No-one can know - overcoming the shame of eating in secret.


Jane would hold out all day for her daughters bed time. She would wait for her husband to come home and he'd be in charge of bath and bedtime stories. She would sit in the kitchen, waiting for the sound of giggles coming from the bathroom before she would raid the cupboards. When they came back downstairs, Jane would be pretending to do something. Anything, as if nothing had happened. Not a crumb or packet in sight.

Donna had a stressful job in IT. She'd be flitting from back to back meetings, managing projects within her team. Food was often on the back burner and she described her days as good when she skipped lunch. It was on these days in particular, when she was driving home famished, she would pull into MacDonalds and grab a meal. She would eat it in the car park, dispose of the evidence then continue to drive home and eat her evening meal with her partner.

Fran is a long distance runner. She loves kale, has a spiraliser and a nutribullet. People often commented on how healthy she is but no-one knew about the chaos that went on behind closed doors. She learnt to police her eating in public and was an expert at hiding the evidence at the bottom of the bin, to hide it from herself as much as anyone else that might see.


All of these women showed 'controlled' eating during the day but by night, a multipack of Kit Kats was nothing. Eating like this always happened alone, to avoid the judgement.

Secret eating is shrouded in shame but denial is never going to help overcome this problem. It's important we talk about it. As difficult as it is to be honest with yourself, it helps to reduce the confusion, discomfort and shame around it.

Confusion because why do we keep doing something we feel we shouldn't be doing, we desperately want to stop?

Discomfort because of the embarrassment and emotional conflict as well as the physical distress.

Shame. That all-encompassing feeling of not being good enough, corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.

These feelings become overwhelming. The fear that others won't understand and they won't love us if they found out the truth, grows in secrecy and silence.

How do we break the cycle?

We break the silence.

"If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive" Brown

I encourage you to be brave and open up with someone you feel safe with.

Brené also says

"we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known"

You are not alone with this and sharing your struggle makes healing possible.


If this feels too much just now, I invite you to be open and honest with yourself. 

I use the 3 C's - curiosity, compassion and courage - as a framework for moving through difficult experiences.

Get a notebook and pen (the hand to paper connection helps with the self enquiry).

Write the 3 C's in the front:

  • I will be Curious; what can I pay attention to? What can I notice? 
  • I will be Compassionate towards myself, without judgement, as I try to move forward. Let me move from denial to honesty.
  • I will be Courageous. As difficult as this feels I will get through this.

Write down what you eat and observe your emotions alongside; note down what's happening and how you feel. No numbers and no tracking apps required that may simply add more fuel to the fire.

Are there any patterns that might give you some clues as to what you need?


For example for Jane, the evening time was her alone time. Her inner rebel was dying to get out after she'd spent the entire day focused on her daughter. 

I asked her to consider if there was something she was rebelling against....did she have needs of her own she wasn't meeting? Was there something missing? She reviewed her boundaries and we worked on her self worth.

Donna had long days of dealing with relentless 'stuff'. She only got to wind down when the work was done. Only then did she allow herself to feel and recognise a need for comfort, along with a genuine need to eat - part of her binge eating was deprivation driven.

I asked her to consider what might be missing in her day, was she trying to avoid something or to prove something? How could she create little pockets of space for herself earlier in the day and protect her mealtimes?

Fran felt guilty for 'overeating' when she didn't exercise. And actually any time she felt she had not achieved what she wanted. For Fran, feeling out of control or a failure invited the need to self punish or escape what she was feeling. She had strong beliefs about certain foods that added to her anxiety about eating.

We unpacked her food fears and found ways for Fran to feel safe around food; to better understand her body's needs and find more balance in how she took care of herself.


The responses of each of these women is understandable. Their patterns reflect their attempts to cope with feelings and emotions that felt too much. The shame they felt fed the cycle. Through no fault of their own, they were not taught how to break the cycle.

Remember, you still get to choose what to do. You can choose honesty and acknowledgement. You can choose not to judge. You can choose acceptance. 

If you're ready to to talk, I'm here to listen.

You can message me at



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