Closet eating is the act of intentionally eating in solitude the unhealthy foods that are keeping you overweight so that others will not judge what you are putting in your body. While some overweight people freely consume whatever they desire in front of friends and family, closet eaters feel an unbearable shame in their eating choices and prefer to secretly indulge. Closet eaters tend to eat healthy foods in front of others, so it may seem to friends and family that their weight challenge must be something outside their control since they seem to be doing all the right things to maintain a healthy weight. But in reality, they are consuming a lot of unhealthy foods in private that keep them overweight.
I had a roommate once who was very overweight. We routinely made healthy meals together, and also exercised and took walks together, all in an effort to help them lose weight and get healthy. Nothing seemed to work. The roommate seemed genuinely confused about why they weren’t losing weight with all the healthy eating and exercise. They speculated that perhaps some sort of hormonal imbalance was preventing them from losing weight. One day I found a McDonald’s bag in the outside garbage can and it all made sense to me. My roommate finally confessed that every time they were in the car alone, they would stop at McDonalds and indulge lots of unhealthy calories in the form of fast food. Mystery solved. Our efforts at healthy eating and exercise never stood a chance against the frequent stops at McDonalds.
In the case of my roommate, who was a classic stress eater, there was so much shame involved in the inability to stop overeating that they decided to take it on the “down low.” What my roommate didn’t understand was that the shame they were feeling about unhealthy eating was just a feeling that came from a thought, and that thought was thought with such repetition, that it eventually became a belief system about weakness and shame and no possibility of every having a healthy body. Once your mindset becomes fully entrenched in this type of thinking, the results achieved are not too hard to predict.
The only solution anyone can legitimately offer to someone who is indulges in closet eating is that they must change their thinking about all the factors that are leading them to closet eat: for example, the thoughts that are making them feel shame and fear of judgment about the unhealthy foods they want to eat, the thoughts that are making them believe it is better to be secretive about unhealthy eating than to make conscious choices to eat healthy and lose weight, and the thoughts that lead them to feel that the indulgence in unhealthy foods is the only thing that will make them feel better about “whatever”. The starting point for the closet eater to abandon their closet eating ways is to identify what they are thinking when they make the decision to indulge. Once the closet eater has identified the thoughts they are thinking at the moment they make the decision to go through the drive-through at McDonalds, for example, they can then work toward changing their thoughts and belief systems from disempowering thoughts that are causing them to closet eat and stay overweight to empowering thoughts that will cause them to eat healthy and lose weight.
The bottom line is you implement different strategies to make closet eating less convenient, such as making a commitment to yourself only to eat with others, but the truth is as soon as you are alone and craving you will be right back speaking into the box at McDonalds unless your change your thinking!
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