One of the many observations from the pandemic is that we have spent much more time self-scrutinizing our appearance on Zoom, being demoralized or inspired by the images we see in magazines, on television or social media that call out toned thighs, flat abs, celebrity weight loss and more.
If these images are motivating you to action and you’re looking for someone to be your nutrition adviser, how do you find the person that best suits your needs? Are you interested in someone to help you with meal planning, guidance for particular nutrition-related health concerns, weight management, recipe ideas, smart shopping guidance or advice on how to eat well on a budget? A registered dietitian/nutritionist can help with all of the above and more.
Certification and Specialization
As you begin your search, do look for individuals with the RDN — registered dietitian/nutritionist — credential. A registered dietitian/nutritionist (formerly known as RD for registered dietitian) is a board certified food and nutrition expert. This individual has successfully completed an accredited nutrition and dietetics program and internship. Although there are some nutritionists who are board certified and credentialed and are also registered dietitians, not all who use the term “nutritionists” are qualified to provide nutrition advice. In addition, you’ll want to find out if that individual has additional expertise in areas of interest to you such as diabetes management, eating disorders, digestive diseases or performance nutrition.
Philosophy and Audience
Before you contact a nutrition expert, do your homework. Look at websites to get an idea of the person’s nutrition philosophy. Does it seem inclusive or exclusive? Do they tend to talk more about what to exclude or include? Does their social media platform prioritize foods that are affordable and readily available or foods that are more expensive?
Read their blogs and watch their interviews to get an idea of where they stand and what they recommend when it comes to eating guidelines and food choices. Ideally, talk to other clients/patients to get their feedback. You’re making this investment in yourself but you want to work with someone who will meet you where you are. Look beyond the visuals to the verbal to see if what they say resonates well or rubs you the wrong way.
It’s important that you work with someone who’s an expert in food and nutrition, but also presents their expertise in a way that is approachable, engaging and appealing to you. Does this person listen to your concerns, show empathy and compassion and customize their recommendations to meet your needs? Do they ask about your food beliefs, food preferences, relationship with food and your body, food traditions, body goals, eating habits, culinary ability, proximity to grocery stores and your finances? The questions asked and the guidelines they provide need to respect what is important to you and reflect practical application.
Whether you’re working on creating a #healthyselfie, becoming fit or trying to optimize body composition, remember, you’re the driver; the nutrition expert is the pit crew to support you.
Be wary of anyone promising dramatic weight loss as a result of counseling. You’re the one who will be putting forth the effort, not them. Ask about pricing. More is not better and may be financially unacceptable for you. Certainly, you should invest in yourself, but if a program focuses on high-priced supplements or insists on weekly visits without any opportunity to personalize a menu and timeline for services, you may want to find someone else.
A registered dietitian should be your GPS to help you navigate the route of eating consistency, food quality, food quantity and meal frequency. In addition, there needs to be conversation about realistic expectations, obstacles and the unexpected. You want to work with someone who can strategize and personalize recommendations in a way that are achievable, sustainable and maintainable. A perfect partner is willing to listen, learn, guide, make suggestions and tweak — rather than overhaul — and be your cheerleader to help you thrive.
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