Hi all! I’m so excited to be back with the second post in the Dietitian Spotlight series. Originally I thought this would be a great resource for fellow dietitians-to-be, and those who are interested in getting into the field of nutrition. Personally, if I could, I would take every dietitian out for coffee to learn more about their journey, job, and hear about any advice they’d share.
I didn’t realize how incredibly inspiring and motivating they’ve been to me who is almost done schooling. And I’m not turning down any motivation with finals around the corner.. It get’s me a little bit more excited to be on this journey when I hear other’s stories. If you missed the first one with Katie Cavuto, check it out here.
I’m so happy to have interviewed Maya Feller for this post. I reached out to her because I liked her overall view on nutrition. Her knowledge and heart pour out through her writing pieces and clips online. She works a lot in the media, which isn’t necessarily a typical dietitian’s path, so I wanted to share a little bit more about that. She has her own private practice, and is seen as the expert on shows like Good Morning America, and Dr. Oz! Without further adu, Maya Feller.
1.What originally drew you to the field of dietetics?
I was drawn to the field of dietetics because of curiosity. Curiosity around how the body processes food. My undergraduate degree was in experimental theatre and philosophy, areas where I was very much in my physical body and thoughts. Some years after my bachelors degree I fell in love with running. I ran a number of half marathons and then the Boston Marathon. It was during my training that I spent hours re-connecting with my body and my thoughts. I spent countless runs pondering the mechanics of my body and where on earth all of the fuel I was ingesting went! It was around that time that I became interested in human nutrition. Coming from a family of academics it was clear that should I transition to a new career, I would need to embark on serious studies that would yield a post graduate degree.
My days are truly variable. I see patients by appointment (and have gotten good about stacking the days so they are concentrated) and generally have one full day dedicated to patient follow up and the associated paperwork. The other work days I’m engaged in some type work dedicated to media or communications where I serve as a nutrition expert on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, Eat This Not That as well as other well known digital outlets. I really love my patient days and feel that each time I sit one on one with someone, I learn something. My favorite days by far are ones where I am able to engage in some type of intentional physical activity AND work.
My first job as a dietitian was as a program manager of a DOHMH Ryan White funded food and nutrition service program. All of my patients were 120% below federal poverty guidelines, with infectious disease and homeless or unstably housed. These are marginalized people who’s primary needs were not being met. I had to learn to listen to stories, honor the words people chose to share while finding a respectful way to talk about how food and nutrition played a role in their lives. There was no text book that prepared me for that. I truly had to meet the patient where they were an put myself aside. Put aside preconceived notions about what they should or should not be eating. I had to get real and realistic.
5. Why do you think diversifying the field of dietetics is so important? What advice would you give a student of color going into this field?
We, people of color, are underrepresented in the field of dietetics and that’s a fact. Yet, food and food pathways are directly linked to culture, heritage, environment, learned and inherited experience and we continue to counsel our patients as if there is one diet, and one standardized way to fit the health mold. We need more dietitians who are educated to dismantle and challenge institutionalized ideas around race, class and culture as they relate to food. Diversifying the provider population allows patients of color to see representations of themselves on the other side of the proverbial couch. We know there is bias in healthcare and one of the outcomes it that people of color may not seek follow up care as a result of this. Having access to a provider of color can help to bridge this gap an encourage follow up nutrition care. Students of color are needed. If it is an area of interest it should be pursued. Find a mentor and hit the ground running.