Nutritional Psychology

Nutritional psychology, although closely related to nutritional psychiatry, can be defined as a distinct field. Nutritional psychology is centred around exploring why individuals make the decisions they do regarding food choices, integrating psychological theories to understand causes, and considering empirical evidence as to how individuals can be supported to overcome barriers to change are that impact on health habits.

One example pf research in this area is with regards to Attachment Theory, food choices and obesity prevalence. Research is emerging which indicates that a mother’s attachment style has a significant impact on familial eating habits, and also weight status in children. Mother’s body weight was indicated to be a significant determinant of the child’s body weight, in the 52 mother-child dyads studied. Moreover, insecure anxious and avoidant attachment styles in mothers were associated with dysfunctional eating behaviours (Pasztak-Opiłka et al., 2020). Child attachment style has also been indicated to be a key risk factor for obesity incidence in preschool aged children (Santos et al., 2021). Additionally, in a sample of individuals requiring bariatric surgery, significantly higher levels of anxious attachment styles, and lower levels of avoidant attachment styles, were reported (Nancarrow et al., 2018).


Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28(5), 759–775.

Nancarrow, A., Hollywood, A., Ogden, J., & Hashemi, M. (2018). The Role of Attachment in Body Weight and Weight Loss in Bariatric Patients. Obesity surgery28(2), 410–414.

Pasztak-Opiłka, A., de Jonge, R., Zachurzok, A., & Górnik-Durose, M. E. (2020). Adult attachment styles and mothers’ life satisfaction in relation to eating behaviors in the families with overweight and obese children. PloS one15(12), e0243448.

Santos, A. F., Martins, M. C., Fernandes, C., Bost, K. K., & Veríssimo, M. (2021). Relation between Attachment and Obesity in Preschool Years: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Nutrients13(10), 3572.