There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the group dates on season 16 of The Bachelorette — strip dodgeball, anyone? — but Ben Smith revealed it was totally his decision to bare it all the Tuesday, December 1, episode of the ABC series.
‘ “The art date allowed me to express myself in the other ways,” the 29-year-old personal trainer explained to Becca Kufrin and Rachel Lindsay on the “Bachelor Happy Hour” podcast. “Taking my clothes off was a literal and figurative dropping of my guard. And maybe [Tayshia Adams] caught a glimpse of me or maybe she didn’t, I don’t know. But it wasn’t about being naked, it was about removing this barrier that I had up. … I knew they weren’t going to show anything. … It was my idea.”
Ben added that he had “naked envy” after he was left out of the dodgeball date and didn’t get to strip down to a speedo on the pool basketball outing. As a result, he took the opportunity to show Tayshia, 30, a different side of him on Tuesday’s episode, taking off a robe for his self-portrait.
“I don’t play, like, if there’s something [that] needs to be achieved or some sort of objective, and in this case, it was, like, getting to the end, ultimately furthering my relationship with this beautiful woman, then, like, I’m not f—king around,” he told the former Bachelorettes. “But in the same way, literally everything that I do is a joke and so, that playful, fun, sarcastic side got to come out in a small bit, but then I also got to super thoughtful and super intentional.”
After Ben stripped down on the group date, he opened up to Tayshia about his past battle with bulimia.
“The reason I’m in fitness and nutrition, I had an eating disorder for 15 years,” he explained. “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. It’s hard to hide something for so long. I kept it from everybody.”
Ben noted that he’s in a better place after seeking help, crediting his sister as the person he turned to.
“I’m finally at a place now where I feel safe and comfortable,” he said. “I care a great deal about this, it’s just hard for me to let it out.”
Ben’s confession secured him the group date rose.
“That’s a heavy one, and I’m sure he was scared,” Tayshia told the ABC cameras. “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.”
The Bachelorette airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.