The aim of dietary treatment is to help you find a long-term way of eating that will help you to achieve and stick to a healthy weight. Dietary treatment will provide you with expert help to check that you are eating the right amount of calories to lose weight safely. This is important to ensure you are eating a balanced diet that meets all your body’s health needs.
A practice nurse in your GP surgery or health centre may be able to give you some general healthy eating advice to help you lose weight.
However, if you are looking for one-to-one advice from a professional, ask your GP to refer you to the local nutrition and dietetic service. Some community dietetic services do take self-referrals for weight management so it may be worth trying this. Dietetic services may be offered to groups of people, or one-to-one with a dietitian.
Healthy eating advice will include information to help you follow a balanced and varied diet.
For example, you may learn how to:
A specialist dietitian (or sometimes a practice nurse) may be able to help you choose and follow a portion-controlled low calorie diet. The dietitian will estimate your personal energy needs for modest weight loss (5 to 10 per cent) and advise you on the total number of calories you should have in a day. The dietitian will also suggest ways to identify which foods you should eat, and in what amounts, based on recommended healthy eating guidelines.
The most effective way to reduce the amount of calories in your diet is to follow a low calorie, low-fat diet. This is where a maximum of 30 per cent of the total daily calories you eat should be from foods containing fat. For example, someone following a diet of 1,500 calories per day should aim to have no more than 50g of fat per day.
To follow a calorie-controlled diet without counting calories, you can cut down on the amount of food you eat by sticking to recommended food portion sizes from the different food groups. A dietitian can advise you on how many servings you should have from each food group. They can also help you to identify suitable portion sizes for you.
Some dietitians will be able to work with you one-to-one, and together you can work out an eating or meal plan that is calorie-controlled and made up of foods you like.
You may feel that you need more than advice alone to be able to make changes to your diet. You may also need to learn the skills to help you change habits you’ve gained over the years – in other words, lifestyle or behaviour change skills. Some specialist dietitians have been trained to help you develop these skills. If you need a more formal behaviour change programme, you may need to see a clinical psychologist.