With a Little Help from a Nutritionist: One-on-One Help to Lose Weight

I got the nutritionist referral at one of those doctor’s appointments that happens after one gets insurance after a while without and decides to get everything checked. In this case, it really was everything; this doctor’s appointment also led to a topical acne prescription and a referral to a GI doctor because I thought I might be lactose intolerant but have a family history of Crohn’s and colitis. (Turns out I am just lactose intolerant.) My doctor wrapped it up by saying I should lose weight and giving me the name of a nutritionist.

My nutritionist, let’s call her Belinda, worked first out of my doctor’s office and later out of a chiropractor’s office around the corner from where my mother lived. (This may seem convenient, but after I spent a half hour talking about food, I’d go have dinner with my mother, and always felt really self-conscious about it.) We met once a week (and later every other week) for a weigh-in and what I thought of as a food therapy session.

Belinda was of the belief that most weight gain has an underlying cause, be it mental or physical. We ruled out a lot of health issues via more testing with my doctor—no thyroid problems, for example, although those also run in my family—and then spent a part of each appointment talking about emotional eating. But the bulk of our sessions were about strategies.

For the record, I did lose weight. I lost quite a bit right away while my body adjusted, and then a pound or two a week after that. I also plateaued and gained weight back, but these were largely at times when I was stressed or else just eating out a lot.

The moral of this story is that I learned a lot from Belinda, so I thought I’d share a few tips for those starting out on their weight loss journeys.

  1. The word “diet”? was forbidden. Diet has come to mean something temporary, but Belinda contended that the only way to keep the weight off was to institute lifestyle changes. There are no quick fixes if you want to keep the weight off.
  1. Part of that lifestyle change involves easy substitutions. Lean proteins like chicken and fish have fewer calories than red meat and pork. Crunchy things are satisfying, so it’s better to reach for raw vegetables like baby carrots instead of cookies and crackers if you’re just feeling snacky.
  1. What you eat doesn’t matter as much as portion size. To get portions right, Belinda recommended thinking of dividing your plate into quarters. Each quarter was one serving size of meat or a vegetable or a starch. (This was the hardest thing to master, for me. Portion sizes, especially at restaurants, always seem to be two or three times what you need.)
  1. Eat slowly to better gauge when you are full. If you’re full, stop eating.
  1. Get over feeling like you have to clean the plate; a lot of us were raised that way, but it leads to overeating.
  1. Keep a food journal. It will make you realize exactly what you eat in a day. Being conscious of everything will naturally help you cut out extra calories.
  1. It helps to have some kind of accountability. I had to report in to Belinda at least every other week and stand on the dreaded scale. Knowing I’d have to see her made me think twice about some of my choices.
  1. Everything in moderation. Depriving yourself of something will only make you want it more, so rather than drooling over cake, go ahead and eat the cake but take a smaller slice. Belinda argued that deprivation made people more like to binge later, so it was better to eat a small portion of a coveted food than forego it entirely.

A lot of these tips can be integrated into your daily life now. You can join a group online or in person for weight loss support, and I know anecdotally that people with a group that holds them accountable have more success. There are also a number of mobile apps that make keeping a food journal and counting calories super easy—no math involved. (I use the FitBit app, which also allows you to connect to your friends for extra support.)

I had to stop seeing Belinda when she switched to seeing clients at a different office that was harder for me to get to, but I still try to incorporate a lot of what I learned into my daily life. I can recommend the experience if you’re looking to lose weight or you just want to get healthier.