For many women and men, how they feel about themselves, and their body, plays a major part in how they feel about sex and affects sex drive. And, contrary to what some believe, men don’t have it much easier in this field; in fact, according to surveys, they report caring just as much as women about the impact their extra weight is having on their sex life. So, how your weight can affect your sex life is just as important to both sexes.

Of course, a healthy lifestyle actually goes a long way when it comes to your sex life. Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you that they feel a whole lot sexier. And even just losing a few pounds and shaping up can make the difference (I’ve a friend who tells me that even just getting a spray tan guarantees great sex with her husband that weekend as she feels slimmer and sexier!). Wearing heels can have a similar effect!

Following a healthier lifestyle will, in general, help boost a flagging sex life. The simple things, like drinking more water and eating more salads and greens will not only help you to shape up, but they’ll also help boost energy levels so that you actually WANT to have sex in the first place (also, your partner is likely to notice and she/he might give you lots of compliments and that, in itself, feels sexy).

A Better Sex Life – Right Now

But a good sex life shouldn’t be dependent on a slimmer body. You should be able to enjoy sex, whatever size or shape you are in right now. Part of the wider problem is actually society’s interpretation of what ‘sexy’ is; and often being overweight or obese does not get included in that picture (nor does being aged 50 which is utterly ridiculous because we all know lots of sexy women and men that age and older). “People are internalising society’s definition of what it takes to be involved in sex, particularly the body shape – there are clearly societal biases out there that are influencing us on an individual level and not in a good way, ” says Clinical Psychologist Martin Binks.

In fact, with the exception of the extremely obese, the physical requirements of sex actually make it accessible to all – the concept of just reserving it for the ‘slim and sexy’ is utter nonsense. In fact, we all know that the more generously curvaceous women, and the chunkier men, can have just as much sex appeal as their slimmer counterparts. So it’s time to start opening our minds and enjoying sex, regardless of the size we are right now.

Experiencing Sexual Gridlock?

There are plenty of overweight men and women who still enjoy a great sex life. But that tends to be people who feel confident, sexy and desirable. If our self-image takes a knock, as a result of carrying extra weight, then we will probably see that play through in the bedroom. Avoiding sex, and avoiding intimacy or touching, could be a sign that your partner doesn’t feel good about themselves – rather than being about a rejection of you. Withdrawing even hugs or kisses – and avoiding anything that could lead to sex – is a sure sign of what has become known as ‘sexual gridlock’. It’s easy to think that you’ve just ‘lost’ your sex drive (and some fear it’s gone forever) but, with a little effort, you could be back enjoying sex again. So how can you start to turn it on again?

Notice them: Start by thinking about getting to know your partner again – the ‘them’ that you fell in love with. What attracted you in the first place? Remember the first time you saw them or chatted to them. Take time to mull over it again, and see them with fresh eyes. Have you forgotten their appealing qualities (personality and looks)? List them and start noticing them again.

Start putting effort into feeling sexy: Next, look at all the fluffy stuff around sex that makes it more appealing…sexy underwear, an outfit you feel good in, a new perfume or aftershave, a sex ‘toy’, or simply try getting yourself in the ‘headspace’ where you feel sexy (some ‘sexperts’ recommend reading a raunchy novel or erotic story to get you geared up). It’s worth investing time in dedicating at least some of your headspace to thinking sexy thoughts – try it in the morning or evening before your partner comes to bed (after you’ve gone through the shopping list and the list of bills to pay – sooooo UNSEXY!). “Our biggest sex organ in the body is the brain,” says Relationship Expert and Clinical Sexologist, Dawn Michael. “Making the brain feel sexy can spice up the sex. We all have sexy minds, no matter what size our body is.”

Get your blood pumping: We notice at our clinics that, often when clients start taking better care of themselves, they also report a substantial increase in their interest in sex. According to Director of Sexual Medicine Susan Kellogg, exercises – such as cycling, brisk walking yoga or pilates – that also increase circulation to the genitals can make a big difference, particularly for women. “Any activity that increases blood flow to the large muscle groups in the thighs, buttocks, and pelvis is also going to bathe the genitals with better circulation,” says Kellogg. The result, she says, is more lubrication, better arousal and ultimately, a return of sexual desire.

Eat well to get turned on: For both men and women, higher levels of body fat mean higher levels of a chemical which binds to the sex hormone testosterone, meaning less available testosterone to stimulate desire. Researchers have found that losing even ten pounds of fat can stimulate testosterone, however, so even a modest enough weight loss can go far in getting you turned on again. Even greater incentive to stick with your plan – you could lose those ten pounds in just 4-6 weeks…meaning a better sex life by the time summer hits!

Get active together: A healthy lifestyle, particularly when embarked upon together, can go far in helping to get things going again. It’s a fact that exercising together can improve your body AND your bond simultaneously. Research shows 85 per cent of couples who work out together said that it improved their relationship, with one in five claiming it saved their relationship altogether (I personally know one couple who claim this happened when they started hiking together).

Start a regular date night: I remember a babysitter coming over for my parent’s weekly Friday night date nights when we were young, and now I can see how it helped keep their bond strong. In fact, I’m thinking of doing the same myself – and rather than just going out ad-hoc (which, let’s face it, can be weeks and weeks apart), making more effort for a regular weekly or bi-monthly slot. Going out together helps open up a space to talk and to be intimate with one-another more naturally, beyond the mundane, domestic conversations that tend to occur during the week. Women, in particular, talk about the need to be ‘emotionally connected’ to their partner in order to want sex. And, ironically, many men claim they need to have sex to feel ‘connected’ to their partner – it’s chicken and egg scenario, but who goes first? It shouldn’t matter – but both should try to see it from their partner’s perspective and both should prioritise feeling both emotionally and physically closer if they want their relationship to survive, and thrive. And maybe it’s time to forget the ‘three times a week’ benchmark many of us have in our heads. According to recent research, the happiest couples tend to have sex just once a week (claiming it’s quality, not quantity that really matters).

A note on Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

ED is one of the most common physical issues that men face and, unbeknownst to many, being overweight dramatically increases the risk. Being just over two stone overweight will actually make men two and a half times more likely to experience ED, according to sex coach Tara Radcliffe. “Also, obesity lowers testosterone in men, which is crucial for sexual function. The most common causes in older men are conditions that block blood flow to the penis, such as atherosclerosis or diabetes, both of which can result from a lifetime of poor eating and unhealthy habits, like being sedentary or smoking. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, as can alcohol or drug addiction. ED can have devastating consequences for a relationship, and many men are embarrassed to seek help. But if they do, often treating the underlying condition is enough to reverse ED. In some cases, medication may be needed.

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle