How I overcame a lifetime of eating in secret

November 18, 2021

It’s been on my mind for a while now to share with you about eating in secret.

I noticed my resistance to talk about it, to share such intimate details of my personal experience not knowing if the way I’ll put it will resonate and be helpful somehow.

However, I’ve done a lot of inner work on myself over the past years. A work to accept and understand those parts of me that make me feel ashamed or insecure. As a result, I can now share with much more ease than I would’ve only a few years ago, accepting that you might resonate with this, or you might not.

Most of all, I learned that I’m not alone in having had the experience of regularly eating in secret. I feel it is my duty to join the other brave women breaking the stigma about it.

A little warning here:

This is such a big and multifaceted topic to cover that I’ll surely have to come back for more after this article. I’ll do, especially if you find it helps and you let me know it!

For today, I wanted to focus the attention on one aspect which can create a lot of shame and make you feel guilty:

Buying and hiding food in your bedroom, in the car, on the higher shelves in your press. In any other place in the house when no one can see it. Consume it in solitude, with no one around; maybe in large quantities and especially at the end of the day and at night. Often in a voracious and anxious way.

If you can see yourself in this picture, let me say this to you out loud:

Eating in secret is more common that you think. You are not alone in this.

It’s uncommon for people to talk about it openly. This can make us think we’re alone in being secret eaters. It pushes us to hide from the world and to not disclose our secret eating.

All we feel is SHAME.

And shame prevents us from sharing our story to others.

Brene Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), describes shame like this:

Shame is the fear of disconnection – the fear of being perceived as flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging. Shame is feeling like an outsider – not belonging.

Having dropped the fear of not being worthy because of my secret eating, I am now more confident than I was to be sharing with you my own experience with bingeing in secret.

A picture of Donatella Porceddu Psychologist and Eating Coach helping women deal with binge eating and regular overeating

When I was ten years old I learned that eating cakes and chocolate (my favourite foods) was self-indulgent and the n.1 reason why I was fat.

It was a constant message in the family, in school and all the other important places where I hung out.

I started waiting for my parents to be in work, or in bed to raid the press.

My mom would hide those foods hoping that the good auld rule ‘out of sight out of mind’ would work.

My raids only increased, and with them the guilt and shame I felt for eating in secret and trying to hide the proof of that.

When I was sixteen I was sent to a dietician and put on my first diet.

I wasn’t allowed to eat any sugar in the form of chocolate and cakes/treats for 4 weeks. It came with the promise that after that I could’ve slowly introduced them back into my diet.

The logic behind was that 4 weeks would have been the right amount of time for my body to eliminate my cravings, let me lose some weight and be back on track with sugar for the rest of my life (SURE!!).

What I recall most about that experience was the intense and obsessive thinking about sweets. Those four weeks seemed to last like a year.

I spent the time I was awake just thinking about buying and eating a cake, a bar of chocolate or an ice cream. It was a torture. And I remember giving in and buying some sweets and eating them when nobody could see me.

How can we learn to enjoy food calmly and guilt-free through restriction and deprivation?

In fact, this was my imprinting for eating and bingeing in secret.

For years, I limited my consumption of cakes and chocolates (and many other foods) to the minumum during the day to later binge in secret at night, quite regularly.

In my 20s and early 30s, I dwelled in orthorexia for a long time, becoming overly obsessed with eating clean, super-healthy, feeling a strange sense of accomplishment for choosing the ‘right’ foods and avoiding the ‘bad’ ones.

The praise for losing weight and being closer to societal beauty standards helped reinforce this behaviour of mine.

woman with the head on a plate

But the binge, the storing, hiding and eating food away from other people’s eyes was always there in the background. Just nobody could see that.

At the start of my healing journey, well into my 30s, it was hard to give myself permission to eat those same foods I’d learned to see as enemies.

It was stressful to allow myself to eat them in plain sight, at a party, at the table with friends and family or in work, without feeling ridiculously guilt for it.

One thing in particular was the hardest to overcome. That stubborn thought:

What will they think of me? I’m overweight, I can’t be eating sweets and treats

Understanding that it wasn’t about them, but about me was a game-changer.

That fear was all about me, deeply rooted in the shame experienced at a very early stage in my life for eating those foods and making the connection between being fat and my self-worth.

I had to work (I still do btw!) on the belief that because I’m fat, not only I must not be allowed to eat, but I am also a bad person, with no willpower or desire to care about myself.

In addition to that, I had to learn to cope with these strong feelings about myself without finding comfort in food all the time.

With time, the transformation came.

I didn’t become a relaxed eater overnight.

The eating in secret decreased to the point that today I don’t feel the need to eat in secret anymore.

I’m curious! 

  • At what point in your life you’ve found yourself eating in secret, if any?
  • Where in your mind you put limits to the food you allow yourself to eat because you think you don’t deserve it?
  • What would be possible if you changed that story?

With kindness,

Dona 🌷

Donatella Porceddu - Contact Me

PS: Want to come and share about this and other issues with like-minded women and do a bit of journaling together?

Why don’t you join the WOMEN COMMUNITY CALLS? It’s a free group support for women who want to stop judging their body, and finally learn to enjoy the food they eat.

Click here if you’d like to find out more, or sign up using the box below 👇

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Written by Donatella Porceddu

I am a registered psychologist and life coach specialised in binge and emotional eating, body kindness, and mindful eating. I empower women to become the best version of themselves through my comprehensive approach, which combines personal coaching and psychology, leveraging my client’s strengths and building around their opportunities.

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Donatella Porceddu Psychologist & Eating Coach specialised in Binge Eating, Overeating, Emotional Eating, Food freedom, anti-diet approach. 1:1 support through my Make Peace with Food program.

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