I love my career choice for many reasons but another fantastic aspect is the great community. Relative to other professions, there’s a fairly small group of us dietitians in the United States. A quick Google search tells me there’s less than 100,000 whereas there’s over 3 million nurses, for example. But don’t fret, we’re a small but mighty group!
Once a year, we have our annual conference called the Food and Nutrition Conference + Expo, or FNCE [pronounced “fence-y”]. It’s a fantastic time for RDs to get together for networking, sharing research, tons of educational sessions, and free samples! It’s kinda a big deal. We like to call it the dietitian’s super bowl. 😉 The location changes every year with this year’s being in Chicago, IL and next’s being in Washington, D.C.
This was only my second FNCE, however, it was also my first as a Registered Dietitian rather than a student! That made the lectures even more relatable and easier to comprehend. Networking was also more applicable as I’m actually practicing now and may be able to collaborate with other RDs.
So here’s some snippets of my long weekend at FNCE 2017!
I got up bright + early on Saturday morning to catch a 6:45am flight. My lovely friend drove me to the airport and also watched Riku for the weekend because my husband was also going out of town. I am proud to say I navigated the public transit in Chicago all alone without any wrong turns or set-backs! Phew!
I also had some great conversations with strangers throughout my trip. Anybody else love that? I’m very much a mix between an extrovert + introvert, but this is one instance that I’m full on extrovert. I just can’t sustain that level of socialization day in and day out or I’ll be totally drained.
I met up with my friends from undergrad and we dropped our things off at our AirBnB [affiliate link: get $40 off your first trip if you use it!] I completely forgot to snap a picture of our place, but we had the entire bottom floor of a house that included a kitchen, pool table, couches with a TV, and a patio. The price was definitely right, too! We made it our mission to keep our trip very economical.
We rushed off to our first 2 events of the weekend. First, we attended a fabulous open house featuring Rebecca Scritchfield, sponsored by Kellogg’s. They had a really great perspective with their products + new marketing. We moved around to three different stations: balance, fun, + function. These represented 3 areas in which our food choices may stem from. It was great to experience a brand taking a more holistic approach to nutrition rather than promoting rigid rules or food morality. As always, Rebecca had some fantastic words of wisdom to share with us on self-care:
“Food elitism elicits feelings of shame + reduces self care.”
Next, we attended a brunch on nutrition entrepreneurs sponsored by Siggi’s yogurt! They provided a beautiful spread including a wide variety of their yogurts. I hadn’t tried all of them before, and I will say that the triple cream is all it’s been hyped up to be! SO CREAMY.
We heard from several speakers including Jaclyn London [RD/Nutrition Director at Good Housekeeping], Ellie Krieger [RD, cookbook author, + hose of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite], and even Siggi himself! I will say, Siggi seems like such a kind, genuine soul + I really enjoyed listening to his perspectives on entrepreneurship! It’s not always a quick + easy road, folks!
After getting checked into the conference and attending the opening session, we were very much ready for dinner. And get take-out pizza to enjoy with wine back at our place was exactly what we were craving. We had Lou Malnati’s deep dish cheese pizza with mushrooms + spinach plus their garbage salad, which was SO delish, dare I say almost better than the pizza! 😮
The next morning we hit the ground running. Each day followed generally the same format: get ready, grab coffee + breakfast sandwiches from the Mariano’s grocery store across the street, get an Uber to the conference center, sit in sessions, + explore the expo.
We even got McDonald’s one morning when the grocery store was out of breakfast sandwiches because we were craving some protein to help keep us going throughout the morning + balanced. #gentlenutrition
Most lunches are pieced together from the many free samples at the expo. For those who haven’t been to FNCE, the expo is a giant room with tons of booths for different brands and/or organizations to provide information + connect. Most of the time, they pass out samples, informational handouts, coupons, etc.
They also go above + beyond though, passing out sandwiches, pasta, full-sized salads, soups, beverages, and all the protein/granola bars you could ever dream of. Pro tip for FNCE goers: bring an extra suitcase or leave plenty of room in your carry-on for all the free snack samples! 😉 Eating our snacky lunch was one of the ways we saved some money! And trust me, it was still very filling + satisfying!
There are also many evening events after the daily conference + expo have closed. Most are different groups of RDs that have common interests, geographical locations, or practice areas. We attended one at Eataly and had some delicious fried calamari, pizza, arugula salad, and wine.
I was able to make it to almost all 4 sessions each day which included topics related to the following: thyroid function, food as medicine in eating disorders, circadian rhythm, search engine optimization (SEO), and many more!
On our last evening, we treated ourselves to a meal we actually had to pay for with Grace + Savannah’s friend from college. We ate tapas style at Moe’s Cantina including two varieties of tacos, steak skewers, grilled pineapple, queso-chorizo dip, and of course, chips + salsa. Oh, and some margs. Yay for half-priced margaritas on Mondays!
Our last excursion was to Three Dots and a Dash. It’s quite the interesting name and stands for a “V” in morse code, representing “victory.” It’s an underground, literally, bar that has a very Hawaiian/tropical vibe. It was very dim, but served some very pretty drinks! All of them were super unique in presentation, and we had a blast sharing each others!
Tuesday afternoon, my friends dropped me off at the airport, and I was 5 hours early for my flight, which was fine by me so I could catch up on some things! However, the strangest thing happened. The check-in kiosks were giving me an error message that I had to find a customer service representative in order to check-in.
Once I hunted one down, he looked up my confirmation number and it turned out that my itinerary aka my seat on the plane did not exist. WHAT. There was some total freak glitch in the system where I was marked as a no-show for the first flight of my round trip ticket into Chicago. If you are a no-show for a round trip, they automatically cancel your return flight as well.
The issue was that I most definitely wasn’t a no-show! I was on that flight, had a lovely conversation with a woman in my row, and very much enjoyed the stroopwafels they passed out. They literally had no evidence of my presence on the flight because I used a mobile boarding pass + didn’t check any bags.
My flight had been filled and the next one out wasn’t until 6am the next morning. SHOOT. After 1.5 hours of anxiety while they struggled to figure out how to solve the issue, I was able to get a seat on my original flight. The rainy weather helped me out because several passengers weren’t going to be making their connecting flight so I was able to snag their seat!
Now, I’m home, happy to be back with my boys, and extremely exhausted from a fun + incredibly informative FNCE 2017!