Weight Loss

Can a nutritionist help me lose weight?

November 14, 2023

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Key Points

  • Registered dietitians are the only providers certified to provide medical nutrition therapy for weight loss and obesity.
  • RDs follow a standardized approach called the Nutrition Care Process to provide evidence-based care for your weight loss journey. 
  • Losing weight with a dietitian involves so much more than just a meal plan, and is shown to be the most effective method for weight loss. 

Who can help me lose weight?” This is a question many people ask themselves as they search for a professional who can offer medically sound, evidence-based nutrition advice for weight loss. With so many different “experts” and options out there, it can be difficult to know who you can trust.

Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professionals out there, and studies show they are the most effective guide for weight loss. Let’s talk about how dietitians can help you lose weight and what to expect when working with one.

What does a dietitian do?

Registered dietitians (RDs) and registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are board-certified nutrition counseling professionals. RDs provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT), which is defined as a “nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist.” RDs and RDNs are the only providers qualified to offer MNT, which is used as treatment for diabetes, obesity, and other diagnoses that require nutritional interventions. Nutritionists without the RD title have far less experience and are not certified to offer the same quality of nutrition plan. Among other things, RDs can help you lose weight, gain weight, or manage your weight via nutrition counseling.

What is medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

Medical nutrition therapy is a standardized approach for weight loss and other health conditions. It is an intensive, individualized service run by a registered dietitian that offers ongoing education, guidance, and support for weight loss. It follows a standardized framework, which we’ll talk about in more detail later, that is tailored to your personal needs, goals, and lifestyle. This framework provides all the medical and emotional support you need in the weight loss process. MNT is much more than just a meal plan – it is a customized, high-touch approach that is designed to help you be your healthiest self and reach your goals.

If you’re working with other providers at the same time, like a certified personal trainer for your fitness or a doctor for a different facet of your health, your dietitian may connect with other members of your care team to align on the overall approach for your weight loss and health plan. Whenever possible, it is hugely beneficial when working with several providers to have them connect and collaborate.

What to expect when working with a dietitian for weight loss

While everyone’s weight loss journey is different, weight management administered by a registered dietitian follows an approach called the Nutrition Care Process (NCP). This process is designed to follow a standardized framework based on years of research and experience to offer a proven method that still caters to individual needs

The NCP structure is as follows:

  • Nutrition Assessment: To start, your RD or RDN will do an intake assessment to learn more about your current eating habits, medical history, activity level, and overall lifestyle. They will also run any necessary tests and measurements.
  • Nutrition Diagnosis: Based on the assessment, your provider will select a diagnosis to name the root cause.
  • Nutrition Intervention: Your RD will determine the best intervention based on your diagnosis. This intervention will be directed at the root cause and will use education, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes to help reach your goal, whether that be a healthy weight or something else, like lowering your cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Nutrition Monitoring/Evaluation: The final portion of the framework is ongoing monitoring. You and your provider will meet weekly to review what is going well and what could be improved. The RD may take additional measurements as time goes on. Most importantly, they will be there to support you every step of the way as you learn more about nutrition and how to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

The NCP is a framework, not a singular, prescribed method. This care process enables RDNs to create custom lifestyle and diet plans that cater to individual needs based on an evidenced formula. A good dietitian will always create a protocol specifically tailored to your particular lifestyle, goals, and medical status.

Is it better to see a dietician or a nutritionist for weight loss?

Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professionals available. They have extensive education and training that is regulated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and through this training, they have access to well-researched, proven treatments and methods for weight loss and all other facets of nutrition.

Nutritionists who are not registered dietitian nutritionists do not have the same training or expertise. “Nutritionist” is not a protected title, whereas “registered dietitian” is, which means in some states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. This could result in a lack of evidence-based nutrition advice and even negative health outcomes.

When it comes to weight loss, individualized nutrition counseling administered by a registered dietitian is one of the most proven methods out there. In fact, studies show that individualized nutrition therapy provided by a dietitian results in 2.1 kg more weight loss and 0.55 kg/m2 BMI loss than advice provided by other health professionals.

Let’s be honest: weight loss can be an emotional, complicated process. You want to work with the most qualified provider to take on the journey together. Dietitians can help you better understand the psychology behind fad diets, eating disorders, and overeating to find more sustainable eating habits. There is just as much of a mental health component to weight loss as there is a physical component, and your RD is your trusted guide through all of it.

Will a nutritionist give me a meal plan?

It’s important to understand that only RDs and RDNs can give meal plans. Nutritionists without an RD title cannot. 

When working with a dietitian for weight loss, you may receive a meal plan, along the guidance you need to meet your weight loss goals, but your provider may take a different approach if that is what’s best for you. Your RD will work closely with you to identify habits to improve, offer tools to incorporate more healthy foods each day, and more.

When losing weight under the guidance of a dietitian, you might learn how to:

  • Balance protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your meals
  • Estimate portion sizes
  • Make smarter food choices
  • Engage in physical activity that is rewarding and realistic for you
  • Balance your cholesterol
  • Respond to cravings
  • Eat more veggies, fruits, and whole grains
  • Use supplements to reach your goals
  • Handle food allergies
  • Cultivate healthier habits

As you can see, the process is much more than just a meal plan! Your dietitian is your bonafide guide for your whole weight loss journey and is there to provide all the educational, practical, and emotional support you need to meet your weight loss goals.

How much does it cost to see a nutritionist for weight loss?

Nutrition counseling from an RD or RDN is covered by health insurance. Services from nutritionists are usually not covered. Exactly how much you’ll have to pay for a dietitian depends on your health insurance and specific healthcare plan.

With Fay Nutrition, you can get your price and be matched with a pre-approved dietitian provider. Fay will bill your insurance after your session so you don’t have to worry.

Without going through insurance, you could pay up to $150 per session. When you go through Fay, you could pay as little as $0 per session. Fay Nutrition helps you get the most out of this often-unused benefit to get the care you need from a trusted, qualified healthcare provider.

How to find a dietitian for weight loss

If you’re looking for a registered dietitian to help with your weight loss journey, Fay Nutrition can connect you with a qualified RD or RDN who is covered by your insurance. Using a service like Fay can save you significant amounts of time and money by matching you with a trusted provider almost instantly and billing directly to insurance for you so you don’t have to worry.

Click here to get started with Fay Nutrition.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Menzies Health Institute Queensland
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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.