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Medical Nutrition Therapy for Weight Loss

What is medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

Medical nutrition therapy is a type of treatment for people who are overweight. It’s also for people with certain health conditions. During treatment, you will work with a registered dietitian to make a nutrition plan just for you.

A registered dietitian is a type of healthcare provider with special training in nutrition. This training qualifies them to give counseling on nutrition.

During medical nutrition therapy, your dietitian will look closely at your eating habits. They will help you set new nutrition goals. You will meet with your dietitian several times. They will track your progress at each visit. Your dietitian can help you set realistic weight-loss goals. Most people should aim to lose about 1 to 1.5 pounds per week.

Many people find medical nutrition therapy helpful for weight loss. Your dietitian will tell you how many calories to eat per day to lose weight steadily and safely. They can help you plan a healthy, nutritious diet. This can help you make positive lifestyle changes that last.

Why might I need medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

Many people know that they need to lose weight, but they are unsure how to do so. A dietitian can work with you to address your issues. Many people find this is helpful.

You may not realize that you need to avoid certain foods and eat more of others. Or maybe you are already eating the right foods, but your portion sizes are too big. Medical nutrition therapy can help you make lasting changes.

If you weigh too much, it’s important that you lose weight. This is even more important if you are obese. Weighing too much increases your chance of many health problems. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Sleep apnea

  • Liver disease

  • Infertility

  • Lung diseases

  • Certain cancers

  • Mental health problems

Medical nutrition therapy can also help people with other health issues. This includes people with eating disorders, people who have had bariatric (weight loss) surgery, and those with cancer or diabetes.

What are the risks of medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

If you work closely with your dietitian and follow their advice, this type of therapy doesn’t come with any risks. Your dietitian will work with you to make sure you don’t lose too much weight too quickly (which might carry risks).

If you have any concerns, talk with your healthcare provider. Ask if medical nutritional therapy is right for you. If you are pregnant or have serious health issues, it may not be safe for you to lose weight.

How do I get ready for medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

Ask your dietitian how to prepare for your first visit. Some dietitians may ask you to keep a food journal for a few days before you first meet. You should record all of the food you eat during that time. If your dietitian asks you to do this, be honest. This will help your dietitian set realistic goals for you.

What happens during medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

Your first appointment will likely last about an hour. You may need several follow-up visits to keep track of your progress. Follow-up visits may be shorter.

First, your dietitian will look at your current diet. This normally involves keeping a food diary for several days. Your dietitian will use this information to study your diet and determine where you need to make changes. Your dietitian’s suggestions will follow the latest science.

Your dietitian will teach you how to make better food choices and work with you to achieve realistic weight-loss goals. You may get handouts or other educational materials. For many people, this is about 1 to 1.5 pounds of weight loss per week. You may also learn how to:

  • Read food labels

  • Understand how much of each nutrient, such as calcium and sodium, you need in your diet

  • Eat the right number of calories for you

  • Eat enough protein and fiber. This can make you feel fuller.

  • Eat the right variety of foods

  • Eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Eat leaner cuts of meat and lower fat dairy products

  • Limit your intake of fried foods and other foods high in unhealthy fats

  • Watch your portion sizes

  • Drink water instead of other beverages that are high in calories (like non-diet sodas and most juices)

  • Increase your activity level, such as walking daily

Your dietitian may suggest using pre-prepared products, such as frozen meals. These can be a good tool to help you learn to manage portion sizes. You may talk about other topics as well, such as spotting your triggers for overeating, making strategies for coping with stress, and forming more positive thoughts about food.

Your dietitian will tailor these suggestions to your preferences and health needs. You will need to keep portion sizes in check and reduce how often you eat certain foods. Be upfront with your dietitian about the changes you’re ready to make. You should also be honest about which changes are difficult for you.

Your dietitian will carefully watch and guide you over a series of visits. They may also ask to meet with your family. This way, they can support you through the process.

What happens after medical nutrition therapy for weight loss?

How well medical nutrition therapy works depends on how much effort you put into it. Your dietitian may support you along the way and give you information and suggestions, but you must commit to making the healthy changes.

After your first series of visits with your dietitian, you can always come back for follow-up checkups. You might want to do this if your weight loss stalls or if you have trouble maintaining your weight loss.

You may also want to ask your healthcare provider for a referral to an exercise or mental health specialist. You can also ask about weight-loss support groups. Working with others can help you reach your weight-loss goals.

Weight loss works best when healthy eating habits are paired with other changes, such as getting more exercise. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.

Know that losing weight takes hard work and time. Making small but significant lifestyle changes can have positive long-term effects. It can be challenging to make these changes, but the benefits are worth it.

Next steps

Before you agree to the treatment make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how will you get the results Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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