Can a Nutritionist Help You Lose Weight?

Can a Nutritionist Help You Lose Weight?

Can a Nutritionist Help You Lose Weight?

Table of Contents

Written By:
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD, FAND

Key Takeaways

  • Both a nutritionist and registered dietitian can help you manage your weight and make healthier lifestyle choices.
  • Registered dietitians have education and internship requirements and must pass the RD exam.
  • Registered dietitians will help develop personalized nutrition plans to achieve weight loss based on your individual needs.

There is an overwhelming amount of nutrition advice available through the internet, friends, family, and healthcare professionals. Before starting a weight loss journey, it is important to understand who would be the best source of support, education, and counseling.

This article will review the key differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian, and by the end you’ll know which option is the best for your weight loss goals. 

Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian to help you manage your weight and other nutrition related health conditions. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment. 

Can a Nutritionist Help you Lose Weight?

Yes, a nutritionist may help you to lose weight, but you should work with someone who has credentials in that field so they can provide accurate recommendations.  If you are simply trying to lose weight, a nutritionist may be a good option, but if you also have co-existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, meeting with a registered dietitian is preferred.

Before meeting with a nutritionist, it is important to understand the difference in the titles of registered dietitian and nutritionist.

What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Registered dietitians are food and nutrition experts who have met the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s (CDR) criteria to earn the RD credential.

To become a registered dietitian (RD) one must complete the following:

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited dietetics program.
  • Supervised practice requirement - usually 1200 hour internship.
  • Pass a national RD exam.
  • Continue professional development throughout the career.

Beginning in 2024, a minimum of a master's degree will be required in order to be eligible to take the exam. This will further enhance the knowledge of an RD and make them even more qualified to help you. 

What’s the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

All RD’s are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are RD’s. 

RDs are food and nutrition experts who have completed special training to provide nutrition counseling. They have met the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s (CDR) criteria to earn the RD credential and status of an official health care provider.  

The title “Nutritionist” is unregulated and not defined, and the title “Nutritionist” may be used by anyone. The level of training in nutrition may range from a graduate degree to no training at all. 

Some nutritionists may have gone to graduate school and opted not to pursue licensing to become an RD, while others may have taken a few courses or received a certificate. There are also some nutritionists who are passionate about their own success with weight loss and decide to share it with others. 


How Can A Dietitian Help with Weight Loss?

Working with an RD will help you achieve weight loss. Research has shown that working with an RD for at least five sessions over the course of a year resulted in a 5% weight loss, reduced waist circumference, and reduced blood pressure compared to other methods of weight loss.

Intensive behavioral therapy for obesity provided by an RD resulted in weight loss. It also reduced hemoglobin A1C levels in the blood (a measure of glucose control over the past 3 months) and reduced how long participants required medications.

Evidence supports that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provided by an RD is recommended for individuals who are overweight or obese. A systematic review concluded that participants lost significantly more weight working with an RD compared to usual care. Working with an RD included development of a nutrition plan, counseling on portion sizes, and printed materials for participants to take home; whereas, usual care was a physician counseling a patient. A physician rarely has the time to counsel a patient for an hour on nutrition education and they receive very little training in nutrition during medical school. MNT provided by an RD results in weight loss and reduced risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated blood lipids.

Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian to help you manage your weight and other nutrition related health conditions. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment. 

Diet Changes

An RD will help you develop a personalized nutrition plan that works for you. It is important that diet changes are realistic and manageable so that you can learn to eat in a way that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

Your RD will evaluate your current diet before making suggested changes. He or she will adapt the plan to fit with your schedule and incorporate important preferences.

Your RD will help to:

  • Evaluate your current eating habits.
  • Plan a healthy and nutritious diet that incorporates adjustments specific to you (e.g. - they will consider cultural preferences and schedule limitations)
  • Focus on incorporating more healthy foods that taste good.
  • Develop mutually agreed upon goals that are realistic and measurable.
  • Monitor your progress on future visits.
  • Understand how to read nutrition labels and what portion sizes are needed, as well as how to prepare quick and easy meals.
  • Make your plan and goals reachable so it is more about a lifestyle change rather than obtaining quick results from a fad diet that often fails in the long term.

Portion Control

Portion sizes are a key component to weight loss but also an often misunderstood element of nutrition. An RD can help you understand how many portions you should aim for in a day to feel energized and in-line with your weight loss goals. 

If you are accustomed to eating out a lot, your RD can teach you how to assess portion sizes. Dining out portions are often larger compared to portions provided at home. 

For example, a simple pasta dish could provide 1 ½ cups of pasta (or 3 servings of pasta); whereas, a 1 ½ cup portion of pasta w/ broccoli and chicken would offer more variety, more protein, more fiber and key vitamins and minerals. 

While the nutrition facts label is meant to help understand the nutrition quality of food products, the numbers can be confusing. An RD can help to explain what the numbers mean, and whether to look at the number in grams or as a percentage.

Physical Activity

Registered dietitians will also briefly discuss physical activity if appropriate. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that RDs encourage physical activity for weight loss. 

Clients can be referred to a personal trainer for more specifics, such as, type of activity and duration. This could be a great option for anyone who wants to learn how to safely move their body and decrease the risk of getting injured. Some RDs may also be certified as personal trainers and may be able to provide those details.

Lifestyle Changes

Working with an RD will help you to develop skills and knowledge to make your nutrition changes easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. This may include skills like:

  • Strategies for grocery shopping.
  • Understanding nutrition facts labels.
  • Meal frequency.
  • Meal prepping.

Short term diets that are not sustainable over the long term are not recommended by RDs. Rather an approach that leads to long term success and disease prevention is preferred.

The RD will help to individualize nutrition plans and goals. They will also help provide plans to sustain a positive mindset and create a relapse prevention plan.

Benefits of Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Registered dietitians are uniquely qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy and nutrition counseling. An RD will use the Nutrition Care Process and develop plans and goals based on shared decision-making between the RD and client.

An RD will individualize the approach to weight loss for clients. They will also use effective client-centered strategies. The ability of the RD to provide support resulting in successful weight loss outcomes has been proven by research.

For the best results, it is recommended to meet with an RD for at least 5 sessions over the course of a year. 

For Weight Loss

Many people working towards weight loss also have coexisting conditions. For example, they may be experiencing hypertension or prediabetes in addition to being overweight.

Your RD will appropriately evaluate the whole picture and provide individualized nutrition plans to address all conditions. They will also make sure that diet changes are realistic and fit within the client's lifestyle.

Other Healthcare Professionals that Can Help You Lose Weight

Receiving exceptional healthcare often requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes several different experts. In addition to a registered dietitian, other healthcare professionals that can help you achieve your weight loss goals include:

  • A personal trainer for exercise and movement support.
  • A therapist to help you overcome mental barriers that are blocking your weight loss progress. This can be relevant if your diet involves emotional eating, overeating or binge eating.
  • A pharmacist may be helpful if you already take drug prescriptions for weight loss or other health conditions. Medications often interact with foods or may be better taken with food or on an empty stomach. Pharmacists are also knowledgeable about medication side effects.

Managing Weight Loss with an RD

Meeting with an RD is meant to offer education, counseling, and support through your journey.

Nutrition counseling sessions are a space and judgment-free zone. It can help your dietitian if you are open about your current habits, areas of difficulty when it comes to your diet, triggers, and your readiness for change. 

You will also want to discuss how to incorporate diet changes into your lifestyle. This includes cultural preferences, scheduling difficulties, and resources for preparing meals.

How To Find a Registered Dietitian for Weight Management

Nourish can connect you with a weight loss registered dietitian for further help with weight los or other nutrition related health conditions. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment. 

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