How would you describe your job in one sentence?
I get to live the RD dream because I spend my day working with students in the classroom and gardens, capturing photos of school meals and sharing them on social media.
What is the most surprising thing for people to learn about being an RD?
That we are required to essentially take many of the same science courses that premed and nursing students take. I honestly had no idea about that myself when I went back to school. I just thought, I want to learn more about food and how it impacts my body and the next thing I knew, I was enrolled in organic chemistry and microbiology, haha!
How did you become interested in nutrition and dietetics [or nutrition communication]?
I was one of the first people to have a Twitter account back when they rationed handles. At the time, I had no idea what to really share on it, but knew it was going to turn into something big. I incorporated social media into my role while still working in fashion and organized the first plus size blogger’s conference for my company. I understood how influential bloggers could be when it comes to helping consumers decide what to purchase and became fascinated by the role of digital marketing. I decided to pursue a career in nutrition after taking control of my own health and becoming fascinated by how the things we eat impact our bodies. I also realized that as a society, we are disconnected from our food system and while volunteering in NYC, I was shocked to see how many children had never tried staple fruits and vegetables, let alone understood how they grew. This is what helped me realize that I wanted to focus in childhood nutrition and connect it with digital marketing. My fashion background and creative nature, always made me understand that I would not be suited for a traditional RD role.
Do you have any advice for dietitians thinking about getting into communication?
Be authentic. It is so easy to get sucked into trying to portray an image that is not true to who you are and what you believe. It is OK to go against the grain and not agree with everyone about everything. When you are yourself and share your personal messages with your audience, they will continue to follow you because of your genuine message.
What food is always on your mind and why?
Paella. When I was in Costa Rice in 2006, for our final dinner, our host made THE best seafood paella. Years later, I still dream about that dish. I have tried to recreate it at home and always order paella if it is on the menu, but have yet to find one that comes close to that one!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Often, we try to improve those areas we are weakest in, which leads to additional stress, frustration and honestly, does not really help to make you happy. For me, I know that I am not an “in the weeds” person, so when I have to get bogged down by excel sheets, budget reports, and HR concerns, I become frustrated because those are just not things I am good at, nor do I enjoy them.
What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve received?
A single smile can change the world. Even on my worst day, I still try to smile. My grandmother always told me that when I am having a bad day, my problems could be the same issues someone faces on their best day. That conversation has stuck with me 15 years later. I try not to complain about things too much because we all have our own issues, it is just how we face them.
How do you find balance?
When the main portion of your job revolves around digital marketing, it is difficult to find that balance of disconnecting. I have made a conscious effort over the past year to devote at least 1 weekend day as a social media-free day. It helps me recharge and unwind. I also try to turn my phone off after 8PM so that I allow myself a few hours each night to take a social detox.
Name a career accomplishment that you’re most proud of – and why?
I am in the process of finishing up my MBA in Marketing and Communications. I graduate in May and will be the first person in my family to obtain a postgraduate degree. I have worked full-time while also being enrolled in courses full time for the past year and have still managed to keep my GPA over 3.75, so am very proud of that. It has not been easy, but I know the end results are worth it!
One thing people are surprised to learn about me is:
I grew up on a farm in Virginia and moved to NYC after graduation to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, where I continued to work in the fashion industry until 2012, when I went back to school for nutrition.
You can follow Stefanie here: