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

By Julia Malacoff
June 12, 2018
Photo: Lipik1/Getty Images

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, 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 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. (Related: The #1 Myth About Emotional Eating Everyone Needs to Know About)

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 RD as well.

Think of it this way: "Investing in an RD session can save you loads of money on supplements your body might not even need," says registered dietitian Anna Mason. Dietitians love to help you balance your diet and maximize your health with whole foods first, and quality supplements only when needed, Mason says. "Before you jump for the latest herbal pill, find an RD to give you and your health a solid once-over." (BTW, here's why one dietitian is changing her view on supplements.)

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 registered dietitian Anne Danahy. In fact, a recent study found female shift workers have a 19 percent greater risk of developing cancer, especially breast, GI, and skin cancers. "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."

You've been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Yup, 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 registered dietitian Brooke Zigler. A dietitian can help you develop a meal plan that adds in high-fiber foods and removes other foods from the diet (such as saturated fats). 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 A-OK (in reasonable amounts of course).

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 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. This approach is starting to catch on in places like Australia, which boasts a collaborative treatment from a gastroenterologist and an RD for all its IBS patients. "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.

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," Turoff says. "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 RD." While an ob-gyn can give you guidelines for weight and how much to eat before, during, and after pregnancy, a dietitian will actually help you figure out how to achieve those weight and calorie goals.

"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. (Wondering whether fertility foods are a real thing? We have answers.)

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, a registered dietitian and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. "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. (For some quick sleep-friendly food ideas, scope these foods that help you sleep.)

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 we 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 RD when they turn 40 develop better eating and exercise habits, and they'll really benefit from that when they move into that next decade."

Comments (1)

June 13, 2018
Your title "8 Situations When You Should Consult a Nutritionist..." but yet you interview all Registered Dietitians Nutritionist. I would just point out to your readers, that not all Nutritionist are Dietitians, and in fact it is a lot harder to become a Registered Dietitian than a Nutritionist. Great article by the way! Thanks for writing it!