Why do we prefer to overeat in private?

Why are we so afraid to let other people see how much we truly eat? 

Why do we hide the evidence of our overeating “episodes”?

Why do we prefer to binge in private?

The very bold ones among us might mention our “struggle with food” in conversation with friends, in an abstract sense. But would we sit down at a table with a loved one and say, “I’m bingeing right now”? And then proceed to eat an entire gallon of ice cream while the other person watched?

I was discussing this with some Dessert Club members last night, and the unanimous answer was that we don’t want other people to see us like that. We don’t want them to see us in that wild, out-of-control, scary place. 

This is a food issue, but this isn’t a food issue. 

This isn’t a food issue because it’s really about control, vulnerability, and connection. It’s about being afraid that who we truly are is “too much” for others, and that if our closest loved ones really knew how we ate sometimes, they might be disgusted. They might even leave us. 

It’s really about feeling like the world can’t hold us. Even our closest, most-loved people can’t hold us. We can only be that that wild-and-out-of-control version of ourselves in private.

Then we must clean up the mess, get ourselves together, and reconnect with the world. 

Can you feel what happens when we tell ourselves that this is how we “have” to be in the world? 
That we can only be this limited, corseted, sanitized version of ourselves? 

What would happen if it were okay for us to be out-of-control, unseemly, and messy? What if this part of ourselves could be loved and respected and seen and cared for just as much as we are loved and respected for the parts of us that are “together” and “kind” and “generous” and “smart”?

This is a food issue, but this isn’t a food issue. 

Last night, I asked the Dessert Club members: “What would happen if you tried to only binge in front of others?”

Even writing that sentence, I feel a zing of fear move through me. Bingeing in front of others sounds pretty freaking scary.

Here’s what I think: If we could binge in front of others, if would be pretty freaking scary. It would be terrifying and vulnerable and we’d feel like we were risking everything. We’d worry that they wouldn’t love us or like us or respect us anymore.

But you know what else I think? I think it would be clean. Because we’d be facing all those fears about abandonment and our need to be loved and seen head on. We’d be eliminating the part of bingeing that makes it even worse, which is the story we tell ourselves: No one can see me like this.

And I think that the food part of the binge, that part where you eat too many chips or too much ice cream — I think that would be much less scary. I think you’d probably eat less, because it wouldn’t be so secretive or shameful.

I also think that some relationships couldn’t take it — some people couldn’t support you in your most vulnerable moments. But others would be much, much stronger. I think you’d gain confidence in knowing that it was okay to be yourself and to stand tall in the world, and that it’s okay if every single person doesn’t like or love you. I think you’d be more joyful, more loving, more compassionate, more creative, more generous, and, most importantly, more you.

When we act like food issues are just about food, we can never really solve them. And, even more problematically, we miss out on the opportunity for the incredible personal growth that can come from tackling what they really are about.

And, for the record, bingeing in secret isn’t just about the things I talk about above. It’s also about 100 other things.

Are you willing to peel back the layers?