Creating a wellness community that is inclusive furthers IIN’s mission of transforming health and happiness around the globe. It starts by celebrating our diverse community members and amplifying their stories. In this blog series, you’ll hear from IIN graduates and employees about their health and wellness experiences and why we must focus on not just inclusion and diversity, but also equity, when addressing the well-being of Black people.
Vanessa Clermont, MS, RD, CDN, is a functional medicine dietitian at 5thandlyfe, based in New York City. She runs a private consulting practice and works with individuals on diabetes management, obesity prevention, and cancer nutrition. Vanessa graduated from Brooklyn College with an MS in health and nutrition science and completed her dietetic internship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
How did you find IIN? What about IIN inspired you?
“I discovered IIN by chance while living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2008. I was at a point where I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives but didn’t know precisely how. I left a career in finance to travel to a country I had never visited. While the experience was priceless, I desired more for my life.
“I took an inventory of all the websites I frequented, hoping to get a sense of what sparked me. I saw myself visiting sites on nutrition, how nutrition affects the body, healing the body holistically, and coaching practices. I was fascinated with the mind-body connection. By 2010, I still was not clear on my life path.
“Upon my return to the United States, I still had a feeling I could be in a profession I loved and could help individuals at the same time. I started my search again, this time with health and wellness coaching in mind. IIN was on top of the list as a top-rated online school. I was hooked and realized I could get paid to do what I love. I could help people create a purposeful life through nurturing the mind-body connection.
“IIN inspired me to learn more about myself and why I chose to go the health coaching route. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the lives I would change along the way. This sense of worth is what allows me to show up every day for my clients.”
How are you incorporating what you’ve learned into your life and work?
“What I learned at IIN is complementary to my life, and daily I continue to use the tools I learned at IIN in my practice. Taking care of myself looks like keeping my cup full. If my cup is empty, I can't serve anyone. Self-care, setting boundaries, and saying no is key to my success. IIN provided me with gems along the way to show up as my best possible self.”
How are you honoring and celebrating Black History Month? What does it mean to you?
“For me, Black History Month is a yearlong celebration. This month amplifies the respect and love I already have for the leaders who paved the way for me. This month shows me how far Black people have come, but how far we still have to go. I cannot rest on my laurels, as I know there is still a long way to go.
“To keep with the theme, I support Black-owned businesses and suggest recommendations to my friends and family. I offer tips and ideas to my community about staying healthy during these unprecedented times as well as preventive measures to combat obesity and diabetes. I'm a vessel for people who need my services.”
How do you feel the wellness world can work to amplify Black voices and contribute to their health and well-being?
“Racial disparity defies the communities served. Traditionally, wellness is viewed as a white woman's privilege, and diversity of any sort is limited. Campaigns, ads, and wellness brands have an opportunity to alter the narrative currently portrayed by featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to express solidarity for change.
“This change is long overdue but is possible if the leaders at the industry's helm acknowledge the pink elephant in the room and take the necessary steps to change the system. Choosing not to choose is also a choice. As wellness professionals, we get to dive deeper and understand the ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and food preferences of the diversity of individuals who need our help.”
How can the IIN community work to make the wellness world more inclusive?
“Acknowledgment is the first step of many before the wellness world becomes more inclusive. There is a gap in representation, and the real work begins as privileged dietitians, healthcare providers, and Health Coaches address the issues at hand.
“It's no longer an option to hide behind a false sense of limitations. Individuals who have influence need to get uncomfortable and create a feeling of oneness. Opening up a dialogue on difficult conversations and having BIPOC as experts leading the discussions provides an opportunity for those who weren't in sync to pay attention.”