Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition, shares her inspiring journey from the comforts of UCLA to jungles of Gabon and conflict hot beds like Darfur.
Have you ever taken a trip that changed your life? I didn’t have the money to travel, but by working two jobs while in college, I saved up enough to go to India one summer. By the end of three months, I had a completely different outlook that would inform the rest of my life. I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude for the chances I’d been given and a new sense of responsibility to do something with the opportunities that I had. I decided I wanted to help improve people’s lives through nutrition and to do so around the world.
I started my career in in Los Angeles after I obtained a Master’s degree and RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) certification. While I found the work rewarding, I wanted to help those most in need – in some of the least developed places. Even though I loved LA, I felt the pull to travel and live abroad.
I decided to pursue my dream by combining my love for travel, passion for helping others and knowledge of nutrition and health. I first worked in Geneva, Switzerland and then Africa. Over five years, I lived and lived and worked in five different African countries, beginning with a hospital in the jungle of Gabon, followed by Ethiopia where I focused on programs to prevent malnutrition, to Darfur, Sudan, where I worked to build resiliency in communities affected by conflict and to treat and prevent malnutrition. I also managed projects in refugee camps in South Sudan during the on-going civil war as well as rural villages in the Republic of Chad.
Along the way I discovered new cultures, recipes, ways of eating and relating to food. I was incredibly humbled and inspired by what I saw. Feeling grateful for my health and taking nothing in life for granted is the greatest gift I brought back home with me.
After working abroad for five years, I was ready to come home to Los Angeles and pursue another dream: To launch my private nutrition practice. It was so exciting and at the same time, completely terrifying. I had no idea how to launch a business and it felt really lonely at first. There are so many logistical aspects to starting a business and a brand and it was something I had never done before. And of course, as a new entrepreneur, there is the fear of failure.
My brand is Nomadista Nutrition. Nomadista is a combination of the words Nomad and Fashionista. Aside from what I live and breathe every day and the focus of my career, which is nutrition, I also love travel and fashion. That’s how my brand was born.
The biggest lesson I learned is that you just have to go for it. I jumped in headfirst, figuring things out along the way and building my client base, website, materials and tools completely on my own and from scratch. Within less than a year, I built a business. Now I’m proud to say that I have a steady stream of clients, who come to me for everything from weight management, resetting their relationship with their body and relearning healthy eating habits to managing serious conditions like diabetes and heart disease. I also contribute to numerous publications including the Huffington Post, am working on a book about nutrition myths, consulting with individuals and companies on health and wellness and am working on launching some exciting products! I was also recently invited to give a TEDx talk about my career path.
About Mascha: My journey and discovery of what it means to truly live a healthy life has taken me around the globe. I’ve worked in world-class medical centers in the US, offices of international organizations in Geneva and tiny villages in Africa.
I was born in Ukraine. My family came to the US as political refugees in 1990, with almost nothing. We were on food stamps and my parents worked multiple jobs to provide for us – yet my mother still managed to make healthy, home cooked, delicious meals (and I learned to love American food like peanut butter and corn flakes, too).
As a teenager, my first job was at Pizza Hut. I loved the deep-dish personal pizzas! I also ate lots of junk food – processed food and sweets. In college (University of WI-Madison), I changed my major five times until I discovered nutrition and fell in love with the practical application of science to how we can be our best, healthy selves. In college, my view of food was transformed. I became passionate about food and healthy living both on an individual and mass scale. My fascination with how a healthy diet can prevent disease led me to pursue a Master degree in Public Health (MPH) at UCLA.
When I was young, we moved around a lot – I went to five different elementary schools! I grew up feeling like a complete outsider, like I didn’t really belong. Even after I learned English, there were small and big cultural differences that made it feel like I would never fully ‘fit in’. It was when I finally landed in LA at 23 that I realized this is the city where everyone who felt the way I did can find their place and feel that they truly belong. This city allows you the space to breathe and reinvent yourself as much as you want. I fell in love with the energy, diversity and opportunity in LA. After all the travel and moving around, it was finally a place I felt at home.