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Better Sex: What's Weight Got to Do with It?

Being overweight does affect your libido. But small changes can jump-start your sex drive.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

From Sex in the City to Desperate Housewives, there's one media message that's louder and clearer than ever: Looking, feeling, acting, and just being sexy is the order of the day.

But cultural messages also continue to tell us that no one bigger than a size 6 should be singing the siren song of sexuality. Much like oil and water, being overweight and sexy just don't mix. For those already struggling with weight and image issues, that powerful message can easily throw a wet blanket on even the most active libido.

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"Unfortunately, people are internalizing 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 Martin Binks, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.

 

But it turns out that cultural messages aren't the whole story. New research suggests certain physical conditions that go along with obesity also affect sex drive, further dampening the desires of those who are overweight. The good news: You can make some changes to your body (and how you think about your body) to enhance your libido. You can:

  • Lose a little weight, even 10 pounds, to stimulate sex hormones
  • Eat more nutritious foods, which control cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Key your workouts to getting blood flowing to the pelvic area
  • Pick up a sexy novel and start reading
  • Accept your body at any size
  • Believe in your sensuality

How to begin? Start by identifying the physical and psychological obstacles that could be standing in your way to a fulfilling sex life.

How Too Much Weight Hampers Sex Drive

According to a recent study conducted by Binks and his colleagues at Duke, up to 30% of obese people seeking help controlling their weight indicate problems with sex drive, desire, performance, or all three. Often, the latest research shows, these problems can be traced to physical conditions that co-exist with obesity.

"Medical conditions such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance [an early indicator of type 2 diabetes] do have the ability to impact sexual performance, which in turn impacts desire, particularly in men," says Andrew McCollough, MD, director of sexual health and male infertility at NYU Medical Center in New York.

Because both conditions can cause the tiny arteries in the penis to shut down, particularly when vessel-clogging fatty deposits begin to form, McCollough says impotence or erectile dysfunction is often the result.

"A man who has problems having an erection is going to lose his desire for sex in not too long a time," says McCollough.

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