What, exactly, is eating psychology? For a lot of us, when we hear the term, we immediately think of eating disorders. That’s certainly a part of the eating psychology landscape, but it’s not the whole picture. The psychology of eating refers to the many ways that our thoughts and emotions impact—and are impacted by—what and how we eat.

So what does it mean to be a professional working in the field of eating psychology? There are two main routes you can go. The first is working with people who are suffering from eating disorders. The second is working with those whose struggles around the psychology of eating may not have reached that level, but are presenting real challenges that are holding them back from living their fullest lives. Here’s what you need to know about each option.

Clinical Eating Disorders

If you want to work with clients who are struggling with eating disorders, like anorexia, bulimia, and extreme obesity, for example, you’ll have to complete a traditional clinical psychology training, or a specialized training for dietitians.

A clinical psychology PhD program is typically completed in about five to seven years, and after that, many states require a training period, in which you work with a licensed clinical psychologist. To become a licensed therapist, you must complete a Master’s Degree, which usually takes about two to three years, and to become a registered dietitian, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree—both programs are also often followed by post-graduate training, testing, or coursework.

Providing support to people suffering from eating disorders is important work, as these conditions often pose immediate threats to the client’s physical health and emotional well-being. It is also very specialized work. Choosing to focus on eating disorders means you’re deciding to work with a unique population with a highly specific set of needs.

Eating Psychology Coaching

The other route, which is what we offer here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, is an eight-month training program that prepares you to work with a wide range of people who are facing challenges or concerns around eating. They may be struggling with overeating, calorie counting, chronic dieting, some binge eating, or unwanted emotional eating, for example. All of these concerns, while they wouldn’t be necessarily be classified as clinical eating disorders, can have a major impact on the client’s quality of life.

These eating concerns are often windows into larger struggles in a client’s life. Someone who struggles with emotional eating, for example, may be turning to food as a substitute for a larger emotional need that has gone unmet. By addressing a client’s eating habits, a coach can often help the client make even more significant shifts in their life. So many of us experience concerns around eating at some point in our lives. Often, because these issues may not be as dramatic as eating disorders, we allow them to continue without ever truly addressing them. But they can be major barriers to happiness and success, and working with a coach to overcome them can be hugely impactful.

Why do it?

Whether it’s working a s a therapist or a coach, how do you know if it’s the right fit for you? There are a number of reasons why most of us choose this route. For a lot of coaches and therapists, it’s because they’ve experienced struggles with eating themselves in the past and now have a deep desire to help others going through the same thing. There are also quite a few professionals who are interested in how a client’s eating habits can be the jumping off point for larger life changes, and are intrigued by the topic.

Whatever your reason, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to help others. Maybe you don’t have all of your own eating concerns completely sorted out yet—but that’s okay. What you need is enough of a grasp on the issues at hand to be able to compassionately support and guide your clients as they do the work to take positive steps forward in their lives. The writer Richard Bach said, “We teach what we most need to learn.” Yes, you need to have done enough work on your own challenges to have gained some meaningful insights to pass on, but what’s most important is the ability to empathize and meet your clients exactly where they’re at.

Warm Regards,

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014


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P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our FREE information-packed video series, The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough, you can sign up for it HERE. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If you’re inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if you’re interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public, Transform Your Relationship with FoodHERE.

About The Author
Emily Rosen

Emily Rosen is the Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where she oversees business development strategies, student affairs, marketing and public relations in addition to her role as Senior Teacher. With an extensive and varied background in nutritional science, counseling, natural foods, the culinary arts, conscious sex education, mind body practices, business management and marketing, Emily brings a unique skill-set to her role at the Institute. She has also been a long-term director and administrator for Weight Loss Camps and Programs serving teens and adults and has held the position of Executive Chef at various retreat centers. Her passion for health and transformation has provided her the opportunity to teach, counsel, manage, and be at the forefront of the new wave of professionals who are changing the way we understand the science and psychology of eating and sexuality. Emily is also co -founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.