9 Signs You Need to See a Nutritionist

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9 Signs You Need to See a Nutritionist
A brunette wearing black glasses leans on a counter over a bowl of vegetables

If you’ve been diagnosed with a health condition, have a weight or fitness goal you’re struggling to achieve, or are going through a big life change, you may need to make diet and lifestyle modifications. There’s a lot of nutrition information — and misinformation — shared for free online and all that noise can make you second-guess whether you’re eating in a way that supports your health goals.

As our knowledge about the importance of proper nutrition grows, up to 63% of consumers report they try to eat healthy most of the time. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is not conducive to good health, and our grocery stores are filled with confusing labels and junk food masquerading as health food. 

To reduce the burden of self-experimentation, you may want to consider working with a nutrition expert. A nutritionist will help you understand your body and what it needs, and develop a personalized nutrition plan to suit your goals and preferences. We spoke to a certified nutritionist to learn more about what they do, how they can help you achieve your health goals, and when to see a nutritionist.

What Is a Nutritionist?

Many people use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably, but they each serve a unique purpose for their clients. Each nutrition expert goes through specific training courses and earns credentials based on the area of expertise they plan to explore. Know the difference between the two to help you choose which option is right for you.

Nutritionists and dietitians can work one-on-one with clients to create customized eating plans that suit their clients’ goals and lifestyles. They educate their clients about food and help them better understand their bodies. 

The primary difference between dietitians and nutritionists is the education and training they receive. Registered dietitians (RD), also called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN), earn a four-year degree and often a master’s degree, and must follow their state’s requirements for earning and maintaining their certification. RDs are medical professionals who provide medical nutrition therapy to patients with diseases, allergies, and other health conditions. They can work in hospitals, medical centers, corporate wellness, public health settings, private practice, for sports teams or athletes, and in research capacities for food or pharmaceutical companies.

Nutritionists may receive varying degrees of education or certifications, depending on the clientele they work with. They also may not have any formal training or certifications (make sure you ask). 

Many nutritionists focus on supporting clients with autoimmune conditions, weight loss, or a general interest in improving their health by changing their eating habits. A nutritionist can help them better understand their bodies and the hurdles preventing them from achieving their goals. Nutritionists teach clients how to make healthier choices that align with their lifestyles, dietary needs, preferences, and religion.

The type of nutrition expert you choose will depend on your individual health needs. Dietitians handle diagnosing and treating specific health conditions, while nutritionists teach their clients how to take a holistic approach to their health, starting with the food choices they make.

Signs You Need to See a Nutritionist

Most people decide to work with a nutritionist when they have a specific goal in mind. Whether they want to lose weight, address physical symptoms, or improve their overall health, they may have hit a plateau that’s preventing them from getting where they want to be. 

Know when to see a nutritionist to save you the time, money, and frustration. With so many fad diets, rampant misinformation, and bio individuality, it can be difficult to drown out the noise and find a personalized eating plan that suits your needs, goals, preferences, and lifestyle. Many people choose to work with a nutritionist when they experience:

  • Years of yo-yo dieting

  • The start of menopause

  • Stress or emotional eating

  • Pre-diabetes

  • Infertility

  • Disordered eating

  • Trouble losing or gaining weight

  • Mood disorders

“Common reasons that people may need to see a nutritionist are when the normal route doesn’t work,” says Emily Bitz, a registered holistic nutritionist. “Perhaps they have seen their primary care doctor, run blood work, testing, and so on, and still don’t have any answers. Nutritionists take an alternative approach and look at the whole-body systems. We look at someone’s entire health history, lifestyle, and other factors contributing to their disease and make recommendations accordingly.”

The foods we eat are the foundation of our health. Nutritionists take a holistic approach to wellness and advise their clients to make choices that are conducive to their health. Many nutritionists choose their career path after struggling to find relief from their own health issues.

“I’ve had success helping clients who are struggling with low energy, constipation, and painful periods. I myself have struggled with low energy and very painful menstrual cycles, which is a common reason nutritionists would choose their particular niche,” Bitz says. “My last client was having trouble staying energized for her work day, and was only having a bowel movement once per week. Bowel movements daily are absolutely key for elimination, energy, and nutrient absorption! I helped this particular client increase her bowel movements and get her energy levels up within just a few weeks.”

Changing your lifelong eating habits can feel overwhelming. A nutritionist eases the burden, relieves anxiety, and sets you up for success with a tailored eating plan. Most nutritionists offer consultations to address your questions and concerns, and set your expectations for how your sessions together will help you achieve your goals. Bitz suggests using a nutrition school database to locate a nutritionist in your area whose niche aligns with your needs.