Secrets, Isolation, and Hiding

Our relationship with our body is an intricate and delicate relationship to negotiate. The addition of a binge eating disorder makes this relationship negotiation much more emotionally difficult and complex.

It is not uncommon for people who are unhappy with their lives to find a temporary emotional solution through binge eating. They did not invent this solution on our own. Our society and institutions supports the “eating solution to solve problems” in many ways—they always have. Can you think of ways in your own life that your family and our community has pushed food as an answer to emotional problems?

This hideous food solution eventually becomes the problem.

The person has now added an unhappy relationship with their bodies and an eating disorder to their growing number of concerns. The overwhelming experience of unhappiness in life— with their bodies and with disordered eating—will often push people further away from their world of social contact and towards a life spent preferring isolation, secrecy and hiding.

Many persons report that their eating binges are rarely on public display. Rather binges are often done ritually, secretly and with no one else around to witness the self destruction. This promotes a world of secret inner dialogue— a dialogue that plots, plans and strategizes the what/where/when of the next binge. This inner dialogue supports the necessity of the binge because of the problem with stress, or perhaps anxiety, or as a reward for hard work or a job well done. Either way—good or bad—planning a solid worthwhile binge becomes the answer to just about everything.

As the hidden world of emotional eating grows, patients will report that slowly their bodies get covered up and hidden as well. It is through this pattern of hiding and secrecy that persons get entered into a very hidden and secretive lifestyle. It is vital to note that disordered eating problems excel in conditions of secrecy, isolation and hiding. It is here in this secret location that the binge eating often increases and people are slowly—almost seamlessly—pushed towards a certain futility and hopelessness about themselves.

Patients report that hiding their bodies away from public viewing and consumption is an emotional reaction that allows them to cover up the embarrassment and self hatred they feel towards their bodies. Through the course of binge eating, people slowly begin to feel that they must hide their bodies away from other people—lest their secrets be revealed. This cover up of their body includes hiding it away from their spouse and/or partner, their children, their colleagues and sometimes even themselves.

By denying and hiding their bodies from themselves people with binge eating problems gradually become cut off from their body’s experience and experience with their bodies. In fact, many people report feeling a dis-embodied experience with their bodies. When people are cut off from their bodies experience, the problem of binge eating will often intensify.

One 32 year old patient recalled the intensity of her hiding away and secrecy this way: It began slowly but the more I ate the more I was embarrassed to eat in public—I couldn’t seem to stop and it was always on my mind. So I began to cancel all social activities that involved food—which is a lot when you think about it! I then got rid of my very kind boyfriend and stopped contact with my family and friends because they were all viewed as interruptions to my binge. Before I knew it I had pushed everyone away. There I was—alone—with my pizza delivery numbers. After spending the entire holidays in complete isolation I realized that I had given up everything I ever wanted for the sake of this damn binge eating! I knew I needed help—fast!

It is not only those people who are over weight that make attempts to hide their bodies. People who are caught up in a binge eating problem who are not overweight often experience this hiding of the body from themselves and others as well. The primary example of this phenomenon is the person who struggles with bulimia nervosa. Despite trying to purge every morsel of food after the binge—most, if not all, regardless of their body weight, report a negative self body image.

As you might imagine, feeling uncomfortable with ones own body restricts a person from numerous social, physical and emotional activities—wearing certain kinds of fashion (preferring loose fitting sweat pants and baggy shirts etc.); avoidance of social gatherings like weddings and birthday parties; never participating in beach or water sports; and a loss of close contact intimacy.

Can you think of other activities that binge eating and being ashamed of your body restrict you from?

I am always struck by how very bright persons with binge eating problems are tricked into ridiculous solutions and destructive inner dialogues. I wonder:

  • How is it that very bright people continually get tricked into seeing binge eating as an emotional health solutions when actually they prove to be misery and death solutions?
  • How is it that very bright people continually get tricked by the same old binge eating strategies like “eat today and begin tomorrow” and other all or nothing strategies?
  • Why is it that no matter what information a person has about health, they will continue to be recruited into the deadly ways of emotional eating?
  • In what ways does the inner dialogue binge eating make McDonalds into the healthy alternative? Do you ever ask the dialogue for a nutritional report to back up its claims?
  • What are the ways that a person can begin to take a stand for themselves by standing up for themselves and the best parts of who they are and against these deadly conversational forms of emotional eating?
  • What are the ways to make it possible for a person to restore love with themselves by protecting themselves from the deadly internal over eating conversations that push them towards despair, shame and emotional eating?

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