It's been a crazy few weeks over here!
I recently just got back (and recovered) from my first FNCE! FNCE is the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This was seriously one of the greatest experiences of my life. When I found out about this event last spring it was something I had my eye on, but never did I think I would actually be able to attend! Luckily I had a few other ladies that weren't opposed to making a trip to Chicago, so we booked train tickets, a hotel, I registered for the event, and before I knew it we were on our way!
Leading Up to the Event
Approaching the event, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I had attended the Gordon Food Service (GFS) show earlier in October so that gave me the idea of the expo environment. I didn't realize that FNCE had it's education sessions, poster sessions, other events, AND the expo that seemed twice as large as the GFS expo floor all in one. Definitely way more than I expected and there was not enough time for me to see everything I wanted to see!
I stayed up to date on the schedule of the education sessions. This was the part of the conference that I was most concerned with. (#nerdalert) To be honest, I didn't realize that there were all of these other things going on at the conference and I thought that the education sessions were the only thing to do. Boy, was I wrong! So, I planned to attend an education session in pretty much every available time slot. It wasn't hard to do!
Each time slot had over ten different options of education sessions to sit in on... that was way too many options. I had at least two sessions picked for each time slot :( Luckily, in the next few weeks, I should be receiving an e-mail with how to access all of the education session recordings! Fully prepared to nerd out on some of the sessions I had to miss out on.
Michigan --> Illinois
Let the adventure begin!
We decided to take the train which was a great experience. This is something that I've never done before and it was pretty fun! So Matt's step-mom and I started off at the Lapeer station, and then we picked up Matt's mom and sister at a station about an hour along the route.
We had to make sure they didn't miss us!
I would say the best part of the train ride is that I didn't have to drive and I had some space so that I could get some homework done!
I must admit, in the weeks leading up to FNCE, I was having some serious anxiety about how I was going to manage to get all of my school work done while being out of town for days. For those of you that have known my schedule lately, you're familiar with the fact that I lock myself in my office for hours upon hours on a daily basis to get all of this work done. I was a little worried about making sure I stayed on track while I would be spending the time on the weekend I normally spent on homework at the conference and trying to explore the city.
We made it!
So we get into Union Station and from there we pull up the location of the hotel on GPS (thank goodness for technology). We see that the hotel is only about 2 miles away, that's totally walkable! So we think... not so walkable when we all have full-size suitcases and Ms. Hannah here has two additional bags loaded with textbooks. We had to take turns carrying one of my backpacks... and I'm glad I didn't work out that morning before leaving because that was more than enough!
Almost finished with the long, treacherous walk and we come to this tunnel thing, with an overpass, and sure as shit, pretty sure we're lost, but it says the hotel is right around here somewhere. Well, fun fact, there are some streets in Chicago that have three different levels. Mind. Blown. Lucky for us we were lost at the right time because a man that was actually working at the hotel that we were staying at explained this concept to us and led the way.
We got to the hotel a few hours before check-in so we checked our bags and headed out to find the conference center so I could go through registration. That was another walk, closer to 3 miles, but waayyyy better than carrying my body weight in books and clothes. We get there, eventually find the correct door to enter, and STARBUCKS!
While I was ecstatic to have a Starbucks only a few hundred feet from all of the action, 1) prices were like as much as twice normal prices and 2) little did I know it would be pretty much impossible to get a coffee during the days of the conference unless I wanted to wait an hour in line. Dietitians gotta have their caffeine fix!
I also got my first glance at the expo while I was there to register, that's when I realized that I had not planned for all of these activities!
We took a cab back to the hotel, checked in and got ready for the dinner we had planned for that night.
Matt's step-mom, Robin, was our travel agent making plans for different activities before we left for the long weekend. For Saturday night, she found us a murder mystery dinner!
We walked to the host hotel for the event and personally I had no idea what to expect. We go in and sit at our assigned table. As we're listening to the directions I realize this was way more involved than I anticipated. In fact, I think it was more involved than we all anticipated. WE had to try to solve the murder! There were about ten tables of people that were all working toward the same goal, and dispersed among us at the tables were actors that were taking part in the event. Over the course of the evening, we received clues and had to try to figure out whodunnit. I wasn't very good at it... but the food was yummy!!!
We headed back to the hotel and I got ready to rock and roll for my first full conference day!
FNCE Day One - Sunday
First day, I got up and around and headed down to the gym around 4:30, just like I was at home on my regular schedule! That's something that was important to me, not totally letting my workout schedule get away from me while I was gone. Lately, I have been working really hard to stay consistent and I didn't want to let that go! The gym at the hotel was LEGIT just about as good as my gym back home!
Sunday I had a full day of education sessions planned, 8-5! The sessions I went to were:
- Going Green: Use of Medical Cannabis in Medical Nutrition Therapy
- Guiding Food Service for a Healthy Future
- What's New on the Label: Choline The Forgotten Nutrient
- Putting Heart into Performance Nutrition for Collegiate Athletes
I won't bore you with all the science-y stuff I learned because I could go on for hours, but let's just say it was all super interesting and I'll be including some of my new knowledge in future posts and hopefully getting more involved with athletes in the area.
That day at lunch the EMU students and professors tried to have a meet-up. This was a little more difficult than we thought it might be but I did get to meet a few of my professors and my fellow online students! This was a great opportunity and I'm glad I got to connect with the few people I did.
I had a few minutes before my next session after lunch to get a start on the expo, I realized that I was going to have to make some time for this on Monday, there was a ton of stuff to look at!
Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for my next event!
I am part of the SCAN dietetic practice group. This group focuses on Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition. In the weeks leading up to FNCE, I was invited to a few different events put on by the group.
The first event I attended was a reception dinner on Sunday night. This was held at a hotel downtown in a gorgeous restaurant on the top level. I was way out of my comfort zone as I don't normally put myself out there to introduce myself to people but I really had no choice. I went to this event by myself and knew NO ONE! But, it was good for me! I was introduced to some really great people, met one of the women responsible for authoring some of the sports nutrition textbooks and then she further connected me with a mentor based on some of my future plans. That event went really well and I am so glad that I decided to take advantage of that.
Because this group of us women are such avid walkers, we walked back to our hotel from my event hotel in the pouring rain. It was quite the interesting walk to say the least, and my shoes were soaking wet for two days until I took the blow dryer two them. Oh the stories we have from that night though....
The next morning I attended another SCAN event which was a breakfast education session. This session focused on Omega-3s and yes, we ate fish for breakfast!
At this event, I reconnected with some of the people that I had met the night before at the reception dinner. It was nice to finally feel like I knew and could recognize some people!
FNCE Day Two - Monday
Day two! I had an early start with the breakfast as the shuttle left at 6 am for the conference center but I did attend two additional education sessions that day:
- Innovative and Comprehensive Nutrition Education Programs in Schools
- Optimizing Your Online Presence Using Search Engine Optimization
I decided to take a break between these two sessions to explore the expo. To my surprise, I actually found some really great products and information!
One of my favorite finds was the Nutritionix Track app. This is a tracking app where all of the nutrition facts of the foods in the database are confirmed by dietitians. I think that is the biggest issue with tracking apps these days, anyone can add a food to the database and sometimes people do not enter information correctly or they're unsure how to read a label so the information is not correct. This app takes out that issue. It's pretty easy to use and it has a freeform option where you just talk to the app and it does a pretty darn good job of coming up with foods to log from that.
Another booth I visited was The Sarcastic Nutritionist. There was quite the line to go through this small booth of merchandise, but I couldn't pass up these buys!
There were a ton of samples and a large focus on protein and "clean" bars and snacks. I have a few things I want to try and look further into, but I guess you could say I have a lot of reading materials to sift through...
Also! I managed to collect enough free bags from the booths to be able to go grocery shopping with reusable bags! WOOO!
Here are some of the other booths that I visited. Please note the booth for The Sugar Association, most of you can imagine I was less than thrilled as I am not a fan of the stuff. I have some beef with them and their "mission statement" that I'll save for another day...
I didn't attend the last education session of the day because we had more plans for that evening!
For Monday night, we had tickets to an improv comedy show at The Second City. We ate dinner and had drinks at the restaurant on the second level beforehand and enjoyed a really great show! I haven't been to many comedy shows in my day but I think they're something that I would like to find and attend more often!
FNCE Day Three - Tuesday (LAST DAY)
I was that crazy chick again Tuesday morning and got my booty out of bed and headed down to the hotel gym. Seriously though, morning workouts are the bomb diggity!
I wasn't going to go to anything at the conference on Tuesday because I wanted a little bit of time to explore and shop before we left but there was one last session that I wanted to attend and I'm so glad I did!
- Fueling Teen Athletes: Unique Challenges and Winning Strategies
This session featured one of the authors of the latest sports nutrition handbook and after a long debate during this session, I decided I needed to head up to the FNCE bookstore and get myself a copy. Unfortunately, they were sold out but you better believe I got it shipped straight to my house!
When I was done making my purchase it was time to head back to the hotel to check out and walk around a bit before it was time to head out for good.
We hit up a few of the shops on the Magnificent Mile and got our Chicago-Style Pizza fix before heading to get one last coffee fuel up before heading back to Union Station.
Back to Michigan
Our train left out of Chicago late Tuesday afternoon. That place is so beautiful, it's crazy to think of the time and effort that went into making that building and how you don't see that anymore.
Even though overly exhausted, I again took full advantage of the ride home and studied. Lame, I know.
We got back into Lapeer around 10:30 and I could not wait to crawl into bed... this was just way past my bedtime. Haha!
While I went into this year thinking that it would be a few years down the road before my next FNCE, there's already plans being made for next year!
I was so fortunate to have a great group of ladies to join me and the trip was so great!
Until next time... <3