As horrifying as White’s story is, it’s a common one among people who have been abused as children. Researchers are increasingly finding that, in addition to leaving deep emotional scars, childhood sexual abuse often turns food into an obsession for its victims. Many, like White, become prone to binge-eating. Others willfully put on weight to desexualize, in the hope that what happened to them as children will never happen again.
In White’s case, overeating did not lead to obesity—her weight only ever ranged from roughly 118 pounds to 175. But research shows that in general, childhood sexual abuse might be an important predictor of obesity and overweight in adulthood. More importantly, experts say, this disturbing connection suggests it’s fruitless to treat eating-disordered patients without investigating and addressing potential childhood trauma first.