It's not uncommon for the beginning of a wellness journey to be riddled with anxiety. And while there are tons of wellness programs out there, success invariably comes down to finding a well-rounded and personalized plan of action. And if you're not confident in your ability to create a wellness plan, then seeing a nutritionist (or dietitian) could be a solution. In fact, some studies have found that seeing a dietitian resulted in losing weight while not using one resulted in weight gain.
However, before you search "how to consult a nutritionist" or "should I see a nutritionist to lose weight," factors must be considered. First, you'll want to consider that a dietician can be a nutritionist; but a nutritionist can't be a dietician.
The difference in titles is the certification process.
A Nutritionist vs. Dietician
If the last bit was confusing, let us explain. Almost anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and take your money in most states. However, to be a dietitian, you must have an appropriate degree from an accredited university and pass the test to become registered.
A certified nutritionist (CNS) may be accredited by the American Nutrition Association. A Registered Dietitian (RD) can be recognized by The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and their accreditation arm ACEND. (ACEND stands for The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.)
The bottom line: If you specifically want someone tried and tested, then look for the words "certified/ board certified" or licensed" before the title. Research beyond their titles, scan their experience and CV.
Before Seeing a Nutritionist or Dietician Determine What You Want
Most dietitians, health coaches, and nutritionists are very good at what they do. And they're a great option for guidance with:
- Growing a healthier relationship with food
- Crafting a diet that fits with your lifestyle
- Helping you create shopping lists
- Creating sustainable meal plans
If you want to work on any of those mentioned above, a health coach or certified nutritionist may be the best choice. However, a nutritionist (who is not also a dietician) cannot provide medical nutrition therapy. So, if you're seeking a food-based treatment plan to deal with conditions like PCOS, high blood pressure, or depression— a dietician is needed. (You can receive a referral by speaking to your primary care doctor.)
Be Prepared to Give Personal Details
Next pause, If you're not someone who tracks their daily food intake or hasn't thought over what their existing relationship with food is like. Before you reach out, have this information and more, ready. Spend a week journaling your habits without changing anything.
An initial nutrition consultation will include a comprehensive health and nutrition assessment. The questionnaire may ask about things like:
- Food Preferences
- Food Allergies and Intolerances
- How Much You Eat Each Day
- Your Relationship with Food
- Any Goals You Have
- Personal and Family Health Concerns
Nutritionists and Dieticians ask for this information to comprehend what needs to change to meet your goals. Therefore, it's important to be fully transparent with these individuals.
Overall, once you find someone you like, you'll likely follow up with two to three additional appointments. If you would like your health coach or nutritionist to hold you accountable, monthly meetings might be a good option for you. Some clinics recommend yearly refreshers. Regardless of the direction you take, an experience with a wellness coach should leave you feeling empowered and in charge of your health.