This week, the Living F.R.E.E. Lab wants to highlight some Black nutritionists, influencers, and authors who spread positive messages about body image and eating. The women featured in this post have all done amazing work to bust the myths behind diet-culture and encourage other women to become their most confident selves. By sharing their personal experiences and expertise, they push for the voices of other Black women to be heard. Representation is incredibly important in the health and wellness community, a community in which Black women have been excluded from for far too long.
Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN
Maya Feller is a dietitian nutritionist and adjunct faculty member at New York University. She utilizes a culturally sensitive and patient-centered approach to help clients find a strategy that works for their unique needs. She has also been vocal about how racism is deeply embedded within public health, especially in articles she has written for the Well+ Good platform. In 2019, Feller published a cookbook entitled: The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes for a Healthy Life. This diabetic cookbook provides recipes for those who want to enjoy the flavors of Southern food while making diabetes-conscious choices. Feller consistently updates her website with blog posts, recipes, and articles that she has been featured in.
Lauren Leavell is a motivational fitness coach who encourages clients to move their bodies in a way that works for them and their wellness goals. She is an advocate for inclusive fitness and wants people of all bodies to be able to participate in joyful movement. Leavell has a substantial following on social media, especially on Instagram, where she redefines the way most people view exercise. Leavell also updates a blog on her website and has written numerous posts about the issues revolving around diet culture and how to become more body-positive.
Tambra Raye Stevenson, MPH
Tambra Raye Stevenson, who was named the 2014 Nutrition Hero by Food and Nutrition Magazine, is the founder of NATIVSOL Kitchen. NATIVSOL Kitchen is a learning space where Stevenson hosts cooking classes, teaches people how to shop for food, and introduces them to their heritage food. One of her main goals is to connect Black women to take a step back from the Westernized diet and connect with their cultural foods. She also works to spread nutrition education and reduce the amount of food deserts in communities of color. A few years ago, Stevenson also founded WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture. The mission of WANDA centers around a sisterhood of people who she calls food “Sheroes.” These sheroes embody all of the positive traits that Black women possess including strength, resilience, and compassion. Together, they incorporate advocacy, innovation, and education into their goals of improving health outcomes for Black girls and women of African descent.
Jessica Jones, MS, RD, CDE and Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, CDE
Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez are registered dieticians who have a passion for making wellness more accessible through intuitive eating, a practice that involves listening to one’s hunger cues, and body respect. Together, they created Food Heaven, a multimedia platform that makes nutrition more inclusive and provides culturally-sensitive nutrition tips. This website includes several resources such as recipes, blog posts, and cookbooks. The two also host the Food Heaven Podcast, a podcast that tackles relevant topics in episodes such as “The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” and “PSA: POC Have Eating Disorders Too.” By building an inclusive community that supports Black women to engage in eating practices that work for them, they are providing a pathway to wellness, self-acceptance, and better mental health.
Anissa Gray is a Senior Editor at CNN Worldwide and novelist. Gray is most known for writing her novel, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, and recently wrote an essay about the Black female experience with eating disorders. Her essay, “It’s Time to Correct the Narrative Surrounding Black Girls and Eating Disorders,” focuses on how eating disorders are seen as a problem that only white girls deal with, though eating disorders really affect people of all races. Gray describes how when she attended a recovery group for her eating disorder, she was the only Black woman present. This experience led her to examine the racial components of eating disorders and treatment, including the differences in body standard images between Black and white girls and common misconceptions about who is susceptible to developing eating disorders.
By Abby Mueller
Abby is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, and this is her first year working in the Living F.R.E.E. Lab.