In this article, we dispel the fog of the difference between the “nutritionist” and the “dietitian” professions, that can cause confusion for future clients, and also often causes conflict between professionals. Is there a difference? Yes. Can be both reliable professionals? Most certainly. Can be both a con man? As sure as eggs is eggs.
Do you want to lose weight? To gain weight? You want to change your lifestlye? Do you need a special diet as a pregnant woman or because you struggle with IR, PCOS, IBS or a thyroid problem? Maybe allergies or an eating disorder? Or perhaps it is just a huge mess in your head because of the endless information about health and quick fix fad diets circulating on the internet. Let’s see who should you turn to for help:
Nutritionist is a “fitness profession”. To be a nutritionist, in most countries of Europe it only requires a basic nutritionist course, that makes accesible numerous continuing education courses of different lengths and topics. Nutritionists do not have to have a legal record either, and because they do not have health care education, of course, they do not have the right work with people wo has serious health issues. A proper nutritionist professional should recommend a specialist if your illness is not their competence! Therefore, nutritionists work with healthy individuals. They help their clients to lose weight, to gain weight, to achieve sports and other aesthetic goals, and they can also help in the event of skin problems, acne, cellulite, ot even headaches, bloating, constipation, and possible food intolerances. A nutritionist doesn’t just give you a meal plan to follow. They advise and educate their clients on proper lifestyle and food choices as well on food and health policy. They provide communication, support and motivation. They work in the favor of establishing a well balanced lifestyle and obtain healthy food and eating related habits.
Dietitian is a health care profession. It requires a university degree, which can be obtained in four years at least. A dietician can treat healthy individuals, but also people with health problems and conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, psychiatric problems or pregnancy. They can also work in the favor of prevention of diseases and as well in the therapy of chronic diseases. Patients requiring a therapeutic diet for medical reasons, such as serious obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, gastric diseases, intestinal diseases, reflux, constipation, serious food allergies and intolerances, blood pressure, heart attack, high cholesterol levels, kidney disease, cancer, PCOS, thyroid disease, pancreatic disease, liver disease, diet for those with stoma should seek help from a dietician over a nutritionist. In this case, your journey most probably will start at the doctors. After a specialist assesses your condition they will most likely prescribe medication or diet, or both. At this stage doctors often recommend a dietitian. So dieticians and doctors usually work hand in hand.
A nutritionist and a dietician can have a very different approach. A dietician for example, with their strict education might not necessarily support dietary ideas like being a vegan or ketose, they might not be as open minded and up-to date as a nutrition consultant.
It is getting a bit out of control that certain professionals trying to discredit and shaming the others, to.. I don’t know. To get more clients? It is often said that “anybody can be a nutritionist, so do not trust anyone unless they are certified dieticians.” Although there are people out there, who picked up a few kgs last Christmas and then lost weight until summer came with a cabbage soup cure and now they are “fat loss experts”, or people who read a few articles from a women’s magazine and feel like they are a lifestyle mentor from today. Absolutely. But authentic, reliable nutritionists are made over the years. They might be “self-made” as they say, but apart from their several completed educational courses they do read endless professional studies, analyze and interpret research on diets, they continuously participate in lectures, questioning all questionable information and gathering up-to-date knowledge of anatomy, biology, and physiology, etc… And then there are dietitians, who may or may not have rifled their university exams all the way before they graduated. Or maybe they studied bloody hard at a good university for 8 semesters, and they are now masters of physiological and biological processes of human body, and continuously reading and educating themselves even long after they graduated.
Both a nutritionist and a dietitian can be an extremely good and reliable proessional, or a con man, just like in every other industry. The difference between the two professions also varies greatly depending on which country we are talking about. In the end of the day, the job of both professionals to prevent, improve and maintain health through nutrition, but in different fields and through different methods and techniques. The only thing you have to make sure, as a client is that the professional you choose can help you achieve your goals based on solid knowledge. Because that is what matters: knowledge. Not the certificates. None of them are better or worse. They can be both very helpful, it merely depends on your goals and condition which one you need to turn to. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Ask their clients questions. Look at their references. See, if you are on the same page to work together towards your goals. If you don’t have a serious medical problem and only want to get in shape or improve your overall wellbeing, a good nutritionist will do just that for you. But if you suffer from an illness and need a special diet, you must consult a dietitian.