Finally – you are alone. No one else is around. You waited an eternity until you could indulge in a secret candy bar on the drive home from work. Or, maybe you stayed up late waiting until finally everyone else fell deep asleep. Now you can head into the kitchen and give yourself guilty pleasure. Sometimes it is a slice of cake, sometimes its ice cream. Other times you stand in front of the refrigerator eating leftovers without a plate. Occasionally, you plan in advance, stockpiling your favorite goodies, and then hiding them in your own private stash place.
Almost in a trance-like state, you begin eating the foods you do not want anyone to know you eat … in volumes you do not want anyone to know you want. You eat quickly, not wanting to get caught. The irony is that you are not really enjoying the food, you are not really hungry, and you don't know why you are doing it. Initially you feel a sense of freedom, exhilaration, and relief. However, something odd also occurs … when eating becomes secretive, it becomes both more exciting and more difficult to give up. A devastating cycle begins where the lure of pleasure and secretive eating progresses, but so does the sense of guilt, failure, and sometimes even depression.
Do you feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde around food? You put on a great show of being on your best diet and weight loss behavior around other people, but once you are alone you feel compelled to eat? Read below to understand a few of the reasons you turn to secretive eating, and then use the explorative questions to help you gain new empowerment to choose a new way of living.
Food Is Not the Issue
If you are trying to stop your secretive eating behaviors, remember that food is not the main issue. You are using food to handle problems in other areas of your life. Those problem areas can include feeling out of control or anxious, having perfectionist attitudes, having low self-esteem or low self-worth, feeling inferior or insecure, or having trouble making decisions. Instead of putting more willpower into your dieting efforts, shift your attention to learning assertiveness skills and self-expression skills that allow you to feel more empowered and worthy.
Sneak Eating is About Feeling Deprived
If you have been on a diet, a restrictive food plan, or even if you just feel you "should" be eating healthy, you may find yourself engaging in secretive eating out of a sense of self-deprivation. By making certain foods forbidden, you may inadvertently increase your occupation with food. For example, feeling that you should not eat sweets, high-carbohydrate, or high-fat foods can lead you to crave those very types of foods. Falling into a "poor me, I can't have that food" mindset, or feeling that you have been "very good" with your eating choices can lead secretive eating. A simple solution is to change how you think. Learn to say, "I know I can have that food, but I choose not to have it."
The 10 Most Powerful Feelings You Eat to Kill
Secretive eating is also about feelings and self-expression. These feelings may be with you most of the day. However, it is only when the pace slows down, that you notice them. Not knowing how to handle these powerful emotions, eating follows. Eating in isolation can be a way of stuffing down emotions that seem overwhelming. In addition, eating alone can provide down time without the interruption of family, work, or other responsibilities.
1. Feeling disempowered to change your life
2. Feeling overwhelmed or trapped and not knowing how to move forward
3. Unresolved stress and anxiety
4. Perfectionist attitudes or fear of making mistakes or failing
5. Loneliness or boredom
6. Having a sense of insecurity
7. Feeling undeserving of the abundance and pleasure life has to offer
8. Low self-esteem or poor self-image
9. Eating to hide an emptiness inside
10. A sense of feeling deprived caused by dieting or "being good" with food
Recognize Your Needs, Wants, and Desires
Secretive eating is a time you don't have to pretend to be capable, competent, pleasant, likeable, or strong. It is a time you allow yourself to be completely self-centered, where you don't have to take care of the needs of anyone else and can focus completely on yourself. If you engage in secretive eating, you have legitimate – and important – needs that you do not know how to meet in an assertive, proactive manner. You may have decided that taking care of your own needs is selfish or unimportant, and you now hide, lie, or make excuses about your needs. You may push your needs to the bottom of your priority list, or pretend you don't have any needs at all. As a result, you substitute food for what you really need in life. Although, it makes sense that if you feel you don't have a right to your needs, that this belief would also carry over to food. You eat and give yourself pleasure in secret, and then feel guilty about your need for pleasure. One way to stop sneak eating is to clarify your needs, wants, and desires, and then put them back on the top of your daily to-do list. Make time for what is important to you.
Secretive Eating is About Pleasure
One of the most powerful human needs is a yearning for connection to all that gives pleasure and meaning to our lives. While you are eating secretively, you are giving yourself pleasure in whatever amounts you want. Overall, this is a wonderful thing. The only problem is that you really didn't want food, you wanted something far more important. You wanted to be able to receive pleasure, and feel that you had a right to have that pleasure. To help end secretive eating, increase the amount of pleasure in your life. Add new pleasure into your life by increasing connection with your physical senses. Set out to fill your eyes with pleasurable colors and pictures, your nose with pleasurable aromas, and your skin with pleasurable sensations. In addition, become more optimistic, practice gratitude, pursuing meaningful life goals, engage in activities and hobbies that make you feel good.
Questions to Help End Secretive Eating
There are many actions you can take to end secretive eating. First, empower yourself by being curious about your secretive eating behaviors. Discover what motivates your eating by asking yourself a few questions as each incident occurs:
* Where are you when you sneak eat?
* What is it that you don't want people to see:
The amount of food you are eating?
The kind of food you are eating?
The fact that you are eating at all?
* What were you thinking about right before you ate it?
* What were you feeling before you began eating?
* What need is this food filling (or stuffing) in your life?
* What else, other than food, would fill the wants and desires that you have?
* What is it that you really need?
Answering these questions and keeping a journal of your answers for future reference will help you understand what prompts your behavior. The information you gather will help you redirect your efforts toward solutions that increase your self-love, self-esteem and self-approval. By recognizing that secretive eating is covering up important needs, you can find new ways to eat out in the open again and live a happier, balanced life.