Should You See a Dietitian?

Weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. But if you haven't made an appointment with a dietitian, you're skipping a crucial step


We know what foods we like and dislike; what's good and bad for us. We understand basic nutrition, like salads are healthy and pizza is unhealthy; our bad habits we're not planning on giving up and the healthful habits that make us happy.

And with the start of the New Year comes a healthy dose of reflection, usually accompanied by a weight loss goal or at least some type of health-related resolution. All too often, resolutions err on the extreme side of the spectrum. We aim to hit the gym every day, lose that extra 15 pounds, or stop eating sugar. But have you ever considered visiting to your local dietitian's office?

Personally, I've always felt that I don't need help-I can feed myself without someone else's help or opinion, thankyouverymuch. But with wellness trending, it's almost puzzling that bragging about checking in with our dietitian isn't more commonplace.

The truth is, seeing a dietitian is something we should all be doing. To find out why, I visited Adiana Castro, R.D.N., owner of New York-based Compass Nutrition. It was eye-opening-and a visit could be just the right experience to kick off your new year.

First, there's no shame in visiting a dietitian. Asking for advice from someone trained in the science of how food affects our brains and bodies should be required-no matter your eating habits. I went in for a general wellness appointment and couldn't wait to get my ever-growing list of questions answered, but you can make an apppointment for a variety of reasons. Most offices can help test and counsel you through a suspected food allergy, metabolism testing, and weight loss plans too. (Here's what to know before you go.)

As expected, Castro asked general questions about my eating habits-what I struggle with, what I usually eat in a day or week. Most of us are aware enough of what we're doing wrong that identifying the issues we need to fix is easy. For example, I know I don't consume enough protein and have higher than normal cholesterol levels, so that was a large focus of our meeting. Before my visit, I would proudly state I would never give up my Splenda habit. I walked out of Castro's office sure that by the end of January, I will have completely phased the fake sugar out of my diet.

I spent a lot of my time with Castro beginning questions with "So I've heard..." We hear and read a lot of things from friends and trusted sources, but the issue is that none of the facts or suggestions presented to us are personalized for our bodies, lifestyle, fitness routine, or personal preferences. Going into the appointment, I was most nervous about being ostracized for the things I was doing wrong and being given instructions or suggestions that would be hard to implement into my daily life.

Boy, was I wrong.

I felt like I was in a nutrition class, and I was the only student. I got to ask all of my burning questions, and it was cool to have a professional explain why my bad habits are bad and what my actions, like going too many hours without eating (blame it on a busy schedule) and skimping on water, does to my brain, body, and energy levels. The focus was on feeling better and making tiny, very doable tweaks. It was never just, "Don't do this, it's bad," but more, "If you do this instead of that your body will respond like this instead, which will be better for XYZ organ and your health in the long run."

New goal: Make my organs very healthy and happy in 2016.

The best part? I left with a packet of Castro-approved grab-and-go bars, ideal lunches from chains located in NYC, ideal post-workout breakfasts and snacks, and more information on nutrients and appropriate portions for certain foods. It was like receiving my own little guide to eating the tastiest and healthiest food. Walking out of Castro's office, I genuinely felt reassured, even enlightened. It's empowering to have more tools and knowledge that can enable me to make the healthiest choices for me. There were no daunting tasks laid out before me, but instead small tweaks that can with some mindfulness, easily be achieved. (Try these 12 Tiny Expert-Backed Changes for Your Diet.) And not even for weight loss-but for more energy, strength, and overall wellbeing and health.

Castro's patients visit on average three times over the course of a few months for a general wellness consultation. More intense weight-loss programs require more visits, which are being covered by insurance at an increasing rate. If you start looking for a dieitian to visit, make sure to look for the R.D.N. ( a registered dietitian nutritionist) in their title. Nutritionists are not regulated, and while they still have valuable advice to offer, the two titles are not interchangeable.

Multiple times through my session, Castro reminded me that we should all be "working with our body, not against it." Which further proves that booking an initial appointment is one of the most positive moves you can make this year. It's not about seeking perfection, but getting personalized advice from a trained professional and providing yourself with the tools to live your healthiest life.

Think about it this way: An appointment is only an hour. If you're investing an hour at the gym a few times a week or watching an hour of TV every night, you can definitely make time for a visit to the dietitian. (P.S. Have you tried a food journal yet? Here's how to start-and stick with it!)

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