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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.

How Too Much Weight Hampers Sex Drive continued...

Men aren't alone with sex problems caused by poor blood flow. Research shows overweight women's sex drive and desire are affected by the same problem.

"We are beginning to see that the width of the blood vessels leading to the clitoris [the area of the vagina most closely related to sexual response] in women are affected by the same kind of blockages that impact blood flow to the penis," says Susan Kellogg, PhD, director of sexual medicine at the Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute of Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia.

When this happens, says Kellogg, a woman's body is far less responsive, and a drop in desire is not far behind.

Complicating matters further for both sexes: The more body fat you have, the higher your levels of a natural chemical known as SHBG (short for sex hormone binding globulin). It's aptly named because it binds to the sex hormone testosterone. Doctors theorize that the more testosterone that is bound to SHBG, the less there is available to stimulate desire.

Simple Changes to Boost Your Sex Drive

What can you do to improve your physical conditioning for sex? Plenty. Experts say losing as few as 10 pounds can often free up testosterone and almost immediately give a boost to your love life.

Even better news. Making the same diet changes -- such as following a low-fat diet and eating lots of fruit and vegetables -- that help get blood sugar and cholesterol under control can also help turn your sex drive around -- even if you don't lose weight.

Says Binks, "I've noted that very often when patients start to take better care of themselves, they also report a substantial increase in their interest in sex -- I think participation in a healthy lifestyle really helps, even if you don't lose the extra pounds."

Also, Kellogg says exercises designed not for weight loss but to 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 -- such as yoga, brisk walking, or cycling for 20 minutes three times a week -- is also going to bathe the genitals with better circulation," says Kellogg. The result, she says, is more lubrication, better arousal, and better orgasmic function. And ultimately a return of sexual desire.

Kellogg also tells WebMD that women might consider supplementing their sexy workout with a little light erotic reading for 20 minutes three times a week. The goal here: To focus attention back on sex and improve both drive and desire.

"There is nothing sexy about housework or PTA meetings or grocery shopping. If that's taking up all your thoughts, there is no room to think about sex, no matter what your shape or size," says Kellogg.

"Weight becomes less of an issue when a woman simply feels better and feels sexy," she says.

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