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Why Should I See a Nutritionist?

By Dawn Runge ; Updated August 14, 2017

Fad diets. Self-help books. Talk shows. You may have tried them all and still be struggling with health problems or weight management. Whether you don't know where to start or how to keep going, seeking help from a nutritionist for your health and food goals often proves beneficial.

Stuck in a Stage

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes 4 stages in changing health behavior: contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. When attempting to change food behavior to treat or prevent a health condition, you may be stuck in one of these stages. A nutritionist can help with the contemplation stage by discussing how good nutrition may benefit your specific concerns. She can anticipate pitfalls and plan your meals for the preparation stage. Action and maintenance can be addressed with check-in visits to stay motivated and track progress.

Confused by Information

First you read that carbs were bad for you, then you heard that they were good. Research is an ongoing process, and study findings sometimes contradict one another. This may relate to use of different research methods or the choice of people included in various studies. An educated nutritionist keeps up on the information supported by proper scientific standards. Part of his job is to sort through the large amount of research information and use his training to apply research findings to your specific needs.

New Health Concern

A new health concern with nutritional implications, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can be overwhelming and leave you uncertain about what foods you should eat. Food allergies are one diagnosis that can throw food habits for a loop. Plenty of other conditions are also affected by what you eat, as foods can help or hurt the body. A September 2010 study report published in the journal "Academic Medicine" noted that nutrition education in medical school is often inadequate, so your primary care doctor may not be able to give you the depth of nutritional guidance you need. Nutritionists work with doctors to help optimize the dietary aspects of medical care.

Nutritionist Qualifications

Various organizations provide training for nutritionists, so people who call themselves "nutritionists" may have different levels of education and training. One of the most well-known and extensive programs for nutrition education is that of a registered dietitian. Nutritionists who are registered dietitians have completed a bachelor's or master's degree nutrition program accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a 6- to 12-month supervised training program. Various other organizations offer nutritional training and certificates of completion. Some programs can be as short as a few hours, so it is important to ask a prospective nutritionist about her education and training. This is especially important if you have a medical condition for which you are seeking nutritional guidance.

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