Dan Fenyvesi M.S. R.D.

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WEIGHT MANAGEMENT & RETREATS, GLOBAL HEALTH ADVOCATE, AUTHOR, TEACHER, FILM MAKER

for something nutrishus

Marketing & PR guru Krista Ulatowski MPH, RDN recommended Dan to the series to help showcase his incredible public health nutrition work in Nicaragua. He is definitely doing unique/important things with his career and has a passion to help create global change related to obesity. Dan is a very inspiring public health advocate: "I intend to use my experience, together with these pieces I’ve created, as a platform from which to spark dialogue, increase awareness, and work towards improved health and social justice in Latin America and the United States."

Why did you become a RD?

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My parents came to the USA as young adults but they kept many of their traditions. My father is Hungarian and is a passionate organic gardener and my French mother taught me how to cook. I noticed from an early age that our dietary habits were very different from most of my friends. The discussions that these differences brought up (“Mom, what can’t we have Fruit Loops for breakfast?”) began my interest in food. After college (majored in Biology) I worked as an assistant to a nutritionist, my main task was writing the newsletter for an alternative health company that had a chain of supplement stores. I began to suspect that what I was writing a mix of truth and overblown claims/marketing, I decided I wanted to go to graduate school for nutrition and “learn the truth about nutrition.” Becoming an RD was an obvious choice as it allows for such a wide range of career options.

What area of dietetics do you work in?

I work in three main areas: weight management/chronic disease, global health, and teaching (college nutrition and stress management). Weight management has been part of all three clinical positions I have had (two public health clinics and a dialysis clinic). Additionally I have spent eight summers working for three different weight loss retreat centers/camps where I designed menus, worked with kitchens to implement the menus, and taught nutrition classes and cooking lessons. 

Working at the weight loss retreats is something I will keep doing as long as I can because I find it to be the most effective way to tackle the incredibly challenging issue of helping people lose weight. It is deeply satisfying to help people make impactful changes in their lives. I stress a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes including learning to cook, mindful eating, stress management, and work/life balance.

In my work in global health I study traditional diets and lifestyles and have worked on developing strategies to preserve the most impactful of those traditions in the modern world. In Nicaragua I worked on, and studied, the nutrition transition (when societies shift from traditional diets to modern ones) and how that accelerates chronic disease and obesity. I worked with Nicaraguan nutritionists and public health officials to develop a framework for treatment of obesity and chronic disease using inexpensive traditional diets, namely the “three sisters diet” (corn, beans, vegetables). As part of this project I wrote a book (“Food Sobriety”) and put out a short film on YouTube (see below). Educators, including Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua and Peace Corps Nicaragua, are using the film and book to raise awareness about the impact of changing diets.

In my work teaching college classes I have developed assignments that encourage students to explore whole foods and to think critically about both what they put into their body, the many different ways disease develops and is treated, and how different agricultural systems work.  One example of my approach is an assignment where I have students go through their cupboards and pick out foods with ingredients that they can’t pronounce. I then have them go to the Center for Science in Public Health’s Chemical Cuisine site and research the food additives for an investigative paper.

How would you explain what you do?

Depends on the job and the day/task at hand. In general, I use my education and experiences to help educate and improve the health of my patients.

What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?

There is no typical week as I have quite a few different jobs. I work part time in a dialysis clinic, summers at a weight loss retreat, teach nutrition and stress management classes part time, and give workshops to Universities and health clinics on the nutrition transition in Nicaragua (contact me if you would like me to give a talk in your city/University/hospital).

 Dan doing a nutrition survey in the mountains of Nicaragua in 2015

Dan doing a nutrition survey in the mountains of Nicaragua in 2015

What has been your career path?

My first job after graduate school and getting my RD was with a public health clinic in Oakland. I found that after that job it wasn’t too hard to get employment, and jobs with other clinics, retreat centers, and colleges followed. In 2014 I received the Fulbright Scholar Grant to work in Nicaragua, that was also a big milestone for me and has allowed me to work on branching out to more international work.

What advanced education or special training do you have?

I have taken a few certificate courses from the AND, the 2-3 day workshops on adult and childhood weight management. I also attend FNCE for the CEUs and networking and I am always reading books and articles in my field.

In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?

I would like to see RDs take a more active role in educating the public at large, i.e. working in prevention with populations before they become ill. Ideally government will support an expanded role for nutrition courses at every education level and that will save the country money in healthcare costs.

What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals? 

Forgive my cynicism but I see that there are a lot of opportunities for people to earn various nutrition or wellness coach type certificates that are often employed just to give a title in order to further various business goals. For example someone wants to sell supplements so they get a certificate to make them sound like a health care professional.

What is your favourite meal?

I used to be a big foodie/gourmet but these days I really enjoy simple foods such as beans, roasted veggies, and tortillas.

More about Dan:

Website: Food Sobriety

Documentary: Fulbright funded: FAUSTIAN BARGAIN - Obesity in Nicaragua/Obesidad en Nicaragua

Book: Food Sobriety

Facebook: Food Sobriety & the Nicaragua Fulbright Project

 

Thanks Dan!