Dietitians offer healthy eating strategies for health, weight loss
As every January comes and goes, so do millions of people’s New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or improve their diet. We always caution folks not to resolve to simply shed pounds but instead to focus on making broader lifestyle changes, like getting outside more or eating more colorful, healthful food. These modest measures can have outsized impacts
Those who can’t go it alone in 2022 could consider a resolution to include a dietitian on their health care team. These professionals, alongside physicians, pharmacists and therapists, can help people reach their wellness goals and stay healthy during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
What is a dietitian? Dietitians are college-educated and credentialed health care professionals who receive a license from the state after completing 1,200 hours of supervised practice and passing a national board exam. They must also meet continuing education requirements throughout their careers. Their training is different from nutritionists, who have not met the same rigorous credentialing standards. A helpful hint is to look for the letters – “RD” or “RDN” and “LD” or “LDN” – after their names that signify they are registered and licensed to practice.
What do dietitians offer? A dietitian’s scope can vary. Many specialize in certain conditions like gut health or diseases such as cancer or diabetes. They typically educate clients about healthy eating and can counsel them one-on-one on how food choices are affecting their lives, like offering personalized insights on what foods can boost your immune system to help the body defend itself against the coronavirus. A dietitian can help anyone identify their ideal healthy eating strategy by sharing personalized insights on which eating habits would be most beneficial and by making gradual adjustments, because there’s really no such thing as a once-size-fits-all diet plan.
Will I lose weight with a dietitian? Dietitians actually don’t necessarily focus on weight loss. They recognize that nutrition affects every aspect of one’s life, including their gut, skin, immune system, hormones and even mental health. Their goal is to help clients lead healthier and happier lives by ensuring that the right food and nutrients are finding their way into the body. However, this oftentimes can result in weight loss, especially when other factors like sleep, stress management and exercise are addressed.
Who can dietitians help the most? Everyone – even people who think they are perfectly fit and healthy – can benefit from a consultation with a dietitian. But individuals with a personal or family history of certain health conditions should seriously consider trying medical nutrition therapy with a dietitian. These include eating disorders, food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, heart conditions and certain autoimmune conditions like celiac disease or Hashimoto’s disease. The benefits can be significant; in the case of people with diabetes who receive medical nutrition therapy, studies have shown that they experience improvement in key health metrics, including body mass index, cholesterol and blood pressure.
How often should I see a dietitian? Most people see their primary care physician once or twice a year for a checkup. Consultations with a dietitian can be more frequent, in some cases weekly, and they are often covered by health insurance. When it comes to health advice, we’re used to receiving it at our annual physical, but without consistent follow up and support, there is often little follow-through. A slow, gradual start, with a lot of troubleshooting, leads to much better outcomes. Remember, healthy living is a marathon not a sprint.
Healthy living and eating are always challenging – that’s why so many people find it hard to keep their New Year’s resolutions without help. So, if you’ve already broken a past resolution, nobody will ask twice if you try again – this time perhaps with a little help.
Gary Kracoff has a degree in naturopathic medicine and is a registered pharmacist and John Walczyk is a compounding pharmacist at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Mass. For more information, visit www.naturalcompounder.com. Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications, or health in general can e-mail email@example.com or call 781-893-3870.