Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
become the person you were meant to be...

The Weight-Sexual Abuse Connection

Note: All names and identifying information have been changed.


The Weight—Sexual Abuse Connection


When did you first start substituting love for food?” I asked my client. (Note: names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

I don’t really know,” she answered as she reached for the Kleenex box. “I remember in high school when I’d lost a lot of weight, and this really popular guy gave me the eye, if you know what I mean.”

My nod encouraged her to continue. “What did you do right after he gave you the eye?” I asked, knowing what was probably coming.

I went right home and raided the refrigerator.”

You’re terrified of your own beauty? “ I asked, although it was spoken softly and sounded more like a statement than a question.

I guess so. His look made me realize at that second that if I didn’t put a layer of protection around myself—actually a layer of fat—then I would probably be abused again, or turning back into my old promiscuous self, which is even worse. So yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m terrified of my own beauty.”

I encouraged her to continue therapy to get to the roots of the issues, which often display themselves through many secondary symptoms, including

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders (including obesity, anorexia, and bulimia)
  • Other addictions
  • Promiscuity or lack of sexual intimacy
  • Difficulties in friendships and other relationships

When did you first start to gain a lot of weight?” is a crucial question. Something happened to the person at that time in her life. It may have been the divorce of her parents, sexual abuse, or another extremely painful situation. Until the pain is dealt with, the food addiction will probably not improve.

The great news is that help is available! Professional counseling and sexual abuse groups, where you work through the pain, is the road to change.

This client has now lost over 40 pounds, and is becoming increasingly comfortable with her beauty.

Does this mean that every woman who is significantly overweight was sexually abused? Of course not. However, many who have struggled with weight issues did experience

major trauma in their lives. Usually they will continue to struggle with the weight until they work on the roots of their issues.

Being overweight is usually a symptom of underlying issues, and more than likely the weight loss won’t stick until these issues are dealt with. To work on the weight alone is somewhat like chopping off the top of a weed in your garden. The root will be hidden for a while, but sooner or later the weed will reappear.


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