Secrets in Eating Disorder Recovery
If you've ever attempted recovery from your eating disorder-- especially if you've been in a eating disorder treatment center -- you've likely heard this refrain at least once: Secrets keep you sick.
It's true. Secrets keep us sick. Eating disorders thrive on secrets.
How else could you get by for so long with binging and purging, with eating less than X calories a day, with exercising for hours on end, with spending hundreds of dollars a month on binges? It's not likely that you're broadcasting these things (I certainly didn't) or someone would hold you accountable.
In Eating Disorder Recovery, You've Got to Do it Differently
If you were to sit down and honestly have a discussion with a friend, family member, pastor, therapist, or dietitian, how might that change things?
In my experience, the first thing to follow the [not to be underestimated] anxiety is relief. Don't get me wrong. Your eating disorder will be freaking out. But you - the core of you, your truest self - will be relieved.
If you truly want to recover from your eating disorder, you've got to let the secrets go. You've got to be honest and accountable to someone (or multiple someones) in your life about the exchanges you're secretly cutting back on, the extra exercise you're sneaking in, the binges and purges that you're not admitting to out loud.
Saying these things out loud to someone else brings relief because all of a sudden, you're not fighting this on your own anymore. You've got someone in your corner. God bless the people who have managed to recover on their own, but they are few and far between. The truth is, if you want to recover, you need to expose the secrets of your eating disorder.
There are people in your life who want you well and who want to help you on the road to recovery. But you've got to be honest with them if there is any hope of them helping you.
If you're not being honest about these things, you're just giving your eating disorder more power. Every time you choose to hold on to that secret, you're saying - however unconsciously - that your eating disorder is more important.
And if you're outright lying to keep those secrets - you're saying that your eating disorder is more important than the relationships in your life.
Forget Your Eating Disorder, What Do You Believe?
If you can, for a moment, separate yourself from your eating disorder. Get in touch with that truest part of you - the part that wants recovery, the part that values health and relationships and happiness.
What is your truest self telling you? Are there things that you need to be admitting to friends, family, and your treatment team?
In the interest of full disclosure, I keep secrets of my own. One of them is that for the past 2 months I've been skimping on breakfast. Not a lot, and rarely enough to affect my overall exchanges for the day, but skipping a starch or fat is not something I should be doing. I know that.
My team knows now. I'm working on eating a full breakfast every morning, regardless of how much it pains me. And sure, just admitting that in a public forum caused my anxiety to sky rocket.
But I don't want to be sick any more.
Are there secrets, however small, that are keeping you sick?
Now take a look at: Secrets in Eating Disorder Recovery, Part Two
Hudgens, J. (2013, January 17). Secrets in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2013/01/secrets-in-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Jessica Hudgens
I often feel alone, as I can't stop eating! Once I start I just keep going & do it in secret.people seem to be more understanding if you starve yourself or make yourself sick,I have a friend who used to,but when you tell them you can't stop,they just think your greedy!!!! I'm not, I just can't help it,its Luke a compulsion!
Yes. It sounds like you're describing binge eating and the compulsion to keep eating. The one sure thing I know about eating disorders is that it's not so much about the food as what we're trying to shove down and hide in secret. You are not greedy. You do not need to starve yourself or make yourself sick to have people understand. You are sad, or anxious, or some other strong emotions. Something is going array within you that is scary to face and so food is there but it's never enough. You are not alone in this, trust me. I would recommend finding a therapist to help you safely explore the feelings underneath the compulsion to keep eating. Also, I'd recommend that each time you feel compelled to eat journal for a minute or two about what's going on. Then if you have to eat, go eat. Later when you're calm you can take a look at what you've written and you may see a pattern begin to emerge that you find you're compelled when certain situations are happening in your life. You can do this. I know this because there are thousands of others who have faced what's under the food, just like you can.
There is definately a lot to find out about this issue.
I love all the points you made.
Thank you for sharing your own experiences with us. I too struggle with recovery and telling my husband/family the full extent of my problems. I've been working really hard to get better and reading things like this make me feel less alone and isolated.
What if nobody wants to know your truth? or the people you pay to tell your truth to...they don't listen? what if your cries for help fall on deaf ears because you have just been ill too long and haven't succeeded at 'getting better' with tons of treatment and so now everyone just walks away and you HAVE TO do it on your own? Where do you even turn besides OA (which doesn't work for me), when you are on ss/dis and medicare is your only insurance and you can't afford to pay for help? which way do you turn when you are positive the only solution to the core problem and ED bahaviors is death? what if you want to be honest and unweight yourself from secrets but there is simply nowhere left to turn?
I found your blog while searching for tips on how to let go of an ED. Your post really moved and inspired me, and made me decide to finally be completely honest with my support person about my ED. Thank you :)
I am so glad that this post encouraged you to be completely honest! Best of luck on your recovery!
im new to your blog... very well written, very persuasive. ive never "gotten help" for my ED, and im scared to, but your tidbits about recovery keep me motivated!
The similarities between eating disorders and other substance abuse issues are all too near. I have personally experienced the trials and tribulations of both and have seen many successes as well as failures. The truth is that taking an honest self appraisal is the key to success, and without it I can never truly recover!
Secrets - yes.
I haven't relapsed, but I have been giving into urges latley and haven't told anyone. I'm back on an upswing, determined to remain in recovery, but I guess that makes it seem like since the slips have already happened and I am back on the wagon, that I can keep my struggles to myself. I hate the thought of having to tell my parents or my boyfried...I don't want them to be worried or dissapointed.
I'm glad to hear that your determination to remain in recovery is high and that you are back in the saddle, so to speak. However, don't let those things dissuade you from letting your parents or boyfriend know how you were struggling. If you keep the secret this time, it's that much easier to keep the next time and the time after that and the time after that until it IS a relapse. I definitely understand the feeling of not wanting to worry or disappoint anyone, but let's be honest - they probably already worry and they love you and won't be disappointed. That's just speaking from my personal experience.
I definitely encourage you to let your parents and boyfriend know what's been going on -- let me know how it goes!
Jess, I love reading all you write, but today I realize just how alone I am. If I want to stay married, I have to keep secrets. Now that I am no longer seeing any member of my tx team I don't even have them. Its just me and ED until the end. I miss being able to talk openly about my struggles with people who care that I am hurting. I want to be more than a mistake.
I'm sorry you're feeling so alone. I think that is one of the most painful parts of having an ED -- keeping secrets, like you said, makes you feel more alone and it's even worse when you feel like you *have* to keep those secrets. I don't know the full extent of your situation, but know that I care. And you know how to get a hold of me! I'm always willing to listen to you - you are beautiful, loving person NOT a mistake.
Thanks for your words of encouragement.
Another excellently thought and written article. I also like what Missy said about scattering truths. I think that's an easy thing to do, tell bits of the truth to different people so that no one knows the extent of the problem.
Since I´ve started working on my eating disorder recovery - honesty has become a major component. It is certainly necessary. Sometimes I want to weight myself so badly it makes my skin crawl. At times I sneak out the scales - but very seldomly. My problem is that I´m not 100% convinced or even desire to recover fully. I´ve gained about 10 pounds and am no longer at a life-threatening weight. I feel responsible to others to continue my recovery, but if it was 100% up to me I´m happy with where I am now. I eat enough to not go hungry and the things I continue to deny myself aren´t even a challenge to me. I´ve never binged and purged - just restricted. Do you ever feel this way?
Thanks for commenting! What you're describing is SO normal. My own motivation for recovery waxes and wanes quite frequently and like you said, sometimes I use that feeling of "responsibility" to others to stay at recovery on days that I don't want to. Recovery is especially hard at the point you're describing you're at now -- when you've gained a little weight and don't feel like the eating disorder disrupts much because it has become so normal. It's easy to believe that because our weight is "okay" and we're not starving as much as we were that we can just stay where we are.
But full recovery is possible and in my own recovery, it's been quite amazing to see (even though I am not fully recovered - not even close!) the things I didn't even realize I was missing out on by staying with my eating disorder. It's certainly not easy, because there is a level of "comfort" to the eating disorder (or at least a measure of certainty) and breaking out of that can be really, really painful at first. I promise you, though, that if you stick with it, you'll start to see the benefits of recovery!
And I definitely encourage you to bring up this line of conversation with your therapist and/or dietitian!
Best of luck,
Oh goodness yes.
I feel like I scatter truths around but your post made me realize there is no ONE person but me who knows the full story and I have absolute tears in my eyes at the thought of that relief that you described because just now I realized how alone I truly am.
You have a gift Jess. Thank you.
Thanks for responding and for being so honest! It's so easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we're being "honest" when, in fact, there is no one who knows the full story. "Scattering truth" is exactly what I do. Thank you for putting into such perfect phrasing. Let's make it a goal for both of us this week to be truly honest with someone and feel the relief that comes along with that honesty!