What Does a Nutritionist Do — And Should I Use One?


“If I had more discipline, I could lose the weight.”

“I know what’s healthy and what isn’t. I just make bad choices.”

Even if you don’t tell yourself some version of one of these “excuses,” chances are you’ve heard them from a friend or coworker. In our culture, there’s a pervasive perception that weight loss is a result of superior willpower and virtue, and that if you could just be “good” or “stronger” you’d be able to find success. More than anything, this theory goes, struggles with weight are linked to some moral deficit. That couldn’t be more untrue.

A better (and more empowering) word association might be education. A journey toward health is all about learning how to change habits in a sustainable way. And while yes, you can look up information about proper nutrition on the internet, that doesn’t mean you know what to do with it or how to apply it to your real life. That’s where a nutritionist comes into play.

What is a nutritionist, anyway?
When people refer to a nutritionist, often what they really mean is dietitian. A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is someone who has gone through extensive education, training, supervision, testing, and clinical practice. There are stringent standards for what an RD or RDN needs to do to earn and keep their credentials.

Certified nutrition specialists (CNS) do require an advanced degree, but it only needs to be related to the field of nutrition. Supervision, testing, and continued training is also required for a CNS.

Certified nutritionists (CN) and certified nutritional consultants (CNC), on the other hand, are much less rigorous designations. A CN requires an associate (two-year) degree or completion of a six-class online program as well as an exam, while a CNC can be obtained by passing an open-book exam.

And a “nutritionist”? Well, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, as it’s not actually a term with a technical or legal definition.

All of this is to say that when you are looking for advice on what to eat and how to eat it, it’s essential that you carefully consider the source of that information. The most valid and reliable information will generally come from someone with an RD or RDN. And while many online resources and apps purport to offer “nutritionist” services, not all actually have a certified RD or RDN on staff. We suggest seeking nutritional advice and guidance from a source that does, like weight loss and wellness program Noom.


How can a nutritionist help with weight loss?
It’s easy to see why someone with a disease like diabetes or gastrointestinal issues would need the help of a professional, but — especially with the dominant cultural belief that losing weight is about self-control and discipline — the benefits of turning to a dietitian for support with weight loss aren’t quite so clearly understood. Here are some of the main reasons dietitians are effective partners: 

·       Accurate Information: One of the most important things a dietitian can do, whether in person or virtually, is help you clear the clutter. While it’s great that the internet makes information so accessible and plentiful, this also means, of course, that misinformation is also accessible and plentiful. And the World Wide Web isn’t the only place you’re likely to encounter inaccuracies about weight loss. Given the degree to which people talk about the topic in all walks of daily life, it’s inevitable that at some point a friend, colleague, family member, or other acquaintance will introduce a weight loss myth that makes you unsure what to believe. With access to RD-approved guidance in person or on a program like Noom, you’ll be able to easily dispel any myths and get the real deal.

·       Targeted Help: In addition to information that’s just plain wrong, there are all sorts of facts and tips that, while accurate, might not be relevant to you. And with a new study telling you what to eat and what to avoid released seemingly every other day, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by all the advice. Every body is different, which means everyone has different nutritional needs. Dietitians can use their scientific background to help you figure out what’s right for your body, and yours alone.

·       Outside Perspective: When you’re in the middle of something, it can be hard — if not downright impossible — to take objective stock of what’s going on. And, in the context of something that’s already as emotionally charged as weight loss, it becomes even more difficult to get a clear head. This is where a nutritionist comes in. They can help you figure out what’s really happening by breaking down the situation and parsing through all the barriers that might be getting in the way of your success.

·       Tips & Troubleshooting: You only know what you know, and let’s face it — a professional knows a lot more than you. Once they’ve helped you figure out exactly what’s standing in your way, a certified Noom nutritionist can provide you with evidence- and experience-based strategies for sustainable weight loss. Whether that takes the form of creating a meal plan for you, teaching you strategies for choosing the right portions, or giving you tips for avoiding mindless snacking, a dietitian has your back.  

·       Accountability & Support: In addition to the educational element, losing weight has a lot to do with figuring out strategies for staying on track toward a long-term goal. A nutritionist is someone who has all the background on your situation and is there in your corner to keep you on track when you start to struggle. We say “when” because it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll run into challenges while you’re on your weight loss journey, and the ability to have regular check-ins with a nutritionist (or weight loss coach, like the ones Noom provides) will keep you from giving up on your goals during the tough times. There’s also a huge emotional component to what we eat and losing weight, and as you continue on your path, it’s more than likely that feelings are going to come up. A Noom nutritionist will be there to help you sort through your feelings and figure out how to deal with them in a way that doesn’t get in the way of what you’re trying to do.

The great thing about a program like Noom is that it combines all of the most important qualities of a nutritionist or dietitian into an easy-to-use platform that is accessible 24/7. With expert advice and consistent, personalized support, you can reap all the benefits of having a certified nutritionist without having to carve time out of your busy life for office visits.

This article is sponsored by Noom as part of a paid partnership.

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