Sex, Love & Obesity
Whatever you think the reasons for the current wave of obesity might be, the consequences are profound for all of us.
From increased health insurance premiums to personal illness such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol, the consequences spread far and wide.
Yet one in three Americans is actually obese, and the proportion of the population who are in a similar situation in other westernized countries is probably not that much different.
I mean, you really have to ask why we tolerate such a situation, and perhaps the second question that occurs to me is "why are we allowing ourselves to experience lower sexual satisfaction because of obesity?"
Because the fact of the matter is that there is ample evidence that obesity, or even excess weight, significantly reduces both male and female sexual pleasure.
And while I don't want to be chauvinistic about this, the fact of the matter is that it's actually not very pleasant to make love to an obese, flabby body -- that much is an esthetic issue, but there's more to it than that.
In the May 2011 Issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Dr Giovanni Corona found that obesity is significantly associated with erectile dysfunction, low testosterone level and sexual responsivity to stimulation in men.
The simple fact of the matter is that the heavier you are as a man, the less you going to feel sexual urges, and the less likely you are to get a good erection.
But of course losing weight actually has a remedial effect on these problems: it turns out that even just losing 5 to 10% of body weight will cause significant improvement in erectile function -- which demonstrates that comparatively small changes in behavior and lifestyle will actually have major benefits to physical health and sexual pleasure.
Significant issues arise when you talk about sexual pleasure and obesity or excess weight: the truth is that body image concerns are no different from men than they are for women, although it may be that men are slightly less susceptible to them.
But feeling unattractive, and looking unattractive, is a psychological issue that will make it difficult for people to feel sexual arousal, and that in turn will cause erectile issues and sexual desire problems.
So engaging in a diet or weight loss program to reduce obesity, or at least to reduce weight to a level which is acceptable, seems to have significant benefits in ways that we wouldn't necessarily expect.
Video - sex and obesity
And make no mistake about it, this is a serious issue: scientist working at Duke University medical centre found that what they euphemistically call a "tendency to avoid sexual activity" and "low performance" are up to 25 times worse persons who are overweight and even people whose weight is somewhat above the normal level.
Numerous studies have been conducted around the world which demonstrate the same, consistent findings: that physical training and loss of weight can help improve sexual function in almost all men.
Studies have demonstrated very clearly that there's actually a very significant difference in the quality of the sex life of obese and normal weight persons -- a fact which seems hardly surprising if you let your imagination run riot just for a moment on what making love to an obese person might be like -- particularly if you yourself are also obese.
But the fact of the matter is that it's a real problem, because the number of people who are experiencing obesity is increasing -- and as I said above, no matter what you might think are the causes of increasing levels of obesity, the fact of the matter is that they are having an immediate impact on our sexual pleasure.
One research program demonstrated that even a modest loss of weight, and certain improvements in training for better physical condition, made the people concerned feel between 10 and 20 years younger sexually!
It's an extraordinary finding. Yet when you look at the detailed information that the survey produced, it becomes rapidly less surprising. Almost 50% of the group of overweight or obese people said that they almost always had no interest in sex - see this for details - while a further 42% said that they had problems with sexual function on a fairly regular basis. By contrast, amongst a group of people who were not overweight only 2% said that they had no interest in sex.
And yet the answer is very simple: because in one study Reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 30% of people who were overweight and follow the prescribed weight loss program discovered that they then developed good directions.
You may well ask what dynamics are going on that prevent people from sufficiently respecting themselves to lose weight effectively or quickly.
We certainly know that one of the factors that plays
into this in a major way is motivation: there's a very very strong motivation
to eat food, because it's a primal urge which we're conditioned with from
birth. There's a very comforting process of ingesting food to relieve
emotional distress of one kind or another. And so, even in the face of extreme
obesity, people continue to eat rather than dealing with the underlying
emotional issues which would remove the need for self soothing. Anyone who has
experienced cravings for food, drugs, or alcohol will know exactly what I mean
when I say that this part of ourselves is almost
The simple fact of the matter is that from birth onwards we like to eat, and the primal satisfaction that comes from suckling stays with us for the rest of our lives in one form or another -- which might be chocolate, wine, pastry, donuts ... you name it.
Now what's slightly ironic about this, of course, is that sex is capable of providing us with just as much pleasure as food, but we tend not to turn to sex for comfort, simply because food has a quality of unrestrained enjoyment which is easy to evoke.
Sex is rather more complicated, and perhaps even unsatisfying unless the emotional background to the experience is rounded out as well. (For example, it's hard to make love to somebody who's just upset you, but it's very easy to go and find some ice cream or doughnuts.)
I want to conclude this section by offering some reinforcement to the points that I've made already - that both male and female sexual pleasure and weight loss are directly associated. This has been demonstrated in studies where women have had surgery to constrict their stomachs, and consequently have lost weight. These women improved sexually in every area, and that included lubrication, arousal, and desire -- but more importantly, their hormone levels also increased. That means that their well-being increased, but more interesting yet, their self-image improved too.
So weight loss is definitely extremely important for
one's sexual pleasure. It isn't just about the physical benefits,
although they are important enough.
Updated 23 February 2020