I have recently graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc Joint Honours degree in Psychology and Nutrition. My enthusiasm for nutrition began during my time as a competitive swimmer where the importance of good nutrition in enhancing performance was emphasised. After choosing to take psychology at GSCE and A-level I also developed a passion for psychology and became aware of the relationship between the two subjects. As a result of achieving 100% in my AS psychology exam my teachers prompted me to take psychology at degree level. My desire to study nutrition remained making my choice difficult. However, when searching for university courses I came across the dual degree with both psychology and nutrition. The opportunity to study both disciplines side-by-side really excited me, providing the opportunity to learn about two subjects I am fascinated by, the perfect prospect!
The dual degree is quite uncommon with only 3 other universities in the UK offering the degree: Liverpool Hope, St Mary’s Twickenham and Worchester, and Bournemouth offering an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour. My cohort was also a small class with only 8 students beginning the degree.
The role of psychology in nutrition is often overlooked even though they are very intertwined. At a basic level, the food we eat effects our brain and mental health. We need food to provide the brain with energy and the type of food we eat can impact our mood and emotions. The gut-brain axis is an evolving area of research which describes the mechanism of a two-way communication between the brain and the gut. Changes in the brain can impact the gut, and changes in the gut (including the microbiome) can impact the brain. Secondly, our perception of food is created based on our thoughts, which influence food choice. Food choice is influenced by consumer marketing and advertising, which uses psychology to increase sales. For example, placing food products at eye level to encourage purchasing. There is also the role of understanding disordered relationships with food which stems from individual psychology, both past and present. To understand an individuals body image and self-esteem, which can also impact food intake, we must first understand the psychological mechanisms behind the cause of poor body image and low self-esteem. Finally, psychology is essential to understand when encouraging behaviour change. To effectively promote changes in behaviour we must first have an understanding of human behaviour, including why we all behave differently and how to effectively increase motivation.
Gaining an understanding of both disciplines has been hugely beneficial for me and I will take everything I have learned with me into my professional career. I am interested in behaviour change, specifically relating to food choice and intake. Individual motivation and empowerment is a huge part of this, which all relate back to the human brain.
Nutritank provide essential evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle education and advice online, for both medical students/doctors and members of the public. I support Nutritank as their goal to empower members of the public to improve health and encourage health care professionals to feel confident in giving nutrition and lifestyle advice is so important. The wide range of resources and information they share means the work is accessible and helpful to everyone.