Energy Is More Than Calories

– by Lorraine Butler

 Intro photo credit: World Central Kitchen

Let’s face it, we all have things going on in our lives that can zap our energy and creative juices and sometimes we need a jolt. The Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) last week was my jolt; it really energized me. The days were long, but the balance of learning from numerous sessions, networking and connecting with colleagues, and checking out new products and resources in the expo hall provided much stimulation. What really gave me energy, though, was hearing two speakers, Bonnie St. John and chef José Andrés. They spoke of resilience, choosing habits that will help you accomplish your goals and being bold. Hearing these messages woven between the other educational sessions gave me just the boost I needed.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Bonnie St. John was the perfect person to speak about resilience. She won three Olympic medals at the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria, so it was fitting that she told about research on what sets successful athletes apart from their worthy opponents. Ms. St. John explained why she considers resilience a meta-skill and introduced the idea that we can do things between points of exertion to regain our strength and energy. The framework suggested ways to refocus, reset, re-frame, refresh and renew.

Dietitians already know about the importance of eating well for energy, but Ms. St. John suggested we make other small adjustments in our daily routines to stay energized and focused. Here are three of her ideas.

  1. One idea for staying refreshed is to include physical movement and take moments of rest throughout the day.
  2. “Zoning” was part of Ms. St. John’s plan for refocusing. To do this either set aside time on your calendar for doing focused work or go to a quiet place when your work requires concentration.IMG-0803
  3. Your can create a “first-aid kit for your attitude” for when you need help reframing your attitude. This is a collection of things that will give your attitude a boost, such as a thank-you card that you received, pictures, mementos or a joyful song.

The first two ideas are not new to me, but Ms. St. John’s “first-aid kit for your attitude” was. Her talk about these three ideas reminded me that I do my best when I am physically, mentally and emotionally in a good place, and I can make micro changes to my routine to set myself up for success.

While Ms. St. John focused on the little things in our routine, chef José Andrés looked at the big picture. His call to action was for dietitians to be bold. He told about his bold move to create World Central Kitchen (WCK) even though nay-sayers said he wasn’t equipped to help in the aftermath of natural disasters. But Andrés knows that chefs work well in chaotic surroundings, so he persevered. In just this past year alone, WCK’s Chef Relief Network has served more than 4.6 million meals to victims of natural disasters in Peru, Houston, Puerto Rico, California, Hawaii, Guatemala, and Indonesia. WCK has other long-term projects that are helping to promote smart, clean cookstove technology and combat hunger and poverty. Andrés knows about the obstacles that many people face in getting the nutrition they need. He also knows about some of the obstacles dietitians face as we try to help combat hunger and malnutrition. He recognizes that these big challenges will require bold action and so he encouraged all the dietitians in the audience to create smart solutions to combat hunger. After hearing chef Andrés speak, I am more determined than ever to think outside the box professionally and believe that I can make a difference when I boldly follow my passion.

Photo Credit: World Central Kitchen

Reflecting upon these two motivating speeches, I let it sink in how important dietitians’ work is. We distill science to provide guidance and improve people’s health. Food shapes who we are, and dietitians help shape what people eat. Wow! On occasion I have run into obstacles or my energy for doing my best work has waned. FNCE 2018 has given me some tools to combat this should I experience it in the future and it has invigorated me. I hope all the dietitians in attendance are equally motivated and will use what they learned at FNCE to bring their “A” game as they promote good eating habits, work to prevent or manage diseases, and feed others.

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