Women, Food, Sex, Pleasure, and Weight - Do you know the connections_

For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I love to discover and illuminate the unseen connections in the world of health, nutrition, and consciousness. Indeed, if we truly want to advance the field of eating and nutrition, or any field for that matter, we need to be courageous enough and original enough to see into the hidden Web of Life. For me, connections tend to reveal themselves as I continue to cultivate openness, and deep listening.

Sometimes the hidden architecture of the universe is indeed hidden from our vision. At other times, it’s right in front of our eyes, but we simply hadn’t noticed. The great linguist and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” With that in mind, I’d love to share with you these thoughts around the connection between women, food, pleasure, sex, and weight:

A client once came to see me to lose 30 lbs. Alice was 49 years old, a health professional, 5’10, smart, funny, attractive, outgoing, successful, and frustrated that  22 years of intense dieting and exercise still had gotten her nowhere. She desperately wanted to lose weight, but knew she needed a different approach. Alice had also tried medical fasting, a long list of supplements, and received all the relevant medical tests that revealed what she suspected all along – that nothing was wrong with her metabolism and her health was fine. Alice felt confused and fed-up with the world of dieting.

When I asked her why she was so motivated to lose weight, she replied that she wanted to find the love of her life.

It was time to meet a special man after having divorced in her early 30s and spending the last 6 years without any dating or relationship. A few more details about Alice – she hated her body, constantly insulted her own weight and figure, enjoyed food but was forever fighting her appetite, and seemed to have a love/hate relationship with men. She was still angry with her ex husband, and found herself resenting any man who showed any attraction towards her. And her diet was pretty healthy, and moderate in terms of calories.

So let me cut right to the heart of the matter and tell you how I helped Alice lose the weight without changing anything she ate.

First, I noticed that because she had “disowned” her body and decided it was worthy of her contempt – she had cast out any sense of pleasure and fun. She hadn’t been touched or massaged in 6 years. She went to the gym but hated exercise machines. She ate her meals quickly and didn’t really feel “nourished” by food. She dressed in clothing that was outdated and unflattering. And she complained about how she couldn’t feel comfortable in her own skin.

I find that many of us believe that once we lose weight, then and only then will we love our body, be happy, be the real “me”, be outgoing and confident, and finally have the good life. But here’s the headline news: It’s a complete lie. Indeed, Alice had lost the weight several times, but gained it back rather quickly – a very typical story.

The strategy that I use with weight loss clients like Alice is very simple – let’s achieve all the results you expect at the end as a result of weight loss, in the beginning. Meaning, it’s time to love your body right now. It’s time to receive pleasure now. It’s time to be the real you now. Then and only then can lasting weight loss be possible. How can we treat the body with punishing exercise, a flaccid diet, negative self talk, and constant unlove – and expect to be happy at the end of it all?

The journey will always inform the destination.

So, I coached Alice in baby steps. Start getting some touch. Pay for a regular massage. Slow down with food. Eat in with some sensuousness and appreciation. Buy some fabulous new clothes. Give up exercise machines and take the dance class you’ve always been interested in. Pamper yourself more. Show your body some love.

Needless to say, this was all groundbreaking for Alice. And she embraced it with anticipation, and a nervous excitement.

Next, we did a bit of a deeper dive into her relationship with sexuality. It turns out that her boss had raped her during a summer internship as a graduate student. Her excess weight came on shortly after that experience. Alice had never made the connection between her weight and her sexual assault. It stunned her. I suggested to her that for many women, excess weight is often a brilliant protection against sexual harm and dangerous men. The lights really came on for her. Here she was, with one part of her trying to lose weight so she can find a man, while another part of her was committed to holding onto the very weight that protected her from men. Can you see the conundrum here? And can you now understand why after years of intense effort, the weight could not come off until she uncovered the reasons why it needed to be there in the first place?

After a number of months exploring these different voices within her, making some peace, and integrating her past with more insight and compassion, Alice felt ready to date. She understood that she had cast out pleasure from her life, and cast out her sexuality – yet she had been using diet and exercise to try to have the kind of body that would somehow make it all better. Previously, she could not lose the weight because she needed that weight to protect her. The body has a wisdom that trumps all the ways we try to take shortcuts in life. We cannot override the wisdom of the universe that speaks through the body. We simply need to listen to it.

After 6 months of working together, Alice was truly enjoying food. She wasn’t in dieting consciousness, she wasn’t doing punishing and boring exercise, she had “reclaimed” her sensuality through touch and beauty care and dance, she was going on dates with different men, and she was falling in love with her body. But here’s the real eye opener – she lost 25 lbs. The weight came off gradually and without any dieting whatsoever. In so many ways, Alice had simply re-birthed herself as a woman.

Of course, if we continue to look at weight as if it’s exclusively a bunch of ugly invasive body fat that we need to hate and attack, then we will continue to battle with it, and wonder why we keep losing. It’s time to let go of the fight altogether, and dive deeper into our humanity, and into our metabolism that is influenced by more than mere calories and exercise.

This is just one example, one story of the profound connections between our relationship with food, weight, pleasure, and sex. There are plenty more connections and magical ways that the body can heal and transform and shape-shift once we begin to see weight as more than just “calories in, calories out.”

The human body is profoundly complex, and deeply impacted by the soul inhabiting it.

This, by the way, is also one example of the work that we teach at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We look for the every-day and profound ways that our inner world impacts our metabolic world. We use weight-loss as a doorway to help people get to the deeper places within themselves that matter most – the places where true and lasting shape-shifting is born.

How have your eating challenges revealed what matters most to you?

My warmest regards,

Marc David
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

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  • Dear Marc,
    Thanks for the wonderful post. I am a psychologist in California and specialize in working with people around issues related to eating and weight. Did my dissertation on overeating and attachment patterns. Your post inspired many thoughts about the way our earliest experiences of being touched often also involved being fed and the convergence of eating, attachment and sexuality. Rich food for thought! Would be nice to connect with you around this important work! Thanks, Anne.

  • This was a fascinating, interesting post! Loved the quote at the beginning about analyzing the obvious. I enjoy your updates on Facebook (first read about you during your interview with Sue Ann Gleason) — keep up the great, realistic, life-affirming work!

  • Liz Barajas

    Interesting and thought provoking article! Thank you so much for sharing. Definitely gave me some perspective. Thanks again!

  • Another ingenius commentary from IPE. I am continually astounded by the depth of your insight Marc and am proud to be a graduate of it! I am Alice, and am seeking ways to release my protective weight too. I credit you with awakening my awareness to it 🙂

  • Jody_PDX

    Marc

    I read your book, ‘The Slow Down Diet” several years back and have been following your blog posts for quite some time.

    I agree that we women need to slow down, enjoy our food and reconnect with ourselves, but I also believe that we need to look at the amount of carbohydrates we ingest (especially when we’re feeling down and we reach for the cake and ice-cream). Personally, no amount of quality ‘me time’ could counter the elevated levels of insulin in my bloodstream…even if I am fully enjoying and savoring my tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread.

    I recently read Dr. William Davis’ book “Wheat Belly’ as well as Nora Gedgaudas’ “Primal Body-Primal Mind” and am finally understanding that my so called “healthy dietary choices’, namely whole grains and legumes, contribute to my weight gain even if I am diligently practicing self care (I get a weekly massage, enjoy sex with my husband, and think I look damn good for nearly 40 despite carrying a few extra pounds that I know I will get rid of with my newly obtained knowledge). I do indeed want to continue following your advice, but at the same time, recognize that modern society has moved far away from our cavemen roots and the healthcare expert’s nutrition advice (primarily touting low fat diets) are essentially making us sicker and fatter despite our self-care efforts.

    • Nicole

      Oh lord

  • I learned late in life to love who I am as I am and in doing so, discovered I am not my body. I never weigh myself, eat vegetarian meals and walk 4 times a week. At 60 years old I feel healthy, look healthy and love my body as it is.

  • Re-birthed herself as a woman, yes. Magical things happen around body image and weight when we begin to embrace our bodies, even our belly.

    Thank you, Marc. A day doesn’t pass that your work doesn’t touch one of my client’s lives.

  • I am on a similar journey as the one shared here. After living my entire life disembodied, I am learning how to inhabit my own physical for the first time at 39. I don’t have weight to lose, but I do have energetic weight to release. And learning to “nourish” myself for the first time EVER has been the key to this dramatic shift I’m experiencing. I was blessed to stumble across the work of Sue Ann Gleason and she introduced these simple but life-changing concepts to me. I am reclaiming the sparkle that has been missing all of this time … and quite nicely, my body is starting to shine it’s beauty as well. No turning back … an embodied, nourished life is the only kind to lead.

  • BeeKaye

    Before picture:

    “… excess weight is often a brilliant protection against sexual harm and dangerous men.”

    After picture:

    ” … she was going on dates with different men …”

    Cinderella is transformed by her fairy godfather and lives happily every after.

  • Rebecca Walker

    I can resonate with some of this article. I am “disconnected” from my body in the sense that It’s like a friend who used to be close and has now grown distant. I don’t enjoy picking out new clothes because my foremost concern is trying to disguise my mid-section. I also no longer feel a whole lot of pleasure, period. But I certainly don’t feel like “if only…”. I don’t expect anything to change except my body profile by losing weight. Also, I’m married, have never been raped, and my husband is NOT turned off by my belly.

    • KarnaN

      Hi Rebecca,

      My name is Karna Nau and I am the Director of Student Relations here at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
      Thank you for your comment. Like Marc says in the end of this article “This is just one example, one story of the profound connections between our relationship with food, weight, pleasure, and sex. There are plenty more connections and magical ways that the body can heal and transform and shape-shift once we begin to see weight as more than just “calories in, calories out.” The human body is profoundly complex, and deeply impacted by the soul inhabiting it.” Marc is highlighting the fact that there is more to the story of weight than simply eating too many calories than you burn.
      Congratulations on finding a husband who loves you the way you are, it is truly wonderful to be supported that way.

      Warm regards,

      Karna

  • Christine

    Lovely, just lovely!

  • Great story.

  • Mara

    I have long wondered about if the sexual abuse I suffered as a young child resulted in my weight gain. I was molested from the age of 5-6 until I was about 10 years old. Shortly after this time I started gaining weight. I was a heavy teenager so I became bulimic to try to maintain a normal weight. My weight has been up and down my entire life, but I noticed that when I received attention from men that my diets stopped working. I had a gastric bypass several years ago and have been at a average/small size for several years. I have noticed lately that my weight was going up again, and it corresponded with male attention. I do not want to go through the weight gain cycle again. What would you suggest to help?

    • KarnaN

      Hi Mara,

      Thank you for your openness and transparency. I’m sorry to hear about your story and what you have had to go through in your life.
      To be able to give you really solid advice we would need to ask you many more questions to get a clear idea of what would be most helpful for your unique situation.
      We strongly suggest that you start working with a professional as we have found that it is nearly impossible to heal these issues on your own.
      We’d be happy to match you with an appropriate counselor if that’s something you are interested in.
      If you would like to be referred to a professional, please email me directly at karna@psychologyofeating.com with a little more information about yourself (including your age and location) and I will get back to you promptly.
      I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

      Warm regards,

      Karna Nau
      Director of Student Relations
      karna@psychologyofeating.com
      Work # 303-440-7642

      http://www.psychologyofeating.com
      Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IPEfanpage

  • Jane

    Love Marc’s work and look forward to his posts. I have battled my weight for most of my 56 years. I hate my body and feel gross. What really hit me was about getting a massage. I have had one in my life and was uncomfortable the entire time. My feelings were that the masseuse would be disgusted by having to touch my fat. That really told me how much of a problem I have with my body. But I also have a deep belief that I can’t be healed. I have sought counsel before but have never had relief-not the fault of the therapist. So, I trudge on!

    • KarnaN

      Hi Jane,

      Thank you for being so open and sharing your story with us. It sounds like your are having a very challenging relationship with your body. In our experience it can be very difficult to heal this type of issue on your own.We have many accomplished counselors in our network and I would be happy to refer you to a suitable counselor if that is of interest to you.
      If you would like to receive a referral, please email us at info@psychologyofeating.com with your age, location, and main concern at this time and will get back to you shortly.
      I wish you all the best on your journey either way.

      Warm regards,

      Karna Nau
      Director of Student Relations
      Institute for the Psychology of Eating

  • dear Marc, what a joy to read your article. It doesn’t happen a lot to read something which is worthwhile, no nonsense! The relationships between health, eating, weight, wellbeing, etc. are so fascinating! We still have so much to learn! Best wishes, Gwendolyn

    • Marc David

      Hi Gwendolyn,

      Thank you for your kind words.
      I agree, we do have so much to learn, which is what makes everything so interesting!
      It never ends…
      Happy New Year.

      Warm regards,

      Marc David

  • Hi Marc,
    Another wonderful article. I have admired your insight for many years, and thank you for the authentic words about weight and protection. Your work and service in the world is much appreciated, brother.
    Blessings, and Happy New Desires!
    Warmly,
    Miriah

    • Marc David

      Hi Miriah,

      Thank you for your kind words and your unique work on this planet!
      I really appreciate it.
      Right back at you sister!

      Warmly,

      Marc David

  • Melissa

    Wow.

    Great story, great insight.

    I gained weight when I first started college. Very briefly I toyed with telling the image in my mirror that it was fat and ugly. VERY briefly. I’m kind of plain, but no one’s ever been near me with an ugly stick. So, then I’d look at myself in the mirror and think “You are beautiful and fat. Next week you’ll be beautiful and slender!” I used the phrase “next week” metaphorically, and it was easier to lose weight that way.

    Before I turned 30, however, I came down with Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Eating, for me, became a time of terror. Would I get sick? If I did get sick, would it be mild, or horrific, entailing a trip to the ER? Food, while still a necessity, became a deeply feared enemy.

    So, I fought back, watched as much of the food channel as I could, and became an amateur gourmet chef. Well, as much of a gourmet chef who is denied the use of wheat, eggs, corn, all cow dairy products, soy, almonds, and that’s just what I’m flat out allergic to. What kicks off IBS is a whole other list. And what I can’t eat now that I’ve developed fructose intolerance? YIKES!

    But I still love food. Steak, rice, 1/4 cup acorn squash (high in fructose, but matched by either dextrose or sucrose enough that small amounts are tolerated.), certified GMO-free spelt dinner rolls. Yum! That’s a meal!

    But not a day goes by that I don’t have to deal with the negative psychology and PTSD I have over food due to nearly 3 decades of all the misery I’ve gotten from eating.

    It is difficult.

    Again, thank you for this article!

    Sincerely,
    Melissa

    • Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for the praise.

      I’m so grateful to hear about your refusal to stick with the conventional self-messaging: “you’re fat, ugly, not good enough, stupid,” etc. that so many get stuck on, and choose to have passion for your life instead. We would never think to listen to a stranger call us nasty and hurtful names; what makes us think our inner selves want to hear any of that from us? “You’re beautiful” or “The World needs you” is so much more life affirming, and besides, it often opens up other places where old beliefs have become stagnant. Plus, isn’t it amazing when we actually get to tell the truth? — including the one about why we’re here.

      Life is so much about expressing our gifts.

      Warmly,

      Marc David

  • Lyndsey

    Hi Marc,

    I have had a very similar experience to this woman and would be very interested in working with you. Is this possible?

    • Hi Lyndsey, Thanks so much for reaching out. I’m not seeing clients right now because I am focused full-time on teaching, but I encourage you to check out our directory of Certified Eating Psychology Coaches here: http://tinyurl.com/IPE-directory I applaud your courage in facing and working with the experiences that you’ve had, and wish you all the best! Warmly, Marc

About The Author
Marc David
Founder

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.