Do you eat in a corner where no-one sees you, where you can hide your eating from those around you? When at home do you eat a 'normal' meal, then eat the leftovers when tidying up? During the daytime, do you eat similarly to those around you, then come home and eat or overeat?
When I was kindly gifted a dark chocolate Easter bunny my reaction was one of half delight and half dread- "Ooh it look sumptuous and that gold foil wrapping looks so dainty". Another part of me felt, "Oh crikey, I'll massacre the dainty bunny in a matter of minutes. How will I have it all without being seen?" In the past I was used to feeling out of control around food, overdosing on chocolate when no-one was looking and secretly drowning in guilt. I would have been horrified if anyone had witnessed the volume of food I scoffed.
"Hiding the Evidence"
Emily, a 38-year old mother-of-one and Heyday Online participant, remarked that a friend recently mentioned to her, "I never see you eating. Even when we go for lunch, you don't even eat very much". It then dawned on her that most of her eating was done when no-one was looking. Eating bowls of cornflakes when no-one was in the kitchen and sneaking packets of crisps made her feel like a cheat and a fraud. She felt guilty and out of control. I could relate- I ate normally around other people, or probably less than normal, but when I was by myself I wolfed down packets of biscuits (they went down easily when dipped in tea!)
Another Heyday Online participant described "hiding the evidence", such as the takeaway trays and shiny, bright sweet wrappers in the outside bin where no-one would notice, as if she was trying to wipe it from her conscience.
"I want to crawl under a rock"
Shovelling down food, cramming in crisps or leftovers can be messy. The chomping, gulping, wiping away the crumbs is all very undignified. It always left me feeling messy, chaotic and cringing in horror and disgust. By eating in secret I was giving myself the constant message that my hungers were bottomless- my physical hunger and emotional hunger.
The most awful part of eating in secret or when no-one else is watching is the shame. When you're ashamed you want the ground to open up and swallow you or crawl under a rock and never come out. It's like when you can't shake the feeling that you've done something horribly wrong. Shame stems from the belief that you have not merely done a bad thing but that you are a bad person.
Eating in secret is always shame-based. The rest of your family are watching TV and you're in the kitchen spooning back the ice-cream or grabbing a handful of biscuits. Shame thrives on secrecy. Eating in secret doubles your shame. Anna, a 39-year old architect, explained that during the meal at a family event, while the conversation was light-hearted her mind was firmly on food, "I just wished everyone would leave, so I could eat everything. It was I was only half-there, only half engaged in the conversation. I wanted to dive into the food". Intentionally eating alone and when you know that no-one is looking can be very isolating- just you and the food. For Anna, the secrecy around her eating reinforced the guilt, torment and shame.
Have a Heyday
• Can you make a decision that three times this week, when you would normally eat when no-one is looking that you will not do so?
• Then ask yourself, was it difficult to not eat during those times? How do I feel as a result, and can you build on this practice? A Heyday Online participant recently mentioned that she frequently asks herself, "would I eat like this in front of someone else?"
Start enjoying a better relationship with food! Send your comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.