In spite of our best efforts to control our diets, many of us don’t really know how to eat well. We feel overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to eat, and by all the food choices available to us. The good news is that we don’t have to walk alone in this – there are wonderful professionals who can give us great guidance.
Unfortunately, it can be hard sometimes to know when to seek a nutritionist, and what to look for when you do. This quick article will give you some key things to consider.
When to Seek a Nutritionist
It’s time to seek personalized, professional guidance if you are struggling in any of the following ways:
- You feel like your eating is out of control.
- The prospect of eating healthy seems overwhelming to you.
- Your eating patterns have become so erratic that you don’t know how to start eating regular meals again.
- You’ve been dieting for so long that you are confused by past conflicting information.
- You find yourself feeling very full with just a few bites of food and/or you never feel any hunger.
- You are always hungry, and never reach the point of feeling full when you eat.
- You feel like your weight is out of control.
- You are experiencing digestive problems.
- You have recently received treatment for an eating disorder and want to stay on track.
- You need more answers.
- A friend or family member is urging you to be evaluated.
What to Look For
Unfortunately, in some states, the title “nutritionist” or “dietitian” can be claimed by anyone, even without formal education. To guarantee that you are seeing someone medically qualified to assess and counsel you, the initials “RD” or “RDN” should follow their name. This stands for “Registered Dietitian” or “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist,” which means the person has fulfilled specific requirements for education and training in food and nutrition, and has passed a rigorous national exam. To maintain their registration status, they also must follow guidelines to continually stay updated, as monitored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly called the American Dietetic Association). Additionally, not all nutritionists are familiar with working with eating disorders. If you have an eating disorder (or think you might), it’s a good idea to ask if that’s an area your nutritionist is experienced in.
Where to Find an RD or RDN
Many insurance plans cover visits to a RD or RDN, so check out your personal plan. Otherwise, fees tend to be reasonable and worth the investment in your health. There are various ways to locate a professional. Depending on your history and needs, you may want to seek one who has experience in the area of disordered eating. Try any of the following avenues:
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics referral system at www.eatright.org
- For Canadians, through the Canadian Dietetic Association www.dietitians.CA
- The referral list at the National Eating Disorders Association includes both therapists and RD’s/RDN’s.
- Call the outpatient nutrition clinic at your community hospital.
- Ask your physician to make a recommendation.
- For college students, check with your student health clinic for a referral.
- Inquire at a local sports medicine clinic or health club.
- Call your state’s dietetic association, or check their website.
- Look through the yellow pages under “dietitian” or “nutrition”, and choose someone with RD or RDN credentials.
For information and tips on finding a counselor, therapist or treatment program to help you deal with the underlying issues of your disordered eating, read our article Finding Treatment for Eating Issues.