How To Get The Most Out Of Working With A Dietitian

“Let food be thy medicine”. So said Hippocrates, one of the fathers of modern medicine, and his words nicely sum up the perspective of dietitians.

People with a wide variety of backgrounds, lifestyles, and health concerns - including some thyroid conditions - can benefit from seeing a dietitian. If you already do, this article will give you some tips on how to make the most of the experience. If you don’t, here are some reasons you might consider it.

Why Work With A Dietitian?

•   We can provide accurate, evidence-based information on nutrition and food. There are a lot of myths out there about healthy eating. A dietitian can tell you what’s true and what’s not. For those who want more in-depth information, we can provide resources and further reading. For those who like to cut to the chase, we can provide quick answers relevant to your situation.

•   We can give customized advice to help you achieve your health goals. The right diet may help you manage the side effects of your thyroid treatment, increase your energy, make you feel better, or just help you achieve the best health you can. Whatever your goals are, we can work with you to achieve them.

•   We can provide accountability. Some people benefit from outside accountability when working to create new habits. Seeing a dietitian at regular intervals can help keep you on track.

•   We can provide resources and referrals. Dietitian services go beyond just a 30 minute appointment. We can point you to community programs, services, and resources that match your situation. Want to learn new cooking skills, get support for emotional eating, go on a nutrition-focused tour of your local grocery store, or join a physical activity program? A dietitian can point you in the right direction.

Where To Find A Dietitian

If you’re in Canada, a good place to start is www.dietitians.ca, which provides an online directory of dietitians by region. You can also ask if there are dietitian services available at your family health team, medical clinic, or community health centre. Dietitian services are free at some locations. Otherwise, they may be covered by insurance.

It’s good to be aware of the difference between dietitians and nutritionists. Depending on where you live, these terms may be used in different ways. In Canada and in many other jurisdictions, a dietitian is required to have a post-secondary degree in nutrition as well as completing a rigorous program of practical training and passing a national exam.

Nutritionists usually have less formal training (and may not be required to have any). There are excellent professionals in both groups; however the advantage to seeing a dietitian is that you know what you’re getting.

How to Build a Productive Relationship With Your Dietitian

Like all relationships, working with a dietitian is a two-way street. We do our best to use our knowledge and professional expertise to help you achieve your goals. On your side, here are some things you can do to get the most out of the experience:

1.    Don’t be afraid to shop around. While all dietitians have a standardized educational background, we all have different styles and specialties. As with all professionals, you might click better with one person than with another.

2.    Be honest about your current diet, even the parts you might be embarrassed about. The more accurate information we have, the better advice we can give. Dietitians are trained to be non-judgmental, and besides, most of us like it when there’s lots of things we can work with you on. That’s what makes us feel useful!

3.    Speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or tell us if something doesn’t make sense. Just as important, don’t hesitate to tell us if something we’ve suggested won’t work for you. The point is to make a plan that works for you, not just one that looks good on paper.

4.    Remember that it’s a partnership. Our job is to give you unbiased information and tell you the benefits and drawbacks of different options. But ultimately, you are the one who decides what to do and it’s up to you to follow through with it (with support from us, of course). It’s a collaboration, not a dictatorship, and the more involved you’re able to be in the process, the better the outcome is likely to be.

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Sylvia Black

Sylvia Black is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer living in Toronto. She is passionate about making healthy eating simple, easy, and delicious for everyone, no matter what their circumstances. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, dancing, and running.

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