Food, Sex & How to Make Peace

Growing up — period — presents us with all kinds of questions, insecurities, and heartaches. These feelings (yep, you’re not the only one!) can be so hard to process — If you’re lucky enough to have an honest and compassionate group of friends in your life, hold them close.
Oftentimes, the “ease” of suppressing what scares us can lead to a long-term comfort with discomfort, as we slowly forget what it feels like to simply let go.

In high school, I noticed a lot of my friends were petrified of opening up — a fear that multiplied in university, when the concept of feeling anonymous, alone or “like a number” took root. My personal frustration was palpable — here we were, thousands, millions of people, all in one city! It felt like the solution to our problems stood at arms length, every day, as we’d ride the subway to class — we were simply too afraid to reach out and acknowledge it.

Whether it’s with food, emotions, or professional goals, living in an assumption of inability is one of the most terrifying things we can do for ourselves. How do we move past this? Well, we try. We talk to people that really, truly, care about us. And most importantly, we understand how completely un-alone we are.

This article, and Stacey Gorlicky’s book, are two little symbols of that fact. 

Moderation never happened until I got to the root of my own issues and dealt with the emotions I was too scared to deal with.

In all of our struggles, our triumphs, our rich and diverse rituals...we are not alone. 

Food, Sex & You canvases two things that women (and men) deal with on a daily basis — The struggle in repeating the same activities every day, and the balance required to not abuse them. When it comes to sex, too, the book seemed to address the idea that we are not our bodies — We are, however, how we use them, how we accept them, and how we share this acceptance with those we care about.

Both food and sex are two topics constantly lied about, dramatized, and sensationalized on a daily basis. By the time I was fifteen, I had friends pretending to have allergies so they could conceal extreme diets, others told to lose weight, and peers experimenting with sex for the first time, though for reasons that might have stemmed from external influence. We remove the discussion of sex and food/issues/carbs from the dialogue of daily life, and it’s ironic, because I can’t think of two things we think about more as human beings. Both our relationships with food and sex are such powerful markers of our psychological wellbeing — if you’re confused about sex, or confused about food — You can bet a million dollars you’re confused about you.

This year, I sat down for breakfast with Stacey Gorlicky. Stacey is a warm, welcoming psychotherapist and the author of Food, Sex & You. her approach is not clinical and authoritative, but experiential and real; we listen to her because she's been there; experience, they say, is the purest form of wisdom. 

Food, Sex & You is informative, but raw — Stacey uses her life as the template for our own understanding; extending a gentle hand towards her past while building for us a powerful future. It was in this spirit that I spoke to her for Su La Po. 

This book is incredibly, vividly honest. What made you feel brave enough to put this piece of yourself into other people’s hands?

It was important for me to prove to myself I could push beyond any limits or boundaries others hooked onto me or believed about me. I [wanted] to set a good example to my children and to show them that there are no such thing as limiting beliefs, only the beliefs you tell yourself. My mother always told me I could do anything I set my mind to and now I tell that to my children. I had lost my way through the many years I suffered in my own eating disorder. Slowly, I began to rediscover those lost pieces of myself through my determination to find my voice. In learning who I was, I saw parts of myself that amazed me. I started to realize that my potential was becoming my passion — To be of service to others that suffer.

Was this just a matter of time?

It took me a long time to come into my feminine power and realize who I was. I had a lot of learning and growing to do before I understood who I am today.

What is your current stance on the ads being put forth by the fashion industry? How could you advise women and girls to participate in fashion, or even exist around it on a consumer level, without being affected by the ideals it encourages?

Together, the powerful media, diet, food and fashion industries have created a crisis throughout Britain and developed countries in the West. Companies are producing a very powerful means of advertising affecting our psyche through subliminal messaging, which has resulted in an ongoing obsession to be thin and imitate the images we see in ads. The result is scary — Our bodies can’t change their shape as abruptly as the fashion industry changes its styles and body preferences.
Fashion changes from decade to decade. Women’s bodies have been transforming with fashion since the 1960s, and these woman have been getting thinner and thinner. Once again, what is considered “beautiful” has changed again — silicon breasts and extreme thinness are no longer “in fashion” as they once were. These aesthetic trends are not just restricted to models, too — today it seems a woman can fit the mould of perfection for only a season or two and then the fashion industry changes drastically. One year it’s curves and the next it’s no curves. One year we’re fit, and the next, fragile.

For many girls growing up today, losing weight seems like such an easy fix to attaining happiness, more fulfilling relationships, and a better sense of self. What would you say to them, as someone who once actually felt this way, too?

In Food, Sex & You I write about young women becoming obsessed with their weight and appearance. When you look at all the fashion magazines and turn on the TV, what we visually see are glamorous women and men, often leading a fantasy life. It appears that these women and men have “perfect lives” and “perfect relationships” because they have “perfect bodies” — creating an obsession for the rest of society to be just like them.
Part of my growth and recovery was realizing that the number on the scale was never going to determine my happiness. I never felt good enough about myself and thought if I lost weight and was thinner, my entire life would change. I thought being skinny would make me happier, people would like me more, I could then start eating what everyone else was eating because my body would finally be at a weight that was acceptable, but I was never happy no matter what weight I was at.

[Later, I realized] my issues had nothing to do with my weight. My weight was a symptom of me not liking myself and not feeling good about myself. The food was a distraction for deeper rooted issues. When I had lost those extra 10 pounds, I realized I was no happier than before. I was actually more miserable from having starved myself through restriction, and that became a turning point to address my issues.

Bottom line: if you are obsessing over your body image and weight, if you think that being skinny is going to make you happy, find you love or create the perfect life, it is a misconception. I began to understand that [my recovery] wasn’t going to be an overnight quick fix, a diet I would follow, an exercise program or just any meal plan. What I needed to address was true self-acceptance, self-love and forgiveness in the place I was at. In all honesty, I wasn’t even sure I believed I was capable of recovery in the many times I hit rock bottom but I never gave up, and that was what made the difference.

Our bodies can’t change their shape as abruptly as the fashion industry changes its styles and body preferences.

So much of today’s marketing tactics have outwardly started over-compensating for their use of thin models by casting curvier ones, championing them as “real women.” What do you think a real woman really is?

A real woman in my opinion is someone who isn’t perfect; she has flaws, imperfections and makes mistakes. That same real woman knows and accepts all her flaws, imperfections and apologizes for her mistakes while holding her head up high and accepting herself. She is able to be vulnerable and powerful all at the same time. To me, it isn’t about size.

Our purpose at Su is to create a smart and snappy space for fashion-obsessed young people that I wish I’d had years ago. That being said, what would you have HONESTLY told your younger self during the moments you found yourself bingeing, hoping to find some way to gain control over your life?

When I was bingeing I told myself I would stop tomorrow. There’s the addict brain for you!
I never knew when I was going to binge or how I had gotten there until it was too late. I thought I could have one piece of chocolate or one cookie but before I knew it, I’d eaten the whole box. It happened unconsciously, all of it, even walking to get the first piece. I tried to tell myself everything and anything to create some rationale in my crazy mind to gain control. I always had to find some party or event to look forward to in order to create a way for me to control my diet. It was as if I had a certain amount of time to lose a certain amount of weight.

All I could think about during those dieting days was how I was going to binge that day. I would think about the preparation of the binge, and the amount of obsessing that went on in my mind made it almost impossible to stop the binge from taking place. The binge occurred almost immediately following the event, as I had restricted my food and exercised so much that I was starving. I knew it was insane in those moments, but I didn’t know how to stop the cycle. I knew I was smart, but this was powerful — as if it had a mind of its own. There was guilt, shame, anger and resentment for having behaved that way. I would then tell myself, “tomorrow I will restrict again and then when my stomach comes down I will moderately eat like a ‘normal’ person,” but that moderation never happened until I got to the root of my own issues and dealt with the emotions I was so scared to deal with.

What I would have told myself then, was that it’s not worth it to obsess as much as I did. There is so much more to life then the extra pounds I fixated on. Had I stopped obsessing and addressed the true cause, those pounds would have just fallen off.


images c/o Su La Po & weheartit archives

madison schill