As a nutrition and eating psychology professional, I am quite fascinated by how much energy we can expend in our relationship with food. We think about food, worry about it, obsess about weight, we hope for the perfect body, search for the best nutritional system, and we often live in a silent war against the natural, inborn need to eat. It’s easy for many of us to become quite fascinated with our own complex journey with food and weight. Maybe even a little obsessed. Of course, all this is part of our journey to wholeness, yet I notice that for many of us who are trying to find peace with food, something very dear and important tends to be missing.
When we make our relationship with food, weight, and nutrition too important, we will likely have less of ourselves to give to other relationships. We’ll have limited room for intimacy with another. How can we invite in love, connection and vulnerability if there’s a silent war going on inside us that commands so much of our attention?
Here’s the interesting paradox. So many people I meet put gobs of effort into weight, body image and diet so they can somehow create the hottest body, so they can be noticed and adored, which means they have a greater probability of sexually attracting a mate, becoming fabulous, and finding true love. Yet we push away the intimacy we seek because there’s no room left in the bed. Food has oddly morphed into our “substitute lover.” Can you see how our “food life” can put the fire out of our “sex life?”
Sexual intimacy – the kind that lights us up and makes life worth living – is waiting for us to let go of our food fears and find some love for our own body. The more intimate and honoring we are of our own physical form, the greater is our sexual and emotional availability. Psychologists, going back to the days of Freud himself, love to talk about “narcissism.” This feature of the human psyche can have us so deeply and exclusively involved with “me”, that we unwittingly exclude others.
Just as we are living in a time in history where we are learning how to truly nourish ourselves with food, we are also living at a time in history where we are learning about the deeper mysteries of our sexuality. Consider this story: A client of mine was coming to see me for weight loss. She was 55 years old, hated her body, and was convinced that if she could only lose 25 pounds, she’d finally love herself, claim her sexuality, and find a man. Sadly, almost three decades of dieting left her where she started weight-wise.
And she was without sex or a partner for almost 11 years – a long, lonely, intimacy desert. I suggested that she may have had things backwards. Instead of traveling the road of losing weight and having the perfect body to arrive at her sexual coming out party, have the coming out party now. Get back in the game now. Open up to sexual intimacy with the body you have right now. Stop waiting to express yourself sexually until you have lost some arbitrary bunch of body fat. My client was stunned, and said she needed to think about it.
Weeks later when we met, she had this to share – she realized that she had been using weight loss for the last 11 years to distract herself from her insecurities around sex, and from a past relationship that had left her crushed and cheated on. She had never gotten over her hurt, and somehow swept this part of her life into a dark corner. Food wasn’t her real issue. Sex was. Intimacy was. And opening up to love was.
Consider your own dance between food, weight, body image, and sex. Can you see the wisdom in putting your food concerns to the side for just a little while, so sexual intimacy can have some room to breathe and stretch? Simply put – if food has gotten in your way in the bedroom, then it’s time to bring sex to the table. I would love to hear about a moment when you opened up and let yourself get back in the game!
My warmest regards,
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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