A weight loss counselor applies principles of psychology and nutrition to help clients reach and maintain healthy weights. A professional teaches people how to make smart dietary choices and develop a positive attitude toward exercise and healthy living. He or she also provides emotional support and psychological counseling to keep clients on the right path to reach their goals. Most counselors work at specialized diet clinics and fitness centers, although some are self-employed consultants who meet with clients at their own homes.
A individual might seek the services of a weight loss counselor if personal attempts at diet and exercise are not working. Some people are referred to counselors by their doctors when weight problems pose significant threats to their health. When meeting with a new client, the counselor tries to create a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. It is important for a counselor to be encouraging, empathetic, and supportive during initial sessions to keep a client's spirits high.
After getting to know a client, a weight loss counselor assesses his or her current fitness level, dietary habits, and exercise routine. Many people who struggle with weight simply do not know how to eat and exercise correctly, and a counselor can educate them about healthy foods and safe, effective workout strategies. A counselor usually creates a custom schedule for a client and helps him or her set short-term and long-term goals. Clients usually need to attend frequent counseling sessions in their first few months of dieting to stay motivated and continue learning about lifestyle changes.
A successful counselor who establishes a strong client base may be able to start working independently. A self-employed consultant may have his or her own office, or schedule regular sessions at clients' homes. Independent counselors have the ability to set their own hours, and many professionals make themselves available on weekends and evenings to better meet the needs of working clients.
There are no set educational or training requirements to become a weight loss counselor, but most professionals hold college degrees in nutrition, health, or psychology. An individual can choose to pursue registered dietitian credentials by taking a regional licensure or certification exam after earning a degree. In addition, many respected national institutions offer specialized certification for new weight loss counselors. A professional who wants to implement psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy techniques usually needs to pursue an advanced psychology degree. By participating in an internship and passing a regional exam, an individual can earn the necessary credentials to provide psychological evaluations and counseling.