Are you sick of struggling with your weight? Do you find yourself swinging like a pendulum from fad diet to loss of control over your eating and back again?

For so many women today their relationship with food is not one of a nurturing process for their bodies, but rather an internal struggle with the cycle of ‘attack’ and ‘avoidance’. This struggle is largely a result of how much our eating is dependent on external cues. These cues can include the social situations we eat in, having certain emotions we may eat in response to, or places (such as on the couch in front of the TV!) that trigger food cravings!

I asked Dr Carmel Harrison, a Clinical Psychologist and award winning researcher for her work in binge eating disorders to share her best tips for eating well and managing temptations that surround us.

She notes that, especially during times of stress, it’s easy to lose touch with the internal cues of the body such as fullness and hunger. This disconnect with our bodies results in ‘mindless’ eating.

3 signs you might be struggling with mindless eating:

Eating that ignores hunger signals

Do you find yourself eating until you are too full and feeling guilty afterward? Eating throughout the day when you are not even hungry? Finishing the food on your children’s plates? Or, skipping meals and ignoring your hunger?

Emotional eating

Do you find that you eat in response to your emotional states, such as stress, or anxiety, or sadness? Or that you graze on food due to boredom?

Eating without paying attention (where did that food go?)

Do you find that you often eat in front of a screen with out paying attention to what is actually going into your mouth? Do you often finish your food without enjoying eating it?


So what can we do to try to get ‘in control’ of our mindless eating? As a society, the answer has often been that we diet! However the research shows that dieting may increase the disconnection with internal signals. This is because dieting imposes a strict (external) inflexible diet and structure to eating, which may work for a short period of time – but in the long term it perpetuates an ‘attack’ ‘avoidance’ type of relationship with food.

What is the alternative? Dr Carmel says the research is pointing us to ‘mindful eating’. Mindful eating is not a diet, it is about how you eat. Research indicates that the benefits of mindful eating include a sustainable way to change our relationship with food; it is not a fad diet! This means it is more likely to produce lasting change.

All the evidence suggest that mindful eating may lead to decreased stress, managing weight and reducing eating concerns.

So here are 3 beginner’s steps to mindful eating to get you started:

Eliminate distractions

When you eat, focus on eating. Try not to eat in front of the TV or while doing other tasks like getting work done on your computer! Eat with your children, don’t just prepare healthy food for them, but make a healthy plate for yourself and sit with them to enjoy it.

Focus on the sensory

When you are eating focus your attention solely on what do can see, taste, touch and smell. Allow yourself to experience food just like a small child! Enjoy it, be aware of it, and be guided by your senses.

Listen to your body

Are you hungry? Do you feel full? Listen out for and pay attention to the signals that your body is offering you when it is time to stop eating.


Dr Carmel Harrison and Dr Amanda Mullin are Clinical Psychologists at Mindworx Psychology, the Hills District’s leading family Psychology Practice. They offer specialist help for Eating Disorders. If you are worried about your relationship with food, whether that involves binge eating, restricting or other concerns, help is available.

Dr Carmel Harrison’s popular group ‘Mindful Eating‘ runs regularly at Mindworx Psychology. This workshop is an excellent introduction to skills that can change your relationship with both food, and your body. The next workshops begin in January. For further information call 83553634 or visit

Your GP is always a good place to begin, although you can also see a psychologist privately without a GP referral. Other sources of help and information include:

Butterfly National Support Line and Web Counselling Service

The Butterfly Foundation offers a free web counselling service and free, confidential telephone support for anyone with a question about eating disorders or negative body image, including sufferers, carers, family and friends, teachers, employers and more. The service can provide

  • personalised support and coping strategies
  • information on understanding eating disorders
  • guidance on treatment options
  • connections with other services and specialists.

Phone: 1800 ED HOPE / 1800 33 4673


Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders (CEDD)

CEDD is an academic and service support centre based in Sydney.

Phone: 02 9515 6040