Through her private practice, Renee Simpson, RDN, counsels predominantly African American women because, "with an overwhelming four out of five African American women being obese, I found this to be the niche I needed to fill."
She provides counsel, recipes, articles and encouragement to her Northern California-based clients, but her community involvement extends beyond her practice. In August 2013, Simpson founded the Green Diva Lifestyle Meetup group — where she humorously touts that "Green Is the New Black" — and the membership now approaches 100. Group members get together to share farmers' market trips, green smoothie parties, improve cooking skills, learn about food intolerance and increase knowledge and intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
What led to your career in nutrition and dietetics?
After watching my mom lose 30 pounds under the advice of a nutritionist, I did what she did, lost weight, and began teaching others how I did it. This gave me the desire to go back to school so that I could make nutrition consulting my profession.
Tell us about your work and how it fulfills a need in your community.
The focus of my work is to increase fresh fruit and vegetable intake among African American women, with the hopes that these new habits will trickle down to the family. I also educate women on how to go about discovering if they have any food sensitivities, and how to do a healthy detox or cleanse program. When I speak with women who look just like me, I am told by them that it feels like someone really knows what they are dealing with and makes it so much easier for them to embrace the message.
How has your work made a difference in your community?
I can tell that my work is making it more attractive to eat fresh, green, raw, local produce. Years ago people in my community would laugh when I talked about eating healthy, being vegetarian, or any other nutritional topic other than weight loss. Now, when I discuss gluten-free or vegan options, people are far more receptive. I'm taking advantage of this openness to new ways of eating, and I see that they are thankful for it.
What do you find most rewarding about your efforts?
It's most rewarding to me to learn that someone is taking better care of themselves and family as a direct result of my efforts.
Looking ahead, how would you like to see your project develop or grow?
I would like to start doing retreats so that I can connect with program participants more face-to-face and on a deeper level — give them a lasting experience that they can go back and share with others. I would also like to write books that will inspire and educate this population.