What is a Dietitian and How Can They Help Me?

Generally speaking, a Dietitian is considered an “expert” in human nutrition and understands the relationship between nutrients and their interaction with the human body. Dietitians are fully qualified and regulated healthcare professionals with the ability to; assess, diagnose and treat any nutritional problem or deficit based on symptoms. The key difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is that a dietitian has undertaken a course of study that includes substantial theory, and review of the latest scientific evidence, to treat and promote healthcare among individuals. Dietitians have also spent up to six months in supervised practice settings with mentors to develop their professional practice in clinical nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management. 

With access to social media at our fingertips, it is becoming incredibly easy to follow the latest “trendy” diet without really knowing if it’s the right thing for you. It is the job of your dietitian to comb through all these so called “miracle diets” and misinformation to ensure and provide the most reliable advice or treatment plan. 

How do I know if I should see a Dietitian or not? 

A dietitian has the knowledge and understanding of a myriad of health problems. Often, a simple tweak to your diet or lifestyle habits can be as effective, if not more, in the treatment of some health conditions. A trip to a dietitian may prevent the need for medication or other costly treatments, just by making small changes to your diet.  These conditions range from: 

  • Heart disease  
  • Diabetes, pre-diabetes or insulin resistance 
  • High blood pressure  
  • Autoimmune diseases  
  • Fatty liver disease 
  • Heartburn or GORD 
  • High cholesterol 
  • PCOS/hormonal conditions 
  • Gastrointestinal diseases  
  • Vitamin/Mineral deficiencies  
  • Food allergies or intolerances 

Perhaps you have body composition goals and are looking to either lose weight or gain lean muscle mass. Often we jump into making changes too quickly and end up back where we started six months later. Working with a dietitian to make incremental, yet sustainable changes, can help keep you on track and working towards any body composition goal. Often we seem to intuitively know what we need to do, but find it difficult to get started. Everyone is different and at different stages of their health journey. Some people find the use of meal plans very effective to help keep them on track, whereas others may not. It is not in the interest of a Dietitian to force you to do something that doesn’t suit your lifestyle, but rather offer alternative solutions to arrive at the same outcome. A dietitian can offer the support and accountability, similar to that of a personal trainer or the friend who gets up early to join you in the gym or Pilates class!  

Sports Nutrition 

Bill Bowerman, co-founder of Nike once said “if you have a body, you are an athlete”. More often than not, people tend to believe that unless they are an elite athlete, the need for a dietitian is not useful. Whether you go to the gym 3 times, 5 times or 12 times per week, a dietitian can offer advice on the right foods and drinks to help get the most out of your training. Getting out for long bike rides on the weekend, playing soccer or basketball, or even entering a triathlon race goes above and beyond what the human body was designed to do. Therefore, the types of food or drink you put into your body need to go above and beyond what the average person might. You may have the ‘perfect’ diet but struggle with timing of meals or a stomach upset during exercise, in which case a dietitian can work with you to solve the problem. Following an injury or intense exercise session, the foods we eat can have a huge impact on recovery. Given that we are repairing damaged bone or tissue, nutrient needs are often increased (yes that means you can eat more!). A dietitian can work with you and your physio, massage therapist or personal trainer in team effort to help speed up the recovery process. 

In any case, the goal and purpose of a dietitian is always the same; to ensure optimal health no matter what your concern is. Dietitians are not the ‘food police’ and are not here to make your life miserable – but rather find a solution that helps lead a happier life and achieve any goal you set for yourself.  


About The Author:

Milly is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and provisional Sports Dietitian with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Since completing her masters degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Sydney in 2015, Milly has worked with a range of clients, to assist them with meeting their varied nutritional goals. Her main goal when working with clients is to assist in seeing the bigger picture, instead of getting caught in the minor details. Through a nourishing and wholesome diet, people can lead healthier, happier and more balanced lifestyles.

Milly’s clinical experience includes weight management, diabetes, insulin resistance, food allergies/intolerances, hypertension, heart disease and other hormonal conditions such as adrenal fatigue and PCOS. Milly has always had a special interest in sports nutrition and food intolerances, working with endurance athletes and sports teams to assist with nutrition plans pre, post and during competition. More recently, Milly has begun independent research into the benefits and adaptations that occur following a lower carbohydrate diet to assist with a wide variety of clinical conditions.

Personally, Milly has a strong background in sports herself. She is a long-distance runner and ran her first marathon with a time of 2:29:07 (fastest ever Australian on debut) in 2015 to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016. She placed 17th at the Olympics and was first Australian to cross the line. Fittingly, she believes that “slow and steady wins the race” and takes such an approach when assisting clients in their own diet or lifestyle goals.