Last week, I had the great honor to talk on the tele-seminar “Abundance Reigns” where my topic was about our hungers and desires and how they relate to creating a more fulfilling life. This was a very fun talk and very interesting to prepare because the more I prepared the presentation, the more connections I kept coming up with between our physical hunger for food and our physical and emotional need for sex. I quickly realized that I could have done the entire presentation on that topic alone and could write a dozen articles on the many ways food and sex correlate. However, for today’s purposes, I want to look at how we often use food to fill an unmet need in our sex lives.
The connection between food and sex exists for both sexes, but is extraordinarily apparent in looking at female eating and sexual behaviors. There have been entire books written simply on this topic in regards to women.
In any theory of human needs, you will find both food and sex as two vital elements. Without food, we will starve to death and without sex and physical connection, we will also fail to survive and/or simply thrive.
In my experience as a therapist working with eating disorders and as a coach working with individuals that sometimes struggle with disordered eating patterns, it is common for people to find struggles on their plate, which are really struggles in the bedroom. Often, my clients think I am crazy at first when I start asking them about their sex lives. I will get comments such as, “I don’t have any issues with sex. My issues are all around food”, “I don’t even think about sex; it doesn’t matter to me but I am constantly thinking about food”. The problem with this thought pattern being that many of us in this day and age have learned to use food as a manner in which to cover up unmet needs/desires…. And often specifically our needs/desires surrounding sex.
We as Americans often like to think we are incredibly open minded and that we are very comfortable in our sexuality. However, the truth is we have influences of religion, how we were raised, past sexual experiences, and social pressures that can alter our opinions of sex and in truth leave us starving sexually. Often, people carry around deep shame around wanting/needing physical affection and so bury these needs deep in our psyches. However, we can’t bury our needs for very long because they come out in different ways. Commonly, this avenue is our food.
How you may ask:
You aren’t getting any physical affection and feeling of comfort at home and so you simply turn to foods that provide you comfort.
You aren’t allowing yourself to truly be present and have connected sex….and so you begin bingeing on chocolate because that’s going to release similar hormones and make you have a false sense of connection.
You don’t think you deserve physical pleasure and so you start cutting foods from your diet, which brings you pleasure.
A while ago, I had the pleasure of knowing a woman, and at the time friend, she was unfortunately struggling with anorexia. When I asked this friend about her sex life, she responded that she thought sex/masturbation was dirty and sinful outside of marriage. Therefore, whenever she was “bad” and touched herself in a sexual manner, she would then have to punish herself by restricting for days simply to cleanse her guilt and shame.
You may look at this example as extreme, but honestly, I have a long list of similar stories I could share from friends, patients, clients, and personally. The point is that we are told, as women in particular, to not want/need/desire sex and the same really goes for the messages we receive around food. So, the ramification is that many of us try to stifle these needs but end up playing what I like to call “Whack a Mole” because we can’t truly get rid of those needs.
From a personal perspective, I spent years denying my sexuality and sensuality of simply being a woman. The result (amongst some other things) was a raging eating disorder that almost took my life. I didn’t want to be a sexual being and I felt extreme shame around this topic, so I attempted to starve, binge, and purge the needs away! It was not until I faced a variety of issues in my life, but particularly those surrounding sexuality, that I was able to get free.
So, before I close, I do want to clarify that not any old sex is going to fill this need that is showing up on our plates… We need connected sex with others and/or ourselves. We need to be able to feel safe, secure, and loved in that moment in order to start to fill ourselves up. The reason this is so important is because we have hormones, one being Oxytocin, that are released when we are really able to get into our bodies during a sexual experience. These are also similar hormones that are released or are decreased with certain foods.
My challenge for you is to really take a look at your relationship to your own sexuality and also your own food. Are you starving yourself of your needs and desires or are you bingeing on food and sex that are meaningless and aren’t giving you joy? Take some time to get introspective of how your own needs/desires are interacting.
— Written by Addison Bell, Tantric Practitioner & Coach