Beware! Who is Helping You Lose Weight?

22 Oct 2015

“I’m not coming into any of your programs! I should be able to do this myself.” If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. There is nothing wrong with needing help in order to improve any particular area or areas in your life. As a matter of fact, most of us are going to need outside assistance in order to achieve something. Think of it this way—when you were in school, you might have been great at math and science and were able to achieve your homework assignments and do well on tests without any outside help, like a tutor. But you might have had a terrible time with English language or literature or history that required some outside assistance. And the opposite (if you are like me) can be true. Everyone can’t be good at everything and resorting to getting help can improve your life. That’s why many people seek help from therapists and psychologists for any particular problem in life. When it comes to losing weight and making improvements in our health, most people need help to get going. The question is, where do I turn and from what should I stay far away.


There are weight loss groups, personal trainers, group fitness instructors, nutritionists, dieticians, weight loss psychologists and therapists. There are weight loss doctors and thousands of books, videos, and programs available through electronic media as well as applications telling us exactly what is right for us. Let’s not forget all of the weight loss pills and supplements that are being thrown at us through advertising every hour of every day. Let’s take a closer look.

Weight Loss Groups: There are hundreds and hundreds of group weight loss methods. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are examples of the more popular ones. Many people like the group atmosphere and may start out doing well. However, the methods followed are very general and not specific for each person. The long-term failure rate is not better than dieting in general (97%).

Personal Trainers: Most personal trainers, as long as they have a good, legitimate certification like ACSM or ACE, have some knowledge in healthy weight loss. But this doesn’t mean they have a great understanding of nutrition and even how to design and exercise program that will be the most effective in helping for long-term results. Some trainers have done extra course work in weight loss and nutrition and those individuals will be the most helpful. Obviously, check out their track record. But remember, it takes a lot more than exercise in order to lose weight effectively. The same is true on group fitness.

Nutritionist: A nutritionist is a person who advises on matters of food and nutrition impacts on health. There are nutritionist who have extensive background in their field but the field of nutritionist isn’t necessarily regulated. So in many localities, people who have done a limited amount of course work can advertise themselves as nutritionists. There are a sufficiently large number of practicing nutritionists without appropriate qualifications to be a potential danger to the general public! Again, check out if the nutritionist you are considering has appropriate credentials, how long she/he has been practicing and what her/his track record says.

Dietitian: A dietitian is an expert in dietetics; that is, human nutrition and the regulation of diet. A dietitian advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or to achieve a specific health-related goal. A registered dietitian (RD) is a dietitian who meets all of a set of special academic and professional requirements, including the completion of a bachelor’s degree with an accredited nutrition curriculum, satisfactory performance on the registration exam and an internship at an approved health-care facility, foodservice organization, or community agency. Their profession is highly regulated! A dietitian who specializes in weight loss is one of the right professionals to see in order to learn how to eat properly and NOT go on a doomed-to-failure diet.

Psychologists: There is no question that modifying our behaviors is one of the keys to successful, long-term success in losing weight. First, make sure that you choose a psychologist who specializes in behavior modification. Second, be sure he has a lot of experience in weight loss—this is tough stuff. Third, make sure they are NOT the ones giving you exercise or nutritional advice—they don’t have training for that. This is especially dangerous if you have health issues due to being overweight. The good weight loss psychologists will actually insist that you see and registered dietitian and a personal trainer as part of a team approach.

Weight Loss Therapist: Therapists are trained in psychology, but they are not psychologists. Again, someone who might be trained on a master’s level in behavioral therapy or behavioral modification can be helpful, but they also need to understand and have training in the ins and outs of weight loss. BEWARE: Many states and countries allow the use of the word “counselor” or “therapist” pretty freely. And I must emphasis again, a therapist should NOT be giving you any counsel in diet or exercise-only in behavioral modification. They are not trained or certified to do so and may cause harm.

Weight Loss Coach: The word “Coach” is also not regulated in most places. Is your coach certified and what are their qualifications to be a weight loss coach in particular? If they tell you that it is because they once lost a lot of weight themselves (as I have heard quite a few times), be suspicious. Understanding of why people have a hard time losing weight requires a lot of knowledge and training. A good coach helps people break through issues that have been holding them back. There are good and qualified weight loss and wellness coaches. Make sure that is who you are seeing.

Today, many well-trained personal trainers and dieticians have done course work in behavioral modification and are able to combine their skills to assist their clients. Weight loss isn’t just about exercise, it isn’t just about learning how to eat right, and it isn’t just about changing a lifetime of bad habits. It’s about all three and even more than that. Unfortunately, there are many people who aren’t really qualified to help people lose weight effectively and in a healthful way who are touting their services, taking people’s money, and may actually be causing more harm than good.

Picking the right professionals, who understand all the aspects of weight loss will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”



Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.