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What do the different nutritionist titles mean?

What’s the difference between a nutritionist, nutrition therapist and nutrition counsellor?

You may have seen all of the above when searching for a nutrition professional to work with. And ended up even more confused than ever… but I’m here to try and help.

The long and short of it is.

Nutritionist is not a protected term. Anyone can technically use it - whether they've studied for years or weeks.

In the UK it is recommended to look for nutritionists with AFN certified qualifications - if they have ANutr or RNutr after their name this means they have these qualifications. However there are many routes to becoming a nutritionist and a lot of other professional development options.

For example my training was super focused on how to calculate calories, enforce weight loss protocols etc - a far cry from what I do now. But the term nutritionist can encompass both. That’s where we’ve sort of self-differentiated as an industry.

Ultimately it’s the style of work that the nutritionist prefers.

Someone marketing as a nutrition councellor will be more likely to work in a style that involves councelling, motivational interviewing and digging a little deeper into your relationship with food. Rather than giving you prescriptive protocols.

Someone marketing as a nutritional therapist will work even more in this way. Often these nutritionists work with those with conditions that need medical treatment - sometimes getting referrals from the NHS. Again not a protected term but The British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT) has a list of registered nutritional therapists that have come from courses they have accredited.

Nutritionists are by definition scientists - often traditionally working with food companies or industry to improve food standards. Or they use what knowledge they have been taught to educate clients / larger groups.

So how do I decide…

1. Acronym = experience. It is great that nutritionists are registered with awarding bodies such as the AFN, BANT etc. however with thousands signed up and paying a fee there just isn’t scope to check every single nutritionist's work. And each awarding body has different criteria to stay accredited - for example my course was AFN accredited - but all of my continuing education has to cover nutrition policy and areas I don’t specialise in. So acronyms / qualifications are great but don’t just depend on them.

2. Discovery calls speed dating. Depending on what you’re discussing with your nutritionist it might get a little vulnerable - utilise the discovery call option that most nutritionists have (book mine here). This allows you to see if they are someone you’d want to work with - personality is a big factor in the nutritionist to client relationship. This also allows you to ask any questions you have with no pressure. And remember you don’t have to book with them after, you may decide they aren’t for you after this - that’s fine and often expected.

3. The reviews are in. Whether it’s reviews on their social media / website or you want to ask for some testimonials don’t be afraid to ask or search around. Word of mouth is also a great measure of how someone is to work with.

4. Trust your gut. If you message / meet up with someone and feel like it’s not working or you’re uncomfortable say so. If there is anything you disagree with, speak up. Our job is to empower you and aid your relationship with food, and if we’re not doing that we need to know.

5. See their courses / webinars / podcasts / short form engagement options. Feel like you’ll end up signing up to 6 months of sessions with someone you’re not sure about! Maybe see if they do a 6 week course, group sessions or webinars to see how they work. Or enquire about short term options. I have a podcast for this reason - you can see how I am chatting away to you about a topic.

I hope you feel a little more ready to navigate the world of nutrition professionals. My emails are open and discovery calls available should you want to chat through anything here.

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