In this article, I want to support you by highlighting the key things which helped me enjoy food without the need to binge in secret.
For most of my life I went about believing there was no way out of bingeing and eating in secret.
I wasn’t strong enough. Not good enough. Too sensitive to really deal with life challenges without my reliable crutch: food.
Too big to be seen eating a slice of cake in a cafe or enjoy the gourmet delights at the buffet on a special occasions.
My eating would happen for the most part in secret. In large amounts.
Often so quickly I couldn’t even remember how much I ate a few minutes after the binge ended.
It was like having two parallel “eating lives”.
The one everybody had access to: moderate, controlled, clean and ideal. Like ordering the salad at the restaurant. Or not eating from a buffet at the company Christmas party.
And then, the submerged one, normally after the restaurant and the Christmas party. A private raid of whatever food I could easily get access to.
For years, I went on believing it was just who I was.
One time it was Mother Nature’s fault. It didn’t give me the right dose of willpower to know when to stop, to find the “perfect balance’ with food (what the heck is that, actually?).
Another time I was unlucky. I just didn’t seem to be destined to live in a thin body for my whole life.
It was my priority n.1, to become thin and finally get what I deserved from life.
However, it wasn’t written in the stars. So, I might as well keep eating, ignoring my body and the stress I was putting on it.
For a very long time, I thought I was just gluttonous and greedy.
When did I start to see a solution to bingeing and eating in secret?
It was only when I started to dig deep into the actual root cause of my problems that something started to change.
All that rejecting certain feelings. The restriction, the dieting, the hiding from others, the ignoring my body’s signals and my core needs.
When I started to see those more clearly, the flame of hope finally lit up. This gave me the strength to walk out of the diet-binge cycle, including the need to eat food in secret.
You can find more details about my own healing journey here, if you’d like to read more.
The aim of this article is to help with a recap of some of the key things that helped me in my recovery from feeling trapped in the bingeing-dieting loop.
Those that helped me enjoy food with pleasure, without guilt or the consequent need to binge and eat in secret.
I’ll list them below.
1. NO BIG DEAL
I’ve welcomed all kinds of foods in my press, very gradually and mainly one at a time. This means I’ve started having them when I wanted. Instead of filling my shopping list only with what I believed were ‘healthy’ foods’ to then sit at home and craving the ones I had left on the shelves.
I now do the same when invited to a dinner, or eating out with friends & family. Instead of ordering food to impress others about my diet and come back home to go for a full blown binge, I order what I really want.
I eat food based on pleasure and palatability moving away from numbers (e.g. calorie intake) or moral qualities (this is healthy, this is not).
All those foods I’ve given myself permission to eat have slowly become ‘no big deal’ foods, something I really enjoy, but still just food, with no moral value attached to it.
2. DAILY PRACTICE
I sit for a couple of minutes in a quiet and calm spot (sit, not stand to send a signal to the brain and therefore my body that it can relax).
I take a couple of deep breaths. Then I enjoy my favourite chocolate (or anything else I like), slowing down the chewing, noticing all its qualities: taste, colour, smell, texture, temperature.
No rush. A few fully present minutes (2 to 5 min) between me and the food in front of me.
When was the last time you did anything like this?
I was blown away by this pratice of eating to savour when visiting a buddhist monastery for the first time in 2014. You can read the full details of that experience in this article.
If it sounds simplistic and unrelated to your eating in secret, try and do it every day of your life and then let me know what happens in your relationship with food.
If you find it hard to slow down, start with one slow mindful bite, just one. Then set the intention to increase to two bites the next time and continue growing with the practice.
Finding a deeper connection with food is a form of getting more in contact with your body, and ultimately with yourself. Yes, eating can be a form of meditation!
3. EATING IN PLAIN SIGHT
Instead of bringing a take-away at home, or eating it in the car, or anywhere I can’t be seen, I’ve given myself permission to have my French fries or the most inviting slice of cake in the counter right at the restaurant, at the pub, or in my local cafe.
Surrounded by other people.
Not an easy one, when your main focus is external, meaning that other people’s opinion on your food choices count more than your own experience of that food.
If right now this sounds daunting, try this:
- Choose a cafe you are already familiar with. One with plenty of space in between tables (much easier these days if you think!) and a quiet spot where you feel comfortable.
- Go for the food that most attracts you, the one you really like.
- When you bring your order to the table, focus (again) on the amazing qualities of the food in front of you, instead of looking around to see if anyone is looking at your plate or at you eating. Bringing a book can help too initially, if it’s too hard to focus on yourself.
4. NOTICE & APPRECIATE
Write down (or type on your phone/pc if you’re more techy than me) your thoughts. Jot down how you feel as you experience having previously forbidden food in your house. Record what it’t like to consume food in plain sight in front of friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers.
Look out for:
- Any thoughts where your worth is measured by what you ate or didn’t eat that day; things like:
“I can’t believe I had two slices of that cake after eating dinner. I shouldn’t be eating sweets. I’m just hopeless.“
- Any repetitions in the circumstances where you feel like eating in secret. Is there stress or pressure in your day? Are you overly tired? Do you feel lonely? Or lacking breathing space?
See if you can make space in your writing for noting down:
- Any tiny steps forward you notice: a relaxed dinner out, a few minutes of your daily practice and how they were for you, accepting some food you get offered in the office without feeling guilt, etc.
I would also encourage to keep a diary to help you record the most recurrent feelings and situation that push you to binge or eat in secret. HERE you can find an Emotional Eating Diary I use in my coaching practice to help my clients get clearer on their trigger feelings/situations.
I hope this article can help you see that there’s a way out.
That it encourages you to seek the support you might need to work on the deepest roots of your bingeing.
Or that simply it plants a seed of hope on the fact that if you binge in secret there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re simply trying to do your best to deal with something that right now you’re finding it hard to deal
If the message in this article was helpful, feel free to bookmark or share this article with anyone who needs to hear this.
Food (every food) is for everyone, not just for the slender and skinny ones.
The only reason why you should feel guilty for the food you eat is if you stole it!
Would you like sharing about this and other issues with like-minded women and doing some journaling together?
Why not joining The Mindful Body Women Circle? It’s a group support for women who want to increase the confidence in their body, and learn to enjoy eating again, without guilt.
Click here if you’d like to find out more!