THE BLOG
04/28/2008 02:22 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are You A Sneak Eater?

Are you a sneak eater? Do you gobble when no one is looking? Do you wait until everyone has gone to bed and then hit the kitchen? Do you go out to a restaurant and order with restraint only to go home and binge when you are alone and no one is watching?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you are a sneak eater.

Many of us who have battled our weight sneak eat. We tend to feel guilty when eating anything that might be considered caloric, like food. When you are overweight, people will judge you when you eat. They will look at you with disgust if you dare to eat ice cream, dessert of any kind, take a large plate of food at the buffet or order the large fries with that burger. We learn to feel shame around eating and our bodies. This is true even if you are not overweight. However, if you are fat, the shame is magnified. If you watch a skinny person overeat, you think highly of them in some strange way. Oh, look what they can get away with. Or maybe you think that they probably only do that once a year. Watch a heavy person overeat and the reaction is entirely different. Same behavior, different judgment attached.

The story I often hear from sneak eaters is that they were told they were chubby and put on diets when they were very young. When they look back at pictures they see that, in fact, they weren't actually fat. When children are growing there seems to be a natural tendency to get a little fuller right before they sprout up. If this fullness is focused on, it can be very damaging. If a child believes he/she is fat, it becomes a part of their self image. Once the pattern of restricting food (dieting), shame, and private bingeing is established, it can be very difficult to change.

Here are a few tips to help you deal with sneak eating.

1) Keep food records and write down everything you eat. Not for anyone else to see but so you can keep track. Your body keeps track after all. It doesn't care if anyone sees you eat it or not.

2) Don't be so hard on yourself. Beating yourself up in your head is fattening.

3) Be brave. Someone once said to me, "What is it that you're eating to keep your weight up? Because it's nothing you are doing in public." If you are going to eat, don't hide. They know anyway.

4) Keep your environment safe. Don't have tempting food around that you are likely to sneak eat. You probably wouldn't sneak eat a salad but you might just sneak eat that bag of chips.

5) Remember, you are not getting away with anything. Even though it feels like it.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about weight loss, please visit www.eatingdisordertherapist.com.