General Nutrition

When should I see a nutritionist?

November 13, 2023

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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General Nutrition
Contents
Contents

Key Points

  • Dietitians can offer great education and support for overall health improvements at any time.
  • There are certain circumstances, like new diagnoses or health conditions, where you should seek the guidance of an RD. 
  • Dietitians can support a wide range of concerns far beyond what you might expect. 

Most people are familiar with dietitians and nutritionists: they’re professionals who help with eating habits. You probably most associate them with weight loss.

And you? You care about your wellness, want to feel healthy and fit, have athletic performance goals, are struggling with disordered eating habits, or are dealing with a new health diagnosis.

So, when is the right time to see a nutritionist? There are a few specific instances in which you might seek out an RD.

How do I know if I should see a nutritionist?

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a nutritionist or dietitian might be weight loss, obesity, or diabetes – which RDs are experts in – but there is so much more that these providers can offer.

Firstly, anyone can benefit from the expert advice of a dietitian at any time. You don’t need to have specific health problems to seek out their services. You may just want to check in on your diet and eating habits to ensure you’re eating the best foods to be eating for your overall health, or you might have a new gym routine and you’re not sure how to support your athletic performance. Because food plays such a huge role in our health, a dietitian is a great health partner for anyone.

Beyond general health, dietitians are uniquely qualified to help with a number of topics, including:

  • digestive problems like constipation, bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome
  • emotional eating
  • disordered eating
  • food sensitivities
  • change in lifestyle or a new diagnosis

Whether you’ve been trying to address any of these topics on your own or are just now encountering symptoms, any time is a good time to work with a registered dietitian. With their expertise and access to peer-reviewed, proven methods, RDs are uniquely qualified to support you in any nutritional counseling to help improve your overall health.

What are some common reasons to see a nutritionist?

Overcoming chronic dieting

Are you always yo-yo dieting? Do you feel like you gain and lose the same 10-20 pounds consistently? Do you frequently try to lose weight quickly and never feel like you can maintain the same weight? Chronic dieting can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can affect your metabolism, hormones, and mental acuity. A dietitian can help you get out of the cycle of restriction and get back in touch with your body’s natural hunger cues.

Resolving gastrointestinal issues

If you experience chronic gas, bloating, constipation, or other GI issues, a dietitian is the right provider for support. Conditions like IBS often require specific diets to alleviate symptoms. You need the guidance of an expert to navigate these dietary changes and to monitor your progress. Dietitians are trained in a wide variety of GI problems and can be the captain of your journey as you find the best solution for your needs.

Healing from eating disorders

Healing from disordered eating is a challenging goal. It can feel like an impossible task, particularly if you’ve only just come to understand your affliction. Dietitians are training in eating disorder recovery and can help devise a plan to lead you to a healthier place. Anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and EDNOS are all part of RDs’ training, and your provider will implement peer-reviewed methods to help you heal, in addition to providing overall emotional support along the way.

Addressing food allergies or sensitivities

Have you just discovered a new food allergy or sensitivity? Dealing with new food restrictions can be difficult, especially if it’s a food you love or often eat. A dietitian can help you navigate these restrictions and set you up for success with a new diet that leaves you feeling fulfilled without triggering any of your symptoms. While food sensitivities are common, they can be challenging to face on your own, and an RD is the perfect partner to help you follow your new dietary guidelines.

Managing chronic conditions like high cholesterol, celiac disease, high blood pressure & heart disease

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with a health condition like high cholesterol or heart disease, or you’ve been facing it for a while and feel you need a new course of treatment, a dietitian is licensed to provide medical nutrition therapy to address and improve any of these conditions. Diet is vital in the management of these chronic diseases, and an RD has the training to help establish the best diet for your needs.

Supporting fertility

Are you trying to get pregnant or just learned you are pregnant? Nutrition plays a huge role in both fertility and pregnancy, and an RDN is an ideal support to have for both. If you’re facing fertility issues, consuming (or avoiding) certain foods can make a difference. Similarly, healthy eating is important for a healthy pregnancy. Food safety has different parameters for pregnant people, and a dietitian can help you figure out what foods are best for you based on your diet, preferences, and health status.

Getting healthier

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, a registered dietitian nutritionist is a provider who can help you reach your goals. You simply want to eat healthier but you don’t know where to start? An RD will help outline a realistic meal plan for you to follow, sharing nutrition information that will help you reach your identified health markers. You may learn about new ingredients or recipes, or you might develop new habits that enforce a healthy routine.

A dietitian can help with:

  • Improving your sleep and energy
  • Establishing a new supplement routine
  • Managing shift work
  • Addressing age-related concern

Losing weight

Dietitians are probably best known for weight management services, and for good reason. They can help you escape the endless cycle of fad diets and establish good nutrition for weight loss or weight management. An RD will use whatever approach makes the most sense for you, including a Health At Every Size lens, to help you meet your goals in a sustainable, healthy way.

What should I expect to talk about with a nutritionist?

When you first meet with a dietitian, you will do an intake where you’ll discuss your eating habits, food choices, exercise regimen, health status, and overall lifestyle. Based on this intake, your RD or RDN will create a plan for you to follow, which may include meal plans, macro breakdowns (establishing the amount of carbs, fat, and protein you should consume in a day), new habits, and more.

Following this, you’ll meet weekly to discuss your progress and talk through any challenges you might be facing. Your dietitian is meant to act as a supporter and source of knowledge as you progress. They will be caring, informative, and supportive throughout your work together.

What is a dietitian?

There is an important difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. An RD or RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist) is certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, after completing rigorous educational and training requirements, to provide medical nutrition therapy. “Registered dietitian” is a protected title, which means only those who have fulfilled the requirements can use it. “Nutritionist” is not a protected title, and in some states, anyone can use it, regardless of their education or background.

Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is evidence-based nutrition counseling to address diseases or conditions that can be managed or prevented. Only RDs and RDNS can provide MNT. Learn more about the differences between dietitians and nutritionists here.

Fay Nutrition has a database of highly vetted registered dietitians. If you are looking for a trusted RD or RDN to support you, click here to get started. 



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.


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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. 

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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.

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