Compulsive Eaters

Compulsive Eaters

Over Eaters Can't Go It Alone 

97% of Australians surveyed have tried to change their eating habits, according to research released by the Australian Psychological Society. 

Most of those who tried to change reported some success, but over 95% didn’t maintain the change. They lasted only a few weeks or months before they lapsed back into old habits. This is a very high relapse rate.

Most people who sought help described receiving information about what they should do, but very little help with how to put those recommendations into practice. Only 3% sought help from a professional such as a psychologist.

The survey also found that people who are overweight are likely to be most in need of professional help.

Successful Change

The survey shows that people who fail to change their eating behaviour place more emphasis on approval from others and specific instructions or goals. 

These findings reinforce psychologist Janét Moyle’s approach to therapy with compulsive eaters. She states that “the person’s internal landscape and unconscious drives are far more important than external motivators. Resolving internal conflict can lead to lasting change”.  

Psychologists are experts trained in understanding how people change behaviour, and the challenges they face. To successfully treat eating and weight problems, the unique emotional and psychological issues driving the behaviour must be addressed. 

For example, a person’s belief in their ability to change, and their willingness to explore potentially painful emotions can affect a person’s ability to achieve successful change. 

Eating and Emotions

Shame, anxiety, helplessness, guilt, anger, poor self-esteem and a need for comfort affect people’s ability to make changes in their eating behaviour. These often overwhelming emotions can also stop people seeking help, and continue to drive the over eating. 

Psychologists assist clients with understanding how their unhelpful eating behaviours arise, how they’re maintained, and most importantly, how they can be changed. This is different for each individual.

Each person has their own unique set of beliefs and emotions about their eating which underlie their eating behaviours.

“Often the person is experiencing an internal conflict which they cannot resolve on their own, and this doesn’t change, no matter what program or diet they try”.

The focus of psychological treatment is individual and away from ‘fad diets’ and general solutions. To successfully change eating and weight problems the unique emotional and psychological issues driving the behaviour must be addressed.

Ask yourself these questions:-

  • Do you eat when you're not hungry?
  • Are you preoccupied with food?
  • Do you feel guilty after you have eaten?
  • Do you eat to take your pain away?
  • Do you have secret binges or hide food?

Top three tips for successful lasting change:-

  1. Recognise that your health is important. 
  2. Enlist professional help if you can. Making changes to your eating habits is not something you have to do on your own.
  3. One size doesn’t fit all - your unique makeup is important to consider.


For further information call Flourish Psychological Services on (02) 4578 3384 or email: contactus@flourishhealth.com.au