'Bachelorette' Fan Favorite Ben Smith Emotionally Reveals 15-Year Battle With Eating Disorder
By Jennifer Drysdale
Tuesday's episode of The Bachelorette might just be one of the revealing ones of the series -- or the whole Bachelor franchise. The emotional episode included heartfelt reveals from multiple men, including fan favorite Ben Smith, who told Tayshia about his 15-year battle with an eating disorder.
"The life I've lived is different than what you might assume," Ben shared after stripping down during the group date to symbolize how he's peeling back the layers for Tayshia. "I don't want to lay all this on you, but the reason I'm in fitness and nutrition -- I had an eating disorder for 15 years."
"I found out what girls were when I was 15, I realized they don't like the fat kid. So, I stopped eating, I started working out all the time, lost like, 70 pounds, and had bulimia for like, 10 years when I was in my 20s," he continued. "It's hard to hide something for so long. I kept it from everybody."
Ben said that the only person who knows about his eating disorder struggles is his sister, who he credits with saving his life. "I'm finally at a place now where I feel safe and comfortable," he expressed. "I care a great deal about this, it's just hard for me to let it out."
"Well, I'm proud of you for letting me in," Tayshia replied.
"That's a heavy one, and I'm sure he was scared," the Bachelorette later told the camera. "Him opening up about something so deep and personal meant a lot. And honestly, my feelings are intensifying for these guys in ways I never expected."
Men like Riley and Ivan also got real during the group date, sharing intimate details of their family struggles. Zac, meanwhile, opened up about his battle with addiction on his one-on-one date earlier in the episode.
As he told Tayshia, he grew up in an "amazing home with an amazing family." After college, he discovered that he had a brain tumor. "It was a crazy, life-altering experience," he said. "As a result of the surgery, I was introduced to pain medication, drugs. It was this perfect storm of like, here Zac is at 23 years old, this thing happens and what do I do next?"
Zac ended up getting married, but he said he was hanging out with sketchy people, and ended up getting a DUI. "My wife left me," he recalled. "For the next eight months, it got pretty gnarly."
"I was in a bad way, it was scary. It was like, touch and go," he continued. "I was hopeless."
"I had stolen one of my dad's checks... it's very heavy to talk about this moment for me. The bank teller calls my dad, she's like my angel, and basically says, 'Your son is here, it's not good, and you need to get down here,'" Zach shared. "My dad shows up, he grabbed my arm, and said, 'Son, we're going home.' In that moment, I had some sort of crazy, spiritual moment of clarity. ... I ended up in rehab for four and a half months. Now, however many years later, I'm now on the board of that rehab."
"Thank you for opening up with me," Tayshia responded. "I knew that there was more to you, because I just sensed it ... there's life that you lived, and I wanted to get to know that."
The Bachelorette airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.