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Memoir tackles obsession, eating disorders, sexuality

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Food, Sex, & You by Stacey Gorlicky. DUNDURN PRESS

Stacey Gorlicky is a registered psychotherapist, mental health advocate and a former food addict who penned Food, Sex & You: Untangling Body Obsession in a Weight-Obsessed World, to assist others facing similar challenges. The 41-year-old’s memoir and self-help book originated as a journal that she chronicled while in the throes of her illness.

“I had an eating disorder; I was a compulsive eater. The message I got from society as early as nine years old: ‘Beauty is the passport to a woman’s success.’ I believed that beauty was important in order to be accepted and loved, and I had to be perfect,” said Gorlicky.

Gorlicky’s cycle of starving and binging lasted over two decades.

“I remember when I was 12 years old, I would lie to my parents: Instead of doing my homework, I would take the bus to the Jewish community centre almost every day after school and do weights and cardio. It was a binge/purge cycle. I didn’t have anorexia nervosa or bulimia, but I would over-exercise and abuse laxatives. I was able to hide and deflect it. Nobody knew I was in pain,” recalled Gorlicky.

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According to the National Eating Disorders Information Centre, an estimated 600, 000 to 990, 000 Canadians are living with an eating disorder at any given time. Many who suffer from bulimia, anorexia, purging disorder and/or binge eating suffer in silence.

Food, Sex & You is about over-eating, under-eating, body image and sexuality, and how they’re interrelated.

“In my private practice, I was hearing from both women and men who had a fear either of, or toward, their bodies, and how they felt about themselves in intimate situations. My avoidance of sex was the result of shame connected to my overeating. How could I feel turned on, playful and joyful when I was used to experiencing my body as the hated battleground of my addiction and the unresolved insecurities of my childhood,” said Gorlicky.

The solution was taking a course in tantric sex.

“Tantric allows you to get present in your body. It allows you to understand orgasms without taking off clothing.  For example, chewing on a raisin for a number of minutes, where you become intimate with the raisin in your mouth, when you are smashing the raisin up against your tongue or your teeth and you are really present to the raisin. It’s all about using your five senses, about being present in your body, instead of your head. When you are in an eating disorder or addiction, your body and your mind are not connected – you are just in your head,” said Gorlicky.

By sharing her personal journey and the stories of her clients, Gorlicky demonstrates how attitudes toward body image and relationships with food and sex have been shaped by upbringing, past traumatic experiences and societal pressures. She provides an action plan that will help sort out feelings and behaviours surrounding food, allowing people to gain control of their eating and feel good about food and sex.

“When you are focusing on food, diet and weight, it is taking your focus away from doing something on a deeper level. I was struggling in a very sick place. I wondered, ‘how am I going to survive?’ Abusing and obsessing so I didn’t have to deal with underlying root issues was just another way of numbing to not feel pain.  My choice of drug was food – emotional eating. Other people may use alcohol or cocaine,” said Gorlicky.

Gorlicky met her husband (they are now divorced) when she was 17. His family business was in the fashion industry. Gorlicky was engaged at 21 and married at 22.

“I was living out this perfect life, which was a lot of pressure for me. I didn’t have a career. I was riding on my husband’s coattails, traveling with him and doing fashion trade shows,” she said.

After having two children, her eating disorder became severe, and at 30 years old, Gorlicky joined Overeaters Anonymous.

“My a-ha moment was when my grandmother, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, asked how dare I complain of being fat and why am I always talking about food when she didn’t have any food for three years. That was when a light went on and I asked myself, ‘What am I doing?’” said Gorlicky.

Now fully recovered for 10 years, Gorlicky has not only survived, but thrives, fuelled by the sense of purpose she gets from helping others.

“I love my life. I love what I do,” Gorlicky said with pride.