She's founded a patient-centered nutrition practice, shared insights and recipes on shows like Good Morning America and Today, and inspired hundreds of thousands of viewers to take their health into their own hands.
Maya Feller, a registered dietitian, is making wellness inclusive and accessible for all. Learn how she found this passion, what inclusive nutrition means, and three wellness tips you can start using today.
Finding her purpose
Feller first learned how important personalized nutrition was while training for a marathon.
“My running partner ended up in the hospital twice. The first time, she was over-hydrated. Then she was under-hydrated. I researched running nutrition and found there was an entire field dedicated to it. I decided to become a dietitian and fell in love with nutrition science,” said Feller. “When I started working in the community, I felt such a sense of purpose. I decided to focus on inclusive nutrition. No community deserves to be left out of the wellness conversation."
She turned this dream into a reality by opening a practice to help people of all backgrounds manage or revert chronic conditions. Feller takes social determinants of health into account in her day-to-day work with patients.
“Wellness looks different for everyone. Everything from your zip code to education and finances impacts the ability to live your best life,” said Feller. “Wellness doesn’t mean free from disease. If you have a chronic condition, wellness means being able to manage it well.”
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Providing inclusive nutrition
Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is at the core of Feller's practice. These evidence-based protocols help people manage conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, two leading causes of kidney disease. In some cases, MNT involves medication and lifestyle changes like exercising more.
Lifestyle changes can be hard enough, but for some, they may feel insurmountable.
“If you don't have access to affordable, nourishing foods, you may have to rely on items with excess added sugar, salt, and fat. These items can increase chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you’re tired from working multiple jobs, what can you put on the table that is easy, affordable, and nutritious?” Feller asked, “How do we work in that framework to put food on the plate that supports metabolic health?”
The answer to this difficult question is getting creative and starting small.
“Start by buying frozen or canned vegetables. Incorporate shelf-stable, nutrient-rich items like beans and rice into your diet,” said Feller. “If it’s safe, go out and move your body even if only for ten minutes. Take a few minutes to leave your office building or house to go sit in the sun and stretch your body.”
Over time, these smaller changes can add up and make even big goals like lowering blood pressure more achievable.
“If you can, reach out to a trauma-educated mental healthcare provider. You deserve the help.” Feller said, “The emotional component of this work is just as important as the nutritional and physical.”
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Feller’s top nutrition tips
Inspired to improve your own health and wellness? Feller is here with three tips to get started: rest, hydrate, and add more plant-based foods to your diet.
1. Focus on rest
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services getting enough sleep has many benefits.
The benefits of sleep include:
Getting sick less often
Staying at a healthy weight
Lowering the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease
But rest involves more than sleep.
“Prioritizing emotional well-being is imperative when thinking about health and wellness. That can look like taking the space to rest and relax,” said Feller. “Look at how rest fits into your life and determine what it looks like to you.”
Rest takes many forms–it can include doing a hobby you enjoy, moving your body, or meditating. It depends on what activities you enjoy and the types of experiences that fill up your cup.
2. Hydrate properly
As Feller learned early on in her journey, drinking the right amount of water is crucial. Too much or too little can impact how the body works and even cause kidney damage. There's no fixed rule for how much water everyone should drink. It depends on many factors including;
Amount of exercise
“Everyone’s hydration needs are different but be mindful of sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol.” Feller said, “These are two things that can impact anyone’s blood sugar and pressure. Speak with a healthcare provider to determine what proper hydration looks like to you.”
3. Eat more plant-based foods
A recent study found that eating more plant-based foods and less animal-based ones can lower the risk of or slow the decline of kidney disease.
“Lean into the fiber and nutrient-rich foods from your childhood. What is recognizable, enjoyable, and accessible to you? This could be anything from jicama, plantains, or beans.” Feller said, “Eat the rainbow. Berries, nuts, and seeds are fantastic but there are so many more options to choose from like quinoa, millet, teff, and red, black, or wild rice.”
Check with a healthcare provider before changing your diet–especially if you have kidney disease or other chronic conditions. They will help you determine which plant-based foods are right for you.