through a blog post. Remember, millions of people have access to what you write so make it count.
3) Represent RDs well. Don’t just write for yourself; write for the sake of our profession. Share information that other RDs are doing for the public. Again, if your motivation starts with others vs. yourself then this will come naturally.
I especially love your third tip. That is so important and something that I feel very strongly about as well.
I was blown away when I found out you were climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro – please tell us your story!
We just did it in August!! My husband, Jeff, and I love the mountains, and we’ve climbed several 14,000 feet peaks in Colorado. Jeff had a desire to climb Kili before we turned 40, but I wasn’t emotionally ready. Until we saw this ABC show called Expedition Impossible where we followed these teams competing in the outdoors of Morocco. (Mark Burnett, the same executive producer that does Survivor and The Amazing Race). We fell in love with this team called “No Limits” and one of the guys (Jeff Evans) owns a company that takes people up Kilimanjaro! See their YouTube vid:
Jeff Evans is a physician assistant with high altitude training. I said, “OK, if I am gonna do this, I’m gonna do it with him.” So we contacted Jeff Evans (I actually tweeted him and he responded!!) and we booked with him. He goes up once a year in August. It was set for August 2012. My reasons to do this were: Inspire others, face my fears, support my husband. My husband’s mother died unexpectedly in November 2010 and we learned firsthand that tomorrow is not promised. Live your life NOW. I wanted to inspire others to do the same. And DEFY your age. We were both 41 years old when we summited.
I have a personal blog that we did in preparation and while we were in Africa:
Also a YouTube recap video:
What a great video and such an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing it with us. Do you have any other tips or resources you’d like to share with RDs?
1. Develop your online brand! The media and potential clients want to know WHO you are before they want to trust what you have to say. A cheap looking website is not something you want speaking for you! And you don’t simply want a resume on your website. How are you different than others in your profession? Your website needs to be who you are expressed online.
I used Teresa Pangan – a personal branding expert (and RD, web designer and social media expert!!) to help fine tune my brand. We took this information and hired Zack Davis with Octopoda Media to develop my website. Both of these people were amazing at expressing ME visually and in words. Zack and Teresa have helped many more in our industry. I highly recommend them!
2. Media Training. Get formal media training in order to go to that next level. I received media training through the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and also through the national Academy.
3. Stay in the evidence! We all need to remember how to decipher nutrition research. Our national Academy has some excellent resources like the position papers, JADA and the EAL. Use the Academy’s Knowledge Center as a resource as well. Remember, you speak for all of us when you put that RD credential behind your name. Media dietitians work very hard to make Registered Dietitians the reliable expert when it comes to food and nutrition information. Do your part to communicate accurately.
Other helpful resources:
Don’t want to bother with social media? Watch this FIRST!
Also this book: Free Publicity by Jeff Crilley
Thanks for the great tips and resources! So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My 5-year plan is to get my Master’s in Counseling so I can continue with the behavioral aspects of counseling/helping others. I am considering a Master’s in Biblical Counseling. I’d like to put together a biblical weight management program that my adult clients can opt for that would allow spiritual aspects to healthy lifestyle change. And ultimately, I would like to help/train other RDs to opt for this in their practice as well. Even our government believes in faith-based organizations to help others. We should also have this option in our profession!
That sounds like a wonderful niche! Any final words of wisdom?
Your passion will carry you, differentiate you and define you. Believe in what you have to offer others.
Thanks again to Angela for sharing her story and her insider tips. You can follow Angela on Twitter at @MommyDietitian, “Like” her facebook page and check out her blog. Also, check out her services (for Texas residents) and her Eat with Angela recipe meal plan.
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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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