Obesity and Sex: What’s the Connection?
Sep 17, 2020
How is your weight these days? Ideal? A little high?
If your answer is “more than it should be,” you’re not alone.
Concerns about obesity are rising across North America. In the United States, about 42% of adults were considered obese, according to a 2017-2018 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity Canada reports that one in three people in that country are obese, according to 2015 data.
You probably know that maintaining a healthy weight is good for your health overall. It’s also important for good sexual health, too. Let’s explore the relationship in between obesity and sex more detail.
What, exactly, is obesity?
Doctors use a measure called the body mass index (BMI) to screen for obesity. Your BMI is the result of your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in square meters). [The CDC) offers a BMI calculator for adults here.]
People whose BMI falls in the 25 to 29.9 range are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher signals obesity.
How might obesity affect my sex life?
Obesity is linked to both physical and psychological factors that can impair your sexual desire, arousal, erections, vaginal lubrication, and orgasm. Quite often, a combination of factors are involved.
Physically, obesity puts you at risk for health conditions wide sexual side effects. Here are some examples, along with some links for learning more:
Manage Diabetes for Better Sexual Health
Diabetes, Neuropathy, and Sexual Health
Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction
Diabetes and Women’s Sexual Health
Diabetes and Female Sexual Satisfaction
Metabolic Syndrome More than Doubles ED Risk
High Blood Pressure and Sexual Problems
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
Good sexual function depends on sufficient blood flow to the genitals. When this flow is blocked, it becomes more difficult for men to get an erection and for women to become lubricated.
Extra weight puts pressure on your joints and bones. The result is often pain and limited range of motion.
Testosterone is an essential hormone for sexual function, and testosterone deficiency is a common problem for obese men.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Psychological aspects of obesity may also make sex difficult. People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but many cultures still consider thinner bodies to be more acceptable, and we’re often bombarded by media messages on what an “ideal” body should look like.
Not surprisingly, this can damage an obese person’s self-esteem. They may feel that they will never be attractive to a partner, or feel anxious about being naked in front of someone else. They might also have sex less often.
Depression and anxiety are also common in people with obesity. Both of these conditions can dampen your sex drive and your enjoyment of sex.
Sex and Anxiety
What’s Causing Your Low Sex Drive?
What can I do?
Can losing weight help? It’s possible. Losing weight might not alleviate all sexual issues, but it’s a great start. You’ll also be taking important steps toward a healthier lifestyle in general, not just sexually.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Talk to your doctor first! Before you start any weight loss program, have a full medical checkup. Your doctor can help you tailor a plan to your specific needs. You’ll learn about nutrition and exercise as well as other components to make your program a success.
- Make it fun. Are there new recipes, foods, or activities you’ve always wanted to try? Now is a good time to explore those possibilities. You can also try walking on the treadmill while watching your favorite comedy or play some upbeat tunes while you’re cooking.
- You don’t have to do it alone. Your friends, family, and partner can be your biggest cheering section. Share your journey with them, if that feels right to you. They can help you celebrate your successes and provide loving support if you’re struggling. You might also join online support groups for people trying to lose weight.
- Pat yourself on the back. Weight loss takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Even the smallest of successes deserve rewards.
- Consider weight-loss surgery. Some people find bariatric surgery helpful. Your doctor can help you decide whether it is an option for you.
- Think about counseling. As we discussed earlier, psychological factors can greatly affect an obese person’s experiences with sex. A trained therapist can help you restore your self-esteem, build communication skills, and navigate your relationships as you start seeing yourself as a more sexual person.
Mediterranean Diet May Improve Women’s Sexual Health
Soft Drinks Might Be Linked to Erectile Dysfunction
Regular Exercise Important for Women’s Sexual Health
Exercise and Men’s Sexual Health
Why is Exercise so Essential for Good Sex?
Testosterone Levels Might Improve Quickly After Weight Loss Surgery
What is Sex Therapy Like?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“About Adult BMI”
(Page last reviewed: June 30, 2020)
“Adult Obesity Facts”
(Page last reviewed: June 29, 2020)
Health Psychology Open via. U.S. National Library of Medicine
Esfahani, Saeideh Botlani and Sebely Pal
“Obesity, mental health, and sexual dysfunction: A critical review”
(Full-text. Published online: July 12, 2018)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Faubion, Stephanie S., MD, MBA, et al.
“Association Between Body Mass Index and Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Cross-sectional Study from the Data Registry on Experiences of Aging, Menopause, and Sexuality”
(Full-text. Published: August 5, 2020)
“Obesity In Canada”
“How Does Obesity Affect Sexual Function?”
(June 27, 2017)