Nutrition & Psyche: Nenja and her journey to becoming a nutritional psychologist

What is your relationship with food? Is it quite relaxed or is it marked by doubts and feelings of guilt? Nenja, my interview partner today, knows a thing or two about that. After training as an MTLA, she studied molecular medicine and has since worked in the healthcare industry. When she’s not spending leisurely hours with her husband or her two sweet Goldendoodles in nature, she has also been involved in the topic of for quite some time now with the topic of nutrition… and psyche. No wonder that she came across Ayurveda at some point. But even the training as an Ayurveda Coach did not quench her thirst for knowledge.

Cooking with passion – and positivity!
Nenja’s Doodle girls love food, too

In this interview, she tells you more about her path, her education and her offer for you.

Dear Nenja, thank you for taking time for me today! The project that’s so close to your heart revolves around nutrition and psyche. What experiences have you had with this topic?

All my life I have loved to eat. And for half my life I have been trying to remedy the consequences of my diet, instead of the causes.

Since I sometimes like to eat in stressful situations or for emotional reasons, I was searching for a “why” for years.

Why do I eat all the time? By emotional reasons I mean situations like frustration, excessive demands, sadness, fear, boredom, anger, annoyance but also joy. I could not really feel and allow feelings somehow. Who wants to feel negative emotions? So they were numbed with food. Food solved my situation. At least at that moment.

But I wanted to know why. So, I set out to find an answer.

After training as a nutritionist, I knew how one “should” eat… But that didn’t help me as much as I had hoped.

And then Ayurveda came along?

Exactly. In my Ayurveda Coach training, I learned how nutrition should be suitable for me, so that it really benefits me and my body. It went in the right direction. I felt better. I slowly felt hunger and satiety signals again. I also learned that the psyche or the subconscious has a huge say in the choice of food and the reasons for eating. I learned not to constantly scold myself when I ate too much. But the habits crept in again….

What was the reason for that?

What I still didn’t know was where my own personal reasons for eating came from. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on the fact that I eat when I’m depressed. Or sad. Or happy. I just ate, felt good for a short time, and then got upset that I ate again. Followed by anger, rage, frustration – and – you guessed it? More eating. A vicious cycle. Until I started my training as a nutritional psychologist.

Preparing healthy meals

What is this training all about?

You get to know nutrition from the psychological and pathopsychological side, and in each new block of topics there were aha moments for me. You learn about factors that influence your nutrition, such as early childhood, social environment, media and advertising from the past to the present, model learning from parents, friends, influencers etc. You learn influences of genetics – which is often used as an excuse why people “can’t” lose weight – and that most of the time they are actually just excuses. In fact, the activity of genes can also be influenced by what we eat. You learn how beliefs and habits are formed. That was exciting. One recapitulates situations in one’s life and some aha moments followed. More about that later!

In the second part of the training, you learn how to apply and use all this knowledge in practice to support clients. You create anamneses, diagnoses, learn to weigh what the client needs in terms of knowledge to be able to help them without overwhelming them with too much information, you learn interventions – these are basic aids and alternative behaviors for the respective problem of the client, and – most importantly – you learn relapse prevention: What do I do if everything goes wrong? We tend to throw everything away according to the all-or-nothing principle and say “it doesn’t matter anyway” and “I can’t do it after all.”…. Beliefs. Habits. The subconscious. We consider and work with all of that. It’s a longer road than crash dieting. But crash dieting just doesn’t “solve” the problem either. At least not in the long run.

An incredibly extensive topic! Why is it so important to you?

It’s because of the effects I’ve had through my training. Especially through the nutritional psychology training, I can accept, perceive and understand myself in a completely different way… And food no longer determines my everyday life…

My two biggest “aha” moments in training are also responsible for this. Looking back, they were curious and relieving. What was curious was that I was constantly – unconsciously! – on diet behavior, I was constantly taking in far too few calories throughout the day. ME?! – who feels like she is constantly eating?? This often caused me to have bouts of cravings in the evening… and of course, I judged myself for it. When I understood that I can, may and should eat more during the day, the urge for evening snacks, for example, became much less.

And the second aha moment?

That one was relieving. We learned about the gradations of dysfunctional eating from “goes on a diet once in a while” to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. I had always thought I wasn’t normal. I thought I must have an eating disorder – and that’s not something you want to admit to yourself – BUT: No! I have “dysfunctional” eating behaviors, but I am not eating disordered. And with that, a huge stone fell from my heart. Not only because I was not “clinically” symptomatic with it, but also because it means that I can – and more importantly, may – help EVERYONE who feels even remotely similar to me. I am not allowed to treat clinical variants of dysfunctional eating behavior, for example eating disorders, because I am not a doctor or therapist. However, with the knowledge and all that I have learned in the training, I can now help so many people to go their personal way to a normal eating behavior. As soon as one decides to go the way I am there and can accompany. Explain. Resolve. Help.

Good for body and soul

What does this help look like?

It’s so liberating to fundamentally understand what’s actually going on. Working on that takes time. It’s not a switch that gets flipped and then everything is magically ok, but I know I’m on the right path. Every day. For me. Without diet. Without restriction. Without pressure… And that’s what I want to make possible for everyone.

And you do that through coaching?

Yes! There are 1:1 coaching sessions and soon a modular course for emotional eaters that can be done actively or passively.

There are different coaching packages that I offer. Here, everyone can decide for themselves whether they just need an assessment and a nudge in the right direction or guidance along the way. If both don’t quite fit the person and situation, there is always the option to create an individual coaching package that fits the client exactly and will therefore deliver the best results. If long-term coaching for six months or more is desired, I also offer that in combination with prior coaching. After all, long-term implementation and sticking with it is the most important thing. New habits are not formed overnight.

Nenja helps you develop new habits

And how does something like that work?

You often worry: Do I have to change my whole diet, get plans and then I have to eat like this forever?

A very clear NO. That is exactly the point.

In my coaching sessions I combine nutritional counseling, Ayurveda and nutritional psychology.

– Nutritional counseling to give you the basic knowledge you personally need.

– Ayurveda to show you what makes you tick, what is good for you and what is not – very exciting!

– Nutritional psychology to understand yourself better, to work on the basic issues, to implement and to be able to accept and appreciate yourself again.

There is no one size fits all concept, that I just show you, then you do that and everything is fine. It is a process. Everyone has their own underlying issues that we look at together and resolve if possible. Habits and beliefs, deep-seated experiences and resulting attitudes can be recognized and thereby also invalidated and changed. In combination with all the tools I now have at hand, I firmly believe that I can help you too. You just have to be willing to take the first step.

Since not everyone is up for coaching, I will additionally create a course for emotional eaters.

What makes this course special?

I want to reach all those who don’t dare to talk to someone about it. And those who would rather try to change something themselves.

The plan is to have a modular structure of small courses, because everyone has different issues and is at different stages of development. It is also planned that you can do the course passively for yourself or book individual coaching hours. This is especially useful if you are not getting anywhere on your own or if you realize that you would like to have a nutritional psychological assessment and coaching.

Before deciding on a consultation: What are your top 3 tips for readers who are interested?

Tip 1 is my favorite quote: if hunger is not the problem, then food is not the solution. That really sums it all up.

We have learned to want to solve our problems with food. Food is our valve. Other valves are for example smoking, sport, playing, painting, music, but also drinking or aggressiveness. In the best case, you live out your feelings and don’t need an outlet. Everyone has learned other ways to deal with their feelings.

Tip 2: EVERYONE can take the first step today. Not tomorrow. Not next Monday. Not next month. Or New Year’s Day. How much can you accomplish if you start today and change just 1% of your decisions? You’ll be in a completely new direction after just a few days! And vice versa. How do you feel if in 3 months you are still at the same point, even though you could have actually done something for yourself for 3 months? Aren’t you worth changing something for the better for yourself? Now?

Tip 3: Talk. You wouldn’t believe how many people have problematic eating behaviors. But you don’t talk about it. You adapt, you function in society. And when you’re alone, you eat. For example. That’s why: Talk. Get help. Feel free to contact me through my website or on Instagram via DM. I know the situation, I know how to feel. I can help you. I can also just listen to you. Give an assessment. Once you talk it becomes tangible and not so bad. There is nothing wrong with having a problem with your eating behaviors.

I offer a free 15-minute get-to-know-you session before each coaching session which is bookable through my website. Feel free to use this opportunity to show your weaker self who’s in charge now. Your weaker self will find 1000 reasons why YOU can’t do it right now. Your weaker self is the epitome of your habits and of course he wants to change absolutely nothing. But, if you just feel bad the way it is now… then NOW is also the moment to change something. For you. For your future self.

What a beautiful conclusion – thank you for your time, dear Nenja!

Interested in what Nenja has to offer and/or want to learn more about nutrition and psyche? Connect with her on Instagram and check out her website:

Instagram: @ernaehrung.emotionen

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