Definition and Overview

Underweight nutrition consultation is a meeting with a qualified nutrition specialist for the purpose of reaching the patient’s ideal weight.

This specialist can be either a dietitian or a nutritionist although some people opt to consult both. While they can provide the right set of nutrition plan, they differ in a number of ways. The biggest is the fact that dietitians are required to undergo years of education and training in a clinical setting including a hospital to be accredited and certified. They are, therefore, more qualified to provide medical advice to patients.

This doesn’t have to mean, however, that a nutritionist cannot help the patient achieve his or her ideal weight as more and more nutritionists these days have accompanying degrees in food, public health, and nutrition.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Underweight nutrition consultation is important for:

  • People who struggle with gaining weight – At least 2% of the people in the United States want to gain weight. However, some of them have a hard time achieving this goal due to a number of reasons. These include diseases, metabolism, age, genetics, and poor choices of food. The role of the specialist is to identify the factors that are preventing the patient from gaining weight, offer the most ideal advice, and work on a nutrition plan, taking into consideration the patient’s unique needs and circumstances.

  • Pregnant women – Women need to reach a certain weight when they are pregnant. This is essential since their body must be capable of carrying all the extra weight related to their pregnancy. For example, a typical baby weighs around 7 to 8 pounds. The placenta is additional 2 to 3 pounds while the uterus can expand and add at least 2 pounds. Depending on the pre-pregnancy weight, the health of the mother, and the condition of the fetus, a mother may have to gain around 25 pounds during pregnancy.

  • Those who are suffering from eating disorders – Eating disorders are described as psychological problems characterized by disturbed or abnormal eating patterns. These may include strictly restricting calorie intake, binge eating, and purging. Although these disorders are becoming more common, they remain hard to understand, especially since many factors, including behavioral or psychological, can contribute to their development. Either way, people who suffer from eating disorders need to maintain an ideal weight that allows their vital organs to function properly.

  • Underweight babies – Babies’ weight is regularly monitored to ensure they are growing the way they should for their age. Being underweight or not gaining enough weight may be indicative of health problems that have to be addressed as soon as possible.

  • Seniors – As a person ages, he may either gain a lot of weight due to a much slower metabolism or lose weight. Being underweight may present a host of physical challenges that can make aging even more difficult.


The primary goal of a dietitian and/or nutritionist is not only to help the patient put on the needed weight but also to maintain the ideal weight. This may mean that the weight may have to be adjusted as a person gets older and as other factors are considered.

How Does the Procedure Work?

There are two ways on how a patient sets up a consultation with a dietitian or a nutritionist. One, he may be referred by the primary health provider. In the case of infants, teens, and children, it’s typically the parents or their guardians who obtain the referral. Second, the patient chooses to set up an appointment with a specialist.

Some nutritionists these days work within the confines of their own home, in which case consultation is done remotely. It can be through the Internet using communication applications like Skype, as well as e-mail, or via the telephone. Dietitians, on the other hand, are often found in hospitals and their own clinics.

The consultation process typically includes:

  • Understanding the health goals of the patient
  • Determining the factors that make the patient underweight
  • Reviewing both medical and family history
  • Identifying the present diet and nutrition of the patient
  • Taking notes of the medications consumed
  • Knowing the level of fitness or physical activity of the patient


The nutritionist or dietitian should also consider any allergies or “banned” food, culture, present weight, and condition of the patient, to name a few, when creating a feedback for the patient. This feedback may cover a step-by-step customized program on how to address the problem and meet the objective, clear expectations or outcomes, nutrition plan, method of monitoring, and education to help the patient become more proactive with his condition.

The consultation may take at least an hour to complete. The patient may have to answer questionnaires that can give the specialist a clearer picture of their goals and health.

Possible Risks and Complications

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition. This simply means that the consultation cannot guarantee that the expected results will be achieved. If this happens, patients may feel frustrated and just leave the program.

Meanwhile, those who are planning to use online services should exercise caution. To avoid being scammed or provided with ill advice, patients must check the credentials of a nutritionist or verify a dietitian’s certification through the state board. Unless the patient is certain of the specialist’s expertise and qualification, he must not provide any personal information online.

Reference:

  • Stettler N, Bhatia J, Parish A, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 42.
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