Living the Dream One Day at a Time

Living the Dream One Day at a Time - Food & Nutrition Magazine - Stone Soup
Photo courtesy of Angel Planells

My name is Angel Planells and I’m a first generation American. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, I had the pleasure of consuming lots of delicious foods growing up — my father is of Cuban descent, my mother is of Vietnamese descent and, of course, all of the delicacies that have made the Big Easy world-famous.

I started college as an intern in the petroleum industry. I had a scholarship with Texaco and really enjoyed the work. Unfortunately, I missed building relationships with people and felt I was getting too intimate with my TI-86 calculator (which I still have it today).  I met my future mentor who was a sports psychologist and decided to seek a dual bachelor’s in Exercise and Sports Science and Psychology with a goal of eventually obtaining a PhD in sports psychology.

My focus for my master’s degree would be in nutrition. Living the Dream One Day at a Time - I moved to New York City where I took my DPD courses at New York University and obtained my Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Teachers College, Columbia University. I had no idea that the profession had a high percentage of women in it — like lots of women. This was never an issue for me as I feel all of us want to help out the persons we are working with, the only difference is that I am doing it as a multi-racial male.

The goal of pursuing a PhD in sports psychology never came to be, as life got in the way (getting married, having a child and residing in an expensive city). I thought my first job would be in sports dietetics. I had no idea that working with geriatrics would be in my future. My second job after my internship was with the Veterans Health Administration where I had the honor and privilege of serving those who have served for nearly 11 years.

I moved to Seattle, WA in 2011 and began volunteering within the profession  shortly afterwards. I’ve had the opportunity to lead at the district level (Seattle), the state level (Washington State) and national level with the Cultures of Gender and Age Member Interest Group (formerly National Organization of Men in Nutrition) where one of our goals is to recruit and retain men in the profession.

It’s hard to believe, but this is my fifth year of serving as national media spokesperson. It is a truly humbling feeling to represent our members and see our quotes go around locally, nationally and internationally.  I also recognize that having a name like Angel creates an assumption that I am a female so it gets a little weird when a bald, tan man walks into the room or picks up the phone!

The demographics of this country have changed so much and so has our profession. I am the vice president for a nutrition consulting company and the people that we are interviewing and hiring appears to be like the United Nations — they come from all around the world. But we all need to have some patience as change takes time. The demographics of the profession are what they are, and we can’t snap our fingers and expect to see America’s demographic makeup in our profession overnight. It would be silly for me to expect to have 49% men when our profession is close to 5%. The same concept applies when it comes to persons of color.

Ultimately, no matter our gender, race, ethnicity or background, the biggest impediment will be making sure we have adequate internship spots and scholarship/financial aid assistance for all potential RDNs and NDTRs as the cost of education has skyrocketed.

I feel the most effective way for us to move the profession forward is to go into the trenches and recruit and make dietetics an option for everyone — kids want to be lawyers and doctors, why can’t we get out there and make them say, “I want to be a dietitian” too?

The team behind Food & Nutrition Magazine® aims to amplify the voices of people of color and other underrepresented individuals in nutrition and dietetics and highlight the experiences of RDNs, NDTRs, dietetic interns and nutrition and dietetics students. Our goal is not only to stand in solidarity, but also help inform our readers and increase awareness about the importance of diversity in the field of nutrition and dietetics. We know it’s not enough, but we hope it’s a step in the right direction that will support meaningful conversations and a positive change in the profession. 

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Angel Planells
Angel Planells, MS, RDN, CD, FAND is the owner of a private practice/consulting firm. He is a former president of the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Greater Seattle Dietetic Association. Planells has been honored for his work as chair of the Academy's National Organization of Men in Nutrition member interest group (now Cultures of Gender and Age) for recruiting and retaining men in the nutrition and dietetics profession. Planells earned a certificate in adult weight management. He is a graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University.