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60 Seconds with a Dietitian

Photo: 60 Seconds with Anna Debenham
HealthTimes speaks to Anna Debenham, Accredited Practising Dietitian with tech startup Hit 100, Australia’s only meal delivery service catering specifically for people living with diabetes (Type 2, Type 1 and Gestational) and pre-diabetes

What is your current employer, title and role?
I’m currently working at a company called Hit 100, a start-up looking to tackle the diabetes epidemic in Australia by delivering delicious diabetes-friendly meals to customers’ doorsteps alongside a simple 100-point food tracking system, to help people make healthier food choices. My job title is Brand Manager and Dietitian, however given the nature of a start-up; the lines can be a little blurry when describing my role. In short, I’m in charge of all things brand, content and marketing related. I’m also involved in new product and recipe development along with business development.
Where did you study nutrition and dietetics?
I completed my Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney.

What was your career pathway into dietetics and working for Hit 100?
During my Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics, I co-founded a company called The Biting Truth, a food and health blog aimed at dispelling all of the misinformation and, for lack of a better word, ‘myths’ out there in the media, with evidence-based nutritional facts. We gained momentum much faster than anticipated and soon had acquired a significant following on Instagram. Through The Biting Truth I was involved in providing dietetic consultations to a variety of large and small businesses, reviewing menus and developing recipes, seeing patients and writing nutrition-related content for the media. Coming straight out of university and working for myself was quite challenging and had its ups and downs, and I had an urge to work as part of a larger team and organisation to learn essential business skills that I hadn’t acquired during my university degree. A little while later I was working at Hit 100. I came on board as their content editor, however, was immediately thrown in the deep end and heavily involved in a variety of jobs across the board, which was fantastic (albeit daunting)!

What got you interested in nutrition and how it relates to diabetes management?
I’ve always strongly believed that “you are what you eat” and having personally had to adapt my diet in order to accommodate my own food intolerances, I know that health is optimised through good nutrition. I’ve developed a strong passion and interest in diabetes management during my placement at North Shore Hospital, where I saw first hand the devastating effects diabetes can have on ones health. This lit a fire in me to do something more. Diabetes is a preventable and manageable chronic disease, and so much can be done in the way of reducing the prevalence of this chronic disease, which is very motivating. 

What’s the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
Every day I am pushed outside my comfort zone and I’m challenged to learn and try new things that I would never have imagined myself doing; from product development, to making short videos to media training and writing content for all of our members. This is certainly not the conventional route most dietitians take and whilst I do work long hours, I am comforted by the fact that I am changing the world for the better and improving the lives of many people living with diabetes and pre-diabetes.  I have also surrounded myself with intelligent, caring and driven people who believe what I believe and I find this is very rewarding and empowering.

What does a typical day as a dietitian for Hit 100 look like?
Hmmm a typical day…The truth is that there honestly is no ‘typical’ day when you’re working at a start-up. Every day is so different and things change so quickly you are often just reacting to what has just happened and trying to fix things on the fly. I spend a lot of my time writing content, including email campaigns, social media posts, blog posts for other businesses and recipes. I work closely with our creative team to develop all of our creatives and also with our tech team as we’re always working to improve the user experience on our website and app. I’m also heavily involved in marketing and sales strategy and often meet up with other health care professionals to discuss how Hit 100 might be of benefit to them and their clients.

How important is nutrition in the management of diabetes and other chronic conditions?
Controlling diabetes is critical to preventing serious long-term complications such as heart problems, infection, kidney disease, eye problems and limb amputations. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of managing diabetes because it assists with blood glucose management and weight management. It’s so essential that we get this message out there to assist people in managing their diabetes and also to prevent people from developing diabetes in the first place. Nutrition is key to good health and a long, happy life and through our ‘doctor meets chef’ solution, we want to bring moderation and enjoyment to the fore, and teach people that healthy foods can taste really great and there is no need to completely eliminate any foods from your diet.

How do you think technology, and services like Hit 100, will change the future of healthcare delivery?
Technology has the ability to revolutionise the way people manage chronic diseases like diabetes, as it can provide access to affordable tools and resources to those who need it most. Whilst we’re currently able to use technology to order transport, food and clothes, when it comes to healthcare we still wind back the clock two decades and go and sit in waiting rooms to see a GP. Health technology has the ability to change this and improve healthcare delivery considerably. The time has never been more right to launch a health-tech company that enables people to better manage their overall health. Hit 100 is the only company in Australia offering tailored meals specifically for people living with diabetes and pre-diabetes. We are here to revolutionise the way people manage their diabetes by offering a complete solution to drive healthy behaviour change.

What would you say to others looking to become a dietitian?
Go for it! Being a dietitian is such a rewarding and empowering job. You might hear that it’s too hard to get jobs and that you can only go down the hospital or private practice route, but there are so many possibilities and places you can go as a dietitian. Try and think outside the box a little as to what you can do. I would have never imagined myself working at a start-up in diabetes management in a business-related capacity, however I love it! It’s been the most exciting and enlightening journal of my life and in this ever-evolving space I’m constantly learning new things.

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