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April 25, 2010

This post was never meant to be shared.  It started out as an email to our savvy friend, Julie.  She had just posted on her new food philosophy and body image.  We were discussing how awesome it was for her to make those statements and I was telling her I was proud of her.

Then I knew I needed to tell her something. So I sent her an email, sharing some secrets.  I’ve been thinking about sharing these secrets with you, reader, too.  But I’ve been scared.  I’ve been scared to put it out there.  I don’t want to live in fear.  I don’t want to live in hiding, either. So here goes nothing.



I never really thought I had a problem.
I’ve always thought it was something I could control.
I still have an issue with even hinting that this is some sort of "disorder."  Or an "issue." Or any thing other than just a secret. But that’s the key right there.  It’s been a secret.

For some reason, in my mind, saying that my bad habits are an ED, seems like a cop-out. An excuse. A way for me to give up the responsibility of my actions and just say I need to be treated.  [of course, when other people share their stories of EDs, I don’t think these things about them. At all.  I am just my own worst critic, I suppose.]  So I’ve never thought of this habit, this secret as any kind of Eating Disorder, although others might, and that’s okay. For me, at this point, it’s just something that needs to change – no matter if it has a diagnosis or not.

I don’t remember exactly when these habits formed.

I do remember certain instances.
I remember sneaking a dove milk chocolate covered ice cream bar from the freezer into my bed, the bottom bunk of a set of bunk beds I shared with my sister.  I couldn’t have been much older than 8, and at the time I was a thin little thing.  Always tall for my age, my body was long and lean leading my nickname from my paternal grandmother to become "Skinny Minny". The chocolate was rich, and smooth, and I no doubt made a mess, smearing it all over my face as most children would do with such a secret treat.

I enjoyed each nibble of the chilled vanilla ice cream, with blankets pulled over my head.  I licked that stick clean, and then I hid it inside of the wrapper, which I believe I then slid underneath my pillow case. 

I remember getting caught.  My parents asking me about it, and my confirmation that yes, Mothers really do know all.  But I don’t remember much else. I don’t remember their exact reaction to my having done it, nor do I remember ever having any kind of conversation regarding my desire to hide the food. I’m sure I received some sort of discussion on taking what’s not mine, but not about that actual crime to my relationship with food that was taking place. And why would that have been addressed?  Back then, I had a fine relationship with food.  I ate what I was fed.  That’s what I remember.

It wasn’t like it happened from then on out.  I don’t remember any other specific times of sneaking food within my parents house.  In high school I ate in front of people with out a problem. There was no need to hide.  The same goes for my time in college.  I had no problems eating any sort of food in front of my hall mates, or friends. I ate meals in the dinning halls and cafes on campus, and occasionally late nights at Perkins with my closest friends while we studied procrastinated. I was never sneaking packages from vending machines or hiding leftovers to chow down on in a secret place.  I was comfortable with food, and fairly comfortable with myself. That’s what I remember.

The thing about a childhood nickname such as "Skinny Minny" is that once
the child out grows the "skinny" (no pun intended), she notices the change in nickname choice. She notices when she is no longer referred to with such a name. She notices when she looks into the mirror and thinks that maybe instead, they should be calling her “Large Marge” or “Flabby Gabby.” 

Though I stayed fairly thin through out middle school and even my freshmen year of high school, at some point during my sophomore year I started putting on a bit of weight; probably only 10 pounds or so, but there was a little bit of a difference.  My junior and senior years of high school, I no longer played 3 seasons of sports, and I definitely "ballooned" a bit. In college I’m sure I put on more weight as well, but more so my sophomore year than my freshmen year. Until recently I couldn’t ever remember what I weighed in high school or college, or even the years immediately following – but not too long ago I came across my medical records and noticed that I did gain weight. Through out high school I gain a total of about 20 pounds and another 10 in college.  But then something changed.  The secret appeared.

I am ashamed now, as I tell you this.  It was a secret for a reason.

I don’t remember ever really thinking these habits were bad, or even habits, at the time. I would drive through to pick up dinner for me and my youth ministry partners on nights we were working late up at the church.  I would order for each of us, then I would order an extra value menu item – or sometimes two- to eat in-between the drive thru and the church, where I would then proceed to eat my meal with my friends. My non-secret meal. Another sandwich, a side of fries, and a soda- or especially back then, an energy drink.

There was always a bag for excess "secret" garbage underneath my drivers seat in my car.  Crumbled up jr. bacon cheeseburger wrappers, or the remnants of a sweet and sour packet inside of the cardboard box the nuggets came in.

Sometimes I would leave the church to head home very late at night, 2 or 3 in the morning and drive through for another two dollars worth of food to comfort me on the drive home. I have NO IDEA what I was being comforted from, but I know that I felt better with the cheeseburger, happier with the fries, satisfied with the frosty.

I would order the footlong sub telling myself I would save half for later, and that would never happen.

I would ALWAYS order extra.  I would ALWAYS stuff myself.  I would ALWAYS do it with out thinking. I would ALWAYS only do these things when I was alone.  It was just something I did.

Which is probably why in four years, I gained another FIFTY POUNDS.

Ok, let me just back up for a second.  I never actually did this math until RIGHT NOW.  Ever.  Even when I started losing weight, I never really thought about how much I gained, what I put on or how out of hand I had let things get.  I knew how much I wanted to loose, but because, again, up until recently, I didn’t ever remember what I had weighed in high school in college, I just chose a “goal weight” during my weightloss based on BMI Calculators and what I thought was healthy for my height. 

Now, however, having my medical records and looking at those numbers listed under weight, I realized that from the time I moved to Texas to the time I moved to New York, I gained FIFTY POUNDS. I knew I was getting bigger- but I had no idea.  I was ignorant to it. I didn’t always notice the changes.  I know that Express pants from my sophomore year of college no longer fit me for several years.  I know that some of my shirt purchase went from large to x-large. I know that when I bought pants, I bought a size bigger- but it didn’t bother me much.  I knew I needed to lose weight to be healthy.  I knew I was, what I deemed "fat".  But I’m not sure I ever knew how big I was, or what a change I had made.  I wasn’t aware of what my secret behaviors were doing to me. 

Then the numbers started to decrease.
I’ve shared the story of my weight loss before when I spoke about my experience with Spark People.

The morning of the broken engagement, I weighed in at 20 pounds lower than my highest weight ever.
In September, the date of the wedding that wasn’t, I weighed another 19 pounds lower.
Then I got comfortable.
I stopped counting calories.
I stopped logging work outs.
I felt proud(ish). Even though I had more to lose.

For the past 7 months I have floated, in-between a 5 pound mark.  back and forth, not really caring. Even though I know I have more to lose. I’m not at a “healthy weight” according to what a doctor would tell me. I’m not at my goal weight, even though I’m not REALLY sure what my goal weight is, but I would definitely like to feel BETTER about myself.

My about me section says “I’m still working on becoming fit and working towards my goal weight, and my fitness milestones.”  I would like this to be true, but I don’t feel like it has been true.  At least not lately.

A few months ago the secret eating started again.
Driving through Burger King on my way home from the mall, for a value
menu fix. But I’m a “healthy living blogger” now.  Why am I driving through?  Even though I ate dinner.  Even though I wasn’t hungry.

Choosing Chinese food from the food court rather than a veggie delight from Subway, or heaven forbid, packing my own dinner. But I’m a “healthy living blogger” now. Why aren’t I packing Hugh Salads and precut vegetables?  

Wendy’s nuggets. In my car. When I’m running errands. Not because I’m hungry, but because I WANT them.

Subway, way way way way too often. Not always the "good" options.  A lot of times that damn meatball sub. But I’m a “healthy living blogger” now. And a self-proclaimed flexitarian. Why am I eating meat so often?

Cookies. Candy. Ice cream.  BBQ kettle chips. Icees. An occasional "everything in moderation" soda.  I’m pretty sure when I thought everything in moderation was a good idea, I wasn’t thinking about eating a moderate amount of everything in the snack aisle.

And NOTHING goes on the blog. NOTHING is shared with anyone. Nothing is eaten in the presence of a friend, or even considered as consumed. EVERYTHING is in secret.  Hidden. Away. Fulfilling some need I don’t even realize that I have.  To fill some sort of void.  To make me feel better. To cover something up.

I hate my stomach.  I hate my arms. I hate the way I feel weak and like a failure instead of strong and powerful.  I hate that I dread work outs  and cooking and reaching goals which I know will make me healthier and therefore happier.

I hate that I love operation beautiful and yet I hear myself nitpick parts of my body just about every day.  I post several notes each week, yet I tell myself that my face is fatter than it was last fall.  I used to feel GOOD when I looked into the mirror, and now I just want to cover everything up.  Hide under a blanket. Eat an ice cream bar. And a double cheeseburger. And maybe some nachos. Or cheese fries. But definitely not an apple.

I hate all of it because I know that making healthy decisions is EASY.  And that I am just making it hard. Hard on myself and harder than it really is. It’s easy. I know that. I’ve lived it. I’ve made progress and now I find myself sitting in the same place. The same secret place.

Now that I have told you, I know its over.
Now that the secret is out.
Now, things are different.


From the moment I shared this with Julie, I haven’t eaten anything in secret.  No drive through trips, or value menus, or wrappers hiding. I have,  however, eaten one too many meals that others have prepared.  People that are paid to prepare them.  Lunch out on the town, and day after day, dinner consisting of leftovers.  Meals with normal serving sizes where I stop when I’m full, yet it needs to stop.  It’s unnecessary and a waste of time, effort, and money. I need to control what goes into my body.  I need to control this situation.  I need to not live in secret. I need to make one healthy decision, and then make another.

The secret is out. Now you know. I fear judgment. I fear people I know in real life laughing at me because of this.  I fear snarky comments and harshness about the grossness of it all.  But mostly, I fear that if I don’t come clean that it will continue, and I won’t change, and the secret will stay a secret.  No longer.  It’s out. It’s over. The end.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2010 8:42 pm

    I love you!

  2. April 25, 2010 8:55 pm

    This is an amazingly powerful post… props to you for having the courage to share it. That takes some serious guts and is a HUGE step towards putting this all behind you. Which you will do. 🙂 Stay strong and we are rooting for you. xoxo

  3. April 25, 2010 8:58 pm

    Heather I’m so proud of you for sharing this. I’m sure that it is terrifying to put this out there but now you have people to hold you accountable and to support you AND to remind you that, if at some point in the future you do have a slip up, you are not a failure!!! You are a strong woman.

  4. April 25, 2010 8:58 pm

    This took alot for you to post. Talking about ones relationship with food, weight or body are always nerve raking and emotional. You’ve come so far though, remember that. No ones perfect and we all have set backs. But coming clean and being honest is always the first step. And thank you for sharing this, I know I’m not alone.

  5. April 25, 2010 8:58 pm

    Heather, I feel like I am reading a page out of my own diary. This was me for years. Eating in secret. Hiding my food wrappers. Not even my husband knew what was going on. I was trying to be healthy but I kept having these mini-binges. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening but it was…it was very scary.

    I think admitting it out loud on your blog makes you such a strong person! I really admire you for writing about it.

  6. Liz permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:01 pm

    You should be so proud of yourself for being so honest. I can’t imagine how hard this was to post. I don’t think anyone will judge you in a bad way, and if they do they aren’t worth your time. We have all done things in secret because we are ashamed of our bodies: whether it is look in the mirror trying on swimsuits and pinching our fat, calling ourselves fat and ugly, taking the ice cream back out of the freezer and eating it by the spoonful when we’ve already had an entire serving, comparing ourselves to the beautiful perfect looking girl at the gym who has been on the stair-stepper for an hour wishing we could be just like her, hating the girl in front of you at the grocery store for buying veggies and apples while your cart is full of crap, or telling yourself that the boy studying next to you at starbucks would never go out with you because you’re not pretty enough. We all do things to ourselves that we don’t want to share. Stand tall, be proud, don’t be ashamed of yourself. No matter what anyone else says, we have all BEEN THERE in some form or another.

  7. April 25, 2010 9:31 pm

    You are so brave and strong for confessing this. You are SO not alone in this behavior or other behaviors like this, please know that. And you have such a huge network of women who think you rock, who have suffered our own “things” and are here every step of the way for you.

  8. Kelly permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:32 pm

    Um. Wow. I can’t imagine what it took for you to be able to post this. EVERYONE has these moments. Its NOT just you. Stay strong and you WILL overcome the obstacles. Don’t do it for what everyone else thinks. Do it for yourself.


  9. April 25, 2010 9:37 pm

    I think that ALL of us can relate to this post on some level or another. I’ve been a secret eater for years. It sort of ebbs and flows, but it’s always there.

    It was very brave of you to put yourself out there like this. I’m proud of you for doing it–admitting it can only make you stronger.

  10. April 25, 2010 9:49 pm

    This post is powerful. Your words relate to everyone on some level. I personally can relate to the idea of losing control and not knowing how to go about getting it back. But you have taken the most difficult step, in my opinion. You admitted to yourself that you have fallen off track. I think that this means you are ready to commit to getting healthy.
    I am here to support you if you ever need to vent because I completely relate to what you are going through right now! Stay strong!

  11. April 25, 2010 9:52 pm

    I teared up… teared up to think that this goes on with so many women and even me in particular. My love / hate relationship with food and knowing what to eat and not to eat or how to eat in moderation or to have self-discipline. Why is it such a hard and torturous thing?? Thank you for sharing some of your deepest secrets. You are not the only one out there. You will be in my prayers! 🙂

  12. April 25, 2010 9:52 pm

    Way to be strong. Being honest with not only yourself but with others is one of the hardest things to do. Keep it up! 🙂

  13. April 25, 2010 10:22 pm

    so much of this post resonates with me and my own struggles & issues. thank you for sharing. it makes me feel less alone. you are beautiful and you are amazing!

  14. April 25, 2010 10:37 pm

    Wow that was really awesome for you to share. I think you are awesome (and not just because of your awesome name), and I think you are a great example of a person with problems just like so many others. For so many, even those who wish and try, their relationship w/ food is not what they want it to be. It’s not so simple for everyone. Thank you!

  15. cookeatburn permalink
    April 26, 2010 4:28 am

    Oh Heather I am in tears over here. Those drive-thru moments? Been there, done that way.too.many.times. And you are so right – it is never because I am hungry, only because I want it. And I don’t know why. I think the fact that I don’t understand my own reasons for it scare me more than anything else. Thank you for posting this and for commenting on my blog so I would have a chance to read this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, but at the same time it sucks because you don’t want to wish it on anyone, you know?

    • April 26, 2010 7:05 am

      Oh, girl- I know exactly what you mean. I was relieved when people said this post was relatable, yet heart broken at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • runeatdatesleep permalink
        September 5, 2010 8:44 pm

        Count me in as another one who relates to this post, but I’m in tears realizing that I’ve been hiding the same secret. I’m so glad I found you. We’re so much alike.

  16. April 26, 2010 4:51 am

    glad you shared. lots of love!

  17. April 26, 2010 5:41 am

    Amazing, girl. So glad you shared. You should never be ashamed or judged.

  18. April 26, 2010 6:57 am

    I love that you shared this, Heather. You should never, ever be ashamed, or scared of what others think of you, because you are a BEAUTIFUL person, inside and out, even though you may only feel it on the inside right now.

  19. April 26, 2010 7:46 am

    Hey Heather,
    You are so brave! I know how hard it is to come clean on a blog. We love you and we’re here to support you! You are an amazing inspiring woman.

  20. April 26, 2010 7:52 am

    You are incredibly brave. I am so proud of you for taking this step in fighting this thing that brings you down so much. Many of us (myself included) aren’t ready to deal with all of our secrets, let alone place them in blogland for all to see.

    I love you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. At any time.

  21. April 26, 2010 11:46 am

    That was so brave of you to share your secrets with the world! I’m proud of you! I have revealed some of my secrets into blogville, but I don’t think I have the courage that you do, to lay everything out on the table like that. Please know that you have the support of most, if not all of your readers, I have found that this community is full of amazing people doing amazing things!

  22. April 26, 2010 12:48 pm

    I really don’t have much to say other than “WHOA!” since everyone already said everything I was thinking. But I especially agree with Liz’s saying, “I don’t think anyone will judge you in a bad way, and if they do they aren’t worth your time.” Love you much.

  23. April 26, 2010 4:09 pm

    Wow, you are a brave woman! You have opened your heart to the world and someone reading this will benefit from you sharing your secret. You, my friend will benefit by feeling free. XOXO

  24. April 27, 2010 3:10 pm

    wow…wow…just wow. Good for you for opening up like this. I undoubtedly started to tear a little because I’m just like you. And I still sneak some candy here and there but just never realized what i was doing.

    Thank you. thank you for just an enlightening, inspiring and raw post.

  25. April 27, 2010 3:30 pm

    you sharing this will help a lot of other people to recognize what they’re doing and realize they aren’t the only ones. you’ll be helping people. great post.

  26. sarah permalink
    April 27, 2010 5:16 pm

    amazing, powerful + brave post. i completely agree with others…everyone can relate to this on some level (i can!) and by sharing this i’m sure a lot of people will get the help they need. thanks for sharing!

  27. April 27, 2010 5:49 pm

    I remember when I was 12 and I wanted soda, but my parents wouldn’t let me have it. So I’d buy the liter from the store, drink it, and stash the bottle under my bed. In a week, I had 10 liter bottles stored under my bed. I also was a secret eater. When I ate something bad, I wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen. If I didn’t let other people see it, well, then it didn’t happen so I wouldn’t have to remind myself that it did.

    I’m glad you posted this on your blog. I’m glad you’re using this blog as a way to stay accountable, not to us, but to yourself. If you eat, so you eat. But it’s not a secret any more, it doesn’t disappear now. It’s there. You have to face the problem head on. I use my blog as my accountability tool too. My calories, my workouts, they get posted. They’re not posted so other people can oogle at how much I ate, what I ate, or what I did, but for me to track and not erase my problems, to actually face my fears.

    So good job for coming out and posting about your insecurities. Nobody is judging you. Everyone is rooting for you to succeed, because it would be a lie for all of us to say that we don’t have some kind of baggage, that none of us have secrets. Because we all do.

    I’m glad the cat’s out of the bag.

  28. April 27, 2010 6:27 pm

    I have been a secret eater too, so no judgment here. Sounds like you are at a healthy place outside of the secret eating, that’s good 🙂 Many bloggers have issues – you’re not alone. And being a healthy living blogger doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all foods without guilt. It’s all about balance. You can’t control every situation, but you can make the best of it.

  29. Jen permalink
    April 27, 2010 7:36 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing that Heather! You are SO strong for doing that. I have a similar disorder. I am a health educator and am paid to teach people how to be healthy each day, yet I eat in secret, hiding it even from my husband. I closed my blog b/c I felt like I was living a lie b/c I saw how healthy all the other bloggers were. You just made me feel better about myself. Thank you for having the courage to share your story. You have no idea how much it means to me.

  30. Lisa permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:12 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I can relate to a lot of what you said. I snuck candy and chocolate as a kid. I felt dirty and bad when I did that. That was the start of my food issues. I like to think that I’ve healed in my journey. It helps to read other stories similar to mine.

  31. Cara permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:14 am

    You are SO brave for sharing this story. Can I say I’m proud, even though I don’t really know you? Don’t be afraid of being judged for this, because I have a feeling MANY people/bloggers have dealt with the same issue, but have not been as courageous to share as you are! Thanks for your honesty!! Blogger love sent your way!

  32. April 29, 2010 2:06 pm

    Heather, you are SO brave. I am just coming across your blog for the first time and this moved me so much! It takes so much courage and a strong desire for help to post something like this. Just this post alone screams that you are ready for a real change. This was the first step, admitting to the problem. You, my lovely, are NOT alone. I can know I can definitely relate. I’ve been there, going out to meet a friend for lunch BUT grabbing something you know you want but cannot eat in front of her first! 😦 It’s a sad dark lonely place, but you have our support. Make one healthy decision and then make another :)I am glad you told your story and I hope you feel better too!

  33. May 2, 2010 4:25 pm

    You have incredible courage for posting this.
    Not exactly brave enough to write much, but for me it was about not letting people see a fat girl eat unhealthy food. I didn’t deserve it. They would judge me – and it’s true – the perception of a skinny girl eating a doughnut vs. a heavy girl eating a doughnut is different. People view one as fine and the other as “no wonder.” So I didn’t eat bad stuff in public. Cookies – of course I only eat 1 or 2, that’s all that’s “healthy” – but no one sees that I dig into the stash later on.
    Feeling guilty. Feeling like I don’t deserve to eat that food around other people.
    Our relationship with food is messed up! It’s time to take charge of ourselves and our thoughts. Okay – see I’m scared to even post this comment that is several days after your post went up so probably won’t be read by many – and yet, you’re so brave, you wrote an entire post about your secret eating. That makes you strong – it may be a journey but you’re on your way!


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