How Your Weight Affects Your Sex Life

How Your Weight Affects Your Sex Life

Excess baggage around your midsection—and anywhere else—could be weighing down your sex drive.

You’ve heard it before: Your weight affects your health and extra pounds can up your risk of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, joint pain and sleep apnea. But what about the social risks of being overweight? Those carrying excess weight may face “discrimination, trouble dating, an inability to keep up with the kids or the inability to be physically intimate with your partner,” says Matthew Metz, MD, an expert in bariatric surgery with Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado.

Benefits of safe, consensual and regular sex span from improved performance at work to lower stress levels to a stronger connection with your partner and beyond. But, if your weight prevents you from getting some time between the sheets, you could be missing out—physically, mentally and emotionally.

Physical limitations
The logistics: Let’s go back to the basics. Sex can be difficult if excess fat is shrouding the organs vital for doing the deed. “The penis can actually retract into a fatty pelvis, preventing men from successful penetration,” Metz says.

Overweight or obese women may also experience some difficulty of their own, as “too much fat on the thighs and buttocks and even on the pelvis, can affect penetration,” Metz says.

Some physical limitations of sex are more visible than others. Unfortunately, what might be happening inside the body, like microvascular disease, can also be debilitating. 

Microvascular disease: This condition, common among obese and overweight people, affects the blood vessels’ ability to pump blood throughout the body. This can be particularly important in the pelvis for both men and women, Metz says. “People commonly think of erectile dysfunction caused by decreased blood flow to the male genitalia, but it can affect women in the same way,” he adds.

If sex for overweight women with this condition is possible, pleasure may be limited. Microvascular disease reduces the amount of blood flow to the clitoris, which can reduce sensitivity, stimulation and ability to orgasm.

Low libido: Libido, or a person’s sex drive, can plummet for a number of reasons, including fatigue, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, all potential effects of carrying extra pounds.

Hormones also play a role. Excess fat alters sex hormone levels and, in a sense, drags them down, “which reduces the libido, sense of sexual gratification and stimulation,” Metz says. 

If you’re able to enjoy the act, a bit of excess weight shouldn’t stop you from doing just that, though Metz notes that weight often has an emotional impact on your libido, as well.

“Weight impacts your libido both physically and mentally,” he says.

A mental perspective
Low self-esteem and a poor body image are two psychological factors that add to a low sex drive. Lower self-esteem and a higher body weight are often linked, research shows.

“Decreased self-confidence and a lower sense of body image are very detrimental to feeling sexually aroused and sexy,” Metz says. “Which reduces a person's willingness to be intimate with other people.”

What you can do about it
Sex shouldn’t be off-limits, no matter your size! And the secret to enjoying the intimate act more (or at all) may be just a few pounds away. 

Not always, but oftentimes, conditions like microvascular disease and a low libido can be reversed with weight loss. “For somebody who is significantly overweight, losing the extra weight can actually make a significant difference in the amount of blood flow to their pelvis,” Metz says. “If caught early enough, weight loss can really make a big difference in libido, performance and ability to orgasm,” he adds.

So, what’s the best way to shed the weight? Visiting your doctor is a good start. There, you can discuss the weight loss regimen that’s right for you. Upping your physical activity, decreasing your sugar intake and eating a healthy diet, loaded with fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats, can also reduce the number on the scale.

What’s more? In addition to making sex more physically accessible, weight loss can help your hormone levels. “There are a lot of different components to sexuality in patients that are struggling with their weight,” Metz concludes.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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