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Shhh! We have a secret!

By Michelle May, M.D.

We have a Mindful Eating Retreat for Emotional Eating and Binge Eating coming up that offers an effective treatment for binge eating. Well actually, we’re not trying to keep that quiet, but in a way, we need to.

You see, most people who binge eat do so alone, in secret. They feel guilty and ashamed about their secretive bingeing and go to great lengths to hide their behaviors from others. They experience great distress as a result of their binge eating, but they often fear that seeking help for binge eating disorder might expose their secret. They feel out of control and know they need help, yet the secretive nature of the problem just might prevent them from getting it!

Ann Marie, one of our retreat participants, said, “We think that we can ‘fix’ this on our own, but the years pass and prove that it’s not true in most cases—it wasn’t in mine.”

During introductions at one of our retreats, one of our retreat participants said that she had told her husband she was going to a tennis camp. She brought her racquet and planned to play so it was a sort of half-truth. Another said she had told her husband she was going to a “women’s retreat.” We all laughed when she told us that when he started to ask some questions about what we’d be talking about, she said, “Oh hormones and things” and that shut him right up!

Solar DaisyWe totally get it! That is why we are so careful with our receipts and post-registration communications; everything is marked as ME-BE Retreat (no “Binge Eating” mentioned). I guess you could say you are going to a retreat to “learn about me and just be!” And in many ways, that is absolutely true!

Once at the retreat, it’s a whole different story. Over the course of the 5 day retreat, their dark secret is brought out into the light – and like this solar powered daisy, they come to life! Participants quickly discover that they are not alone or crazy; the things they do, others do too. They find out that their experiences, feelings, thoughts, and fears are shared by other people. And as they forge deep connections with others who “get” them, they discover how lovable and beautiful they really are. They see it in each other, so they can’t help but begin to believe it about themselves.

Ann Marie explained, “As you sit in small group therapy and hear ‘your’ story over and over, you know that you are truly not alone. Some of the greatest things to come out of the retreat are the friendships and the compassion. You finally have hope.”

Ann Marie said that her retreat experience gave her the confidence to finally share her secret with her husband (still the only other person who knows). “Telling my husband totally released the anxiety I felt about hiding. It was such a great relief. So freeing!”

Far from judging her, he became her ally. “He has become my cheerleader, reminding me all the time how far I’ve come. He even counts my cumulative days without bingeing – well over 350 days since my retreat!”

“Even though initially I felt so embarrassed, my life now is so much better. The physical and emotional healing is unbelievable. I wish I knew then how much better it would be now. Exposing my secrets truly was one my keys to recovery.”


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.


  1. Suzy G says:

    Yes! When I attended the Binge Eating retreat a few years back, it was billed to my VISA as “Am I Hungry?” I blacked it out with a marker & told my husband it was a “Writer’s Retreat.” I mentioned that at the retreat–that maybe the billing name could be changed.

    I’m glad to hear it is more innocuous , as my “affair” with Dearest B (Binge) was not known by my husband. He had no idea I was cheating on him with secret & hidden binges.

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