Lifestyle change can be a huge challenge. And trying to navigate, evaluate and put into practice all the information available to us to make healthy choices can be overwhelming.
So when is it time to ask for help? And who is qualified to offer support, guidance and expertise?
Our Employee Wellness Dietitian Lindsey Wohlford answered these questions about when to see a dietitian.
Q: What exactly is a dietitian?
Dietitians are experts in nutrition and food related issues. We are required to complete a college degree and supervised practice program, as well as a national exam. Dietitians are accredited by the Council for Nutrition and Dietetics. There are other people who call often call themselves “nutritionists,” but they will not have the same level of education or experience.
Q: How can a dietitian help you make healthy food choices?
A lot of people have a basic understanding of nutrition and what they should and shouldn't eat. What people struggle with the most is how to actually put that into action. A dietitian can see where your barriers to change are, and work out how to get past them.
In addition to weight management and general healthy eating, a dietitian also can help you with specific nutrition needs, health issues and disease management, including:
- managing or preventing diabetes
- improving cholesterol and blood pressure
- digestive issues
- sports nutrition
- healthy eating during pregnancy and nursing
- rebuilding your relationship with food
- meal planning
- vegetarian and vegan diets
- general wellness
Q: What do you think would be a signal to somebody that it's time to call a dietitian?
A dietitian can be helpful if you've tried a lot of things on your own and you're not getting the results you want. We all get stuck looking at things through the lens that we have. And just like you might go to a friend and talk about some situation in your life, when it comes to food, you can talk to a dietitian.
A dietitian also can help if you are feeling overwhelmed with information. There's so much nutrition information out there and so much of it is misinformation. You can't stand in a grocery store line without being bombarded with information about diets. A dietitian can help bring it back to basic science and give you strategies that have been proven to work.
Q: How do you find a dietitian?
Many primary care doctors will refer patients to a dietitian if they need to be seen for a specific issue. You also can usually find one through your insurance provider or you can look online at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to find an expert in your local area.
Your employer may be able to help too. Dietitians are now employed at many companies to provide services to employees.
Q: Is seeing a dietitian covered by insurance?
It can be covered for certain diagnoses, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney failure and sometimes for obesity. If you want to go for some basic nutrition information and help, it may not be covered.
Check with your individual insurance provider to determine what services are covered.
Q: What can you expect at the appointment?
First, you're going to fill out basic information. Your dietitian will want to know about your medical history and the medications and supplements you might be taking, just like when you go to a doctor. You will probably have your weight taken or have your body composition done on a body composition scale. These scales measure your body fat, lean muscle, water content, BMI, resting metabolism and more.
And, of course, there will be tons of questions about food. If you can, bring a diary of what you have eaten for the past week. The dietitian also will likely ask what things in your life are working well and what is not? How often do you eat out? Whether you generally feel satisfied or hungry, or if you feel a lack of energy.
For me, it's very important to understand your situation so that the information I provide is realistic. I want to tailor recommendations to what’s workable in your life.
Q: What might people leave the appointment with?
You should expect to leave with goals, a plan to reach those goals and resources to help. If you’re working on weight loss or weight management, it almost always requires some kind of ongoing meal plan, support and accountability.
If you have diabetes, you may need to follow up a little more frequently until you are controlling it well. In other cases, it can be very client led. You might try a few things on your own and then get back to me when you have questions.
Q: What’s your take home message for people who are thinking about seeing a dietitian?
Seeing a dietitian is a step you won’t regret, whatever your situation and goals.
A dietitian can really help improve your health and quality of life, and help you develop confidence in your abilities to make changes successfully.