Carrie Dennett runs a virtual private nutrition practice with a body positive philosophy, and she influences thousands of readers a week through her writing for the Seattle Times and other publications. She credits the Nutritional Sciences program at the UW for helping her provide research-validated advice to her clients and readership.
Why did you go to school for Nutritional Sciences?
I worked in newspaper journalism for a number of years, then I left newspapers to do healthcare copywriting for a company that has corporate wellness programs. I got more and more interested in nutrition, but I knew that nutrition information, by itself, isn’t enough for most people. I thought, “If I’m going to work one on one with people, I’m going to do it right. I’m going to become a registered dietitian.”
What stuck with you the most from your Nutritional Sciences program?
I feel really blessed that the UW was right in my backyard because I was already settled in Seattle. The nutritional sciences program at the UW is so science-based. I think that was really valuable and so was learning about social determinants of health in my public health coursework. That has continued to influence both how I counsel patients and my writing.
How did your personal experiences inform your practice?
Like many women in society, I fell into the diet mentality from a really young age. My mindset really began to change around the time I went to the UW. I had access to ideas like Health At Every Size and intuitive eating. As I started working one-on-one with clients, I started seeing how many women had been struggling for decades with yo-yo dieting, cyclical weight changes, poor relationships with food and body. When I work with clients, and also in my writing, my philosophy is to work on healthy behaviors without hinging everything on what the scale says.
How did you carve out your niche in the nutrition field?
My background as a writer really helped carve my path. I started writing my nutrition column for the Seattle Times while I was still at the UW. My career as a journalist is way better now that I’m also a dietitian. I get to write about things that fascinate me. But one of the reasons I went back to school is because I wanted to help people one-on-one, so I worked at The Polyclinic for a little over three years before I left to start a virtual private practice, which is what I do now. Through phone or video visits, I help people cultivate healthy relationships with food, exercise and body.
Why is it important for scientists and professionals to communicate with the public?
There’s so much pseudo-science or opinions presented as facts online. More of us who have a grounding in science need to get our voices out there. People can have a blog, they can be active on social media, whether it’s producing content or sharing responsible, accurate content.
What is your advice to graduates who want to start their own business?
It’s a lot of hard work, but it can be super fulfilling. Find a day job that you feel pretty good about and then start working on your side hustle. The nice thing about nutrition and dietetics is it’s a very diverse profession. When you’re in school, and even long out of school, be open to possibilities.