Monday, April 20, 2009

A Peek Inside the World of Secret Eating

In my upcoming book, "How Many Cookies Will It Take to Make Me Happy?", we enter the important area of "secret eating behaviors", for in order to recover& to successfully lose weight, if that's the goal, it will be important to move outside of any secrets, coming to know them as "things" & not a description of who you are.

All disorderly eaters keep secrets. I started my secret-eating library when I just a little girl, probably around the age of five. I can remember eating cookies in my closet, far away from my critical mother, who I actually loved dearly. In fact, I loved her so much that I didn't want her to be angry with me, so I hid. That closet became the secret-activity center for reading books of my choice & knitting peacefully, without her grabbing it from my hands to correct my mistakes.

Living in the land of secrets means moving away from one's healthy, balanced path where the maintenance & building healthy self-image, esteem, confidence & even prosperity exists. Secrets live in a different sector of the mind, having special needs & often complicated care & attention. For example, secrets, both big & small, must be continually protected & have special demands. Picture an emotionally imbalanced, spoiled child & you have an fairly accurate image of a secret. As one works to protect or hide the secret, barriers to the outside or non-secret world are constructed. These barriers serve to isolate the Self, marrying it to the secret, while building tension effecting both the mind & body. Over time, these barriers or isolation chambers become stronger, giving the secret even more power. In case you haven't guessed, this is a very stressful way to live life.

I've been an expert secret-keeper, especially in my disorderly eating life, but this has also made me a better therapist, so I could say that my secrets have gifted me. Even though you're probably not a professional therapist, you are a Self-therapist & your very own secrets can gift you as well. It's good to know that it's not all that complicated to disassemble them. All it takes is a hot desire to be honest. As you identify or name the secrets, the barriers will fall, freeing you to live a healthy & creative life.

Right now you might feel a bit uneasy about what I'm suggesting, but that is normal. You want to let go, but at the same time it is frightening. This is because we're so used to being judged by others & especially by ourselves. These inner thoughts are called the VOJ, or voice of judgment. When others criticize, the inner VOJ announces, "I told you so." And so, we believe it & enhance the barrier that hides the secrets. This is the vicious cyle. Now, you are going to identify them & bring them to the light. Remember, the secrets are outside of you. Secrets are "things" that you have in your possession & you are not the secrets. You are simply you.

Let me just touch base for a moment in the area of the VOJ. Once again, the VOJ is a "thing" & is outside of you. Criticism from someone else is also a "thing." You can either accept it or not. Imagine someone handing you a box. You can accept it or not. Although this is a somewhat simplistic image, it will work, especially if the criticism isn't too toxic. If it is, you will want to utilize some self-hypnotic techniques for taking it down a few levels. We'll address this a bit later. For now, decide that all VOJ chatter is simply a bunch of boxes or things.

Let's work to identify some behaviors that may fall into the secret category. I'd like you to work on awareness or noticing these. This is the first step in letting to of them. Remember, if they are hidden away, they can't be released. In the practice of Disorderly Eating we can have many secrets, some more toxic than others, but all toxic nevertheless. Let me share some examples. You may recognize these in yourself or have seen them in others. In an earlier blog I shared my secrets regarding the cookies & car eating. Bingeing in cars while parked or driving is a familiar secret, especially when alone. Sometimes others are present, but these are usually enablers. You can tell the difference by answering the question, "Would I be comfortable eating like this in front of a stranger?" I have a friend who works the drive-through window of a fast food restaurant. She can tell from the order & number of people in the car who is about to have a car-eating binge. If you have the opportunity to look inside someone's car or especially under the seat, you will sense the secret.

Here are some other ways that disorderly eaters hide secrets. Some hide food in their homes, often making up elaborate stories to justify having particular foods in the house. Enablers don't require this explanation, so if you are wondering about a behavior of your own, ask the above question. "Would I be comfortable demonstrating this in front of a stranger?" Just a short comment about enablers. They may be supportive, but they can also be highly critical, making them difficult to understand. This incongruent behavior often leads to more secretive behaviors, as one tries to escape the painful truths.

I have a patient who keeps sugar foods under her bed "because ( she ) is hypoglycemic & may need it in the night." Middle of the night eating is often another secret. Eating in the dark or in front of late night TV is a release mechanism I know well. I would even wake up out of a deep sleep to have this "special reward" time. Another place for secret eating is in the movie theater. The next time you're there, look to the seats next to the wall. Secret eaters tend to like those away areas, because secret eating is about being invisible.

Even if you are a secret eater, you may be highly critical of those who do this. This is part of denial. We know this from studying alcoholics. It's very hard to admit the truth. The same here. We all hide behind masks of what we are willing to allow others to see & is very different from what plays inside our mind. For example, I was a highly successful medical professional, wife, mother, daughter & friend. However, my inside Self considered me to be an imposter. I remember thinking, "If anyone truly knew who I was & what kinds of things I did, they would abandon me." I was living inauthentically in this area of my life & it's very existence was having toxic effects on other areas, disallowing me to enjoy being mySelf.

In the next blog entry, I'll be giving you some specific exercises for working with the identification process.


Copyrighted 2009 - Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht

Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht is author of Sugar...the Hidden Eating Disorder & How to Lick It. The title of her upcoming book is "How Many Cookies Will It Take to Make Me Happy?"