How many people do you think want to make changes to their diet? A lot.
How many people do you think meet with a dietitian to discuss those changes. Not many.
Why do I assume that? Because why see a dietitian and pay a copay when you can search the internet, ask friends or family, or go on the next fad diet. Let me tell you why. Because dietitians study heavy science and counseling for four years and then complete a year-long unpaid internship prior to sitting for a national exam. It doesn’t stop there, because in order to maintain their registration dietitians must complete 75 credits of continuing education every 5 years. Pretty soon all dietitians will also require a masters degree. Do you think every person talking about nutrition, providing tips, or creating fad diets on social media, in magazines, or on TV has this background? No. Be skeptical.
If the reason you haven’t made an appointment with a dietitian is because you don’t know what to expect then I am here to help. Meeting with a dietitian is a relatively seamless process, very similar to meeting with a doctor, therapist, or dentist. You get a referral, make an appointment and show up. Done, done and done. You never know until you try and these days you can even make a virtual appointment, so there really are no excuses.
The first visit will likely be a conversation to get to know one another and build the foundation for future appointments. You may be asked:
What brought you here? Did a doctor recommend you or did you make the appointment willingly?
Do you have preexisting medical conditions?
What have you tried in the past, if anything?
What does a typical day of eating look like for you (or you may be asked to write down everything you eat for at least 3 days)?
What is your lifestyle like? Do you eat on the go? Does your family dictate your meals?
And so on.
The next step is to identify why you want to make a change. What are your values or what do you want your life to look like as a result of this change? Do you want to lose weight to be able to keep up with your children? Do you want to manage your blood sugars to control your diabetes and prevent complications? These questions will help to address how ready you are to making a change; are you in the planning process or are you already committed and taking the first steps.
Finally, it’s important to set some goals. Start with a long term goal, what is it that you ultimately want to achieve? Is it weight loss? Lower cholesterol? Blood sugar management? Increased performance in a sport?
Once you have a long term goal, it’s time to set one or two short term goals. This may not seem like much, but consider what would happen if you made six changes all at once? Many people do this and then end up giving up because it’s too hard and not sustainable. This also causes people to feel inadequate and incapable to change when in reality the process set you up to fail. A dietitian can discuss potential changes based on your lifestyle, goals, and food preferences. From there, you as a client can add some of your own ideas and then choose the most feasible. The goal should be measurable, attainable, and realistic (don’t worry, a dietitian can help you word it as so).
At the next follow up, you’ll likely discuss what went well and what didn’t. Remember, there is no failure or success in this process. Lifestyle changes take trial and error because, let’s be honest, life happens. The process entails learning from experiences and adapting, not giving up.
Do you have any specific questions about meeting with a dietitian? Please leave a comment! I do want to mention that every dietitian has a different style and you may need to visit a few before finding someone that you can truly open up to. Don’t give up, your health is worth it!