Science With a Heart: IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit

by Sandy Todd Webster on Jul 17, 2018


This event paired science with a heart to help clients toward life transformation.

It bears reminding that research does not exist in a vacuum.

The rapid unfurling of nutrition and behavior change evidence make this area of study especially exciting, but equally as overwhelming for fitness and nutrition pros. And if it’s confusing for those with skin in the game, imagine how the firehose force of optimized headlines hits clients, very few of whom have the necessary filters and knowledge base to absorb and stratify data meaningfully. Signals get crossed and misinformation proliferates, to say the least.

Nutrition specialists, health coaches and personal trainers demonstrated their commitment to opening their minds and filling the information gaps by attending this 2-day “event within the event” on June 29–30. In its third year, the IDEA World Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit sold out all but two sessions, filling the classroom for 400 to capacity and packing 2 days with science paired with countless touchpoints on how to use the ideas now.

If absorbing new concepts is the elixir that keeps us thoughtful and relevant as professionals, then this Summit delivered a triple espresso jolt with a clean buzz that will perpetuate beyond IDEA World and awaken clients around the globe. As first-time attendee Gemma Frankland put it, “I am now back in London feeling inspired and excited about my experiences. I feel I came away with a whole new set of tools to make me better able to help my clients . . . and myself! The trip from London to San Diego was more than worthwhile to have these new ways of approaching old problems.”

Each of the experts on the program is either (or both) a respected researcher and/or thought leader in nutrition science, obesity, health coaching and behavior change today. Even the meal breaks were learning opportunities, with thoughtful, inspirational topics and speakers featured at each. The program proffered everything from stunning Nobel-prize winning science about how the circadian rhythm of the universe governs our health via trillions of cellular body clocks that are designed to sync with the master clock, as well as a hilarious plea to “hook up” more regularly with fruits and vegetables and packaged by the speaker as an inspired love letter to F&V haters.

Here are just a handful of the countless highlights delivered by the thoughtful, engaging faculty.

From Health Care to Self-Care

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, introduced new science for creating sustainable behavior change that was popularized in her best-selling book No Sweat. She iterated between data, story and methodology pros can use to better cultivate sustainable health-related behaviors among clients. “We need to help clients give themselves permission to schedule self-care and not succumb to the louder demands in the priority roll. This is the toughest nut to crack,” she said. “If we are not embedding autonomy that gives clients the power to choose the immediate right ‘whys’ for making change, it’s not going to happen.”

Segar advised giving clients “MAPS”—meaning, awareness, permission and strategy—to create a sustainable cycle of self-care. “The opportunity is so huge for us, she said. “We've just been misguiding the conversation.”

Protein Obsessed: Sorting the Truth From the Hype

Back for her second-straight year as the Summit’s emcee, Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, took a deep dive into what is driving the obsession with dietary protein and how we can guide it in a more productive way. Layering data with common sense and her signature dry wit and snark when calling out the absurd, she reminded attendees to consider protein needs by population and then further by individual—and gave approachable pointers on how to calculate those needs using modern standards.

So what’s the best source of protein for your client? After considering each client’s unique needs, she outlined a six-point guide that can help us work out the rest: Consider taste, cost, convenience, preferred dietary pattern, protein content and nutrient content.

Is It Time to Eat Yet? Nobel Prize–Winning Body Clock Science Has the Answer

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM has a flair for the dramatic and brought attendees to their feet after she conducted what amounted to a scientific symphony. In a world of 24/7 nonstop chaotic eating, relentless stress, continuous screen-gazing, sedentary lifestyle and sleep deprivation, time has become irrelevant. Such constant disruptions of the powerful circadian rhythm are wreaking life-threatening havoc on mental and physical health. Peeke urged all to “honor the clock”—the body clock—and outlined what is sure to become a transformational model to guide when and how to optimally nourish and regenerate the body.

One-and-Done Cooking: Prep Once, Eat 10 Times

Without the benefit of a proper cooking stage, Chef Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN, sharpened her knives and developed a creative workaround that seared her main point with perfect grillmarks: Starting at ground zero with meal planning and cooking every day is a bad idea for most people! We and our clients can check a lot of boxes off the to-do list by pre-planning and organizing through batch cooking for a couple of hours on the weekend to create efficiency and decrease stress during the week. The recipe packet she provided alone was worth the price of entry. With a handful of well-produced instructional videos customized for the presentation, Gellman invited the audience into her studio kitchen and showed how easy it really is when we have a plan.

Help Clients Own the Talk the Drives the Walk

What if you could help clients to literally talk themselves into making meaningful behavior change? Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, delivered a lunch seminar sponsored by ACE on the art, science and nuances of motivational interviewing. “Essentially, this approach recognizes that a client is the best expert on his or herself and has what he or she needs to make a change,” Muth said.

A communication approach whereby a coach helps a client work through ambivalence toward behavioral change, MI was first described more than 40 years ago, and was studied and used as a tool to help alcoholics quit drinking. Since then, its efficacy with regard to a wide range of behavior changes has been proven through hundreds of scientific research studies. Fitness professionals, health coaches and dietitians who gain some degree of proficiency in motivational interviewing will see immediate value in it, Muth said.

Three Clients and 500 Pounds of Lessons: Dramatic Portraits of Sustainable Change

Panelists Lee Jordan, MS, Catherine Wygal and Donald Wygal courageously shared accounts of their ongoing journeys from the bleakness of morbid obesity, crazy dieting and eating disorders to sanity and sustainability. They have achieved weight loss of 250, 150 and 100 pounds, respectively. Moderated by IDEA editor in chief and the Summit’s program director Sandy Todd Webster, the “aha” here was that there is no finish line in your client’s odyssey. The sooner you can help them wrap their minds around the concept of journey and sustainability, the sooner they can get on the path.

Attendee Frankland summed up elegantly why she’ll be back next year: “I cannot truly express how wonderful it was to meet so many other attendees—all people like myself who are keen to keep learning, keep self-developing, and keep things fresh and progressive for clients who put their trust in us.”

Want to See Some of the These Sessions—and Many Others from IDEA World?

Save the date for next year’s event in Anaheim, June 28–29. If you missed this year’s IDEA World Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit—or if there were sessions at IDEA World Convention you missed or want to learn from—you can pre-order the entire filmed bundle at 2018 IDEA World Video Bundle. It will be available August 1, 2018.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.