255 Hope Street, Providence, Rhode Island

Sexual Abuse & Weight Loss

You were sexually abused as a child.
Now you’re an adult and
have trouble releasing weight.*
You’re not alone.

Meet Bethany

As a single 46-year-old, Bethany desperately wanted to shed 60 pounds. But whenever she began to make positive lifestyle changes and lose weight, she lost motivation.

Instead of feeling encouraged and continuing to eat well, Bethany stopped taking time to prepare healthy meals and reverted back to fast food. While she had enjoyed her new habit of daily walks, she began feeling too tired to continue. Anxiety and panic—seemingly for no apparent cause—triggered binge-eating episodes.

When I first met Bethany, the weight in her heart revealed itself in her drooped shoulders and sad eyes. She had never been in therapy before and seemed both relieved—and scared—to share her life story with someone.

Her stepfather had sexually abused her for several years during her childhood and only stopped when he met another woman and left the family.

She said he often told her, “You’re prettier than your mother” and believed the abuse was her fault. Bethany never told anyone, including her mother, because, “I didn’t want her to be mad at me and think I was dating her husband.”

Numbing Out with Food

Like every abused child, Bethany couldn’t escape from what was happening to her. She numbed her fear and loneliness with candy bars and cookies, often hoarding them in her bedroom. Eating became a way to block her feelings and stop thinking about the inevitable. She gained weight after the abuse started and struggled with this into and through adulthood.

Over the course of our work together, Bethany began to see the connection between her traumatic childhood and struggles with weight and emotional eating. She found compassion for the little girl she once was and began to understand why she felt anxious whenever the pounds started dropping off:

“I was afraid of my stepfather and felt so guilty and ashamed for what was happening. I didn’t see that he was at fault. I thought I was the one betraying my mother. Now I understand why I couldn’t lose weight. I needed it to feel safe and couldn’t tolerate seeing myself as thin and attractive. The guilt and fear were too overwhelming.”

As Bethany released the pain from her heart, she began to release the weight from her body. (Curious as to why I use the term release versus lose weight? Click here.) She learned healthier ways to acknowledge and release her feelings—journaling, writing poetry, talking with her support group—instead of numbing herself with food. Yoga helped her emotionally embrace and befriend her body. She resumed her soul-nourishing daily walks in the park.

Bethany learned how early trauma affected her developing brain when she was a child. She now understood that her body’s overactive stress response was why she often felt overwhelmed and triggered to overeat. This wasn’t a sign of weakness. It was because, like many trauma survivors, Bethany’s nervous system had become dysregulated.

Body and brain dysregulation means that with even minor stress abuse survivors may experience fear-based sensations in their body—racing heart, rapid breathing, sinking feeling in the gut. You get triggered like this because trauma lives not only in your mind and heart, it lives in your body, too. Breathing exercises and tapping acupressure points helped Bethany calm her nervous system when these sensations in her body surfaced. Emotional eating episodes then became less frequent.

Bethany stopped turning to food for comfort as she learned how to comfort herself. She began to release the pounds from her body as she released guilt and shame from her heart. While she still had setbacks, they were short-lived. Instead of punishing herself, she learned from them. With patience, perseverance, and self-forgiveness, Bethany ultimately reached a healthy weight and found inner peace in the process.

While your story of childhood sexual abuse may be different from Bethany’s, most likely you can relate to her fears and pain, emotional eating challenges, and weight struggles.

As she was able to heal and find inner peace—and create a lighter body—you can, too.

The Connection Between Sexual Abuse, Emotional Eating & Weight Gain

You won’t hear childhood sexual abuse discussed in many traditional weight loss approaches, yet there is a high correlation between early sexual trauma, obesity, emotional eating, and body image concerns.

As many as one in four girls and one in six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18—from indecent exposure to more invasive forms of sexual assault. If you were sexually abused as a child and experience difficulty releasing weight, chances are your ongoing weight-release struggles stem from this past trauma.

Here’s why: When something triggers the old, painful feelings and fears that still linger inside, it’s very easy to end up emotionally eating. You’re just trying to comfort and ground yourself in the only way you know. This isn’t self-sabotage. It’s self-protection.

And your subconscious mind, wanting to protect the little girl or boy you once were, may block your efforts to let go of the emotional protection your extra weight provides. You need to feel safe first.

I imagine you’ve tried every possible diet, counted every calorie and purchased every exercise video to lose weight… and none of that has worked. If your attempts at losing weight have been fraught with repeated disappointments, I want to assure you that you are not a failure and you do not lack willpower.

Most likely, somewhere deep inside, you—and your body— are simply afraid.

You may be wondering why I’m so passionate about this topic…

Earlier in my career, I worked with many adults who were sexually abused and also had difficulty releasing weight. It was then I learned the connection between sexual trauma and emotional eating, body image, gaining weight for protection, and unconscious fears about being thin. I call this “pounds of protection.”

Of the many weight loss programs and diet plans available, I’m unaware of any that address underlying sexual abuse. To bridge that gap, I’ve created a supportive community for women who have been sexually abused as children and now struggle with emotional eating, weight, and body image issues.

My intention is to help you begin a trauma-informed weight release journey.

Once you do so, you’re well on your way to creating a respectful and loving relationship with your body and ultimately releasing those extra pounds.

For Bethany and many of my clients—and maybe for you—extra weight is the symptom. To release weight permanently, you must get to the root cause as to why the weight is there to begin with and why you have used food for comfort.

I invite you to imagine experiencing a life in which you didn’t once.

  • Hate or resent your body.
  • Feel that releasing weight is impossible for you.
  • Feel out of control about eating.
  • Fear living without your pounds of protection.

Releasing weight when you were sexually abused as a child is not only about food and exercise… it’s about going deeper. It’s about releasing trauma from your mind, body, and spirit and changing your consciousness.

As you release trauma-based limiting beliefs from your mind and heaviness from your spirit, you’ll feel lighter on the inside. As you feel lighter on the inside, you’ll naturally be guided to healthier foods and an intuitive way of eating. You’ll feel inspired to move your body and take good care of yourself. It’s all connected.

You learn to live lightly… in mind, body, and spirit.

(*Click here to learn the power of “releasing” vs “losing” weight.)

Would You Like To Explore This Topic Further?

Download & Read Shed Your Pounds of Protection

Join My Private Community

Connect with like-minded women who also were sexually abused and struggle with their weight by joining my private Facebook group, Living Lightly Together.

Because this is a private Facebook group hidden from the public, women are more willing to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences than on an open Facebook page. Here’s what members are saying about the Living Lightly Together group:

I love the freedom this group has given me to look deep inside myself for truly the first time in my life, so that I can learn to recognize the effects childhood trauma has had on me. Before this group, before Diane’s insights, and before I heard from others, I didn’t really understand the cause and effects. Just recognizing it for what it is is truly freeing. A true gift!

I am very glad to have found Living Lightly Together. I’ve always suspected my weight and eating went back to childhood abuse and it’s really comforting to have the support of other women who completely understand.

The women in this group are loving and supportive. There is no judgment, only encouragement and advice. So many of us have used weight as a shield to prevent further assault and this group has a way of helping me express what I feel. It has helped me a great deal. This group has truly been a Godsend.

I love this group because everyone is so supportive and kind that it creates a truly safe space to share about this difficult subject matter. We support each other while respecting each other’s choices and process, recognizing that we are all different and only we can decide what’s right for ourselves. In other words, this group does exactly what it’s meant to do. Thank you, Diane, for creating it.

This is a safe place to come and discuss my fears and get support from people who have been down the same path. It’s a reminder to me that I’m not alone. That’s brought me significant comfort and has helped me let go of years of shame.

For information about joining this private, free, members-only virtual support group, contact me here.

Read These Blogs

Childhood Sexual Abuse & Weight Release: Making the Connection

Stress Eating: It’s About Your Brain (not the food!)

Why Your Weight Needs Your Love

Heal Your Past to Release the Weight

The Real Reason You’re Not Losing Weight





Listen to This Podcast


As you develop a trusting and loving partnership with your body, use these five promises as your stepping stones. Wishing you good health and happiness.