Whether it's one's first attempt at losing weight or the 10th time embarking on a diet, there are many paths to take when trying to drop those pounds.
Many people assume they will go it alone and choose an exercise plan and a strict diet to follow. Others may want to have some support while going through the weight loss ordeal.
That's where the help of a nutritionist or dietitian may make a difference.
Registered dietitian Vanessa Provins, who is a clinical dietitian at Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso, believes individuals who are serious about weight loss would do well to consult a health professional to help them lose weight.
If they seek help, Provins says, "at least they'll know they're talking to someone with credentials" who won't steer them wrong. She added many people who need to lose weight are also struggling with other health issues.
"Other diseases often coexist with obesity including heart disease and diabetes," Provins said. "We can address all those issues," she added.
A dietitian will customize and individualize a food and exercise program for what each person needs.
"We try to determine what's best for them," Provins says. If dieters are trying to come up with solutions on their own, she said, they may not be knowledgeable about how many calories, proteins, and other nutrients are necessary for their individual bodies.
"Many fad diets are lacking in certain nutrients," she says.
Before an individual is thrown onto a diet path, Provins says, a dietitian will always ask questions about lifestyle, eating habits, health and other issues.
"We get a good history. And we can babystep them instead of (giving them a) blanket statement (of what they should do)," Provins says.
When one is on their own in weight loss, Provins says it's easy to "go to extremes" with unhealthy behavior. Though it's not impossible to be successful without the help of professionals, it's much easier to stay on track with their assistance.
"When they come to me, I want to know what they're tried already but they still have to do the work," she says.
Provins says that while food is a big issue that dietitians help with, losing weight is also about exercise and introducing a balanced exercise program into one's life.
"And I put the emphasis on behavior modification," she says.
Provins stresses that it's especially important for people with serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems and other issues, to ask those in the know what they should be doing.
In the case of diabetics, she says, they must be aware that if blood sugar is out of control, and not balanced, it may be dangerous to overwork during a strenuous exercise program. Working with a dietitian will help one come up with a sensible exercise plan.
"And we're at their fingertips," Provins says. "It's safer."
In addition, she says dietitians can always offer ideas for other support outlets and information networks. Provins also recommends visiting myfitnesspal.com, an online diet and fitness community.
Note: According to the website eatright.org, which is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics site, "The RD (registered dietitian) credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some RDs may call themselves nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The definition and requirements for the term 'nutritionist' vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation 'nutritionist,' but in other states, virtually anyone can call him or herself a nutritionist regardless of education or training."