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Eating in Secret - why do we do it? And what is it REALLY about?

Mrs Lard

Silver Member
With all this thought records activity going on (fantastic), I've noticed that eating in secret has come up. Been there and done it so many times myself so my cards are well and truly on the table.

BUT I find myself wondering why do we eat in secret in a way we wouldn't do if others are around? So many of my binges have been just that - in secret. What is it about being alone that sets us off or gives us a virtual free reign to go bonkers? Is it about self-esteem?

Goombagirl wrote about her son's description of someone acting like a dustbin and I feel that's what I've been doing for so many years (for at least more than a quarter of a century, yikes!) and even my lapses during LighterLife haven't been with crudites and fruit - oh no, it's been with crap - crisps, Nutella, crisps, Starbucks frappuccinos/caramel lights, skinny muffins, crisps and...more crisps.

I think the two are linked - eating in secret and eating junk (treating our bodies (no, hang on, I mean ourselves!) like dustbins. If we valued ourselves, we wouldn't do it but, but, but...

I've done loads of thought records, had loads of lightbulb moments but really haven't got this one cracked at all.

Any ideas? Why do we do it and how can we change? What's the connection we need to make to change this crooked thinking? Rationally, I know crisps are bad for me. I've tried the Paul McKenna approach of making them completely unpalatable but...I've still been compelled to tuck in.

There are so many fantastic contributors on minimins - let's see if we can work this one out.

Thanks and hopefully this will be a lively discussion with a good conclusion!

Mrs Lxxxxxx
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has started again!!
Glad you started this one Mrs L! Yes, secret eating is my downfall, and yes, I am that human dustbin as I can, hand on heart, say I have never binged on salads in secret!

I am not sure why, perhaps its the shame in our selves, or the worry about what other might say? For me, as a fattie, eating in public was always an issue anyway, diet or not. I felt I could read minds " Look at her, you would think someone of that size wouldnt eat that, would you?" "If I was that big I could never eat an ice-cream/Mars bars/cheese & onion pastie/ chips/Big Mac or whatever. " You know the kind of thing.

As my LLC says, we all think we have the abilty to read others minds and this "ability" gives us permission to do things in secret, as then only we know what we have done. We then be honest and lay the blame on ourselves if the weight goes up or we feel bloated etc. BUT, and its a bit BUT, we also have given ourselves a get out clause. Since no-one witnessed us eating that family choc bar or that pack of Pringles, it must be water retention or PMT or our bodies just are levelling out & it will be OK next week.

Thats how I seem to argue in my head anyway!Any thoughts?


** Chief WITCH **
S: 141kg C: 49.9kg G: 36.3kg BMI: 17.7 Loss: 91.1kg(64.62%)
I wish I knew, Mrs Lard... Although my secret eating episodes were pretty much under control I thought, while I successfully maintained my 11.5 stone weight loss for three years, since quitting smoking the floodgates are open...

Ironically, my OH regularly comments that I'm too bony, too thin, so why wouldn't I want him in particular to SEE me eating. Sweet things are my failing. I can empty a biscuit tin faster than most. No one will see me. No one will even hear the lid being removed. New packets will be opened, the tin refilled, and packaging "hidden" in the dustbin beneath "legitimate" rubbish. No one will see the packaging.

What?!!! Crazy crazy behaviour... why? why? Sabotage? Self destruction? It certainly makes me feel bad... Last week, I even hid a bowl of treacle sponge and custard under the sofa when I heard the OH coming downstairs... fortunately he went back up in time for me to finish it while it was still hot! I even stopped the microwave 10 seconds early so that he didn't hear it "ping"!
I can't speak for everyone else but I think I've identifed reasons why I do it following my Counselling in LL...

- My fiance always gives (gave!) me a ''look'' whenever I (used to) eat anything in front of him that he'd disapprove of. So when he isn't at home, its a perfect opportunity for me to eat the delicious foods I enjoy without him making me feel guilty (rebellious child speaking).
- Most of the time I'm alone in the evenings its because my fiance is out on a ''works do'' - partners are never invited so I think if he's out having fun, I'll have fun and eat something tasty (the child speaking)

From those things, I do wonder if I am actually lonely when he's not there? I know I don't like being on my own overnight (as he's not always away overnight) and I often stay up very late (eating) to push back the time I have to go to bed on my own.

I always say ''I'm not comfort eating'' anymore as I have a happy life - a good job, amazing family, super dooper amazing fiance and I'm marrying him in less than 3 months - but maybe I am comfort eating - because of loneliness?

Since starting LL I have also identifed that I sometimes want to eat / binge out when I'm quite annoyed, cross, angry, peeed off etc. But I've recognised that I've done this in secret too.

A good discussion, would be interested to read why others eat in secret.

Joo xxxx


Gone fishing
I think the two are linked - eating in secret and eating junk
I think it’s because it all so embarrassing. Eating junk in huge proportions is seen as being weak and greedy. Who wants to look week and greedy?

So we do it in secret. If we binged on fruit and veg, perhaps it would be seen in a better light. We’d be health fanatics. That’s considered cool, and so perfectly acceptable. No need to hide the fact.

For most of us, other people’s approval is more important to us than our own.
I think it is out of embarrassment. Due to deep down I really do know it is wrong.

I can so relate to the hiding wrappers in the bin so no one can find them. I sometimes find myself sat on the kitchen floor in front of the kitchen cupboard trying to see what I can eat.

I do think though having to justify what I am eating now I am in management is really doing my head in. I seem to spend all my time discussing what I am eating with others and why I am eating certain things. There is no wonder some are driven back to the old habits of secret eating.

If I ate a cake or a packet of crisps once finished management as I conscious decision with no binging just because I wanted it (allowed as a treat once in a blue moon and then pulled it back doing things sensibly) you can bet your bottom $ that it would generate comments at work.

I dont question what they are eating so why should people be able to question what I eat??????

Gotta dash heading to a meeting otherwise would have posted more



Gone fishing
Okay, question for ya

When you are at goal, back to normal eating. Looking and feeling slim. Would you still feel embarassed if you binged on the 'bad' foods in company?

I feel that I couldn't infront of anyone who knew me at my former weight. They might connect the two....that's why she got fat, she's going to be fat again:whistle:

I probably could in front of someone who didn't know my history though. Think they might even consider it amusing:confused: "OMG...you should have seen what she put away...and she stays slim...lucky her...wish we could be like that" Possibly the label of greedy would be replaced with the label 'lucky' and it would be perfectly acceptable?

What do you think?


** Chief WITCH **
S: 141kg C: 49.9kg G: 36.3kg BMI: 17.7 Loss: 91.1kg(64.62%)
Interesting question Karion - but I think that if I'm eating, say, a three course meal in the company of others, it's not a binge. I wouldn't binge eat in front of others. Irrespective of whether I'm feeling slim or not, I just wouldn't. It's not "done" to eat a whole Swiss roll, for instance, in your hand, is it? Other people (aka "normal people") don't do that sort of thing.

When I was huge and bingeing, I used to stock up at several different supermarkets so that no check out girl knew exactly what I was eating (what?! as if they'd care)! Now, when I buy cake or biscuits, I deliberately stare at the cashier to see whether she's going to look to see how fat/slim I am. Of course they don't...

So, to resume, I can eat a balanced three course meal, and have seconds of dessert in ANYONE's company, whether I'm feeling slim or fat. But I couldn't eat an unbalanced "pig fest" in ANYONE's company.
Even as slim me there is NO WAY I would binge eat in front of others whether they knew me or not. It is not normal to eat a 500g of dark chocolate, 200g white chocolate followed by 3 freddo's. That is just sheer greed and exactly what I did in secret on saturday.

In the space of about 3hrs. I made a conscious decision to do it as I told my hubby to put the kids to bed so I could scoff the 500g of dark chocolate which I might add I dont like but chose as it had more cocoa content.

I wouldnt mind chocolate is not my thing in the past I never touched the stuff it was crisps and biscuits that I would eat loads of. For some reason I can stay clear but chocolate is the thing of choice and I am not safe around it

Wow! What a thought-provoking set of answers and so much to consider.

I really think Karion hit the nail on the head (for me) when she wrote:

"For most of us, other people’s approval is more important to us than our own."

Look how many people said they would NEVER binge in public yet we do it in secret. I've done it myself, really recently, when I have eaten the builders' biscuits (that I bought for them!). I ate the biscuits downstairs while they have were upstairs and do you know what? They wouldn't even care and they don't know I am doing LighterLife. But I just couldn't do it.

I also ate a family packet of crisps while my husband was asleep! I was rumbled, felt ashamed (when he said he was looking forward to eating them) because there is no way I would have eaten the same packet in front of him.

So why is it acceptable to eat them in my own company???

Anyway, one other comment - comfort eating. For so many women, it seems, loneliness is a massive trigger for "comfort" eating. But, as it was drummed into us in Foundation, it ISN'T comfort eating at all but addictive eating. It feels quite different, doesn't it?

So, if we're not prepared to scoff in public (and be seen as weak and greedy), why do we feel it's ok to chomp away when we are home alone? Why doesn't our OWN approval (of ourselves) come into it? I genuinely don't know the answer yet I feel if we can work out why, we can make progress!

What does everyone else think?

Thanks, everyone for being so honest; I really hope that by sharing, we can be even more supportive (to each other) and sort these issues out! I really don't want to be someone who, having lost the weight, still can't be left alone with food!

Mrs Lxxxxxx
Wow - what an interesting thread.
Its sort of nice to know that I am not the only one who has spent time and effort "covering up" previous binges. I totally identify with hiding "illegal binge litter" inside or under "legal litter" in the bin. Also making sure I had an adequate cover story should I be challenged when buying food for my binge. Especially at drive throughs or at fast food places. I would (god how embarassing) pretend to be be on my mobile getting other people's orders to "explain away" the amount of food I was ordering because I was sure that otherwise people would "know" just from looking at me that I was going to scoff the lot. I have hid food under sofa's and behind furniture when disturbed unexpectedly and even sneaked food into the bathroom where I could eat it in peace (disgusting). This behaviour disgusts me now - but never did at the time.
I had made a best buddies pact with myself to never look down on what I was doing. I told myself that no-one else would understand it - but if I made a decision to not feel guilty about it - then no-one was getting hurt. It was just pure pleasure... (well except feeling like I was going to be sick or explode or fall asleep and never wake up again afterwards).
I know at my peak of it - it was generally down to loneliness. I lived alone and could do as I pleased for part of it - then my now ex, moved in with me and I could "treat" us both - every night was take out night and he was happy enough with that - so the secret eating stopped and all was out in the open - so long as there was a co-conspirator - all was ok. Then the marriage started to fail and he was out more and more and I told myself that I didn't care, if he was going to go out with his mates and leave me home alone, then I was bloody well going to treat myself... to huge amounts of food. It got to the point that if he was staying in, I would get really twitchy that I couldn't binge as usual. (crazy behaviour!)
So not sure if that has shed any light on things. I find now that my first thought when left alone at home is slowly becoming - "great I can have a bath/ watch a chick flick and do my nails" rather than "as soon as he is at the bus stop I will be on the phone ordering everything pizza hut has to offer" - and feel relieved about that. Food literally ruled my life for many, many years and it is such a relief to (however temporaily thanks to the ketosis fairy) be free of its evil charms. I realise I will have a real battle on my hands when I re-introduce food, so trying to enjoy abstinance as much as possible and stop trying to think ahead (with greedy, sweaty anticipation) to the day I can "eat" again. I am glad I have another 3 months (min) to go to work on all my head issues with food - If I was starting Management tomorrow instead of Development - I would be terrified.
Eating Disorders
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Interesting and I think again this will depend! I have to say I have never eaten in secret but was loud & proud with what I ate & live alone so OH never as issue. God help ANYONE who commented on my food. A woman in work used to comment on my mcdonalds breakfasts until I told her how much it pissed me off! She commented about it again the other day and I said despite loosing weight I still feel the same about that! Why should people feel that because I am a fat person its OK to criticise what I eat! Its just rude, which she ack & said she's never done it to anyone since (possibly because I nearly ripped her head off at the time!!)!!
I do think people need to be careful with the eating in secret because it can be (see link) one of the factors that may need more support than LL can offer. I'm not saying for eveyone but for some who have major issues with food I do wonder if LL actually makes some worse as they dont really ask much about peoples food habits and I find it REALLY worrying that some who say they have suffered long term bulemia (? sp - one of my dyslexic words!) & anorexia are doing LL.
Please be careful pepys!
In saying all that.... I suspect for many though its the shame they feel; the judgement cast from others and feeling in some way if its not seen by others it wont count (like chocolate standing up!!) & self denial of sorts!! Hopefully when we all loose weight we'll feel less like this as we will feel less judgement from others which lets be honest we all do! I have looked at people eating vast sums & thought no wonder they're fat (as I did myself I hasten to add!!) and sometimes feel the same when I see peoples trollys in tesco loaded with chips & all manner of fried foods etc!! Thats not to say I dont feel compassion at the same time bacuse I do but my overriding feeling is sadness for them....anyway....waffling so will shut up!


Gone fishing
Wow! What a thought-provoking set of answers and so much to consider.

I really think Karion hit the nail on the head (for me) when she wrote:

"For most of us, other people’s approval is more important to us than our own."

Look how many people said they would NEVER binge in public yet we do it in secret.
Exactly. The problem stems from trying to raise your self esteem through others, rather than through yourself. IFKWIM

If you are constantly looking for approval from others about your size and what you eat, you are on dangerous ground.

What happens when they don't express their approval? What happens when you get down to goal, and you find you're still hate yourself and people have stopped congratulating you?

I found I had to shift my attention from what I looked like and what other people thought of me, to how I felt in myself....my wellbeing. Whether I could conquer my bad habits, rather than whether I could maintain my weight.

Anyway, one other comment - comfort eating. For so many women, it seems, loneliness is a massive trigger for "comfort" eating. But, as it was drummed into us in Foundation, it ISN'T comfort eating at all but addictive eating. It feels quite different, doesn't it?
Wow. Okay...I didn't do LL, so I found this out for myself. You probably knew this all along, but it was such a lightbulb moment for me.

I found that the excuses I used for overeating, were exactly that.....excuses. It's typical behaviour of an addict, and that was scary. Once I fully embraced that, I realised that I could never use those excuses again. The only excuse left was "I'm eating for no other reason other than to fuel my addiction, because I am an addict"

Tough stuff eh.
G: 12st0lb
I read a book recently called Beyond Chocolate how to stop yo yo dieting and lose weight for good by Audrey and Sophie Boss, and I can really recomend it.It addrersesses the issue of secret eating in a number of places, the Boss sisters maintain that it is usually what we consider 'bad' foods that we eat secretly. The reason they turn into binges is becuase we have labelled these foods 'bad' , and as we think we shouldnt be eating them, we cant have any leftovers, they would remind us of how many calories we had consummed, or be evidence to others , (hence why we hide the packets) .They maintain that if we stop labelling foods 'good' or 'bad' and therefore rob food of having a 'personality' it just becomes food. Then the trick is to learn to give ourselves permission to eat any food , its just food, and if we stop when we are satisfied , instead of having to compulsively scoff the lot untill its gone , no food need be 'off limits'. Now I probaly havnt done the Boss sisters theory much justice with my cack handed parapharasing but I had many lightbulb moments reading this excelent book on holiday and would urge every single one of you to buy , beg or borrow a copy becuase it is packed with pure common sense. Written by two sisters who have been there and wrote the book after years of failed dieting, when they found the answers, and wanted to share it. There is a web site as well that offers free on line support to anyone who wants to follow thier advice and plan in the book , the ideas are revolutionary and take some taking in, but I just kept thinking Yes ! YEs ! thats me I do that etc. Brilliant.
Great Thread you started here MRs L BTW


Gone fishing
Ummm, but I don't think I have ever really considered those sort of foods as bad, just enjoyable:eek:

Same goes for the theory that diets make you crave the unhealthier foods because you have been deprived from them. Not sure I can totally go with that either, as there are so few diets out there that are about deprivation. The majority of people do WW, SW, and calorie counting.

All of these diets include foods of your choice and besides, if dieting was the total cause of folk being overweight, nobody would have needed to go on one in the first place :D

Okay, the VLCDs are about deprivation, (though, obviously I'm not against them) but most people have a problem long before they start the VLCD


Silver Member
S: 17st2lb C: 11st10lb G: 10st5lb BMI: 27.3 Loss: 5st6lb(31.67%)
Secret eating

Sometimes my secret eating wasn’t quite so secret – sometimes my friends would see and note exactly what was going on and I knew it – but my mindset was exactly the same as if I was doing it alone at home.

At university in the 4th year I shared a house with people who were really quite unfriendly. I felt out of my depth and scared the whole time and just never knew where I was – I felt trapped and scared and alone. But 5 minutes walk away there was a late night garage that sold interesting sweets, and I would regularly buy several chocolate bars and sit in our living room and eat them. No one ever commented, they just looked at me. I had built a wall around me with the eating – it was my cocoon to protect me from them. I ate to avoid them, in front of them. I was the elephant in the room in every sense of the word.

Secretly at home I would eat entire meals and then more and wash it down with coke and then go out and maybe order another meal and then when I was bored and uncomfortable I would eat nuts and crisps. When I friend’s boyfriend commented I was horrified. His comments burned. And my eyes would flash at him – ‘YOU AREN’T ALLOWED TO SAY ANYTHING TO ME’. The wall would come up again. I would retreat and sometimes I would leave the pub under the pretext of getting a cardigan and head straight to the chip shop and then come back after stuffing myself.

I remember early on – as a young teenager, one of the first feelings of control and independence I had in my life was squirreling away my dinner money and using it for anything other than school dinner – it was my first source of income as pocket money was rather hit and miss in my family. I would sometimes use it to buy sweeties which I would share with the girls from the local boarding school at my ballet classes – the sheer feeling of indulgence as I bought as many as 5 chocolate bars was wonderful and the first chance in my life to claim some autonomy. There was always something about food that helped me to say ‘f*ck you’ in a way I could never articulate because I cared too much about what people thought of me.

When I became bulimic I had to do that by stealth, too. I grew up in a pub and I would get home from school and consume a WeightWatchers/Lean Cuisine meal and then sneak downstairs and eat a slab of chocolate fudge cake or apple pie and then throw the whole thing up. Then for supper I would have a cup a soup and dunk about 8 slices of bread slathered in butter into the soup and then throw that up as well. I had routines and rituals and it was all conducted in secret. I wanted control. I wanted independence, I felt powerful.

Living alone these days I don’t need to worry so much about secrecy – I am free to have whatever odd private behaviour I want to have. I would openly binge in front of friends and show off about my gastronomic knowledge and appetites – but then a lot of my friends drink far too much so we all kind of enabled each other to do that in each other’s company. Prior to living alone I lived with my best friend for several years and he enabled me too as he’s possibly the biggest comfort eater of them all – and I enabled him. In fact since I started to succeed on LL he withdrew from me – he hasn’t seen me up close since I was about 14 stone. I think there’s a reason for that.

When I had a car I did a lot of secret eating there. I would arrive somewhere early and get Drive Thru – on one terrible occasion I remember having a meal at my Grandmas (she serves tiny portions) and I made my excuses after supper and drove to a local shopping centre to get a Burger King. The guilt I felt as I returned to her house was astounding. I realised then that I was just plain out of control as far as food was concerned.

I don’t want to feel guilt about food any more. When I had my binge, one of my favourite observations was that I don’t ever remember walking into a chip shop and feeling sexy! I always felt furtive and like the people in the chip shop and outside the chip shop were judging me for what I was eating before - or sorry for me. I felt sorry for me. The food was just the external manifestation of the problem, it wasn’t the problem itself. We attach too much significance and emotion and importance to food. I don’t need to use it for control any more, I need to use my own spirit and character to control and assuage my irrational behaviour and desires rather than any external crutches. I have that now, I realise that that was what I have been cultivating all these years, the spirit and strength to do that on my own. As a therapist and several people have said to me and as I have recognised in myself, I grew up too quickly. I had my character and spirit knocked out of me because I acquired them too soon. And it took me years to realise that it was safe to use them on my own and that people appreciated me for it. I didn’t need to muffle it or gain control by feeding myself – the only way I knew to nurture myself without being told off (except I was always telling myself off and telling myself it was alright alternately – so no wonder I was confused!).

So the secrecy can be several things - trying to find a refuge or a place of quite a solace all of your own - sometimes significantly attached to our teenage years. Sometimes its out of shame - we know we shouldn’t be doing it but we only want to let ourselves do the judging and administer our own punishments. And sometimes there’s the secret eating we do in front of other people - the eating that is clearly out of control but that everyone around you has learn it is a taboo to discuss. All of the types of secret eating seem to boil down to one thing. Gaining control of environment and comfort and making yourself feel safe, exerting control over yourself as a punishment and then the final type of eating is exerting your control over others.
Fab thread - lots of interesting stuff.... have to dash so havent time to think this through and put it down properly or at length- but I am thinking along the lines of a feeling I have when I am doing this, of deliberately PUNISHING myself - quite the opposite of treating myself..... anyone else know what I mean?!?!


has started again!!
Wow, some truly mind widening thoughts on most of these posts.

I can really identify with the ritualistic hiding of food wrapping, and also with eating a whole pack of something because it is then easier to deny it ever existed, rather than have one or two biscuits removed from the packet.

I have driven to McD, all alone and tried to make out the large meal I was buying was not mine, mine was the diet coke that went along with it.

I have done the kind of overeating discussed by Sarah, in front of friends, out in the open but with the "Dont you dare comment on me..." hanging unspoken in the air. I remember many, many curry nights either at home or with very close friends when, they all commented on how stuffed they were, and I, as I reached for more nam bread or onion bahji would say "Well I am hungry, I've barely eaten today." Of course, I know now I wasnt hungry at all, but there was a kind of addictive greed in me that just held me in its grip.

The binge/purge thing is still provong an issue for me.At the moment my very very secret purges are preceeded by the thought that it wont hurt, I can get rid of it so no effect. Then there is the mammouth effort to keep these times utterly secret, long times spent in out only loo, telling the children I have a tummy ache or whatever to stop them knocking. THe cleaning up , meticulously, air freshener to hide what I had done and them the filthy rotten shame and degradation of the whole process. All in secret.

I know now, too, that for me it is largely emotional. If I am utterly content then I can face a whole hypermarket full of "goodies" with no problem. If I am out with others who know about LL, on a meal (as I have been lately) I am the epitome of good LL behaviour. However, the next day, as my pattern seems to go, my rebellious child shouts and says its not fair, why should you have missed out again...... Often I can quiet her, but just occasionally she wins. All in secret, in my head, in my kitchen and in my bathroom.

LL IS most definitely helping me deal with all these issues, and although I have not been the model student, I feel that bit by bit I am winning against these old bad habits, and I sincerely hope this secret eating will be a thing of the past!
What a brilliant thread Mrs L - so much thought provoking stuff on here.

For me the very simple answer has already been mentioned many times, secret eating - shame, not wanting anyone to see the binges, etc.

But the deeper answer? I haven't worked that one out yet.

Reading some of the posts made me think a lot about secret eating that I did when I was very young - way too young really. Spending my pocket money on chinese take-aways - what? I'd completely forgotten that I used to do this until I read this thread. It's made me feel quite emotional and I'm disgusted and a bit disturbed by this memory. I know it only happened for a brief time, but what was triggering it? This behaviour would happen on a Sunday evening after I had come back from my Grannie's house where I was basically allowed to just eat and eat and eat at her Sunday 'posh tea' table.
Really need to have a think about that.

It's a lifetime of secret eating for me. I'm BRILLIANT at it. I mean, I really should put it on my CV it's such a skill.

So basically, no answers yet but I'm sure more things will pop up on this thread.
Just on my way to work but can relate to Bad food. I used to binge on biscuits and crisps I dont now as I see them as a carb and I dont want to overeat carbs. However the chocolate although I know its full of sugar so is a carb my head isnt seeing that so I give myself permission to binge on it. It is an out of limit food a BAD food in my eyes. Why do I need to eat it all in one go. No one else in the family is going to eat it all if I leave it in the cupboard.

I need to think this one through further. I am not someone that binges often but I do secret eat sometimes in small amounts luckily the adult mode kicks the rebelious child to touch and I pull back. Beat myself up but get over it.

Must go to work now


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