While physicians provide necessary oversight and guidance to patients on a medically supervised weight loss program, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) often are the foundation to the team approach to weight loss. In addition to filling a critical support position, RDNs take a leadership role in coordinating care and collaborating with other team members.
RDNs must meet the high standards set by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Their rigorous training enables them to design individualized plans to help patients meet their nutritional and food preference goals, as well as assess their level of interest and motivation. The counseling they offer patients is integral to success, so they factor in each patient’s specific needs, medical history, medications and any other unique circumstances that may impede – or enhance – the patient’s desire or ability to adhere to a weight loss plan.
This one-on-one, individualized connection makes all the difference. Attempts at weight loss and lifestyle change can be challenging and discouraging, especially for those with obesity who likely have tried multiple diets throughout their life. The stigma of being even moderately overweight can cause embarrassment or humiliation, and when the amount of weight a patient must lose is high, they can quickly become discouraged because small reductions may not be readily apparent. An RDN considers all these obstacles and works with patients to develop a specific program that the patent can manage in the context of their own life.
One way to jump start weight loss and encourage motivation for patients with obesity is through the use of meal replacements. Heather Boyd, an RDN who is a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management and a Certified Diabetes Educator, has recommended meal replacements as a safe and effective option for patients, especially those who don’t like or have time for meal planning or don’t want to measure portions. Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and also an RDN, also encourages meal replacements as a viable route to weight loss. She recommends liquid meal replacements as an alternative “for clients who have had their brains fixated on food for so long.”
As part of their counseling, RDNs should be aware of a variety of weight loss alternatives and the science behind them to best guide their patients. Among these choices, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a “strong” rating and recommends “portion control and meal replacements or structured meal plans” as possibilities for those engaging in a weight management program. There is no miracle cure for obesity, but the patient-centered expertise offered by a qualified RDN can go a long way in overcoming ambivalence and encouraging patients to take the first steps on their weight loss journey.