Dietetic Career Spotlight on Ken Roberts, BS, NDTR, Martial Arts & Nutrition Coach: Coach Ken
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on DECEMBER 5, 2016
Rocking the Spartan world, coach Ken Roberts, BS, NDTR, trains and coaches people to optimize their performance and their health. Check out how he not only trains athletes, but is an athlete and a practicing Marine himself. Thank you, Ken, for serving our country in so many ways. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
In 2007 I served as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor and Martial Arts Instructor Trainer at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. While there teaching martial arts and training recruits to be Marines I undertook a self-guided study on nutrition for performance. I saw firsthand how allowing my recruits not only the opportunity to eat, but to eat the right kinds of foods how much better they performed. I also made my Drill Instructors who worked for me eat. This may seem odd, but the current culture that existed at the time wasn’t conducive to smart practices. I changed it. It was there while training hundreds of recruits that I saw the amazing power of good nutrition. I dedicated my next 10 years of active duty pursuing my dietetics degree with the end goal of becoming a dietitian.
Your Job Title?
Martial Arts & Nutrition Coach: Coach Ken
Company you are with now?
U.S. Marine Corps (Active Duty)
– Instagram: coach_ken_ff4f
– Twitter: @fitfood4fighter
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/coachkenff4f
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fitfood4fighters
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
I am currently on my last year of active duty, and will retire in the spring of 2017 to pursue graduate school and an internship. I am forever a morning person from my 20 years of service. I am up at 4am and reviewing client food journals to provide feedback to my nutrition athletes before I head out the door by 6am. At 7am I am at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado to perform my military duties as a senior logistics manager at an instructional Navy/Marine Corps command. I oversee instructors there, and advise on logistics instruction and the quality of the instructors. Because I work with athletes I also train like an athlete, so a typical day usually has me performing a couple workouts a day myself to practice what I teach, and for my own competitions in triathlons, road races, and Obstacle Course Races. I am usually home by late afternoon where I am writing classes for health promotion, conducting virtual nutrition coaching via Zoom, and preparing dinner for the family.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I have held many jobs across my career teaching and training instructors. It has long been a vision of mine to open my own business where I can coach others in sports nutrition, weight management, and living healthy active lifestyles. I created FitFood-4-Fighters from my martial arts background. I know everyone performs better with high quality meals, and everyone is a fighter and an athlete we just perform at different levels and different age brackets. My goal is to open a brick and mortar place in southern Illinois after my internship and graduate school where I can bring in other dietitians and specialty areas to work with our clients. I currently work with weight management clients by referrals from people I know, and athletes I have come into contact with over the years through my racing and competitions.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I have always been an assertive person with drive and determination. It has taught me to love leading and mentoring others. I believe nutrition requires us to be able to educate and influence. First, we must value the people we work with as clients and peers. Over the years I have learned to value others and show them how valuable they are. These people skills are what make working on teams and interacting with others so powerful. It takes patience, empathy, trust, courage, tact, and many other skills to be able to listen, understand someone, and show them how they give value to an organization, to a project, to a team, and to themselves. To be a leader it is like a captain of a ship, you cannot change the ocean, only the direction of the ship. A leader has vision, and it is his/her responsibility to be able to effectively communicate that vision to influence his/her team to join him in that direction. My vision is what I was born with. My ability to lead has been honed through the skills I learned along the way.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Live your life with the end in mind. If you want to become a dietitian, or a food service manager, or clinical manager, or a professor at a university than chart out your course with a road map of what you need to do to get there. Find mentors. Multiple mentors that can guide you and inspire you. Know that there will be roadblocks and barriers, but keep working towards your dream. Once you get there, it isn’t the end. It is now your beginning.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
There are always tangibles that seem wonderful, but truly my favorite payment is always the sincere and heartfelt thank you from someone who’s live was changed. Those payments are awesome.