Nutritional Psychology

What is Nutritional Psychology?

Nutritional Psychology is the area of study that examines the relationship between dietary intake patterns and mood, behavior, and mental health. Those in the field of mental health already address the psychological, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral knowledge contributing to positive mood and mental health, but our current model is not considering the link between diet and mental health as a contributor to the rise in mental health issues around the globe.

Facilitating psychological skills and intrinsic motivation, not prescribing diets

Nutritional Psychology involves guiding individuals through a structured educational process engaging their perceptual, cognitive, and psychological skills to determine how their daily dietary intake patterns may be contributing to the way they feel. The aim of this process is to facilitate increased awareness and intrinsic motivation for making positive dietary choices that support their mental health.

The NP educator supports individuals through this process by providing knowledge, guiding structured skill development, and facilitating new insights in the diet-mental health connection. Should the need for intervention or diagnosis arise during the educational process, professionals can direct individuals to qualified health care providers.

Nutritional Psychology is interdisciplinary and applied



Nutritional Psychology is applied and provides information, concepts, strategies, skills and resources to create new awareness in individuals for understanding the connection between their dietary intake patterns and their psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, and psychosocial experiences.

The field of Nutritional Psychology is interdisciplinary and involves elements from the fields of Psychology, Nutrition, and Education. Rather than a direct focus on internal processes, dietary interventions, or instruction and knowledge building, Nutritional Psychology draws from elements within each field, providing individuals with information in nutrition science to help them understand their internal experiences arising from their dietary intake patterns.

Psychosocial

Examining the role that family, culture, community, society, and socioeconomic status play in determining our dietary intake patterns

Psychological

Examining the relationship between our dietary intake patterns and our feelings, moods, and emotions

Behavioral

Developing an awareness of the relatively predictable dietary behaviors we present in response to consuming a western dietary pattern, i.e., ‘cabinet surfing' at night

Perceptual

Developing awareness of the physical and mental sensations we experience in response to our dietary intake patterns (discomfort, pain, irritation, or peace, energy, and calm)

Cognitive

Using our mental processes (thinking, problem solving, learning, and creativity) to gain insight into how the food we eat is affecting our mental health.

NUTRITIONAL PSYCHOLOGY MEETS A GROWING NEED


Evidence for a link between diet and mental health is emerging. Research is demonstrating that diet is playing an increasingly important role in the mental health of individuals and societies around the globe. The essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in whole, unprocessed foods play a significant role in supporting the body's internal biochemical and physiological processes. These processes have changed little over time, yet our dietary intake patterns have changed considerably towards a westernized “Standard American Diet”.

As the gap widens between our body’s physiological needs and our western dietary intake habits, the importance of considering diet as a piece of the puzzle in the world's mental health crisis continues to grow. CNP exists to address this need through unifying research efforts relating to the psychological, psychosocial, behavioral, cognitive, and perceptual effects of diet on mood and mental health, developing formalized curriculum to support individuals in understanding this relationship, and advocating for the training of students and professionals in the field of NP.

The Resource and Parent Resource libraries on the CNP website house hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies that collectively demonstrate the far-reaching effects our dietary intake patterns have on all aspects of our mental health. These studies illustrate the need for a field of study that focuses on the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial and perceptual aspects of mental health related to diet.

Research is demonstrating that not only can dietary intake patterns play a role in depression, anxiety, mood, cognitive disorders, perceptual changes, and psychosocial issues, but that improvements in dietary intake patterns can support well-being, and lead to more positive mental health outcomes.

CNP exists to facilitate the development of the field of NP, and to prepare mental health professionals to better accommodate our evolving mental healthcare needs.

Nutritional Psychology is aligned with principles of Integrative Health

Nutritional Psychology is aligned with the principles of integrative health, and is an avenue for mental health providers to further participate in the integrative health movement.
Integrative health is the movement in healthcare towards a holistic, patient-centered approach. This movement’s primary objective involves treating the patient as a whole person, rather than just a constellation of symptoms. The principle philosophy of this movement is that each patient represents a unique, complex and interwoven set of influences that affect the intrinsic functionality of that individual. Thus, each of these influences must be addressed to achieve wellness.

Nutritional Psychology Curriculum

Self-education tools to empower mental health professionals

Nutritional Psychology Curriculum

Nutritional Psychology FAQ

Is there a difference between the fields Nutritional Psychology and Nutritional Psychiatry?

Yes. While the research that informs these two fields overlaps, Nutritional Psychology and Nutritional Psychiatry are different but complimentary fields (as are the fields of Psychology and Psychiatry). Nutritional Psychology focuses on examining our internal experience related to our dietary intake patterns. One’s dietary intake pattern affects their psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, and psychosocial experience. This in turn affects our dietary intake pattern, which in turn contributes to our overall mental health.

Is NP part of the discipline of psychology or nutrition?

NP is an interdisciplinary field that spans the fields of psychology, nutrition, and education. NP is aligned with principles of integrative health, and the newly emerging healthcare approach referred to as ‘whole health’.

Is Nutritional Psychology evidence-based?

Nutritional psychology uses evidence-based research to inform and guide the development of the field, but the specific tools, methods and concepts used in Nutritional Psychology education have not yet been validated through research. APA approved continuing education courses in Nutritional psychology have been taught to mental health professionals, nurses, educators, counselors, and veterans with positive feedback and results.

Does Nutritional Psychology involve treatment or intervention?

NP does not involve treatment, intervention, or cure. Rather, it combines information in nutrition science with psycho-educational tools to build an individual’s internalized awareness of how the foods they are consuming are contributing to the way they feel. This process advocates for an internalized shift in one’s understanding of the benefits of eating for nutritive value, rather than for convenience and impulse. In doing so, NP aims to bypass some of the failure-prone demands associated with navigating the western diet (i.e., willpower and control). Nutritional Psychology is designed to be complimentary and in addition to standard medical interventions and treatments supportive of mental health.

Can Nutritional Psychology cure illness and mental disorders?

NP is not designed to treat or cure mental illness, nor is it designed to replace therapeutic interventions by professionals trained to intervene in mental health disorders, illness or mental crises. NP is designed to be an educational process that guides individuals through a process that increases their awareness of the effects that their daily dietary intake patterns have on their mood and mental health. This provides a piece of the puzzle for supporting mental health, but is never to be used as a substitute for psychiatric or medical interventions for disease or mental disorders. If you or someone you know are suffering from suicidal thoughts, please seek medical attention immediately. Nutritional Psychology cannot be used to cure or treat mental illness and clinical disorders.

How can I become a “Nutritional Psychologist”?

There is no formal title of “Nutritional Psychologist” in existence today. CNP has been working to develop the specialty of Nutritional Psychology, and advocate for its use in the future of mental healthcare. We have been developing the educational curriculum for students and mental health professionals, methods, concepts and tools to inform the field, and practice guidelines and standards for certification and licensure in Nutritional Psychology Education.

Can I contribute to the development of the field of NP?

CNP welcomes contributors with professional education and/or experience in NP-related areas to contribute to the development of the field. If you are interested in a volunteer position, write us at info@nutritional-psychology.org.

Where can I get formal education in Nutritional psychology?

CNP developed the first university-based curriculum in Nutritional Psychology for the Continuing Education (CE) program at John F. Kennedy University in 2008. This 7-course, online certificate program provided mental health professionals, educators, dieticians, health coaches, interested individuals and other related health professionals with preliminary language, concepts and skills in the field of Nutritional Psychology.

In 2020, the authors of the JFK certificate elected to remove this long-standing program to make way for updated course content in Nutritional Psychology. These updated courses will be available through CNP sometime in early 2021.

Is a Certificate in Nutritional Psychology available for mental health professionals?

Yes, however, the current JFKU certificate in Nutritional Psychology is currently being ‘taught out’. This means the authors of the program have decided to phase out the certificate in lieu of developing new and updated curriculum. Only students currently enrolled in the program will be allowed to complete it. The certificate will continue to be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) for psychologists, The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) for MFT’s, LCSWs, LPCCs & LEPs, and the California Board of Registered Nursing for RNs, until the last student has completed the last course in this certificate.

CNP’s new curriculum will be out sometime in early 2021. Check back for updates!