Meet The Expert: Jo Bartell!

Don’t undervalue yourself. Nutrition is still a growing field, and consumers are just now starting to learn how important it is to focus on nutrition and work with RDs
— Jo Bartell, MS, RD

This week we are excited to be highlighting Jo Bartell, MS, RD! She is the founder of the nutrition counseling and consulting practice She Dishes LLC in San Francisco, and is also a contributor for Spright. First and foremost, we think of Jo as an innovator, and are intrigued by her work bridging nutrition and technology. Join us to learn more about her!

Healthy Bytes: Hi Jo- We're so excited to be talking with you today! To set the stage, can you tell us a little bit about what made you enter the nutrition field?

Jo Bartell: I've always been interested in all food (eating/trying new things, cooking, shopping) and in all things related to a healthy lifestyle, but when choosing a major in college, I decided on Psychology and Sociology. My school didn't offer nutrition, but I knew I wanted to join a field where I could help people. I liked the idea of working one-on-one with people to motivate them and help them achieve goals. After a year or so in Psychology, I decided that wasn't quite right for me. I realized that nutrition and dietetics could combine my love of food and health with my interest in helping others. At that point, I went to take an intro to nutrition class at New York University, and was hooked from the first day!

We're glad you discovered your passion! What do you think makes your practice different from others?

In my practice, which is mostly focused on women's health, my philosophy is based around teamwork. My patients/clients and I are on the same team, working together to reach the client's goals (which become my goals too!). My practice stands apart because while the content and recommendations I give are evidence-based, the environment is nurturing, down-to-earth and fun. I make sure clients know that changing one's relationship with food or developing new habits isn't easy, but that we will have fun doing it. We focus on enhancing the client's current habits by making small changes over time, and never on strict advice, food "policing" or meal plans. 

The idea of working one the same team is a great one! As an experienced dietitian, what advice would you give to new and future RDs? 

Keep as up-to-date on as much research in your chosen area of nutrition as you can. Also, keep up-to-date on what clients or potential clients are reading in the media. I read all of the magazines and keep up with all of the "nutrition" websites out there. It's important to know about the trends and fads the typical consumer reads about, so you can answer any question confidently and back up your answer with the facts. 

What’s a favorite piece of advice you've received as a dietitian?

Say yes and figure it out later. This piece of advice really sticks with me, and comes up often in my professional life. If something sounds like a great opportunity but fills you with self-doubt because you don't think you are experienced enough, know the answer, have the time, etc. be confident and say yes. You'll find something great to read, or someone knowledgeable to reach out to, and you'll make it work. 

That's some great advice. Do you have anything else to share? 

Don't undervalue yourself. Nutrition is still a growing field, and consumers are just now starting to learn how important it is to focus on nutrition and work with RDs, but they are not there yet. It's great to want to help people and to get your name out, but there's a difference between networking and giving away your hard-earned knowledge for free or for less than you deserve.

You have had such varied experiences in the field of nutrition, what is the most fascinating thing you’ve learned as an RD? 

The most fascinating piece has been working with so many different clients who all have a different relationship with food and who all give food a different meaning and place in life. Not only is it always fascinating to learn about the way others eat, but it's always so interesting to understand the different roles food plays in a person's relationships, family, etc. 

What changes are you hoping for and excited about in the field of nutrition and dietetics?

I'm excited about the way the field of nutrition is starting to explore areas of research that will uncover that nutrition and recommendations are not one size fits all. I can't wait to learn more about areas involving nutrition and its relation to gut microbiome and nutrigenomics. I hope to see some of those areas becoming more mainstream as research evolves. 

You mentioned that you love the one-on-one counseling with clients, what’s your favorite success story with a patient?

 My favorite story includes a client with a less than positive relationship with food and eating who was prone to a cycle of binging and restricting who one day turned to me and said that she never, ever thought it would ever be possible to love and enjoy food, but now she does, and that with the toolkit we built together, food has become a joy in life and not a source of stress or something to avoid or fear; it's that type of revelation that makes me feel successful and rewarded. 

Thanks Jo!

Parts of this interview have been edited and shortened