Home It's All Mental On Enabling Myself: Hiding Junk Food Around The House

On Enabling Myself: Hiding Junk Food Around The House

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Not quite MY candy drawer, but awfully close.

Once upon a time… long, long ago… I can remember going to the grocery and buying a 4-pack of coffee drinks. I’d bring them into the house, not let anyone know I bought them and hide them in my bedroom.

They wouldn’t last throughout the whole day. I’d even say that they probably didn’t last a few hours. I’d rip open the wrapper, pour it into my mouth – even swirl it around a little bit – and then guzzle it down… feeling it pass over my tongue and allow me to bliss out. Yes. Blissing out is real.

In fact, writing that gives me chills. I can distinctly remember that feeling that I got from guzzling down those super sweet, super caffeinated and super creamy drinks… but I’m so disconnected from the woman who used to bliss out on ’em. I’m so disconnected from that person who hid food from people so that they wouldn’t know what I was eating or chide me for how fast I was eating it. The shame I felt for doing what I was doing – now, in hindsight, it resembles a form of addiction – and my need to do it without intervention… it gives me goosebumps.

It’s hard to write this, really. I feel for my old self. I was sucked into a cycle that I didn’t understand, that my mother had never experienced and that her mother never really participated in. It snuck up on us all.

My room was a junk food hoarder’s haven. I had drawers full of coffee drinks, cupcakes, cheesecake slices, twizzlers… I never had anything like cookies or hard candies – that felt like “too much” to me – in there, but you wold definitely find “uppity junk food.” Stuff that definitely counted as crap, but was never the typical “crap” that you associate with that “OMG THIS IS HEAVEN OM NOM NOM” feeling. I liked my junk salty and fatty. Maybe a tinge of sweet.

I always felt this immense guilt whenever I ate in front of my Mother. She hated to see me eat anything. Anything.

Okay, I’m overexaggerating a bit. She always caught me with my hand in the cookie jar (literally), and would tell me something to the effect of “You know, you shouldn’t be eating that…” and even though she was right, it only pushed me to hide my food in my room. There, I wouldn’t have to hear her mouth. There, I could go unchecked. Unquestioned. Uninterrupted. I could eat what the hell I wanted… and feel good afterwards.

But then, I didn’t. The feeling never lasted… which was why the entire 4-pack of drinks would never last longer than a few hours. It’s why the entire pack of twizzlers – y’know, the huge pull-n-peel bag? yeah, that one – never lasted longer than a day. It was literally like a junkie (junk-ie… see what I did there?) keeping a stash on hand, and then crashing… and then hunting around for her next high.

Was this a component of my sugar addiction? Perhaps. To recap:

When sugar is ingested, it immediately hits the blood stream and once the brain registers the sugar in the system, it releases the same opioids as it would if you were snorting something. Opioids are chemicals in the brain that cause us to be more tolerant of pain or even decrease our awareness of pain as well as increases feelings of pleasure and euphoria. The pleasureful feelings are the high we all experience. This, in my mind, is the cornerstone of emotional eating. The high relieves us from the pain we’re feeling and allows us to experience euphoria – a safe haven from our daily stresses. It also explains the withdrawal feelings:

“Recent behavioral tests in rats further back the idea of an overlap between sweets and drugs. Drug addiction often includes three steps. A person will increase his intake of the drug, experience withdrawal symptoms when access to the drug is cut off and then face an urge to relapse back into drug use. Rats on sugar have similar experiences. Researchers withheld food for 12 hours and then gave rats food plus sugar water. This created a cycle of binging where the animals increased their daily sugar intake until it doubled. When researchers either stopped the diet or administered an opioid blocker the rats showed signs common to drug withdrawal, such as teeth-chattering and the shakes. Early findings also indicate signs of relapse. Rats weaned off sugar repeatedly pressed a lever that previously dispensed the sweet solution.” [source]

Excerpted from: What Is Sugar Addiction? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

This… is “blissing out.” Please remember it – there are commercials that use “blissing out” as a selling point.

For me, hiding food was my way of self-enabling a habit that I didn’t really understand. I was just “doing what felt good,” and no amount of “self-checking” could convince me to look at that habit and question whether or not it was helpful or harmful. It just didn’t exist. It never happened. I never did it… that is, until it was time to do it.

How did I stop? It all came together for me when I realized that the food was “engineered” for me to fail. It was “manufactured” in a fashion that is supposed to cause me to lose my self-control. It was intended for me to not be able to maintain moderate portions. Once I started cutting those foods out, my ability to control myself returned… and I value that ability enough now to know that if I encounter a food that encourages that “bliss” feeling that I associate with my former sugar addiction… I know that I can’t be around that food regularly, and that I need to limit access to it.

I know now that I have to play the role of protector of myself and my emotions. I can’t enable myself into cheating myself out of enjoying life…. by sinking back into only enjoying food and forgetting that there are pleasures to be had elsewhere. Knowing that gave me everything I needed to avoid even creeping down those aisles of the grocery store, and that was the first and last step in kicking my “food hiding” habit. If I don’t have it in the house, I don’t have to worry about repeatedly telling myself I can’t have it. That battle is already won, and I save myself the struggle of fighting it.

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29 comments

Sarah November 16, 2010 - 11:35 AM

Salty Pringles. Chocolate-covered mini donuts — the cheap 99-cents-a-pack kind). Regular Pepsi. Eaten on the bus. After bad days at work. Wash, rinse, repeat. And then I’d go home and eat a full dinner. Ugh. Those were (NOT) the days.

Tiffany November 16, 2010 - 12:00 PM

The trunk of my car is where I keep my sweets. It makes it less convenient and I hate having to find keys and go out there to get it.

Peace, Love and Chocolate
Tiffany

MaiTai November 16, 2010 - 12:49 PM

This is something I continue to work on everyday. Riding around the perimeter of the grocery store so I avoid those types of foods is helpful. I’m much better now, I usually only crave when its that time of the month, but I still have to keep at it. Finding other things that make me happy has been key. It is so awful that companies know what they are doing to keep people addicted, but don’t care, and that is why it is my responsibility to myself to make sure to keep away from it.

Tameika November 16, 2010 - 2:35 PM

I don’t remember hiding food in my room, but I definitely binged on fast food while away from home. I would order food and scarf it down in the car and throw away all the evidence before I got home to my parents, roommates, and eventually the man who would become my husband. I’m not 100% sure what I was hungry for, but I know it wasn’t food. I did like the taste of it (heck I still kinda do) and I know all too well the feeling of “blissing out”. And as you say the key for me was remembering how I felt without those foods and while on those foods. And I say “on” because I agree they are addictive like drugs. I don’t want to be lethargic and still hungry after eating. I want to be satisfied, nourished and happy. Those feelings. The truly GOOD feelings and “bliss” has helped me resist fast food on my little weight loss journey. Great post. Thanks for sharing! Always enjoy your insightful posts. Makes me check myself and remember why I am making better choices now. Thanks again!

AJ November 16, 2010 - 5:07 PM

LOL – my roommate used to hide pepsi under her bed because we would drink too much of it. so what did we do? go under her bed and drink ’em. LOL

Pam November 16, 2010 - 7:45 PM

I think I am the old you. This post struck me so much. I have darn near broke myself spending hundreds a dollars a month on mostly junk food and eating out. I am doing some what better now but only because I have almost no money. I also have been exercising and drinking lots of water which has helped the cravings for those food diminish. Not only did I often get food and hide it, especially when I had room mates, but when I went to restaurants to place to go orders, I went to some so often that to avoid shame and embarrassment I would hold a piece of paper to pretend I was ordering for someone else. That’s right, I would get to full course meals, take them back to my room, and eat them both, usually in one sitting. I hated myself, and knew that I was spending money I absolutely could not afford, but yet again I still ended up in the same place. Even now I have to fight so hard to not get that pack of m and m’s or that moon pie. Even though I know that in those snacks are more calories than I eat for breakfast, even though I keep kettle popcorn and pineapples on hand, I still often loose the battle. I do feel like I am kicking an addiction and taking it one step at a time. Coming straight home instead of making a detour for twizzlers I could not afford anyway (I often cut into bus fare money to get junk) was a victory for me. If I stay inside and don’t run up there tonight, that’ll be another victory. It really is like kicking an addiction.

Ebony March 7, 2011 - 11:18 PM

We could be twins. I always did the same thing at Cheesecake factory. When I would go with a friend, I’d get two desserts to go and say one was for my mom. Or if I just went for a togo order by myself, I would pretend like I couldn’t remember what kind of cheesecake my “roommate” wanted. It is almost therapeutic writing about this right now.

Pam November 16, 2010 - 7:46 PM

Also, your blog is so amazing and is really giving me a lot of motivation. I often feel like I am harder on myself because I used to be in pretty good shape, but seeing where I use to be and where I am now can be really discouraging.

Ruth November 17, 2010 - 11:22 AM

A friend started me drinking diluted apple cider vinegar with honey once or twice a day, and I’ve found that I’ll even bake a cake and not feel like eating more than the obligatory slice. HIGHLY UNUSUAL(Of course,hubby and son are all smiles at this point)… but I’m not sure if there’s science behind this.

Any ideas, Erica?

Erika November 17, 2010 - 12:14 PM

For now, all I can refer to is “the placebo effect,” to be honest. Either that or the taste is so abysmal that it’s killing your appetite, lol.

Ruth November 17, 2010 - 2:10 PM

LOL! I did think of that, but then I started wondering at the unusually ‘selective’ nature of the effect. Hmmmm….

Thembi November 17, 2010 - 11:53 PM

My move used to be the candy grab n’ go. Instead of hiding food I’d go into a drugstore to get whatever and end up copping a Chunky bar along with whatever I went in there for (yes I realize the pun there). I’d murk that in the car, and then move on like nothing ever happened and wonder why my weight wasn’t under control because I’d only remember the actualy *food* that I’d eaten.

"Mira Luma" November 18, 2010 - 1:01 PM

@Thembi: I love that word “murk!” 🙂

My downfall is sweets, Doritos/chips/cheese puffs. I remember one evening,my husband and I went to the store hungry (I know – bad move!), and we impulsively bought a $3.99-size bag of Doritos from the store. As soon as we got in our car, we started eating the Doritos, and by the time we pulled up in front of our house, the bag was EMPTY. O_O Yeah, it was that bad!

I now keep those type of junk food items out of the house. Hubby started walking and now runs almost every day or every other day, and he is down about 40 pounds or so from last year, and I’m down 35 pounds and counting. I’m so proud of us both! No mo’ Doritos, though…… LOL

nettid January 3, 2011 - 7:31 PM

In my 20’s and early 30’s I was a stan for some Pepsi. I used to buy a multi pack and put them in the trunk of my car. I had to shut that Idea down because of the weight I gained from it (and the mess that it left when it was left in extreme heat and cold.)
@Thembi me and you are *here* with the Chunky bar. I wonder why I dont see too much of them any more.

Ebony March 7, 2011 - 11:13 PM

I used to bliss out on golden oreos. I didn’t develop the addiction until law school so I didn’t really have to hide the evidence from anyone at that point (I live alone). It got so bad at one point that I could go through an ENTIRE package in two days… maybe less if I stayed up late and watched a good movie. When I would go home during holidays, EVERY NIGHT I would go to Wallgreens and grab a pack of golden oreos (when I felt like being health conscious I would just get the tray sized pack…smh). I would hide it in my purse and wait until the parents went to sleep before I opened them up. Oh and I had to have a peach sunkist or mellow yellow to wash all that debilitating sugar down. Even while recognizing that I was hiding food from my mom when at and going through 2 or 3 packs of cookies a week while at school, I didn’t realize I had a problem until I saw myself through my mom’s eyes. It’s almost surreal writing this reply right now. I haven’t been off the golden oreo bandwagon too long but it has been just long enough for me to realize I was addicted and spiraling out of control. I know allllll too well that “blissed out” feeling…. all too well.

Janelle May 19, 2011 - 12:51 PM

I remember as a kid, one of my mother’s coworkers had a huge bowl of Hershey Miniatures at all times at her desk. When I would go to my mother’s job everyday after school, I would grab a handful of the candy bars every 30 min, run into the public bathroom and sit on the toilet and smash them all in my mouth. I was probably about 10 or 11 then. I’ve been struggling with sugar addiction since. I try to stay away. It is really a day by day struggle. I look at shows like Intervention and see heroin addicts in a bathroom shooting up secretly, and I say to myself…God…that’s me with sugar! I’m happy I’m finally working with my demons, it’s rough though!

Zenlizzie June 4, 2011 - 4:24 PM

My mom laughs about how she would find pop tarts hidden around my room, but one of my most vivid memories as a kid/adolescent is eating in secret! It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that wasn’t normal behavior. I think I spent a lot of time alone because I wanted to eat crappy food and not have to “discuss” it with anyone.

lexy June 11, 2011 - 7:55 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s so frustrating to start and fail on diet changes over and over again. I’ve just about lost all faith in my ability to conquer this way of eating.

Fitempress August 15, 2011 - 10:20 PM

I’m not even gonna read all the comments like i usually do before posting.

This is the third post I’ve read where u describe “me” down to the last letter in my name! I lived for my next Junk High!…….My mother is like yours. Junk wasn’t a thing that was regular in my house but when I experienced it for my self I was hooked and just like you I couldn’t eat it in front of her without her getting down on me about it. So my room became my “haven”I started buying all my favorites and stashing them in in my room……….Doritos, Cheetos, Chocolate, sodas , malts, u name it i had it stashed and i would “bliss out”. Then……i would crash…..look around at all the empty wrappers and bottles and start feeling like a big fat slob!

Then full of self loathing i would say i’m not gonna do this again and i would be good for a couple of days and then i’m like “okay if i just have one i’ll be ok” then one would become two then three and the cycle would begin again…..smh

I’m starting this journey again, tomorrow makes one week and ur site has been a major source of motivation and inspiration for me so far…………..THANK U!!!! for being real and being honest about ur struggle THANK U!!

elisha January 15, 2012 - 7:38 PM

I remember as a kid my father would take one or two of my siblings depending on how much money he had (there were too many of us lol) and sneak us food. things like burritos ice cream etc. and we would have to scarf it down before we got home so no one else would see. i now see the root of my being a “closet eater” as my mother would call me began.

Nikki July 25, 2012 - 11:51 AM

Oh Erika, it makes me so happy to read your website and find out that I’m not alone. I can remember hiding food back when I was a little girl. I would sneak into the kitchen, grab a handful of cookies and hide them in my room. As an adult, I would buy a box of soft baked cookies from the grocery store and sit on my bed and eat the whole box. I used to be so ashamed of this- and I still am, but now I’m finding ways to break myself. Its hard, its sooo hard, but everyday I’m doing better. Thanks for the inspiration.

Catherine August 25, 2012 - 7:34 PM

I remove all evidence of my bingeing as if that habit is going to magically go away!

oliviadaughter August 28, 2012 - 3:27 PM

Yesterday I had a good day of exercise and eating clean. BUT at about 11:00 p.m. I turned into a junkie, I knew there were no junk foods in the house, but I still looked hoping to find something. BUT I didn’t. I got back in the bed and went to sleep. That right there taught me a good lesson DON’T BRING IT IN THE HOUSE. I was so grateful that I don’t buy junk anymore.

Holly December 5, 2012 - 6:34 PM

I stumbled across your blog last night when I stumbled across this article, I knew I had to read it.

It’s encouraging to hear other people ‘fess up about hiding food. It carries a lot of shame, and since it’s a secret, it’s really easy to pretend it doesn’t happen. I’ve been doing it for years and am starting to wise up after gaining 25 pounds in the last year.

Growing up, we weren’t allowed any junk food in our house, but my Mom has always had a candy stash. That behavior has followed me into adulthood. If I’m stressed at work, I’d stop by the corner store on my commute home and grab a bag of chips and a soda, sometime even a king-size Twix, and gobble it all up before I got home. I’d dispose of the evidence, then eat dinner with my husband like nothing happened. Recently it’s been caramel cream “bull’s eyes”, I could go through a bag a day, but normally every other day. Family sized bag of Twizzlers or Red Vines in one or two days. It’s crazy to write this, I’ve never told anyone!

Right now I’m feeling pretty crappy from kicking sugar. I’ve done it before and know it’ll get better, but this time it’s the sugar addiction AND weight gain. I feel like I’ve really let myself down.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your story, your blog is awesome – I’m going to bookmark it and keep coming back for inspiration.

F. January 7, 2013 - 5:39 PM

Sounds like lots of us had health-conscious mothers who didn’t keep treats in the house and tried to discourage or restrict our sweet intake. I know now that my struggle with binge-eating came from my struggle for independence – for the freedom to make my own decisions about my own body.

A sugar addiction is like a drug addiction, in some respects. But when I tried to ‘quit’ sugar, like you quit drugs, I was miserable – I thought about chocolate and stuffing my face all day long, I couldn’t focus on anything, I was more obsessed with food than before.

So instead I tried having a portion a day: one slice of cake, or one chocolate bar, or two biscuits. I make a conscious decision to eat my treat, so I can look forward to it, and stay in control. It’s been miraculous, I’ve lost 20 pounds and haven’t binged in 12 weeks.

Leah January 21, 2013 - 10:04 PM

This really resonated with me, because I can really relate. My mother never struggled with her weight, and neither has anyone in my family. But I’ve always been very overweight. Not just 10-20 Ibs overweight either. I’m only 18 and I’m a senior in high school so I still live at home, and my mother is constantly on my case about every single thing that I put in my mouth. Anything. I can go without eating for hours and the second I state that I am hungry an argument will ensue. It’s like in her mind I should never be hungry. I know she has my best interests in mind but her constant pestering has only pushed me to eat in private. Over the years I’ve learned to just hide everything. She has a strict no-junk-food policy and I simply just buy my snacks when I’m out or with friends. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I’m tired of making excuses and I’m tired of feeling ashamed of myself. Thank you for sharing your story because it’s really opened my eyes.

Kirsten January 31, 2013 - 9:15 PM

My mom had her own food issues when I was growing up and she taught me things like eating a Big Gulp with a pound of sliced American cheese in the car for lunch. My first husband was overweight and we would binge eat together. My current husband, however, is in good shape and is a healthy eater. He gets quite upset when he sees me drinking Coke or eating McDonalds, etc. So the first 6 years of our marriage I became a food hider. I had food hidden in my dresser, in the kitchen cabinets I knew he didn’t open, in my car, under my side of the bed, anywhere I thought he would not see them. I would very carefully bag the wrappers so they were in the middle of all the other garbage and bring it right to the outside garbage can or I would drive them to a public garbage can to throw them out. I haven’t hidden food for awhile now and what a relief! No more guilt, no more shame, no more fear of being found out. Never want to go back there again!!!

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