Do something for someone else every day — can be as simple as holding the door for someone else — you’ll see acts of kindness are contagious and will also make you feel good about yourself
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Rissetto.
Vanessa received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is certified in Adult Weight Management (Levels I & II) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. was named by Essence magazine as one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food and currently serves as the Dietetic Internship Director at New York University and Co-Founder of Culina Health.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I actually graduated from college with a degree in History and after that went on to get a Masters in marketing, but my love was always in the field of science. After college I had found myself 40lbs heavier than when I started and decided to eat healthier — even though I had no idea what that meant. It was 2000 and we didn’t have influencers or Instagram…. maybe we had Friendster (look it up if you don’t know what that is). Anyway, I lost some weight, but still wanted to understand how food affected my body, so I sought the help of a registered dietitian — Keri Glassman. She was able to explain how it all worked and I thought maybe I too could provide that same level of education to people and help them in an actionable way, so I applied to NYU and here I am some 15 years later.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting thing for me is how many different things you can do as an RD. You can work in a hospital, private practice, consult for major companies — the possibilities are endless. I had the conversation with my husband the other day, that 11 years after taking the RD exam I have a successful practice and am back teaching at NYU — if you would have asked me what I would be doing 10+ years after taking my exam I never would have imagined all this and the fun stuff in between. What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story? Take every meeting, answer every email, you never know where it will lead.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Not setting up boundaries from the start, I always want to help my clients so I would let them email/text whenever they wanted, and I barely held them accountable out of fear of upsetting them. I realized that if you don’t have boundaries no one can be successful and you end up resenting the work which defeats the purpose.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Keri Glassman has always been my biggest champion, being a client and then telling her I had interest in the field she supported all my efforts and still does to this day. I also have other colleagues in the space like Maya Feller who always checks in on me and is a sounding board during all the tough times. And of course, my co-founder Tamar Samuels who pushes me to do the good work I am doing every day, if it weren’t for her I’m not sure I would be thinking of scalability or anything long term.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Co-Founding Culina Health was the culmination of the belief that health and wellness need to be accessible to everyone. We are 95% insurance-based company with culturally competent practitioners whose main goal is to be relatable and treat the whole person in a way that resonates with them.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1. Stay in your own lane — just because Suzy next door did Keto and lost 30lbs in one week and drives a Benz doesn’t mean she’s not struggling to get there. Do what works best for you and still keeps you sane
2. Don’t judge yourself or others — I used to think this one girl I worked with years ago was nasty — and rude — then I realized she was incredibly shy — you never know what’s underneath — be kind
3. Take time for yourself — it’s all fine and well to be up at 5 am (it’s when I do some of my best work) but if you’re burnt out and have no time for yourself what’s the point.
4. Move your body — and that could be walking my friends — I connect with friends by taking them on 5-mile walks with my new puppy. That means either I call someone and talk for an hour or physically make someone in town go for a walk — it’s an awesome way to connect with your people and every day you can talk with someone new.
5. Do something for someone else every day — can be as simple as holding the door for someone else — you’ll see acts of kindness are contagious and will also make you feel good about yourself
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If people could think of others and look to help each other rather than tear each other down we could have a lot more success than we have at the moment.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Don’t compare yourself to others — you don’t know what it took for someone to get to where they are –
2. Don’t judge others — people cope the best they can
3. Don’t do things because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do — eventually that will catch up with you and you will be left feeling unsatisfied and directionless
4. Don’t be afraid to change — if something isn’t working, then change it — in the end if it makes you happy that is what is most important
5. Don’t spend money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need to please people you don’t like
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental Health — everything in the end is centered around that. If you aren’t of sound mind then you can’t do anything else and I don’t believe in sacrificing your mental health for others, or for a fad, or for a number on the scale. I believe we have to do what makes us feel good in order to be productive and helpful to others.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@vanessarissettord @culinahealth www.culinahealth.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights!