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Ready to Take Control of Your Health? Here's What to Look for in an Eating Disorder Nutritionist

An eating disorder nutritionist can help you build a better relationship with food so you can disregard abnormal eating behaviors and start eating healthily. This guide will explain how to choose the ideal dietician for you.

Recovering from an eating disorder can be highly challenging for many people. Building a better relationship with food can seem daunting and impossible, whether you are trying to eat more or less. Thankfully, with the help of an eating disorder coach, dietitian, or nutritionist, you can get the guidance you need to develop and maintain healthy eating habits from qualified professionals who specialize in and work to treat eating disorders. Personalized nutrition platforms like Top Nutrition Coaching make you feel like you're not alone. We offer numerous nutritionists and dieticians with expertise in their field who will work with you to create a personalized health plan to get you on the right track toward a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, you recover from an eating disorder. We also offer the quickest way to get paired with an expert eating disorder dietitian who can effectively address your concerns and goals to start feeling better and living your best life.

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At A Glance

  • What is an eating disorder nutritionist? Eating disorder dietitians and nutritionists are health professionals that specialize in helping eating disorder patients cultivate a healthier relationship with food and gain skills needed to feed themselves. They assist in nutrition education, meal planning, cognitive behavioral therapy, and goal setting.
  • What are the benefits of working with an eating disorder nutritionist? There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach when working one-on-one with an eating disorder nutritionist. Instead, you'll get visible results from a holistic nutrition plan developed specifically for you based on your health conditions and lifestyle situation.
  • How to get started with an eating disorder nutritionist? Think about your needs and goals. That's all you need to do to help Top Nutrition Coaching pair you with a fully qualified eating disorder nutrition expert who can help you achieve your health objectives.

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How an Eating Disorder Nutritionist Works with You

Unlike coaches and influencers, a registered dietitian nutritionist uses your input to create a nutrition plan tailored to you, focusing on your eating disorder and health goals. To craft that plan, your nutritionist will consider your lifestyle, medical history, health conditions, activity level, sleep patterns, work and family schedule, and food allergies, even outside your eating disorder.

A qualified weight loss nutritionist will work with you to find recipes and meal ideas that make it easy to eat healthily and build a better relationship with food. They may also recommend exercise routines to boost metabolism and manage weight.

At Top Nutrition Coaching, we design realistic nutrition plans tailored to you and your busy life while helping you build sustainable eating habits along your journey towards recovery from an eating disorder. We help you stay accountable and make sure you understand the science behind your healthy eating plan. Our focus is to ensure that you're using food for energy and health, not to cope with stress.

Qualities to Look for in an Eating Disorder Nutritionist or Dietitian

Knowing what to look for in an eating disorder nutritionist is crucial but may not always be obvious. Here are five things you should consider when choosing a professional to help you on your road to recovery from an eating disorder.

Credentials

A dietitian or certified nutritionist should have no problem showing you the documents proving that they're registered or board certified. These can include college diplomas, national certifications, and state registrations. It's essential to ensure your nutritionist has expertise or experience in working with individuals with eating disorders, so you know they are qualified to help you. An eating disorder is a severe condition that qualified nutritionists should only assess. 

Customer Service

Try to find a nutritionist or registered dietitian who is always available when you need them. Ask about after-hours and weekend availability in addition to their regular working hours. Eating disorder symptoms can be very unpredictable, and certain foods can unexpectedly make you sick. Therefore, having an eating disorder nutritionist available whenever you need them is vital to avoid a relapse in unhealthy eating habits associated with your eating disorder and to ensure you stay on track with your plan, even during hard times.

Personality

You'll be working with your nutritionist or dietitian for several months, at the very least – it's not a one-and-done situation. Therefore, you want to work with someone you can get along with long-term and who you feel compatible with. With Top Nutrition Coaching, you'll take a short online assessment and participate in a complimentary nutrition consultation to help us match you with the best eating disorder nutritionist for your personality and your health needs and goals.

Specializations

If you suffer not only from an eating disorder but other health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, it's crucial to find a nutritionist who has had extra training and qualifications in the relevant areas. A qualified dietitian or nutritionist can help you with any health conditions you want to avoid or manage. While you could work with multiple coaches or dietitians, Top Nutrition Coaching offers numerous experts who specialize in various areas and will work with you to help you stay healthy.

Experience

Look for a dietitian or nutritionist with plenty of experience helping people avoid common pitfalls with eating disorders like yo-yo dieting, rejecting certain foods, or failing to form positive eating habits. Someone with a psychological background may help you create healthy habits to avoid weight gain or weight loss so you can learn how to manage your eating disorder and recover, even after sessions with your eating disorder nutritionist or dietitian end.

Other Eating Disorder Professionals Who Can Help Meet your Nutrition Goals

Nutritionists and dietitians aren't your only choices when managing and recovering from an eating disorder. Here are some other health professionals you may come across.

Coaches

Unlike dietitians, coaches usually aren't nutrition experts. Coaches keep you accountable and motivate you to stick to your diet and exercise plans. They are cheerleaders for their clients, leading you in the right direction when you struggle with the challenges of following a healthy diet. "Coach" is a general term and can cover individuals with practically any level of training or experience. However, they shouldn't offer clinical nutrition advice or recommend a specific diet without appropriate training or education, especially on eating disorders. A nutritionist can also fill the coach role and provide medically-sound dietary advice with expert knowledge and education.

Personal Trainers

Personal trainers help you utilize exercise to support your weight goals, whether losing weight or distracting you from eating or gaining weight. Unless they also have a dietetics background, they shouldn't offer nutrition advice in general terms. For example, suppose you aren't sure whether exercise should be part of your routine due to your eating disorder. In that case, they may recommend talking to your dietitian about getting insight on implementing exercise into your practice. A personal trainer can work with you to find the best exercises for you based on that advice.

Nutrition Companies Selling Supplements

It seems like everyone has a supplement or diet plan to sell these days. However, unless your doctor or dietitian recommends a specific nutritional supplement, such as B complex vitamins, to help with energy, you don't need to take supplements. Instead, follow a reasonable nutrition plan based on medical advice to stay on track with recovering from disordered eating.

Influencers

Influencers are social media celebrities on Instagram or TikTok who have built a following around their weight management and exercise advice. Some influencers have expertise in nutrition science, but many do not. Regardless of their background, their posts and videos are aimed at a general audience, so they can't tailor their advice to individuals. Additionally, many of the tips or advice they offer may be triggering to those with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, what worked for another individual may not be healthy and could be potentially harmful to you. Their advice may or may not work for you and could be dangerous depending on your health needs, so it's always best to consult a professional before following an influencer's diet or healthy eating suggestions.

Watch Out for These Red Flags When Considering Eating Disorder Coaches, Dietitians, and Nutritionists

Unfortunately, not all nutritionists, dietitians, and coaches have your best interests at heart. Here are the top red flags to watch out for looking for your eating disorder nutritionist.

They Try to Sell You Something

Someone who calls themself a nutritionist or an eating disorder coach may be hawking supplements or a branded meal plan. Stay away from these people unless you participate in a specific, well-established program. Their products might help you lose or gain weight, but they're likely to lack FDA approval. They could even be dangerous, especially for those recovering from an eating disorder without proper observation.

They Recommend an Extreme Diet

Suppose an eating disorder professional recommends a diet that drops your calorie count by more than 1,000 calories per day. In that case, they may not allow you to consume enough calories to function or recover appropriately from your eating disorder.

Generally, adults should consume an average of 2,000 calories per day, depending on weight, age, activity level, and basal metabolic rate, which measures how much energy they burn in a single day. Women typically need to consume fewer calories than men.

Women need at least 1,200 calories daily to maintain good health. Men need at least 1,500 calories daily. Any diet that tries to drop your caloric intake below or above those levels could lead to malnutrition and other adverse health outcomes such as the relapse of eating disorders or the development of new ones.

They Lack Professional Training

Certified nutritionists and dietitians must complete specific educational benchmarks to earn their credentials, primarily when specializing in eating disorder management. Technically, anybody can call themselves a nutritionist (though not a dietitian) regardless of whether they have the proper training. However, they may only offer generic advice like "eat more or fewer meals" or "don't eat certain foods after 6:00 pm."

They Want You to Pre-Pay for Visits

You don't know upfront how many visits you'll need. Neither does any reasonable eating disorder professional since every person and condition is different. Someone who insists that you pre-pay for appointments could fail to deliver their advertised services once they have your money, which could be a scam.

They Say You Need To Exercise

Anybody who tells you that you need to exercise to recover from an eating disorder isn't always right. Whether you are trying to gain or lose weight as a result of treating eating disorders, exercise can be a trigger for a lot of people. Exercise should only be recommended by a certified health professional who understands your situation and medical history. Even then, it should only be a recommendation rather than a mandatory requirement for those recovering from an eating disorder.

What is the Cost Breakdown of Working with an Eating Disorder Nutritionist or Dietitian?

There are costs associated with working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Still, the price of professional eating disorder support is likely far lower than that of future medical eating disorder treatment due to weight-related health problems.

Hiring a Nutritionist or Dietitian

Unless you have specific medical issues, insurance doesn't always cover the cost of working with a nutritionist or registered dietitian, meaning you would have to pay out-of-pocket to work with an eating disorder nutritionist. Dietitians set their rates based on qualifications, experience, specializations, and geographic location. A 60-minute session could cost anywhere from $60 to $100, though initial consultations are usually more. Virtual nutrition counseling tends to be a reasonable alternative to in-person visits.

Paying for Healthy Food

If you're used to whipping up a box of macaroni and cheese and throwing in a can of tuna for dinner, the sticker shock of healthy food can be a big surprise. Your tuna mac typically costs around $1.34 if you get generic brands. It's essential to know how many calories you're eating with food like this: if you eat the whole box, you're consuming 1,066 calories.

Healthier foods are more expensive than processed items, especially when combining them to create a meal. For example, broccoli crowns run to $1.89 per pound. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are $3.49 per pound.

Gym Membership or Personal Training

Although joining a gym or working with a personal trainer is far from essential, it can be a valuable asset to your journey towards recovery from an eating disorder. Starting an exercise regimen on your own is daunting, especially when suffering from an eating disorder. Many people benefit from personalized attention to fitness, just as with nutrition, if exercise is best for their eating disorder recovery plan. Alternatively, you can find extensive fitness information online, including workout plans and YouTube exercise videos. You may be able to eliminate the cost of personal training if you work with a registered dietitian who is also qualified as a personal trainer.

Less Doctor's Appointments

By eating the right foods and exercising regularly, you'll need fewer visits to the doctor, which will save you more money in the long run. Building a healthy relationship with food can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, type two diabetes, and some types of cancer. You may have more energy and sleep better when your body gets the proper nutrients.

Cost to the Environment

Convenience foods, which typically have higher salt, sugar, and fat contents than healthy foods, also come with a lot of packaging. Those boxes and bags contribute to landfills and add up over time. On the other hand, a head of cauliflower comes with no packaging, and the part you don't eat can be composted. Therefore, eating healthy foods rather than turning to processed meals can not only help your body but can also help the environment.

Costs to Your Career

Being obese or underweight can hurt your productivity, limiting your prospects for career advancement. Additionally, being insecure about your body can also impact confidence and make you less likely to involve yourself in social situations, including job interviews or going out with coworkers. On the other hand, maintaining healthy eating habits and gaining higher self-esteem can increase productivity, leading to promotions and salary increases. 

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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Scholarship Award: $500
The Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship is a recurring scholarship that’s open to all students of military families, both past and present. The next deadline to apply is April 1, and winners will be announced on April 30.
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About the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship

Scholarship award available for both college and high school students
Military families embody resilience, strength, and unwavering support for their loved ones in uniform. There are many overlooked sacrifices they make that should be recognized and rewarded. Military families endure extended deployments, adjust to new environments, and face uncertainty on a frequent basis. The children of military families often adapt to new schools and environments, embodying the values of adaptability and perseverance, and experience the emotional toll of their loved one being deployed in dangerous situations.

The Heroes' Legacy Scholarship is a tribute to the extraordinary dedication and sacrifice of military families who stand alongside their loved ones in service to our country. We appreciate the challenges that military families endure while a parent or guardian serves in the armed forces, and we want to lend our support to these remarkable individuals in their pursuit of higher education.

We recognize that pursuing higher education can be an additional burden on military families already facing unique challenges, and this scholarship is our way of giving back to these dedicated families and honoring their sacrifices.
Scholarship details:
To qualify for this scholarship, please review the following eligibility criteria carefully. Ensure you meet these requirements prior to submitting your application.
Amount: $500
Application deadline: April 1
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To qualify for this scholarship, please carefully review the following eligibility criteria. Ensure you meet these requirements prior to submitting your application.
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You can apply for this scholarship on the Bold.org scholarship platform. Follow the directions and submit your application for the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship, along with a short essay answering the following prompt:
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