How Does a Dietitian Help With Weight Loss?
How a dietitian can help with weight loss for people with disability
Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is vital for enjoying the best possible quality of life. For people living with a disability, seeing a dietitian for weight loss can support you to achieve greater independence and your health and functional goals.
Being a healthy weight helps you perform better physically and reduces your risk for developing many chronic diseases, including some mental health conditions.[i] However, people with disability sometimes face additional challenges to practising healthy behaviours (more about this below). Dietitians are qualified to use evidence-based weight loss approaches and provide the support you need to lose weight safely and effectively.
Losing weight with the help of a dietitian
Weight loss is sometimes portrayed as being as simple as burning more calories than you eat or following a ‘proven’ formula. However, shedding the extra kilos is more complex than this, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
Losing weight is about much more than what you eat. It involves changing behaviours around your diet and lifestyle. For example, if you use food to cope with stress or boredom, you’ll need to find new ways to deal with these issues. Anyone who’s tried to make or break a habit knows how hard change can be!
This is where getting support from a qualified dietitian can really help. As tertiary-qualified healthcare professionals, dietitians are trained to help people with a range of concerns related to diet and nutrition – including weight loss.
Not only can they help by creating a healthy, nutritious eating plan, they can provide support to keep you motivated throughout your weight loss journey. And recent research has shown that enlisting help from a dietitian to change behaviour is helpful for losing weight, improving blood glucose measures and reducing the use of prescription medicines.[ii]
The qualified dietitians at Active Ability are experienced at supporting people with disability to achieve improved health and wellbeing, including weight loss, by delivering tailored advice and eating plans suited to your needs and goals.
- Assessing your current health and nutrition needs
A dietitian will complete an assessment that includes asking you about your medical history, reviewing your current weight, checking results from tests (such as your blood glucose and cholesterol levels), your dietary needs and preferences and your activity levels.
- Setting goals
Armed with this information, they’ll work with you (and your support person if needed) to make achievable goals for weight loss.
- Crafting a weight loss plan
To help you achieve your goals, your dietitian will create a personalised eating plan that considers your nutritional and health needs. For example, they’ll think about things like food sensitivities or allergies and personal preferences such as vegetarian or culturally appropriate options.
- Monitoring and support
Successful weight loss involves lasting change in the way you think about food and eating. A dietitian can support you with counselling that helps you stick with your program and sustain a healthy weight long term. For example, they can help you find ways to manage different situations, such as parties, eating out, how to say ‘no’ to temptations, and finding healthier alternatives to your favourite snack foods.
- Training support workers
If support workers are involved in preparing your meals, it’s important they understand your weight loss goals and dietary plan. Your dietitian can train your support workers to prepare nutritious, tasty meals in accordance with your weight loss goal.
What conditions can a dietitian help with weight loss?
A dietitian can help you lose weight no matter what your condition or diagnosis. At Active Ability, our dietitians help NDIS clients with a range of conditions and complex support needs to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
We focus on supporting people who have:
- Neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, dementia, stroke, epilepsy, fibromyalgia chronic fatigue syndrome and more.
- Intellectual disability, including Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Williams syndrome, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental delay, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and more.
- Mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, psychotic illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD and more.
Contact Active Ability’s friendly team here to find out more or complete our enquiry form.
Why is managing weight important for people with disability?
Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of overweight and obesity. And rates are even higher among Australians living with a disability – 72 per cent compared with 55 per cent for people aged two and over.[i]
Having a body mass index (BMI) that’s above the healthy weight range is a risk factor for several diseases and conditions[ii], including:
- Cardiovascular disease (such as coronary heart disease and stroke)
- Dyslipidaemia (abnormal blood fat levels, including cholesterol levels)
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon cancers)
- Musculoskeletal conditions (such as osteoarthritis and gout)
- Breathing conditions (such as sleep apnoea)
- Mental health issues
Research also shows that people with disability have higher rates of behaviours that could be modified to support better health and reduce risk factors. For example, they are more likely to report insufficient physical activity levels during the previous week (72 per cent for people with disability compared with 52 per cent for those without disability in people aged 15 and over). People with disability are also more likely to report not eating enough fruit and vegetables per day (47 per cent compared with 41 per cent for people aged 2 and over).
Disability and health conditions also have a two-way relationship[iii]. People who have a health condition are more likely to develop disability, and people with disability are more prone to developing a health condition.
For people with disability, this makes achieving or maintaining a healthy weight even more important. It is crucial for optimal health and function and reducing the risk factors for developing a chronic health condition. People living with a disability may require support from health professionals such as dietitians to lose weight and foster healthy eating patterns.
Potential barriers to weight loss for people with a disability
People with disability may face additional barriers to weight loss[i], such as:
- Needing assistance with daily living activities – figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics[ii] show that in 2018, 60 per cent of Australians with disability needed support with at least one of these activities. The most common type of assistance required (30 per cent) was with health care activities. This increased to 73 per cent for people with a profound limitation. People with disability may require support for behaviours that promote a healthy weight, such as physical activity and preparing healthy meals.
- Being more likely to experience a mental health condition – mental health issues can have a profound impact on daily function and directly affect your physical health. Some medications for mental health conditions are also associated with weight gain[iii]. ABS figures[iv] show that in 2017-18, 42 per cent of people with a severe or profound core activity limitation, and 33 per cent of those with other forms of disability, self-reported they have anxiety-related problems. This compares to 12 per cent of people without disability. For people with severe or profound disability, an estimated 36 per cent self-reported mood disorders such as depression, compared to 8.7 per cent of people without disability.
- Difficulty accessing health services – some people living with disability have trouble accessing services, with difficulties including long wait times, cost, poor access to buildings and lack of communication between healthcare professionals.
Remember, losing weight is not about fad diets or following formulas. A dietitian helps you lose weight by assessing your needs, tailoring a nutrition program that’s right for you, and helping you make positive dietary choices that support good health – for life!
At Active Ability, we have no wait times or travel charges, so you’ll be seen quickly and can make the most of your NDIS funding.
Our dietitians are highly experienced helping people with disability to function better and achieve greater independence through healthy eating plans.
As mobile service providers, our friendly and skilled dietitians can see you at your home, school, workplace, or preferred facility.
Click here to find out more about our dietetic services for people with mental health conditions, neurological disorders and intellectual disability.
[i] Rajan TM, Menon V. Psychiatric disorders and obesity: A review of association studies. J Postgrad Med. 2017;63(3):182-190. doi:10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_712_16
[ii] Molly Jacobs, Jordan Harris, Kay Craven, Lauren Sastre, Sharing the ‘weight’ of obesity management in primary care: integration of registered dietitian nutritionists to provide intensive behavioural therapy for obesity for Medicare patients, Family Practice, 2020;, cmaa006, https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmaa006
[iv] https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/DAA_Select-Committee-into-the-Obesity-Epidemic-in-Australia_Jul-2018.pdf Accessed 3.2.2021
[viii] Shrivastava A, Johnston ME. Weight-gain in psychiatric treatment: risks, implications, and strategies for prevention and management. Mens Sana Monogr. 2010;8(1):53-68. doi:10.4103/0973-1229.58819