Deanna Bellany Lewis

There’s so much more to health than what grabs our attention these days (I mean … when can we stop talking about weight!?). That’s why I’m thrilled to bring you this episode with Deanna Belleny Lewis who has spent most of her career working in food policy and directly within community health. She shifts the focus from outdated metrics such as BMI—once even trying to get rid of it as a measure for food program funding—and onto the social determinants of health. Everything from our economic stability to the way our communities are designed impacts our ability to be healthy. (Do you have access to different foods? Is your neighbourhood even walkable at all? Has discrimination such as redlining impacted your area?

Deanna also talks with me about equity in the dietitian sphere, advocating for inclusion on every level: from care providers, to those creating curriculums, to those passing health policies—and how we can encourage eating in ways that are both inclusive and individualized. “There’s so much richness and information in people’s shared and lived experiences,” she tells me … and I can’t wait for you to hear the rest!

About Deanna:

Deanna Belleny Lewis is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner currently living in Hartford Connecticut. She is the co-founder of Diversify Dietetics, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering nutrition leaders of color. Additionally, she works at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care as the Assistant Director of Health Systems Transformation. Deanna is passionate about creating system-level changes that positively impact health and advance equity for Black and Brown communities.

On this episode we chat about:

  • The connection between food and mood
  • Why weight shouldn’t be a focal measure of wellness
  • The importance of community engagement and social support networks on health
  • Movement for the sake of movement and food for the sake of food (nothing more!)
  • Deanna’s experience working in policy. (When Michelle Obama was spearheading the White House’s nutrition movement!)
  • What types of change are needed to make healthy choices easy for everyone
  • The sometimes uneasy difference between individualized nutrition recommendations and creating public health communications
  • Why tying BMI to funding for food and health programs is problematic. “We shouldn’t try to determine health based on a single data point.”
  • How public health and clinical practise reinforce a Euro-centric diet culture – like our emphasis on the Mediterranean diet – and minimize other traditional cultural diets
  • The history of how policy decisions came to be: who is making these decisions? (Hint: White + Male)
  • The difference between numbers-driven diversity targets and equity & inclusion, which tend to be qualitative and more effective
  • How Diversify Dietetics program is working towards equity + inclusion in the dietetics space

Learned something new? Have questions? 

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Connect with Deanna:

Diversify Dietetics membership –

Diversify Dietetics donation –

Diversify Dietetics Instagram: @diversifydietetics

Deanna’s Website:

Deanna’s Instagram: @deanna.rdn

Deanna’s Twitter:  @deanna_rdn

Deanna’s Recommendations:

Chef Tessa Nguyen, white supremacy in dietetics : @cheftessard

Carlie Saint-Laurent Beaucejour, mindfulness and craving coach:

Dalina Soto, the “Anti-Diet Dietician”

The works of scholar and author D-L Stewart