On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

The Psychology of Eating & Why It Matters

Achieving weight and health goals is much more than counting calories. Learn the psychology of eating patterns to transform your relationship with food and total body for the better.

The Psychology of Eating & Why It Matters

Do you have control over your eating behaviors or do they have control over you? This can be a tough question to answer, and the psychology of eating habits plays a big role. Turning nutritional psychology into practical, actionable tips may be able to help. 

Read on for more information about the psychology of healthy eating, and how you can start thinking differently about food today. 

What Is the Psychology of Eating?

The psychology of eating, often called nutritional psychology, is a field of study that dives deep into why we eat. It’s both a field of psychology and a field of nutrition, covering the following areas of healthy eating habits: 

• Culture
• Diet
• Emotions
• Experience
• Feelings
• Moods
• Motivations
• Nutrients
• Sensations

Nutritional psychology is different from other fields because it examines how mental and physical health relate. Looking into food psychology or meeting with a food psychology specialist can help you better understand the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR). It can inform and influence the way you think about healthy eating, from psychological experiences to dietary intake. 

The Psychology of Healthy Eating Habits

If you are looking into the subject of eating psychology, you probably feel like your psychological functioning is lacking in some way related to food. Maybe you feel you could think clearer if you learn how to “eat right.” Maybe your doctor told you to change your diet for the benefit of your mental health, but you don’t know exactly how. 

In any case, looking into how to form healthy thoughts and habits around food can be helpful. Think of nutrition as a much-needed piece of the puzzle that is your health. It can provide answers and context to other areas of your life. 

So, here’s the scoop on healthy eating habits. Research supports nutrition plays a role in psychological health. In other words, improvements in diet can result in positive outcomes for both mental and physical health. 

Areas of impact that a nutritional psychologist may suggest you look into include: 

• Behavior
• Cognition 
• Performance
• Psychosocial health
• Readiness to change
• Sensory, interoception, and/or perception

If those seem like foreign words to you, don’t worry! You can start changing your attitude about eating today. 

How to Have Healthy Eating Behaviors

If you can’t wait to start implementing this information, you’re in luck! There are plenty of ways to use food psychology to your advantage starting right now.

Realize You Are Not Necessarily What You Eat

The commonly repeated saying “you are what you eat” can be harmful to those looking to create healthy habits. The actual truth? 

The dietary choices you make over time affect your body. In other words, allow yourself to enjoy that dessert every once in a while. One “unhealthy” food won’t waste a “healthy” day or week of eating. Instead of obsessing over diet and food choices, learn to listen to your body and respond to what it needs in different seasons of life. 

Sign Up For a Culinary Medicine Class

Culinary medicine programs are creating more empowered practitioners and patients. Search your local community for a health institution-sponsored cooking class. While dietitian-led sessions are preferred, qualified psychologists, physicians, or other professionals can teach you helpful skills, too. 

Become an Expert In Your Own Behavior

Turns out, healthy eating looks (and feels) different for everyone. What works for you might not work well for someone else. 

If you are motivated to change your eating behaviors, start studying yourself! For example, if watching TV spurs a binge eating session, notice that as a good place to start making changes. 

The Final Food For Thought

Looking into your personal psychology of food can help you identify self-defeating thoughts. You’ll learn to replace them with positive coping mechanisms and healthy habits instead. 

Nutritional psychology can help provide you with a framework for healthy eating that you can take with you throughout your life, wherever you go. 


Greenbaum Z. A greater role in nutritional health. Published November 2018. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/11/cover-nutritional-health

The Psychology of Eating. Cleveland Clinic. Published 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10681-the-psychology-of-eating

What Is Nutritional Psychology? The Center for Nutritional Psychology. https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/what-is-nutritional-psychology/.