American Society For Nutrition

Interview with ASN Member, Rebecca Scritchfield, RD

Interview with ASN Member, Rebecca Scritchfield, RD

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Interviewer: What is your background as a dietician? How did you get interested in nutrition?

Rebecca: I am a registered dietician in private practice.  My specialty is in healthy weight management, which means that I do not promote any kind of dieting. I promote changing behaviors with a balanced approach to nutrition, exercise, and stress management.  I look at all three pieces in the individual counseling that I do to make sure we are taking care of a person's overall wellness. I also do sports nutrition counseling for all levels of athletes.  My clients range from high school and college athletes all the way to NFL draft hopefuls.

Nutrition is actually a career change for me. I went into nutrition after working in the field of information technology and association management for about six years.  I was always interested in nutrition because I realized at a young age that health begins with what you put into your body, but I never really considered it as a career path until shortly after college, I realized that I had put on 40 pounds in about four years. I realized how low my energy was and how tired I felt and I wasn't eating healthy or exercising.  I knew that as a person with a family history of heart disease and cancer, my genetics wasn't where it needed to be.  As a 23-year-old I felt very unhealthy and I decided that I should learn more about eating healthy and exercising.  I became so interested and so drawn to nutrition because there were so many dots I was able to connect.  I put myself through a nutrition program while I worked in DC, which took me about six years of taking classes part time.  So it was really dealing with my own health issues that drove me to think about overall well-being.

Interviewer: How and when did you first come to join ASN?

Rebecca: As a nutrition professional you need access to the best information, and it was really important to me to make sure I was affiliated with the right organization--one that could contribute to my credibility as a nutrition expert.  That made it a no-brainer for me to invest in ASN.

Interviewer: How has your membership with ASN helped advance your career?

Rebecca: With ASN I always know I'm ahead of the curve in my field.  It gives me access to the latest research and I am very appreciative of that.  As a nutrition expert who also works in social media and speaking engagements, I blog, Tweet, and use Facebook to support my professional speaking career.  With these new mediums for communication, you have to be constantly on top of the latest news at all times.  We are in an information age and we need to be experts in science-based information.  We need to be there responding if there is a story out in the media--whether it's misinformation, information that might not have the strongest data, or the latest diet or exercise book that comes out.  As experts, we need to be able to say, “Hey, I am a trained nutrition expert. I know the science, and this is what the evidence says.”  To have a resource like ASN that helps you do that is invaluable because you can't read every journal and you can't be everywhere at once.  Through the newsletter, through its LinkedIn page, and through email, ASN keeps us well informed.  You can't really put a price on the time-saving that does.

Interviewer: Talk to us a little about the Nurture Principles and your work with Bernie Salazar.

Rebecca: The Nurture Principles are a set of five mantras to help people find an improved sense of wellness.  They are phrases that people can learn and invoke them as they are trying to make behavior changes.  The first mantra is, “Nothing changes until you do.”  When we invoke that it reminds us that we need to be ready to make changes and really want to make those changes.  No matter how much anyone else in your life wants you to eat better or exercise more or manage your stress, you have to want it for yourself.  If you want something to change in your life--if you want more energy, if you want to feel better--you need to be a person with accountability and responsibility for your actions and make the decision that you are ready to change. That sets off our mantras.  

When Bernie Salazar and I present the Nutrition Principles, we do it in a way that is both educational and entertaining.  Bernie has a Masters in education.  He spent most of his life overweight.  He then lost 130 lbs and was a winner of “The Biggest Loser” on NBC.  His perspective is coming from someone who was not embracing the Nurture Principles, so he is able to discuss not only how he changed on the show but also how he changed internally in an interesting and engaging way.  Together, we provide audiences with nutrition information, exercise strategies, and stress management techniques through demonstrations, visuals, and other interactive techniques.  The goal of our presentation is for people to have fun and to take away at least one or two things that they can take action on today.  They actually sign action plans where they pick one area of nutrition and one area in exercise that they deserve to change to honor their well-being.

Interviewer: You've become a major voice for the nutrition community in the new media. Why is communication so important in nutrition education? Is it something you stress with your students at GW?

Rebecca: Absolutely, in my Sports Medicine classes I have the students do a capstone project that requires them to work in teams to develop a presentation and a handout that they use in the community as well as in class.  If you are a researcher then it's wonderful to be able to do the work, but you also need to be a good communicator or work with good communicators to be able to disseminate that knowledge to the public, which is especially important for nutrition research.  If the new information is not presented in a way that the public can understand, they are not able to take action on it.  So I do believe that researchers need to work with communicators as a team to make sure the public has access to the best information.  When I teach my classes, I strive to help my students realize the importance of strong written and oral communication skills, because no matter what career path you choose, you need to be able to break complicated information down into steps, tips, and advice so people can figure out how they can act on it.

Interviewer: Tell us a little about your coverage of the Experimental Biology meeting. What topics did you focus on and what kind of coverage did you provide?

Rebecca: I was very excited to cover the ASN Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology.  My role at the meeting was to make sure I was in the action, getting exclusive interviews with the leading experts and the top presenters.  I was there partially as a dietician and partially as a journalist doing videoblog interviews, blog posts, and live Tweets at all the major sessions.  I also attended some of the social events, student sessions and networking activities to get an idea of what EB 2010 offers for everyone.  The coverage was designed to enhance the experience for everyone who was there to catch up on anything they missed and for those who couldn't make it to show them why they should be there in 2011. Check out some of the posts on the ASN blog.