8 Situations When You Should Consult a Nutritionist That May Surprise You

They're trained to do a lot more than help people lose weight.

8 Situations When You Should Consult a Nutritionist That May Surprise You , Close up of woman holding vegetables
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Most people think about seeing a registered dietitian when they're trying to lose weight. That makes sense since they're experts in helping people achieve a healthy weight in a sustainable way.

But dietitians are qualified to do a whole lot more than help you diet. (In fact, some are anti-diet.) In reality, there are plenty of other situations where they can make your life way easier that you're probably not even aware of. Here are all the unexpected ways they can help you, straight from dietitians themselves.

You're struggling with binge eating or emotional eating.

"Many times, the reason you are overeating or binging comes down to eating the wrong balance of macronutrients," explains Alix Turoff, R.D., C.P.T., a registered dietitian and personal trainer. In other words, if you eat a meal that's all carbs and very little protein or fat, you might feel ravenous, whereas a meal that's balanced between carbs, protein, and fat (the three macronutrients) will leave you feeling satiated for a longer period of time. "A registered dietitian can help you to balance your food in a way that does not lead you to overconsume."

They can also help you to create better habits around food and can point you in the right direction of a therapist or psychiatrist if they feel you need it. Dietitians are trained to know when someone needs to see a mental health practitioner for their food issues, and they work very closely with therapists to help get to the bottom of them, says Turoff. (

You're considering a new supplement routine.

It's a good idea to consult a doctor before making major lifestyle changes, and if you're considering a new supplement regimen, it's smart to consult an R.D. as well. (After all, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.)

Think of it this way: "Investing in an R.D. session can save you loads of money on supplements your body might not even need," says Anna Mason, R.D.N. Dietitians love to help you balance your diet and maximize your health with whole foods first, and quality supplements only when needed, explains Mason. "Before you jump for the latest herbal pill, find an R.D. to give you and your health a solid once-over."

You work the night shift.

Working at night can be difficult to adjust to, but it also comes with some health risks. "Late night or overnight shift workers, like nurses or medical personnel, are at increased risk of being overweight, developing diabetes, and high blood pressure," says Anne Danahy, R.D.N. In fact, research suggests that, compared to those who work the day shift, night shift workers are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer. "A dietitian can advise you on the type of diet that can reduce the risk of any/all of those diseases, as well as help with meal planning and food choices to eat when your waking hours are flipped," explains Danahy.

You've been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Sure, there's medication for that. But you may be able to reduce your cholesterol through dietary changes. "One of the best ways to naturally reduce your cholesterol is by eating a high-fiber diet," says Brooke Zigler, R.D.N. A dietitian can help you develop a meal plan that adds in high-fiber foods and removes other foods from the diet, such as those high in saturated fats. (ICYDK, eating too much saturated fat can raise the level of LDL "bad" cholesterol, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association). They can also help you understand which foods really do contribute to high cholesterol, and which ones you don't need to worry about. Eggs, for example, once considered off-limits for people with high cholesterol, are now considered generally okay — that is, of course, in reasonable amounts.

You're fed up with IBS.

"Irritable bowel syndrome can be quite literally a thorn in the side," says Mason. "After an IBS diagnosis, a registered dietitian should be a team captain for the treatment of this condition." While IBS is sometimes treated with the help of a dietitian in the U.S., it's not standard. But because symptoms are often triggered by the digestion of very specific sugars, dietitians are uniquely qualified to guide and oversee the elimination and reintroduction of each unique sugar in the diet, she explains. "Through this approach, many patients are able to find a new control over their symptoms that surpasses what medication alone can do", says Mason. Just be sure to look for a dietitian who specializes in IBS and the low-FODMAP diet. (See also: The Best Low-FODMAP Snacks, According to Dietitians)

You're planning to get pregnant, are pregnant for the first time, or are dealing with infertility.

"So many women gain either too much weight or not enough weight while they're pregnant," says Turoff. "We're never really taught how much our needs change from trimester to trimester, so this is one of the best times to see an R.D." While an ob-gyn can give you guidelines for weight and how much to eat before, during, and after pregnancy, a dietitian can provide tangible tips and help you figure out how to achieve those weight and calorie recommendations for optimal prenatal health.

"Your dietitian can also help you as you transition out of pregnancy and give you strategies for losing the pregnancy weight postpartum," adds Turoff. Dietitians who specialize in this area can also help with fertility issues and balancing hormones, she says.

You can't sleep through the night.

"Sleep plays a critical role in energy and overall health, yet when you can't fall asleep or stay asleep you probably don't consider the impact diet may have on catching enough zzz's," says Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., a registered dietitian and author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet. "Diets deficient in key nutrients such as magnesium have been shown to lead to insomnia, while certain beneficial nutrients such as tryptophan can aid the body's production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin." A dietitian can help you make little tweaks to your diet that may improve your sleep quality and quantity, she says.

You're about to turn 30, 40, or 50.

"Every 'body' needs a tune-up periodically, and the 10-year point always makes sense," says Danahy. "Most people notice when they hit 30 that they suddenly can't get away with eating the same way they did in their 20s." True that. Metabolism, hormones, and nutritional needs change as you age, so it's always a good idea to check in with a nutrition pro when you're entering a new decade. "The biggest challenge I see with my female clients is when they move into their 50s and the combination of age and menopause hits," she adds. "Women who work with an R.D. when they turn 40 develop better eating and exercise habits, and they'll really benefit from that when they move into that next decade."

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