Judging by the response we’ve had to our request for your secret eating confessions (you can add yours here or email them privately if you prefer) this is a big problem for a lot of men. In this post alongside some of the confessions we’ve tried to give you some practical advice about what secret eating is and how to address it.
Have you ever seen that bit in The Simpsons where Homer sits up and eats cheese all night? Yeah, well, it was like that but I used to get up in the middle of the night and eat Skittles. It was like some weird compulsion, it almost felt like a cheap thrill – going back to bed with sweets on your breath.
Secret eating is defined as any form of consuming (whether it’s food or drink) that you try and cover up. The main reason for consuming in this fashion is good old fashioned shame – quite simply we often hide what we’re eating because we want to pretend we’re not.
I used to go to McDonald’s and get a large meal – nothing that unusual there. However, I then used to drive to another and do the same, then another – worst case 5-6 different restaurants.
It’s a form of the child’s logic of “If you can see me then I must be invisible”. If no one knows that I’ve switched my toothpaste for cream cheese then maybe it isn’t actually happening. For a lot of us, we know that we’re overweight and that awareness around weight and eating only pushes us into deeper into secret eating territory. If you were publically working your way through a bag of Maltesers then you might fear what people would say. There’s a measure of comfort in the fact that no one sees you – and therefore no one judges you.
A month ago I had a large toblerone in the car, in the under-seat compartment. I hardly drive our car, it’s usually the Mrs. So I was finding excuses to nip out to do errands, so that I could eat chocolate in secret. Shocking. Then I was re-watching some classic Partridge and realised that *that was me*. And if I didn’t stop it, I’d soon be driving to Dundee in my bare feet.
Perhaps because we’re eating high impact foods in secret (few of us are getting into our wardrobes to eat celery it seems) we tend to eat in a highly damaging way. We binge our way through an excess of calories and the shame fuels further eating – but it’s ok because no one sees it happening, but we know and that simply heightens the guilt that we feel.
Urrghh, I hate admitting this but if it’s anonymous I don’t mind. For about a week I had a Tesco bag of sweets and chocolates hidden in a bush at the end of our road. Every day on the walk back home I’d get one or two from the bag and then replace it. I didn’t get to the point of eating a mint before I got home but it was definitely teenage smoker behaviour.
If you’ve ever hidden food or drink consumption from your friends, colleagues or family then you too are a secret eater. It may be something that you’re very much aware of, but sometimes the deception can be so deep that it’s a struggle to even admit it to yourself. So what do you do if you’re sabotaging your weight loss with secret eating?
Well – the first step is to acknowledge that this is something you’re struggling with. In a lot of cases the cause of the secret eating will be a desire to screw things up. This is the point that you have to home in on – why are you trying to make things go badly for yourself? If you want to derail your dieting efforts what is it that you’re afraid of happening if you succeed in dieting? We hide these things away because we know that our behaviour is OTT and if others saw it then they would comment or ask us what we’re doing.
Mine is a form of secret eating. I’ll be really good when I’m at home but as soon as I’m away with business I’m like a train wreck. I go for the most calorific things on the menus and drink way more than I ever would at home. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde thing.
Sometimes there can be a practical element to secret eating. If you’re on a diet that someone else in your family feels is necessary more than you do then secret eating can be a way of exerting your own control on the situation. If this rings a bell with you then you need to think about talking openly about why the diet doesn’t feel right for you. Even if you know you’re bigger than you should be it doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy or that you’re unhappy. Talk to them about the way you feel, but be honest with them and with yourself – if you really do have an urge to lose weight but feel daunted by the task then get more support and information.
I’ve sat in the car park outside Sainsburys before and eaten a four pack of Rolo Yoghurts. Then I’ve taken dumped the packs in the bin and claimed they were sold out. That’s not good is it?