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Binge-eating, Intimacy and Sex

Clients hardly ever bring up sex in my office and even more rarely do those of high weight or binge-eaters bring up the subject. Many still have Puritanical values about sex, and it can be especially tough if you are ashamed of your body to speak about this special kind of intimacy. Well, time to break the taboo.

Intimacy is different than sex says Deanna James, LPC, R-DMT, writing about the subject in “When binge-eating disorder interferes with intimacy” (Eating Disorder Hope, No. 32). “Intimacy in a personal relationship involves both physical and emotional closeness with another person, which is very difficult to sustain in either emotional or physical isolation that is typical with BED.” The fact is that sometimes people of high weight feel comfortable having sexual, but not emotional, intimacy which means letting their guard down or feeling vulnerable. The opposite is also true. Sometimes they’re comfortable with emotional closeness, but are so ashamed of their bodies (if high weight), that sex is off the table even as a topic of discussion.

Says James, “Healthy intimacy means an active degree of body acceptance, and letting go of worries and fears about body image. For many with binge-eating disorder, it is these very emotions and feelings that can reinforce bingeing and also pull a person away from their partner…” Ironically, the more isolated and cut off from intimacy a person becomes, the more important it is to find his or way back to closeness, something most of us enjoy and thrive on. Sometimes the non-BED partner wants to reach out to a BED-partner, but is afraid of rejection or upsetting him or her. Equally,
the non-BED partner may try reaching out, but may give up after continuous rebuffs—leaving the BED partner feeling more alone, defective, ashamed, and likely to turn to food for comfort.

If you have BED and it has pulled you back from emotional and physical intimacy, you are depriving yourself of a pleasure you (we all) need. Who knows? Once you have more intimacy, perhaps your binges will decrease or subside. Maybe having your body loved by someone else, will help you accept it. What first step could you take to connect to your partner—talk to a friend or a professional first about your discomfort, take action to be emotionally, physically or sexually more open with your partner, or share your fears and your desires with a professional. If you were raised to think that talking about sex is naughty and unacceptable, you’ve got some outdated beliefs. It’s a bodily function and should be discussed as openly as any other desire or pleasure.