I recently received a call from a very good friend of mine confessing that she was turning into a closet eater.
Closet eating is described as anytime a person eats in secrecy, with the intention of hiding what and how much is consumed.
According to experts, there is a lot of shame associated with closet eating. It is worrying when people feel a need to hide what they eat, but at the same time, it can be incredibly relaxing when food is a comfort crutch to hide deeper problems of self-confidence or stressful worries or other things.
More accurately, mindless, secret eating can numb your emotions, which is absolutely stellar when you feel terrible.
Usually, people closet eat when they feel guilty about eating unhealthy food or large portions of food, and they are scared that people will make snarky comments.
In my friend’s case, she was scared that her husband would not be pleased, especially seeing that it was a pizza that she was eating while she had been complaining that she is gaining weight.
So in the end, she hid the pizza when her husband came back home in the afternoon for lunch and waited until he went back to work and ended up finishing the whole large pizza alone.
After finishing the pizza, she threw the empty box in the neighbour’s trash bin to further hide the evidence.
My friend is basically leading a double food life because she is scared of what her husband would say if he caught her eating pizza.
We joked about my friend’s situation, but after speaking to her, I realised that closet eating is a huge problem that most people do not realise they have. In most cases, it is women and teenage girls who find themselves battling eating disorders.
On the surface, it might seem as if this is a minor thing, but it isn’t. What happens when she feels like eating something else that she thinks her husband or someone else does not approve of?
She is probably going to do the same thing (closet eat) thereby developing a habit, which if not tamed, might end up escalating into a serious emotional disorder.
I remember another case of my other friend who lived with her boyfriend, and he would always comment about her eating habits.
What he thought were innocent comments about how she ate too much food ended up driving her to become a closet eater.
It got so bad that, even when she was out with us (her close friends), she would be paranoid about her eating habits and would not feel comfortable eating whatever she wanted.
She would always ask us whether the food she ordered was too much or whether other people at other tables were looking at the amount of food on her plate.
Of course, as her friends, we would honestly tell her that she was being weird, because as an adult, no one (other than a medical professional), should try to control what you eat.
I realised that my friend was developing a problem emotionally, where she would always be depressed.
When these things are happening around us (watching our friends struggle with eating problems) or when we are the ones who are making these comments, we do not realise how damaging the entire situation can be.
There is an African proverb that says it is the axe that forgets and not the tree that has been cut.
The smallest, most innocent comments that we make about other people can have a lingering effect that will haunt them for years to come.
I feel that it is loved ones that play a big role in creating the pressure that can lead to someone developing an eating disorder.
When a person does not feel comfortable eating in front of other people, something traumatic is going on and that needs to be addressed. Eating secretly can lead to over-eating and improper nutrition, which in turn can lead to other problems. It is detrimental to one’s health and emotional well-being, which may lead to obesity and low self esteem.
Though not all obese individuals are compulsive overeaters, experts believe that about 75 percent of over-eating is emotional eating (using food to deal with feelings).
I am not saying that as loved ones, we should let people eat their way to a heart attack. I am saying that we should mind how we express our fears and base what we say on the sensitivities of the person we are speaking to.
Knowing how to broach a personal subject helps to avoid misinterpretations about whatever has been said.
In an intimate relationship, if your partner complains about your eating habits, as women, we take it to mean that our husband/boyfriend does not like the way we look physically and that can be unnerving.
But it is high time that we focus on building up who we are in the inside and decrease our worries about what we look like on the outside.