You crush it at the gym. You get your yearly physical and head to the derm for a skin check at least once a year, too. Heck, you even make time for monthly chiropractor appointments. Chances are there’s one important appointment you’re not slotting into your schedule: seeing a nutritionist.
What an ophthalmologist does for your eyes, a dietitian does to keep your digestive system and body running smoothly, all the while making sure you’re getting the proper nutrients and helping you tailor an eating plan that works best for you—whether your goal is weight loss, learning how to eat a healthy vegan diet, or boosting your iron intake. While everybody should try and get an appointment in their calendar, here are the telltale signs you should see an RD on the pronto.
You Think You Have an Allergy or Intolerance
But there’s a catch. “Before you begin cutting foods out of your diet, it is a good idea to consult a registered dietitian,” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, host of the Cooking with Sarah-Jane video series. The truth is that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but R.D. is a national certification and these are the professionals who have verifiable experience and education to be able to make big recommendations, like cutting out entire food groups. “An RD can help you to determine if your symptoms are due to an allergy or intolerance or something else,” continues Bedwell. “He or she can also direct you on how to get a diagnosis and if you need to see a doctor, what type of doctor to see. Following the correct steps is crucial for getting a correct diagnosis. For example, many people do not realize to get a correct diagnosis for a gluten intolerance or for celiac disease, you still need to be consuming gluten at the time of the test. A dietitian can help guide you through this, guide you through the right diet, and make sure you don’t develop any nutrient deficiencies in the process.”
You Are Irregular
This is important, pals and gals: “According to most doctors, your bowel movements should happen one to two times per day,” says Lisa Hayim, RD, and Founder of The Well Necessities and TWN Collection. “If you are skipping days without going to the bathroom, talk to an RD about some changes to make.” If you’re not yet convinced you need to see a pro, try ridding your diet of constipation-inducing foods.
Your Stomach Gets Twisty when You Have Dairy
Gas, bloating, diarrhea… it sounds like a commercial for a solution that comes in a plastic bottle, but this is actually about your dairy consumption. “You could be lactose intolerant,” say The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Lactose intolerance is very dose-dependent, meaning that if you have a couple tablespoons of ice cream you may be fine—but a cup can send you over the edge. An RD can help to make sure you’re properly diagnosed and will help you to figure out if you can have any dairy. And if you can’t, they’ll make sure you can get all the nutrients from dairy products another way.”
You Have Tried Every Diet Out There…
…and you never see results. Or you gain it all back shortly after dropping weight. Whatever the roadblock, a nutritionist can thoughtfully and effectively help. “An RD can help guide you through changing your lifestyle, rather than following a specific diet plan,” Bedwell says. “A registered dietitian is trained to help you learn healthy behaviors and habits as well as identify harmful ones. They can help you understand the science behind how food fuels your body, how to achieve balance in your food choices, and provide accountability to keep you on track.”
You’ve Got Heartburn or Acid Reflux
“A registered dietitian can help you to minimize acid reflux symptoms by putting you on an appropriate diet,” share The Nutrition Twins. “You do want to check with a doctor to make sure it’s not stemming from something more serious, but [seeing a nutritionist] can help tremendously.”
You’re Noticing Serious Changes in Your Hunger Levels
“Severely decreased appetite or increased appetite could be warning signs that something is up,” says Hayim. “A dietitian will probably have to collaborate with a doctor to see what’s going on, but meeting with a dietitian is a good place to start.”
You’ve Just Been Diagnosed with High Cholesterol
“With guidance from a registered dietitian, you’ll know which foods to choose and which to steer clear of in order to lower your cholesterol and instantly reduce your chance of heart disease and heart attack,” explain The Nutrition Twins.
You’re Doing Everything Right and Still Can’t Shake the Weight
It’s not just that time of the month. And it’s not just one week of going on a cleanse and wondering why a month later you’ve gained back the weight. We’re talking about a consistent lack of ability to lose weight despite doing all the right things like working out, eating right, and getting enough sleep. “There is a lot more to good nutrition than meets the eye. Meeting with a dietitian can help evaluate some of your pitfalls you may not be aware of,” offers Hayim.
Or, if You Just Want to Lose Weight in General
“Losing weight and losing weight in a healthy manner are two very different things,” cautions Hayim. “Learning how to lose weight—while eating healthy and avoiding nutritional deficiencies—is key to sustaining good health and even keeping the weight off.”
Life Just Got Crazy
Adjusting through life’s more difficult nooks and crannies is a good time to see a nutritionist because they are like a psychologist for your body. “Whether you just found out that you are pregnant, just got diagnosed with diabetes, or have decided to train for a marathon, a registered dietitian can help you face the challenge head-on!” offers Bedwell. “An RD is trained in all areas of nutrition and understands how the right diet can either help or hurt your condition. Some dietitians even carry specialty certifications in things like pediatrics, diabetes education, and sports nutrition and know the latest research in these areas.”
You’re Constantly Thinking About Food
Wait, not everyone thinks about their next meal all the time? In all seriousness, though, if you are frequently preoccupied with—and obsessing over—your next meal, it’s time to consult with a nutritionist. “If you are constantly thinking about your next meal, and may even go to bed thinking about breakfast, it’s time to schedule an appointment,” says Hayim. “When these thoughts are not fueled by hunger, but rather an ‘obsession’ with food, it could be early signs of disordered eating. Sometimes, learning a bit more about nutrition science from a dietitian can lead you down a healthier road.”
You’re Prone to Stress Fractures
“This is more common than you may think,” The Nutrition Twins say. “A professional can get to the bottom of it to see if it’s stemming from something like lack of calcium, over-exercising, or something else. They can ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrients for calcium absorption and strong bones—like vitamin D and vitamin K, just to name a couple.”
You Overeat or Binge when You Feel Emotional
Whether you go overboard when you’re anxious, sad, or even happy, this is a red flag if you can’t divorce the feeling with the habit. “Otherwise, it can lead to unhealthy patterns that can result in weight gain and all the associated diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” say The Nutrition Twins. “A dietitian (and, sometimes, in combination with a therapist) can help you to deal with the emotions so you can conquer the overeating.”
You’re Stretched Too Thin
You work a full-time job, a sideline gig, three pets, kids, and a husband. Simply put, you’re exhausted. “There’s a likely chance that you’re not fueling adequately to maintain that busy schedule,” say The Nutrition Twins. “A registered dietitian can help you to make sure you’re consistently providing your body with fuel throughout the day—and that you’re choosing the right foods to fuel your brain and your muscles and to prevent energy dips and crashes.”
You Want Babies!
Trying to get pregnant? “An RD can help prepare your body to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, and ensure your baby is getting all that it needs,” says Hayim. To get a good primer on pregnancy and what you can do now, don’t miss these ways to stay fertile in your 30s.