What, exactly, is disordered eating (DE)? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the term disordered eating is used to describe a variety of irregular eating behaviors, each of which may, or may not, fulfill the diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. Eating disorders (ED) include anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), as well as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) for eating disorders that carry other symptoms. The most important distinction between eating disorders and disordered eating is whether a person’s symptoms fit in with the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder defined by the American Psychiatric Association. Disordered eating is a phrase, not a diagnosis, and may fit clients who do not meet all of the criteria for an eating disorder but still need treatment.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that the rate of ED in children ages 5 to 17 worldwide is 4.4 percent. Additionally, 25 percent of female college athletes have ED, and a survey of 4000 women ages 25 to 45 showed disordered eating in 31 percent of them (purging for weight control) and thoughts of body shape and weight affecting the quality of life in 75 percent of the group.
Becoming a licensed nutritionist is, in itself, a challenging ambition that carries great responsibilities. Eating disorder nutritionists have received specialized education, experience and certification in treating clients with eating disorders. Eating disorder nutritionists may treat clients with disordered eating or with a specific diagnosis that falls under the eating disorder criteria. Their jobs are important as they attempt to reshape and remold a client’s thinking and behavior surrounding eating. Some nutritionists are drawn to the field of eating disorders from personal experience, while others may have loved ones or friends affected by ED or DE. Here, we will discuss how to become an eating disorder specialist.
Job Description for Eating Disorder Nutritionist
An eating disorder nutritionist may be a registered dietitian nutritionist or a licensed nutritionist. Depending upon the job, some employers of eating disorder nutritionists will only hire RDNs while others will only consider hiring licensed nutritionists. Some employers will also prefer to hire professionals who have certification from a nutritionist-certifying body. Regardless of the qualifications, the job description for most eating disorder nutritionists includes:
- Assessment of clients with eating disorders or disordered eating, including their medical history, eating patterns, use of supplements, exercise routine, lab results, weight history and more
- Designing meal plans to meet the needs of these clients
- Working as part of a multi-disciplinary team with other health care professionals to support the client, such as psychiatrists and physicians
- Helping clients in recovery through meal support, grocery shopping, cooking lessons, restaurant outings, meal preparation, nutrition support groups, and sessions with family members
Education for Eating Disorder Nutritionists
As mentioned above, an eating disorder nutritionist may be a registered dietitian nutritionist or a licensed nutritionist. This means that you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a foods and nutrition related field. Beyond that, however, you should have specialized education in eating disorders, their diagnosis and their treatment. Certification organizations for eating disorder nutritionists each have their own requirements for education and experience, and those will be discussed in more depth in the next section.
The following bachelors and Master’s programs offer career-focused instruction delivered by trained nutritionists with experience in the field. Find out more what each individual course of study offers through the locations below.
American University offers two different programs focused on Nutrition and Health. Their Online Master of Science in Nutrition Education will prepare you to become an influential leader in nutrition education and advocacy while promoting nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in your community and beyond. Or Earn your Master of Science in Health Promotion Management from AU’s award-winning program in just 20 months with $10K available in scholarships upon enrollment (qualifier is a 3.0 GPA).
UNC's MPH Nutrition concentration prepares students to provide, evaluate and communicate nutritional and dietary guidance that improves individual and population-wide health outcomes. In addition to developing their knowledge of nutrition science, students will explore behavior change, communication, counseling and the effects of dietary culture on individuals and communities.
Arizona State University - Online offers an Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science - Dietetics. Along with an Online Masters in Medical Nutrition
Bay Path University's health and wellness certificates build the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to upskill your abilities in your profession or to provide a robust concentration to your degree program for a specific role. Learn more about the Certificate in Food Science and Safety certificate.
If you want to work in fitness and nutrition, take the first step toward a new career with one of Penn Foster's accredited, online fitness and training programs. These affordable programs are all offered online, and can be taken at your own pace.
Grand Canyon University offers an M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Winthrop University offers an Online Master of Science in Human Nutrition and an Online Master of Science in Sport and Fitness Administration
Eating Disorder Nutritionists Certification and Licensing
An eating disorder nutritionist will, first and foremost, be either a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or a licensed nutritionist (LN). They may also be certified by a specialty certification agency, the most common one being the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP). The most common certification for nutritionists is the Registered Dietitian-Certified in Eating Disorders (CEDRD). Requirements to receive this certification are:
- Must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and/or dietetics and completion of an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship program
- Must have passed the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam and have earned Registered Dietitian (or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist ) credentials
- Must have 2500 supervised patient care hours directly in the eating disorder field managed by an IAEDP-approved supervisor
- Must have completed the following core courses, available online at iaedp.com:
- Introduction to Eating Disorders
- Treatment Modalities of Eating Disorders
- Medical Aspects of Eating Disorders
- Nutritional Guidelines for Eating Disorders
- Must pass the IAEDP Certification Exam
- Must document the following continuing education requirements:
- 6 hours in body image, weight and food issues
- 6 hours in abnormal psychology/addictions
- 6 hours in counseling/psychotherapy
- Must complete a 1500-word Case Study of a patient you actually treated
- Must submit completed application, three letters of recommendation, signed Ethics Statement, signed Statement of Intent, copy of resume, copy of all current licenses/certifications, one passport-sized photo, proof of current IAEDP membership and application fee of $150 to:
- International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals
- Attention: Certification Application
- P.O. Box 1295
- Pekin, IL 61555-1295
Once you have earned the CEDRD certification, you must complete 20 hours of continuing education in eating disorders every two years, renew your certification every two years, and attend an IAEDP Symposium every four years.
While IAEDP is the preeminent certification organization for eating disorder nutritionists, there are some other fairly new organizations that offer certification:
- Training Institute for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders– Their Family-Based Treatment (FBT) certification program is intended for those who treat eating disorders
- Intuitive Eating Pros– Their Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor program focuses in teaching intuitive eating, which is often helpful to nutritionists who are treating clients with eating disorders
Employment Projections for Eating Disorder Nutritionists
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for nutritionists and dietitians will rise by eight percent across the country between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate is faster than the average projected growth rate for other occupations. It is expected that there will remain a need for eating disorder nutritionists, as concerns about body image, weight and wellness remain prevalent in society.
Salaries for Eating Disorder Nutritionists
The mean annual wage nationwide for dietitians and nutritionists as of May 2019 is $62,330. According to ZipRecruiter, salaries for eating disorder dietitians and nutritionists may be as high as $95,500 in the 75th percentile to $138,500 in the 90th percentile.