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2019 IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit

Purposefully coaching long-term change that sticks.

Precision Nutrition co-founder John Berardi, PhD, emceed the event, now in its fourth year under the IDEA World umbrella.


There’s hardly anything more satisfying for many professionals than getting out of their own heads and feeding their minds with new ideas and skills. The sheer pleasure of immersing oneself in the waters of knowledge for even a few days each year can make an ocean of difference over the course of a career.

For 2 thought-provoking days within the 2019 IDEA® World Convention, the IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit gathered thought leaders and frontline researchers in both fields to edify and inspire an audience of health coaches, dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers in the pure pursuit of helping clients to grow and thrive.

Precision Nutrition co-founder John Berardi, PhD, emceed the event and sparked lively discussion among the collaborative community that developed among attendees, who bonded during breakfast, lunch and networking breaks. Forming groups of likeminded professionals into multidisciplinary teams was one powerful takeaway, among many. It’s clear that the time for health coaches, trainers and behavior change specialists to share their strengths with each other and with allied health pros is now. Public health statistics don’t lie—lives are at stake.

Here’s a synopsis of key points from the experts.

Keynote: Success Takes Hard Work

Berardi came out of the gate strong with his keynote “Sculpting the Ultimate Coach Within: How to Deliver Remarkable Client Results While Blazing an Epic Career Path.” Nearly 40 years in, it’s still pretty challenging to make a solid living in our industry. Berardi has shown many pros a sensible path with the business model he co-founded at PN, and he shared key learnings on how he and his team grew the company.

After an hour of inspirational and practical “how-to,” Berardi stopped, smiled and delivered the reality check: “This sounds like a lot of work. Did you think having a career would be easy? Don’t feel overwhelmed to get it done quickly. Take your time. Get it right.”

Science and Technology

Jenna Bell at the 2019 IDEA Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit
Jenna Bell, PhD, RD, helped attendees wade through confusing research on eating styles and nutrition.



Jenna Bell, PhD, RD, provided evidence-based nutrition research dovetailed with data showing what holds consumers’ attention. She drilled into the most confusing and contradictory headlines about eating plans, nutrients and foods, reminding attendees that there are decades of evidence to consider in context with new discoveries and ideas.

“Just because it’s peer-reviewed and published doesn’t make it a good study,” she said. “Science is like the law. It’s up for interpretation. And science changes. It’s supposed to.” Her advice for dealing with this dynamic? Keep up with trends, appreciate the impact of perception, talk about the research process with clients, explain the intention of a headline and seek consensus.


A new wellness model is unfolding in large part thanks to technology, also known as the mobile health map (mHealth). Presenting data from her lab and from colleagues, Michelle Alencar, PhD, researcher and professor at California State University, Long Beach, said that, unlike ever before, technology is the connector between the wellness and medical communities. “We’re at the forefront [of the movement] to reshape healthcare, medical and preventive health services. It’s an exciting time for wellness pros. In the new employee wellness model, 9 of 10 offerings are going to be virtual,” she said.

Before you bristle at the idea of technology taking your job, Alencar argued that mHealth is complementary to human coaching. The crux, she said, is divining how to connect with your clients and your multidisciplinary team using technology, extend your services, navigate regulations, choose your tech tools, and then get paid for the work. With nearly $50 billion already being spent on mHealth—a model still in its infancy—there is a large and growing pie to share.

Nutrition Skills and Choices


In “Skills Not Pills: Calming the Inflammation Superhighway With Focused Nutrition and Behavior Change,” Marc Bubbs, ND, MS, rolled back to basics by defining the subject at hand: “Inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury—an alarm that kicks off the healing process. Without inflammation, there is no adaptation.” There is not a single solution or superfood that calms an inflammatory response; for each individual, it’s a bucket full of modifications: weight loss, glucose control, stress control, exercise, better sleep . . . or all of them together. The professional’s role, he said, is to help clients puzzle out their capabilities (what are their social obstacles?); their opportunities (how can they improve behaviors?); and their motivation (why am I doing this?).


Jim White, RDN, explored the science behind nutrition, health and the sustainability of dairy and plant-based dairy alternatives in a breakfast seminar sponsored by General Mills’ Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. Given the wide array of plant-based, dairy-free options—and the many dairy options available today—selecting the best dietary path for overall wellness can seem mind-boggling, even for professionals. White debunked common dairy misconceptions, providing evidence that dairy and plant-based alternatives can coexist successfully to fuel clients well.


See also: Nutrition Adherence: Making Lifestyle Changes That Stick

Tools for Progress

2019 IDEA Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit
The 2019 IDEA Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit drew a large and diverse audience of professionals, including dietitians, health coaches, nutritionists and personal trainers.



In “Bridging the Gap Between Good Intentions and Meaningful Nutrition Change,” Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, identified common sensory, cultural and logistical impediments to greater client compliance and cited tools and strategies professionals can use to foster positive, sustainable changes in eating habits.
She shared three pillars of emphasis that have helped to close the divide for her own clients in a culture that works against positive change: self-efficacy, self-regulation and planning. The glue to the pillars is “coping planning,” or anticipating the barriers we might encounter and devising strategies to overcome them. Simply put, this means planning for success over failure.

“Coping planning provides resilience to getting off plan. It helps clients to roll with it,” Reinagel said. “People are paralyzed by the rules. This decreases motivation and causes people to drop out. Focus on the foundational things that will make the most difference.”


With 84 million people affected by prediabetes (and just 1 in 10 who have it actually knowing they have it), it’s clear that prevention programs focused on improving nutrition and physical activity are critical for public health.

In her American Council on Exercise–sponsored lunch seminar, “Reversing the Invisible Epidemic: Coaching People Who Have Prediabetes,” Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, FACSM, covered the prevalence, pathophysiology and consequences of prediabetes, as well as proven coaching strategies for turning things around. Muth pointed to research showing that prediabetes symptoms can be reversed with even modest interventions, such as using USDA’s MyPlate as an eating guide, getting as little as 10 minutes of exercise per day, and implementing health coaching strategies like SMART goal-setting and action plans.

Spotlight on Health Coaching


In a stirring lunch seminar sponsored by San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University, Jessica Matthews, DBH, MS, NBS-HWC, gave a snapshot of the current and future state of health and wellness coaching, a field ripe with promise but, like any nascent specialty, a path with its challenges. A look at statistics on coaching revealed that before 2003 there were just 22 peer-reviewed studies focused on health coaching. Period. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, there were 152, a step in the right direction, but volume doesn’t necessarily beget quality.

Matthews pointed out that gaining consensus on health coaching definitions, training standards and interventions (behavior change models versus others) is high on the list of what needs to come next in both the profession and in the body of research. Despite the challenges, Matthews is wildly optimistic about this career path and how fitness professionals and dietitians can contribute meaningfully. Her advice for getting started? Evaluate your education options, collaborate with likeminded pros, perfect your “pitch,” and get and stay connected.


Health Coach and personal trainer Lee Jordan, MS, capped the Summit with his inspirational talk, “The HOPE Solution: How Our Purpose Empowers.” He explored the space where the science of knowing one’s purpose meets personal meaning in the drive to ignite client transformation. It’s interesting to note that not only must your client uncover and own his or her purpose, but the coach/trainer must do the same before the client journey ever begins (this is how we align with the right clients).

He walked attendees through multiple studies to illustrate how purpose-powered hope holds significant sway in improving clients’ physical wellness and well-being. “Beginning the process of finding purpose starts with the individual. Without hope, results are completely different,” Jordan said. “Doubt and fear get in the way of our hope. Where doubt and fear shackle us, hope sets us free. Don’t compare to become self-aware. Your purpose is yours; it must be authored by you.”


See also: Starting A Health Coaching Business

Behavior Change: Our Path to Freedom

Julia DiGangi at the 2019 IDEA Nutrition and Behavior Change Summit
Habits form the very essence of our lives, said neuropsychologist Julia DiGangi, PhD, during her keynote on behavior change. They are not just life hacks; they are foundational elements of how we live and experience our lives, she said.


Neuropsychologist Julia DiGangi, PhD, snapped the room to attention with her lively Saturday keynote, “The Neuroscience of Behavior Change,” by first calling behavior change an “absolutely sacred science” and then defining it simply as “the heart and soul of how human beings get stuck—and how we get free.” Habits form the very essence of our lives. Habits are not just life hacks—they are foundational elements of how we live and experience our lives, she said.

DiGangi focused on three takeaways, building a research-driven case for each.

    1. “Attention is the magic sauce of change. The mother of everything.”


    1. The brain is a prediction machine. Habits are sets of predictions about how things are supposed to go. Habits are overlearned patterns of behaviors. Good or bad, once developed they can be done without conscious attention.


  1. The “paradox of progress” often produces the most sustainable progress (in other words, we may need to move counter to strategies that have failed us—for example, eating more calories instead of restricting them; resting more to get fit; and ignoring what we think demands attention.

Want Five New Clients? Try This.

Do you want to get five new clients by the end of the day? During his keynote address IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit emcee John Berardi, PhD, suggested writing this down and filling in the blanks:

  • I help [this kind of person]
  • to [action/benefit]
  • so they can [hopeful future].

“Which part of this equation is the most neglected among passionate health and fitness pros? It’s the ÔÇÿso they can,’” says Berardi. “We are so in love with the mechanics of what we do that we forget this part—the purpose, the why.”


See also: The Secrets to Behavior Change: Principles and Practice

Help Someone Along on the Behavior Change Journey

Presenter Julia DiGangi, PhD, summarized this year’s Nutrition & Behavior Summit well. “The peak [of behavior change] is awesome. Base camp is a little tricky. You’re safe and excited there, but you haven’t begun to climb. The problem is, once we start the climb, we can’t sustain motivation. Most of us won’t make it to the top. On the climb we’ll lose people. The goal is to give as many people the best chance to come along on the journey to the top.”

If you were unable to attend the 2019 IDEA Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit, or in case you missed any of the speakers you wanted to see, you can order sessions à la carte or buy the full bundle here, or call our Inspired Service team at 858-535-8979, ext. 7.


Photography by Len Spoden.

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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