Registered Dietitian and Entrepreneur Tells How NOVA Helped Her Switch Careers

February 2, 2024

Anne Mauney, a former NOVA student and now a registered dietitian (RD) and entrepreneur focusing on nutrition and overall health, didn’t always know she’d have a successful lifestyle blog. Today, her eponymous blog, fANNEtastic food, has amassed a large and devoted following. Anne’s accessible nutrition tips and inspired recipes are so popular, they’ve been featured in such national and online publications as Prevention, Runner’s World, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, HuffPost, NBC News, Oprah.com and VICE. 

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Before her successful career as a dietitian and entrepreneur, though, Anne actually worked in communications. She’d earned her bachelor's in sociology from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where her undergraduate coursework focused on the liberal arts. In fact, Anne had never considered herself much of a “science person.” And yet she felt called to work in public health and nutrition, where she could help people lead healthier lives. Knowing that she’d need to complete some prerequisites before pursuing a master’s degree, Anne enrolled at NOVA, where she found encouraging professors and a supportive community willing and ready to help her succeed.

After a year of additional training at NOVA, Anne began her Master of Public Health (MPH) program in nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She earned her MPH in December 2012.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My undergraduate degree was in sociology, and I worked for about five years in public relations, marketing and communications before deciding to make a career change. I contemplated returning to school to become a therapist, teacher or dietitian since I liked working with people.

In 2008, I left my job and ventured overseas to Prague to teach English for a year. Having lived abroad as a child and also for a semester in college, I wanted that experience again. During my time in Prague, I launched my first blog, which focused on travel. Although the blog attracted mainly friends and family, it reignited my passion for writing.

Upon returning from Prague, I decided to pursue a career as a dietitian; I thought it would be a way for me to combine my love of teaching with my desire to work one-on-one with individuals looking to improve their health. But my undergraduate coursework lacked the prerequisites for a science-focused graduate program, which is what I would need to complete to become a registered dietitian. I spent the summer of 2009 living at home with my family, saving money and taking science classes at a nearby university. In the fall of 2009, I returned to the D.C. area, where I had been living before moving to Prague. I started working part time as an editor and enrolled at NOVA to complete my remaining prerequisites before applying to graduate school.

What brought you to NOVA?
I enrolled in classes at NOVA because it was an approachable and affordable way to fulfill my grad school prerequisites. From the fall of 2009 to the summer of 2010, I completed five classes at NOVA.

What did you study?
The majority of my prerequisites for grad school were science classes unrelated to my undergraduate degree. Having already completed Chemistry 1 and 2 in the summer while living at home, I ended up taking my remaining prerequisites — Biology 101, Organic Chemistry, Microbiology, Anatomy + Physiology and Intro to Nutrition – at NOVA.

Tell us about your experience at NOVA (i.e., professors you liked and people you met).   
In the fall of 2009, coinciding with my time at NOVA, I launched my current blog, fANNEtastic food. Inspired by numerous healthy lifestyle blogs, I wanted to share nutritious recipes that highlighted how preparing great food need not be time consuming or overly complicated, and that healthy food could actually taste good! My goal was to inspire readers to be more active and enjoy cooking.

I took classes at various NOVA campuses, including Loudoun and Alexandria. My organic chemistry professor was fantastic — and that's coming from someone who was initially terrified of the subject! In my undergraduate studies, I had avoided all the hard sciences and never considered myself a “science person.” At NOVA, though, my professor made the subject digestible and the classroom environment supportive.

What stood out to me at NOVA was the welcoming atmosphere — everyone seemed ready to help. Despite my initial intimidation around science coursework, I found all the professors to be kind and open to answering questions. The engagement of my peers also contributed to a positive learning environment.

The classes at NOVA served as excellent preparation for graduate school, leaving me feeling completely ready for that next step. NOVA offers a fantastic opportunity to explore career options, especially if you're contemplating a change and are unsure. NOVA provides a lower-cost way to delve into new coursework, helping you assess whether it's a good fit and if it excites you.

What have you been doing since leaving NOVA?
In the fall of 2010, I began my master's program at UNC Chapel Hill; their MPH in nutrition program blends a Master of Science in nutrition with public health coursework. I completed my degree, as well as my required dietetic internships, by December 2012. By that point, I had been running my blog for several years and was entertaining the idea of working for myself. In the spring of 2013, I fully committed to my blog and, after passing the national exam to officially become an RD, established a private practice for nutrition coaching. This transition was met with excitement from many of my readers who had followed my journey.

Since 2013, I have been working independently, managing both the blog and my private practice. In my nutrition coaching, I specialize in intuitive eating — aiming to help my clients foster a healthier relationship with food beyond restrictive diets. I consistently stress that perfection is unattainable; instead, we should focus on sustainable lifestyle changes. Encouraging clients to incorporate positive elements, such as adding protein to their breakfast — rather than fixating on subtraction — is a key philosophy.

I am committed to make healthy eating and physical activity approachable and sustainable for the long term, and I steer clients away from short-term trends that are challenging to maintain.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
If I were to advise an incoming NOVA student, I would say, “Once you get in there, it's much less scary than you’d think it would be.” The build-up and anticipation of hard science classes are often worse than the actual experience. I would also encourage students to have confidence in themselves. Believe that you can do it, and if you need help, don't hesitate to ask for it. Don't struggle through it alone.

I firmly believe that no education is a waste of time. Even if you end up realizing your undergraduate degree doesn't align with your long-term career goals — as was the case with my sociology degree, which generally leans toward teaching or research — your educational journey can still lead you to where you want to be.

It's never too late to pivot and explore new opportunities. I am grateful to NOVA for the options and flexibility it provided to me on my educational journey.

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