Hi. My name is Jennifer, and (insert big, deep breath) I am a closet binge eater.
Here are some of the symptoms of closet eaters:
- Feeling shame and embarrassment about eating in public
- Binging on comfort foods, junk foods, and sweets when alone
- Hoarding food and hiding empty food containers
- Eating a large amount of food in one sitting
- Feeling powerless to stop eating
- Binging but not purging
Only recently recognized by health professionals as an actual eating disorder, this has been my primary coping mechanism and comfort for almost 30 years, with my first recollection bringing me back to about 8 years old.
For practically my whole life, when I had no sense of self worth or confidence, and absolutely no regard for my health, I used food to numb myself from the pain of, well……..everything... Exclusions from friends, ridicule from strangers, abuse from my mother, abandonment from my father, drama in social circles, stress at work. Every single rejection from a man.
No matter how big or small the pain of the situation, food was my comfort.
When I didn’t have the vocabulary or the strength to stand up for myself, food was there for me.
When I was swirling in the shitstorm of teenage drama, emotions and hormones, food was there for me.
When I was watching everyone around me attain their dreams, while I sat paralysed by fear, food was there for me.
When life, schedules, and time felt out of control and chaotic, food was there for me.
When I was lonely, angry, sad, feeling unworthy or unimportant, food was there for me.
When I felt misunderstood and ignored, food was there for me.
Food was what I had control over, when everything else felt out of control and out of reach.
It felt like that all. the. time.
I remember being 8, 10, 12… years old and eating the meal my mother prepared, and when my grandmother would ask “Have you eaten yet?” my response was usually “Nope.” so that I could get a second dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch.
When I was out with friends, I would often be pre-planning my trip to the convenience store on my way home. Not only what I would buy, but how would I sneak it past my mother and into my room when I got home.
When my mother left for work at night, despite having already eaten, I would scrounge together my babysitting money and order take out.
When I was older, I would secretively eat in my car before meeting friends for dinner.
Never wanting any of the store clerks, or food service people to think I was eating all this food alone, I would be sure to make some comment about picking up things for friends as well. Why else would one person buy a 20-pack of chicken nuggets, or 2 big bags of chips and 3 chocolate bars, or a large pizza after all?
It has only been in the last 3 years that I have begun digging deep into why I was using food as a crutch. Why was I caught up in a cycle of self loathing that would find me elbow deep in a bag of potato chips to soothe my soul? And then back into the potato chips, because I had only numbed the feelings around whatever was bothering me, and now I hated myself, too.
And so the cycle went…..so it sometimes still goes. Old habits die hard, as we all know.
Closet eating, not unlike so many other harmful vices – drugs, smoking, drinking, sex – can often be related back and tied to something bigger, something not yet addressed, some pain or fear we are still holding on to.
I know exactly when I started lying about food and using it as a crutch.
But that is a story for another day.
Have an awesome day!
Know that you are loved.