Why It's So Important Not To Keep Your Eating Issues a Secret

What you're struggling with doesn't have to remain a secret.

Today I’d like to share a letter from one of the youngest HealthyGirl.org readers I’ve talked to in a while: Yuki, who’s just 15. Please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts and support for her in the comments!

Q: When I read your posts, it’s like you’re reading your mind! I am just 15 years old and I believe I’m suffering from a binge eating disorder. This all started when I changed schools and I had a hard time fitting in because I didn’t know anyone. I began to work very hard at school—scoring almost all As in my subjects except for PE. I put on some weight at that time and I had an obsession with being perfect, and thought people would like me if I was. Now, I seem to binge everyday after school as it is my last year of high school and I am facing the pressure of getting a good mark to go into university. I feel myself being distant from everyone…I seem to lack trust for anything or anyone as well as feeling a bit of anxiety and depression. I feel like food is my only friend, something that will never betray me. I know I have to tell someone sooner or later before it takes over me. Where should I start? —Yuki, 15

A: You just started, honey! Reaching out to me and to the HealthyGirl.org community is a fabulous start, but you’re absolutely right that you’ve got to tell someone who’s in your daily life. Psychiatrist Charles Sophy, M.D.—one of experts I’m interviewing for my book—told me that he believes telling someone you trust is the most important step a person can take to start recovering from disordered eating. “You’ve got to relinquish this to another person,” he says. “Secrets have power. [But after you tell someone about your eating] then the power, the pressure will be gone. Sometimes, for some people they only feel safe online at first. And it’s the first step. But I would say the more human contact there is, the better. Connect with someone who’s going to give you a hug.”

When I was 15, that person was my mother. But from the emails you and I have exchanged, I know you don’t feel comfortable talking to your parents about this for various reasons. What Dr. Sophy recommends in that situation is to pick someone else you feel safe with—your doctor, someone from your church, a teach or school counselor, a friend’s mom or dad. If you have a close friend who you think you could also trust with this information, you could tell them.

I really connected with what you said about feeling like you need to be perfect. When I was younger—and, OK, still sometimes a little—I somehow not only wanted to be perfect, but I thought it was required in order for me to be loved/valued! When you’re so worried about being perfect, it can be that much harder to admit that you have a problem.

Well, let me assure you: You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, no on in the entire world (even if they’re the prettiest, smartest, most popular girl in school) is perfect and never ever will be. Not only that, but most people out there have something they struggle with over their lives. For you, perhaps it’s binge eating disorder, for someone else it may be a physical health condition like diabetes, for others, it could be something more subtle like low self esteem that they have to fight against and heal from in order to be happy.

You’re not a freak or a failure because you binge. In fact, you’re amazingly self-aware to have already figured out–all on your own–that something may be wrong. I am proud of you for reaching out and being honest. I think it’s a good sign that you’re going to do what it takes to get better.

Think about who in your life you might feel safe telling about this issue—and in the meantime, why don’t you check out some info on books, support groups and therapy and inspirational stories that might help you further.

We’re all sending much love and we’re rooting for you, Yuki! xo…Sunny
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13 Responses to Why It's So Important Not To Keep Your Eating Issues a Secret

  1. Kate says:

    I’m 15 years older than you are, but i’m just realizing I have binge eating disorder and am getting help after what felt like years in the dark. I wish, when I was 15, I knew I had binge eating disorder.

    I too felt like I had to be perfect and held myself to a higher standard because that is what I felt was the way to keep my family happy.

    Find that one person you trust and then start working on your recovery. Along with the binging eating you might want to talk about the pressure you are having with school. If feels good to let those bottled up feelings out. Also, remember this site and everyone here can help too.

  2. Olivia says:

    Best of luck to you, Yuki. I know exactly how you feel.. I’m 3 years older than you, but other than online, I have yet to let anyone in on my problem.. I know it’s important to do so, but I just feel really uncomfortable about doing so, I’m not sure who I would tell, and I’m afraid the person will not understand and view me as weak or attention-seeking.
    Anyways, after passing a completely horrible day (or should I say month.. Not to sound melodramatic, because I’ve had some good days, but I’ve also felt really hopeless and have binged A LOT in the past month or so..) and reading this article, I think I’m going to start seeing a psychologist. I know it’s not the same as telling someone I really know, but it’s a start I guess.. Hopefully it will help.

  3. Tabby says:

    The biggest thing that happened this year was when I sat down and talked to my husband about my eating binges that were taking place after he went to bed. Sometimes, I’d get up early before anyone else and go to the store and get a bag of donuts and eat them all in the car. I’m talking a dozen here.

    Telling him my secret helped me bring my binging out of the darkness and into the light. I felt shame, and I felt embarrassed. But he listened to me, and we started a conversation about my food and my emotions.

    Just talking about it openly took the power away from food. It was like one step toward learning how to not eat my emotions.

    This is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. There’s no way I could talk about it to anyone else.

  4. Astrid says:

    Yuki, I can relate, too. One thing about telling other people in your life that you are struggling is that the eating disorder is no longer yours to keep. Once you are sharing it with other people, it doesn’t hold on to your as strongly, and you start letting go of it, too. I moved to Texas almost 3 years ago, in hopes of escaping my ed, and lived for almost a year here without anyone knowing. Then I told my boyfriend, and started seeking true help and recovery. I was finally ready to let go of it once and for all, and with him knowing, I finally felt free to move on with my life.
    It is so difficult to fight the need for perfection. I am constantly finding myself striving to be perfect at being imperfect! I think that I need to save so much money perfectly, take care of my body perfectly, and be a girlfriend perfectly. It’s not bad to want to be successful at everything you do, but it is very important to be gentle with yourself, too!

  5. Heather says:

    I finally told a good friend of mine, who is, of all things, a psychiatrist who runs the eating disorder part of the teaching hospital here. She said that she knew that something was up because I was gaining weight so quickly, but that she knew that all she could do was watch and wait and be there when I was ready to tell her. She was good…she told me that the reason that she had been so present over the last year and had not mentioned food or anything was because she was trying to help me make sense of my reasons for eating and not just try to stop the eating. As a former anorexic, she knew that attacking the food was not the way to fix things, and the best thing that she could offer was advice on fixing the things that were making me eat. I felt so free after I told her. I told her about how much this site was helping me and that “talking”? “typing”? to everyone else was making a huge difference. So, I guess telling strangers made it somehow okay to tell a friend, and telling a friend has made me feel free to enjoy food once again. (this week anyway…one day at a time, right???)

  6. […] was reading yesterday’s  post and thinking about reader Yuki’s concerns about using food during a time when she is about to […]

  7. Yuki says:

    Thank you so much everyone! I can totally relate to all of you >_<

    Already, since telling Sunny and sharing my story with you guys I already feel that this 'secret' has lost some of it's power over me. I haven't binged for a whole week now, although there have been some times when I eat more than I should, but not an amount that is ridiculously large. Unlike before, I would now congratulate myself a small achievement. Already, I feel there are so many girls out there I can relate to. I think we all have something in common and that is perfectionism. I think I have already started to let go because just yesterday, I was beginning to eat more than I should but then I asked myself whether or not I felt comfortable. The answer was no, so I stopped. Before, I would think "I've already ruined my day by eating too much, I might as well just eat more and start again tomorrow." But no, I tackled this thought and I realised my body didn't need any more food.

    Right now, however I still feel that I may slip back into the habit any time as I still feel pangs of insecurity at times but at least I'm on my way. :) I have decided I will try to talk to my school counsellor about it.

    Sunny, I can't thank you enough!! I have tried so many times to ask for help but I couldn't get myself to do it. I even started telling my friend about it but changed the topic half way from shame. But this website is different, everyone is so accepting! I don't know how I would be able to cope with what's been happening lately if I haven't found this place. Hopefully, one day I will be another success story for your blog and be able to inspire people too. ^_^ I will update you all on my progress in the future!

    • Sunny says:

      I’m so happy, Yuki! You were brave to search the site out and to get in touch. Good things happen when you take risks, and as you can see, there are a lot of lovely, caring, fabulous girls and women out there who are willing to support you. xo…Sunny

  8. January says:

    Sunny, thank you so much for sharing everything you do. I thought about this post for a week before it sunk in far enough that I decided to open up and address it in my own writing. It’s easy to act ‘normal’ with most of the world but brave to own up to your truth. Yuki, kudos on reaching out to your school counselor. If he/she isn’t really able to help you (he/she may not have expertise in this arena) don’t be discouraged; seek help elsewhere. Don’t stop: there’s a world of happiness awaiting you and you’ve only just begun.

  9. […] like I wrote in my answer to Yuki, who’s a couple years younger than you, telling someone close to you, like your parents, and […]

  10. lauren says:

    Wow! Yuki, at your age, I did not have the courage to tell anyone about binge eating, although i too, stress ate everyday after school. And now, 8 years later I am back to hidden binge eating in that down time. And I am so proud of you for not binging for a week!!! The most i can manage is one day about once a month. It is a really difficult journey to self-acceptance and the ability to eat well. Congrats and good luck on this difficult but necessary and worthwhile journey!

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.