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Why see a Dietitian?

The roles and expertise of Dietitians are varied and ever growing. For many people, the thought of seeing a Dietitian can be daunting and full of unknowns. Never fear, we are here to put your mind at ease and breakdown the process of seeing a Dietitian.

Diet and our Health

Most of us are aware that diet plays a big role in our overall health and wellbeing.

The foods we eat can influence our health in two main ways, first being the prevention of disease, and second being the management of diagnosed conditions. Whether you are at an increased risk of a diet-related disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or certain types of cancers, or if you just want to maintain good health, diet plays an integral role in the prevention of disease and poor health.

The flip side of this is that diet can also help to manage diagnosed conditions, this can include the before mentioned diet related diseases, but diet can also help in managing other conditions such as arthritis, bowel disease, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, nutritional deficiencies such as low iron, depression, and many more.

Ultimately, whether your goal is to maintain good health, improve your health, or prevent the onset of disease, diet plays an important role. Dietitians play a critical role in all of these aspects, helping individuals to optimise their food choices to achieve their personal goals.

Developing a diet for different conditions can be challenging and emotionally draining. So much of our lives is centred around eating: we socialise over meals, we celebrate with food, and we associate certain foods with different times in our lives.

A Dietitian can educate you on the foods that you should increase and the foods to decrease in your diet to help you achieve your specific goal and/or manage your condition, all while still allowing you to have flexibility and enjoyment in your life when it comes to food.

Why see a Dietitian?
Build a better relationship with food with the help of a Dietitian

Building a healthy relationship with food

Our diets can influence more than just our physical health. The food we eat also play an important role in our mental well being. More specifically the relationship that we have with food and our bodies can have a profound impact on our overall well being.

Not only can Dietitians help you to make changes to the food you eat for the benefit of your physical health, they can also help you improve your overall relationship with food and your body. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours our growing issue in our society. Approximately one million Australians are living with an eating disorder each year, equal to roughly 4% of the population.

Beyond these figures even more Australians are struggling with disordered eating behaviours and an unhealthy relationship with food. This can present itself in many ways, including struggling with a restrictive diet, emotional eating, struggling to identify when your body is hungry and when it is full, anxiety around food and food choices, feeling uncomfortable in your body, and many other ways. A Dietitian can help you identify exactly what it is you are struggling with and help you develop personalised strategies to manage feelings.

As Dietitians, we understand the complexity behind food and our food choices, we know that simply being hungry is not the only thing that drives us to want to eat, and it is not the only thing that helps us to decide what to eat. There are many other factors at play. A Dietitian will be able to support you in a private and non-judgmental environment to achieve a feeling of freedom around your food choices.

Process of seeing a Dietitian

For many people, the process of seeing a Dietitian is unknown and daunting, so let’s break down the process. There are several different pathways to see a Dietitian.

Referral or no referral

In many cases, you can see a Dietitian without a referral, however, having a referral will often mean that part or all of the cost of your appointment is covered by a third party. The most common way people receive referrals for a Dietitian is through their regular GP. This way you can potentially receive Medicare subsidised appointments. There are several other ways you can see a Dietitian including through an aged care plan, NDIS, and DVA. Without a referral you can simply pay the cost out of pocket or in some cases you may be partially covered through private health.

Once your referral has been completed, if you are choosing to get one, you can book your appointment. Sometimes prior to your appointment you may be asked to fill out a new patient form which may ask you questions about your medical history, medications, and the reason for your visit.

Your First Appointment

Your first appointment with a Dietitian will often be more focused on getting to know each other and identifying your specific goals. Some of the things you might cover include:

  • The reason for your visit and what you're hoping to get out of your appointments.

  • Your medical history.

  • Your lifestyle - for example if you have any children, your work schedule, and anything else that might influence the way you eat.

  • You'll likely either be asked to keep a food diary or you might be asked to give a diet history in the appointment which involves talking about a typical week of eating for yourself.

After gathering all the relevant background information, your Dietitian will likely give you some information on how dietary changes can help you achieve your specific goals and you may develop a plan for your future sessions to ensure that both you and your Dietitian are on the same page and working towards the same goal. How many sessions you will need will vary depending on your Dietitian and the reason for your visit.

Things to keep in mind

Hopefully you are now feeling a little less anxious about your time with a dietitian. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you get the most out of your appointments:

Remember Dietitians are not the food police.

Dietitians are human beings, like you. They are not there to judge you on your current diet or lifestyle. It does not matter where you start from, as Dietitians, we know coming to your first appointment is already making a huge step.

These are YOUR appointments!

So make sure you express what you are hoping to get from them. If you come into your appointments with any expectations about what you do or don't want, share that with your Dietitian.

  • Maybe you want a structured meal plan to follow?

  • Maybe you know that you need variety and flexibility in your diet?

  • Maybe you have lots of questions about food that you're dying to ask?

  • Maybe you're hoping for specific recipe ideas or food products to buy?

  • Maybe you're hoping your sessions will be structured in a particular way?

Whatever expectations you may have, make sure that you express them with your Dietitian. Your Dietitian may suggest an alternative approach that you haven't thought of, but expressing your expectations ensures that you are both on the same page. We want you walking away from your appointment feeling like you get as much out of it as you were hoping.

Remember to share anything that impacts the way that you eat.

This could include:

  • Living with somebody who has a severe food allergy.

  • Financial restraints

  • Maybe you're currently undergoing renovations in your house and your oven and stove are going to be out of order for several weeks or even months.

  • You might have religious or cultural festivals coming up that will change your diet for a period of time.

Anything that will influence what you eat, how you eat, and when you eat, should be shared with your Dietitian.

You need to do the work

Finally, it's important to remember that a Dietitian has the clinical knowledge and strategies to help you achieve your goal, but ultimately you are the one who has to do the work. If you find you are feeling unmotivated or struggling to see the reason why you need to make certain changes to your diet, make sure you bring that up with your Dietitian. This way they can explain to you why they are making the recommendations they are making to help keep you motivated, educated, an on the right track.

We’re here to help you

As Dietitians, we are passionate about helping people use food to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. We aspire to provide people with the skills and knowledge to adjust their diet in a way that suits them, and their lifestyle, while still helping them to achieve their goals. Together you and your Dietitian are a team and will work collaboratively to help you get to where you want to be.


For Aged Care, download our 'When to refer to a Dietitian' Poster


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