How to Choose a Nutritionist

Dietary advice is a lucrative business. Weight and health problems, quest for the perfect body, insecurity about food quality, are just a few main motives to seek dietary advice.
 

This advice is usually free, but almost always bad. Other than the fact everyone deals with nutritionist topics, the lack of individualistic approach is also an important issue.
 

Not every advice is golden

Advice and possible diet plans that your doctor gives you or you find online all lack the necessary support system during the process of nutritive care. This is one of the main reasons why 95% of restriction diets end unsuccessfully, by gaining the weight back. The list of allowed and forbidden items, good and bad habits, is not worth much without the help needed to implement them.
 

The advice that most people get, especially for free, is usually useless, and sometimes dangerous too. Typically, it's based on inadequate assessment of dietary needs, or is completely unfounded, coming from irrational, ideological dietary restrictions, sometimes followed by unresearched supplements that the promoter of has the most financial benefits from.
 

Individualized approach is far more efficient than a general one. This advice can only be offered by a person qualified to give it  - a nutritionist.

In Croatia, we have not yet achieved the level of consciousness to understand the need for a nutritionist, or any kind of paid advice, or just professional knowledge in general. I've already written about why you need a nutritionist, even when you think you don't. Reminder: a real expert will save you time, nerves, and long-term – money.

If you notice one of these things in a nutritionist, or one that calls himself/herself so, thank him/her for his/her time and go see a professional.

Other than these red flags, there are plenty of other more subtle signs that suggest the lack of competence. A logical follow-up is how to choose the right nutritionist. Since not all nutritionists were born equal, I'll help you to choose the one that's best for you.
 

Qualifications matter

The purpose of academic qualification, in theory, is to guarantee the expertise of someone to laymen – expertise that they wouldn't recognize on their own. Unfortunately, due to inadequate quality of college education and trying to artificially enlarge the ratio of highly skilled work force, a diploma isn't a guarantee of expertise. However, without further ado, it's the first filter you should use while picking out the nutritionist.

13 CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD NUTRITIONIST

To avoid the slash line, I'll write this from a male gender pronoun perspective, since I consider myself to be one. I hope no one gets offended because otherwise I'll get offended that nutritionists aren't at least 50% men.

  1. A good nutritionist listens without judgment. He's aware of fragility of human beings and the strong influence of dietary environment. He doesn't think of you as a failure because you couldn't reach your goals.
  2. He adjusts the approach according to your needs. „One size fits all“ is generally a bad approach. The lack of individualized approach, without considering the lifestyle and dietary preferences, will result in frustration and quick quitting the cooperation. Unfortunately, probably also the resentment towards the whole profession.
  3. He's flexible. Understands that there are more ways than one to achieve a healthy diet, and that the best one is the one you'll actually follow. He has many tools in his arsenal that he might use to get you to your goal in minimum time with minimal restrictions.
  4. His advice is based on including instead of excluding food items from the diet. He does not follow any dietary ideologies.
  5. Gives explanations of his actions. He answers the question „why“ with a meaningful answer. He doesn't use the authority card but instead wants to teach you how to eat healthy.
  6. He's focused on long-term and sustainable solutions. If the cooperation didn't lead to creating life habits, it was an unsuccessful one.
  7. He helps you set realistic goals and expectations. This way he protects you from an almost guaranteed disappointment. He helps you to be grounded, because he knows euphoria can be counterproductive.
  8. He understands that diet is more than just nutrients. We are (biologically speaking) robots, but we have emotions. The relationship between food and emotions should be nurtured, and not allowed to harm us.
  9. He's aware that psychology is a determining factor in changing the habits and uses it in his work.
  10. He gives practical, action advice, instead of unclear ones.
  11. He's professional, but not too professional. He doesn't use professionalism to hide the lack of expertise. He understands that nutritionist job is to work with people, which demands understanding and warmth. He's not a clown, but knows how to joke around. Don't trust people without the sense of humor.
  12. He doesn't base his authority on physical appearance. The media is filled with people looking perfect and eating horrible.
  13. He doesn't promise miracles. Diet won't cure a disease, but it can prevent one, as well as give support to your body while battling it.
     

Individual responsibility

Choosing a nutritionist is no easy task. But with the help of these guidelines you can come closer to finding the right one. Read what they write and say, pay attention to how they work, talk to them. Other than expertise, search for character as well.
 

Keep your expectations realistic throughout the process, both when it comes to the nutritionist and the diet. Don't expect instant results or dramatic changes. The nutritionist won't eat instead of you, just like the coach won't train instead of you. Be ready for the effort.
 

Restriction diets are a thing of the past. A real nutritionist won't prescribe a diet as such, but will guide you through the process of changing the dietary habits. The new model includes working with people, coaching if you want to call it that. It doesn't matter what you know, it matters if you can change your client's habits.

If you don't have the energy to look for a nutritionist, you can contact the author of this text, he'll be glad.