Meet the Expert: Dori Steinberg!

Current programs for diet and weight loss are motivated by profit, and not focused on using evidence-based strategies. My goal is to create commercial programs that will maximize weight loss outcomes.
— Dori Steinberg, PhD, MS, RD

This week, we're looking forward to introducing you to our expert, Dori Steinberg, PhD, MS, RD, who inspires us with her work in both nutrition and eHealth. In addition to being an award winning Research Scholar at Duke University, Dori is a Registered Dietitian and an entrepreneur. Join us in learning more about her story!

Healthy Bytes: Hi Dori! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your experience as an RD, scholar and business owner. To get started, we would love to know more about how you got your start in nutrition.

Dori Steinberg: From early on, I had a strong passion in understanding how the food we eat affects our health. As with a lot of RDs, this started because of a personal health issue that required me to change my diet for the better. I also recognize the power of food and how difficult it can be to navigate our current food environment and make dietary changes. This sentiment empowers me to help others achieve their health goals.

You have had a lot of experience in different aspects of the field, what advice would you give to new dietitians? 

Try out lots of different ways to be an RD - work in an in-patient setting, do one-on-one counseling in an outpatient setting, work in research, work in food service, work in industry, try out entrepreneurial roles. This exposure will help you figure out what area you are most passionate about. Currently, I am focused most on conducting research, but have also done counseling — both in-person and via mobile technologies  and have expanded to being an entrepreneur focused on ways to disseminate evidence-based strategies for weight control.

We agree, exploration is so important to building a career that really suits each person. What drove your change from counseling to research? 

I switched from counseling to research because of a strong interest in learning how to design evidence-based programs that are more sustainable. I was curious to examine whether there are ways to reach hundreds of thousands of people and achieve the same results you get with one-on-one counseling.

Definitely, what we have always loved about your work is that it translates well to multiple settings it works for large research studies, and helps providers better engage with their patients.

You are also entrepreneur! What inspired you to start a company?

Unfortunately, what happens quite often in research is that we conduct robust clinical trials, but the results just sit on a shelf in a published journal.  My move towards entrepreneurship and the private sector was motivated by a desire to figure out how to get evidence-based programs out to the masses. 

Current programs for diet and weight loss are motivated by profit, and not focused on using evidence-based strategies. My goal is to create commercial programs that will maximize weight loss outcomes.

That's fantastic! There are lots of issues that arise from profit being the primary driver of weight loss programs. What else have you observed? 

There is a lot of misinformation about nutrition, and most people have strong personal beliefs about which foods are best to eat. It is fascinating to figure out how to navigate these situations and come up with simple messages that are evidence-based and will resonate with people.

What change do you hope to see in the field of nutrition and dietetics?

I hope we will see more telemedicine where RDs are reimbursed for providing counseling through mobile technologies. It is exciting that there is more reimbursement overall for RD counseling, however, having more telemedicine covered would broaden reach and help those who are most in need.

It's been a pleasure speaking with you today, and we've saved our favorite question for last: what’s your favorite success story in research?

I am grateful that I have experienced many success stories in my research - stories that vary tremendously.

For example, I conducted a weight loss intervention trial that was delivered remotely via email using connected e-scales (with no face to face counseling). One of my participants lost almost 90 pounds over 6 months as a result of weighing himself everyday and making major adjustments to his diet.

I have also seen how changing dietary behaviors can have spillover effects on other health outcomes. In a recent trial that emphasized small changes to diet and exercise behaviors, we worked with very low-income folks seeing care at community health centers in central NC. In addition to the trial being successful for weight control, it also had a major effect on reducing depression outcomes.

The implications of this are huge, because this is a population that has very limited access to depression treatment. Results like this indicate how interventions to improve diet can have a major impact on health overall.

Thanks Dori!

Parts of this interview have been edited and shortened.