Many of us were raised singing along with a popular children's show, "One of these things is not like the other..." This statement is so true when it comes to our bodies and nutritional needs. A diet that works for one may be an epic fail for someone else. Worse, the diet that works so well for someone else may actually endanger your health.
Nutritionists are trained and educated in nutrition and are usually well versed in the values of various foods and what nutrients and vitamins are needed for a client's particular needs. But nutritionists are not licensed or certified and do not require specialized degrees to hold the title.
A registered dietitian, or dietitian/nutritionist, has taken extensive courses at an accredited school and must pass rigorous testing and registration requirements for certification. In addition, registered dietitians are required to take continuing education in their field to maintain the title. Some registered dietitians also have taken specialized training to understand the nutritional needs of people with certain chronic diseases and conditions, and some specialize in areas such as oncology, bariatrics or nephrology.
Several popular diet plans are accessible online or in book form, but these diets are literally built as one size fits all. They don't take into account underlying medical conditions, preferred foods, individual metabolic rates or the true level of activity for each potential dieter.
Consultation with a registered dietitian (or a qualified nutritionist) will help you start a personalized diet that not only will help you lose weight, but also avoid irreparable harm. It is also recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor to make sure you are in good health and physically fit before beginning any weight loss or exercise regime. However, most general practitioners will only be able to offer you generalized diet plans for your overall health. The more the plan is catered to your individual nutrition needs the healthier you will feel and the more successful the weight loss and subsequent maintenance will be.
Many popular one-size-fits-no-one diets emphasize low carbohydrates, low fat and high protein -- as high as 65 grams of protein daily. However, people who suffer from chronic kidney disorders are warned not to eat diets high in protein or phosphorous. A dietitian can customize a weight-loss diet that will benefit the kidneys. The same customization can be made for diabetes, high cholesterol, food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and more.
While it seems easy to pull up lists of foods that are preferred for any one of these conditions, a good dietitian can customize a healthy diet that will meet the needs of patients who have multiple conditions and avoid the confusion of conflicting lists. A healthy diet will suit your lifestyle, include a wide variety of foods from all food groups, promote physical activity and help you to focus on realistic lifelong changes to eating and exercise habits.
Several North American dietitians examined recent studies with participants who were overweight or obese and between 18 and 65 years of age and determined that for significant safe weight loss, an energy deficit was required, which was commonly achieved by reduced fat intake. Increased dietary fiber, physical activity and behavior training such as self-monitoring contributed to successful outcomes and weight maintenance.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Sonja L. Connor delivered the opening remarks at the 2014 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo held in Georgia this past October. She said dietitians have been "empowered to be the food and nutrition leaders so we can optimize health through food and nutrition." She explained that the field of dietetics was created out of a need to feed the U.S. armed forces during World War II, and the skills and specialties learned since then will be invaluable in the field of health care for years to come.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, based in Washington, D.C., recommends that anyone who is interested in beginning a weight-loss diet see a registered dietitian first. Ask your doctor for recommendations, or visit the academy's website, at http://www.eatright.org, to locate a registered dietitian near you.