Can a Dietitian Help You Lose Weight?
If you’re struggling to lose weight, and feeling frustrated, you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of contradictory nutrition advice online. Even worse, each year brings a wave of fresh new fad diet flavors hawked by celebrities and self-proclaimed nutrition gurus. And, when these fad diets fail, they often make people feel like a failure.
But, you are not the failure. It’s the bad advice that’s failed you. It’s the diet that’s failed you. It’s the self-proclaimed nutrition narcissists and shameless celebrities who’ve failed you while enriching themselves selling get-fit quick schemes.
If you can relate, maybe you’re looking for a different approach, and wondering, “can a dietitian help me lose weight?”
And, as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I’m here to tell you, yes, we can.
Prepare to Let Go of Your Diet Beliefs
When you work with a dietitian for weight loss, you can throw away your diet books and preconceived notions. It’s time to stop spinning your wheels, endlessly searching for the next nutrition hack. With a dietitian, you’ll have your own dedicated guide.
You may have gathered a lot of bad nutrition advice that’s actually holding you back. So, before working with a dietitian, be prepared to let go of the advice that’s no longer serving you.
It’s time to start fresh.
10 Ways a Dietitian Can Help You Lose Weight
As you prepare to start fresh on your weight loss journey, here are 10 ways a registered dietitian can help you lose weight.
1) Practical Nutrition Advice that’s Personalized to You
Even the best nutrition and diet books have one problem. They’re not specifically designed for you. When you work with a dietitian you have the opportunity to gain one-on-one support. That means they can work with you to better identify your unique challenges, understand your situation, and then develop a plan to help you reach your goals.
2) Set Realistic and Meaningful Nutrition Goals
In order to reach your long term health and weight loss goals, you need to know how to set and structure your goals in a way that helps you take consistent actions. A dietitian can help you do this.
They’ll help you break your goals into smaller behavior based goals that are easy enough for you to take action, while also being impactful enough to make you feel good about yourself, knowing you’re on the right track.
3) Create Healthy Eating Habits that Reduce Your Health Risks
Too often we associate weight loss with restrictive diets, willpower and calorie counting. But, none of these are sustainable.
Instead of relying on willpower, a dietitian can help you develop skills that keep you on track, and help you incorporate healthy habits one at a time, so they last.
4) Develop Mindful Eating Skills
Mindful eating is one of those core skills that can help free you from memorizing abstract diet rules, and help you better tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues so you don’t need to rely on willpower, guilt, or calorie counting.
For most people, mindful eating helps them to recognize and listen to their body, rather than following rigid diet rules. When you combine this added awareness with nutrition knowledge, you can gain more control and satisfaction in how you eat.
5) Guidance on Portion Control and Serving Sizes
If you’re struggling with overeating or just confused about what a healthy portion size looks like, registered dietitians can provide guidelines for how much protein, starch or vegetables you should eat. They’ll help you understand what a healthy plate or snack portion looks like.
When you pair these guidelines with mindful eating, you’ll find it easier to develop healthy eating habits without focusing on calories.
6) Recommendations on What Healthy Foods to Include
Popular fad diets often focus on food restriction, and tell you what foods not to eat. Weight loss websites like Noom for example, often tell people to avoid nuts because they’re calorically dense. However, they’re also nutrient dense, and a good source of fiber and heart healthy fats.
Rather than focusing on food elimination, a dietitian can help you decide what foods to include in your diet to promote satiety – a term used in nutrition, referring to a sense of fullness. By including these foods, you’ll get the energy and nutrients you need, while also feeling full. Even if you’re losing weight you shouldn’t feel exhausted and starving.
7) Practical Tips for Meal Planning and Food Prep
One of the biggest complaints about eating healthy is that it takes extra time. Cooking a healthy Mediterranean meal at home takes a lot longer than a drive through, or ready made packaged meal. But we would all agree that that homemade meal is healthier.
The challenge is that we all live busy lives. So, learning a new skill, like cooking, eating healthy, or meal planning takes a back burner to other priorities.
But, you don’t have to do all of these things perfectly. You just have to make progress by taking small consistent steps in the right direction. A dietitian can help you do this and make meal planning easy by giving you simple meal and snack ideas to try out.
8) Better Understand the Science and Psychology of Losing Weight
If you spend much time online you’ll likely hear lots of different opinions or perspectives on what diets are the best for losing. You’ll also hear different advice and explanations for achieving a healthy weight range. And, you’ll likely get confused with all of the different information.
A dietitian can help you make sense of this information, and separate fact from fiction. The truth is that there are multiple different strategies to lose weight. In the simplest terms, you have to burn more calories than you eat, but your body also metabolizes macronutrients and foods differently in a way that affects your overall satiety.
Reaching your weight loss goal requires more than just knowledge however. You have to apply that knowledge into your daily life. So, it’s important to work with a nutrition professional who understands both the physiology and psychology of weight loss.
9) Lose Weight at a Healthy, Sustainable Rate
As humans, we like quick results. Weight loss is no different. But, get fit quick schemes, and crash diets don’t work and can even contribute to eating disorders.
In 2016, it was shown that these types of diets don’t support long term weight loss, when the NIH released a study showing that contestants on the Biggest Loser television competition had gained most of their weight back over 6 years. And, almost all of them had developed resting metabolic rates that were significantly lower than people of a similar size who had not experienced rapid weight loss. So, that meant losing weight would be even harder for them in the future.
There’s a reason why health experts recommend modest diet and lifestyle changes that target weight loss of 1-2 lbs per week. Severely restricting your calories can reduce your metabolism, cause you to lose muscle mass, and make it harder to maintain a healthy weight in the long run.
10) Support and Accountability
When making a lifestyle change, knowledge is rarely enough. We often know what we need to do, but putting it into practice is hard, especially when we have setbacks or encounter stressful situations.
With a registered dietitian you’ll gain extra support on your health and weight loss journey. That includes:
- Holding you accountable to take action on your goals – that way you maintain forward progress
- Keeping things in perspective – when we mess up, we sometimes overreact and want to give up, thinking we’re a failure. A dietitian will help you stay focused on your goals , learn from mistakes and recognize your achievements.
Making diet and lifestyle changes is hard. You won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. No one is. But, when you have a dedicated dietitian at your side, they can help you stay focused without being overwhelmed. And, in the long run, this is what creates sustainable habits that support a healthy weight.
How to Find a Weight Loss Dietitian
If you want to work with a professional to help you lose weight, here are some good ways to go about finding a dietitian:
- Ask your doctor for a referral: Your primary care physician may be able to recommend a dietitian or nutritionist in your area who specializes in weight loss.
- Check with your insurance company: Many insurance plans cover the cost of seeing a dietitian for medical nutrition therapy. Check with your insurance provider to find out if this is an option for you and to get a list of in-network providers to see.
- Use a professional organization: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a “Find a Nutrition Expert” tool that can help you find a local or telehealth dietitian.
- Search online: You can also use search engines to find local dietitians, but just be sure to verify credentials and read reviews carefully before making an appointment. Many dietitians will offer a free 15 minute consultation.
- Ask for recommendations: Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues who have worked with a dietitian or nutritionist.
Ultimately, it’s important to choose a dietitian who you feel comfortable working with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and share your concerns so you can find the right professional to support you.
If you’re wondering “should I see a dietitian or nutritionist for weight loss?” I recommend reading about the differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist. Both can help, but it’s important to understand the differences and know what to look for.
My Approach to Nutrition Counseling for Weight Loss
Whether you’re just starting out on your health journey or looking to overcome a plateau, a dietitian can help you take action and achieve lasting, sustainable results.
As a Registered Dietitian, I take an approach to weight loss that’s rooted in mindful eating, rather than calorie counting. While calorie counting can be an effective tool for assessing portions and developing awareness, it’s not sustainable long term. Our ancestors never had to rely on calorie counting, and neither should you.
Instead, I work with my clients to notice their body’s hunger and fullness cues. By building awareness, without guilt or shame, we give ourselves the ability to make informed eating choices that don’t rely on rules about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat.
When I work with clients, weight loss often takes the back seat as we focus on mindful eating, expanding your understanding of food, and developing healthy habits. Over time, the result is sustainable weight loss, that doesn’t require you to obsess over the scale.
My goal is to help clients achieve lasting weight loss success while also promoting overall health and well-being through a balanced, mindful approach to eating. You can learn more about my approach to nutrition counseling here.