The media has played a prominent role in influencing and reflecting the unrealistic and troubling societal norms as far as the thin female body is concerned, and many continue to capitalise on this by inventing ridiculous new diagnostic labels. "Liar-exia" is the latest.
The reason for women's secrecy around food deserves understanding, not sexy tags. They feel the need to be devious about their starving (or bingeing and often purging, or exercising excessively) in order to distract attention from what they are doing, which can have psychological reason. Not only do they deceive others, they also deceive themselves by not seeing their life and circumstances in a realistic way. Many will eat in public to try to convince others that they are eating normally and stave off persuasion to eat more. And secret eaters are as vulnerable as secret starvers. Secret eating describes what many bulimics and anorexics do — eat very restrictively in public but succumb to the urge to binge in private.
Not all secret eaters are fully diagnostically anorexic or bulimic, though they may be on their way. Some are shy to eat in public for fear of being labeled uncontrolled or gluttonous. Many overweight people hold these feelings, as do those of normal weight who fear being perceived as otherwise.
Ordinary women often feel guilty eating unhealthy food, especially in front of others. There's so much unrealistic and unhealthy pressure from society to be healthy that they feel embarrassed if they can't keep up. Research has shown woman can seldom maintain a "perfect" eating plan and exercise regime, and this can often lead to eating disorders.
Women are generally competitive; one aspect of that relates to appearance. This is what can give rise to what's being termed "liar-exia". The behaviour may also stem from fear of being judged by others as being superficial, or from having exaggerated concern for the opinions of others. It may actually seem easier to lie about your true eating habits than to justify your diet choices to friends and family.
WEIGHING THE COSTS
The danger of secrecy around both feeding and starving is the preservation of potentially destructive behaviour. While it continues unchallenged, it may feel endorsed by others. But there can be other dangers, too - to ease their secret starving, some women self-medicate on harmful substances.
In point of fact, there are many of models using unhealthy methods of dieting. Lots of the girls are on high-protein diets, and have one day when they eat everything; the rest of the time they secretly starve. The pressure to be thin is far greater - from the girls' agents and even from their moms.
The fact remains that body image today is a leading concern among young women. A survey says that 85% of women had been on a diet, compared with 61% five years ago. Our self-esteem has become entwined with our weight and body shape, and even those with a naturally high metabolism can pick up weight when this slows down around the age of 30. This requires watching what we eat, eating smaller meals more frequently on a sensible, sustainable plan and exercising more, if we want to conform to unrealistic norms. And those who manage it while professing not to do this, or posting DIPEs, may well be fibbing - and at risk of an eating disorder (see “Signs of secret eating or starving”).
If you are one of them, be honest and if need be get help. If you suspect it in a friend, be circumspect. Question your motives before you question her. Are you genuinely worried about her wellbeing or just jealous of her body?
And if you have friends who eat healthily and exercises regularly don’t tempt them to have the dressing or the cheesecake they resolutely resist, or to skip gym or a run, she urges. Be supportive or mind your own business - many lie about their true diet simply because others are judgmental, and you may pressure them into deception.
“Signs of secret eating or starving”
Suspect a problem if you (or a friend)...
# eats large quantities around people but stays slim or lose weight when previously unable to.
# eats lots of sweet or high-fat foods and don't gain weight.
# head for the bathroom after eating.
# worry or complain about being overweight.
# check in mirrors for imagined flaws
# are a perfectionist
# wear loose or layered clothing
# take supplements for weight loss
# become depressed or irritable.
If you recognise a combination of these factors in yourself and have had an unhealthy weight loss, get professional help. If you see them in a friend, draw her out gently and nonjudgmentally. Tell her you are concerned about her wellbeing and suggest she gets help.