Saturday, May 10, 2014

Closet Eater Has Friends Wondering Why She Is So Overweight

Dear Tazi:

I feel like I have come to know you from reading your column. I feel like we are old friends, which is why I am confiding in you with my problem: I am a closet eater.

I have always been heavy, but after my divorce four years ago I turned to food for comfort and my weight ballooned out of control. I would see the disapproving looks on the faces of family and friends as I reached for yet another helping at the dinner table, and made a New Year's Resolution (two years ago) to lose all of the weight I had gained, and then some. I went public with my resolution, and everyone was so proud of me that I did not want to disappoint them...but I found I did not want to leave food behind, either.

Publicly, I eat very little; but privately I gorge myself on cookies, candy, cakes, and pies. I never bring any of these foods home (I only keep healthy, organic foods in the house) so there is no tell-tale inventory or trash that will give away my secret. I eat in my car and throw the trash in the dumpster at the fast-food drive-thru...where I also stop to load up on burgers, fries, and shakes.

Needless to say, I have not lost an ounce and in fact have gained an additional 110 pounds over the past two years. I now tip the scales at 453 pounds, as of this writing. I am sure that number is going to go up by the time this letter is printed. The larger part of my problem (no pun intended) is not that I want to lose weight; it is that I can no longer find clothes that fit me. I buy special sizes through catalogs, but I am fast approaching the maximum size that they sell!

I NEED help, but don't know where to turn! My doctor has said that I am a candidate for gastric bypass surgery, but that would mean giving up food altogether, and I am not ready to do that. I would hate to go to a program like Weight Watchers, because I hear their two-year recidivism rate is something like 90%. If I take the weight off, I want to keep it off for good! You seem so knowledgeable about so many things, Tazi; do you know of something that might help me?

Fatty, Fatty, two-By_Four...


I will not repeat that insulting signature; after all, we are friends, right? And friends do not say such nasty things about each other. Rather, friends help each other; so here is what I suggest you do: make friends with yourself.

From the sound of your letter, you turned to food for comfort and acceptance during a time of overwhelming heartbreak (your divorce). Now, it appears that your heart is still broken; but over a loss of self-love, and once again food is there to comfort. It also appears that you hide your eating from others because you fear losing their love, too. The "disapproving glances" you mention are probably born out of concern for your health, not disgust for your eating habits. Those who truly care about you are not going to stop caring because of a number on the scale. I suggest that you come clean to them, and enlist in their help - in time.

The first thing you need to do is contact Overeaters Anonymous, a non-profit organization that offers a 12-step program that will help you tackle your addiction to food in precise, manageable steps. The meetings are confidential - thus the term "anonymous" in the name - and you will be among people who are fighting the same problems are you are fighting. These people will be at various stages in their journey, and listening to them could offer you a world of hope for your future. Best of all, the meetings are a safe place where you can be yourself with nothing to hide.

If you would like, you can also enlist in the assistance of a professional counselor who specializes in disordered eating or the help of a certified nutritionist to keep you on the track to your weight-loss goals. Think of this journey not as one of deprivation, but as a path to overall better health. Once you feel comfortable "coming out" about your closet eating, share the news with your family and friends; asking for their understanding and support.


P.S. You are correct that Weight Watchers has a very high recidivism rate. However, it is in part because people stop going to the meetings, and stop following the healthy eating practices that they have been taught to follow.