California Educator

January / February 2017

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N utrition professor Dawn Clifford doesn't feed others a steady diet of scare tactics or guilt when it comes to fostering healthy habits for eating right and staying fit. Instead, she takes a much more positive approach that's compassionate and nonjudgmental, and puts clients in the driver's seat of their health decisions. "e best thing is take the focus off what the scale says and start caring well for yourself," says Clifford, a dietician and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at CSU Chico's Department of Nutrition and Food Science. "Instead of telling clients what to eat and when to it eat it, I believe in putting the cli- ent in charge of their own health to empower them." Clifford passes this philosophy along to her stu- dents, future dieticians who will one day work in the public or private sector, perhaps in schools, hospitals or government. Since 2006 she has taught courses in nutrition counseling, nutrition education and medi- cal nutrition at the university. In 2014 this California Faculty Association member received the Out- standing Educator Award from the Cleveland-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world's largest organization of food and nutrition profes- sionals, for her innovative teaching methods and programs. She used a grant to create a "simulation center" experience for dietetics students in 2011, using lifelike mannequins. Actors spoke through the man- nequins via microphones to share their "symptoms," while her students had to diagnose their conditions and prescribe appropriate diets. For example, students might have to decide how many calories and grams of protein a critically ill patient needs, along with specific amounts of fats, vitamins, minerals and fluids. The scenarios offered students hands-on experiences of reviewing medical records, conducting assessment interviews, discussing nutrition Healthy Eating Dawn Clifford offers novel nutrition approach By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman interventions, and interacting with actors posing as health care professionals. Outside the classroom, she helped develop a peer-led internship program called FitU, which trains students to conduct one-on-one nutrition and fitness counsel- ing sessions with peers. e program, designed to help young people navigate meal planning as they gain inde- pendence for the first time, uses a holistic approach for all students — whether living in the dorms or learning to cook for the first time. "I want them to develop healthier relationships with food and their bodies," says Clifford. "I want them to learn patterns that are sustainable." She created a course on Health at Ever y Size, an approach gaining national momentum that emphasizes 16 perspectives " Instead of telling clients what to eat and when to it eat it, I believe in puing the client in charge of their own health to empower them."

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